The lights are on
It seems that the plot of a party of diverse members of different origins and talents joining together to face insurmountable odds in the form of a huge demonic army will never get old. Yes, Dragon Age: Origins follows a similar story as Lord of The Rings and The Wheel of Time, but will this incredibly unoriginal idea take away from the rest of the game? Read on.
Starting off, you naturally have to create your character. The character creator is surprisingly deep, and you have a lot of different, intriguing choices for your origin story. Every character has a different origin story (unless you make 2 of the exact same character) that shapes a back story for them before they enter the main story that every character follows. You can take your pick from Human, Elf, and Dwarf races, and you pick what type of fighter they will be. The up close and personal Warrior, the quick and tricky Rogue, or the powerful Mage. With Dwarves being the exception (they can't channel magic) you can combine any of these you like. Depending on what combination of race and class you pick, you can pick a unique origin story. For instance, a Dwarf warrior can pick either the Dwarven Noble, or the Dwarven Commoner origin stories. After picking your origin story, you can customize your character's look. In all, you'll spend about 30 minutes in this pleasantly deep character creator, unless you rush through this phase to get to gameplay, of course.
In whatever origin story you pick, in the end you join the Grey Wardens. This elite group of warriors specialize in the eradication of Dark Spawn. These demonesque creatures whose origin is shrouded in legend and mystery, now march upon (and unfortunately under) the land, and it's up to the Grey Wardens to gather the armies of all the races to face the threat and save the land. Within this large Lord of The Rings-like plot are plenty of side-quests. You can accept jobs from different factions that send you around on errands, or investigations, and there are even quests you can complete for members in your party if they like you enough. You come across a diverse group of characters that can enter your party depending on the dialogue options you choose. The characters that are active in your party will be affected by the choices you make. If they start to like you enough, you can talk to them about their background, or even learn class specializations from them. When you level a character, you get to disperse 3 points to your stats, pick a skill, and then an ability, or spell. As for the battle system, anyone who has played Final Fantasy XII will feel right at home. You use "tactic slots" to tell each character what to do in battle. This can range from having your warrior defend your mage, to having your rogue steal from as many enemies as possible. How you use this "tactics system" determines if you're going to dominate in each battle, or if the enemy is going to slaughter you. You can also assign abilities or spells to a small quick-select menu for easy use in battle.
Now that we've gone over the plot and gameplay, lets talk about looks. As beautiful as the trailers were, this game is pretty disappointing. Textures and characters are dull (especially facial animations) for a Bioware game, and it makes you wonder what went wrong. The environments, for the most part, were decent. They showed diversity, but they didn't draw you in, or dazzle you with looks.
Sound effects and the soundtrack are both strong points. Blood splatters are heard as you cut through enemies with your sword, and you hear a satisfying crunch when you smash an enemy's torso with a hammer. Voices and dialogue are top-notch for every character, and even the demon's blood curdling screams are scary. Finally, the epic soundtrack tops it all off. I wouldn't say it's amazing, but it definitely gets the job done.
A long story and pretty solid battle system (though I hear that the PC version is better) kept me immersed in the adventure of the Grey Wardens for hours upon hours. The origin stories led me to make several characters just to see them all, and to see what different quests I could unlock with different party members. To see every variation of origins, quests, and endings is an addicting affair. Though it has some shortcomings in graphics and the occasional sketchy glitch, Dragon Age: Origins is definitely an experience that should be had by anyone who appreciates an action RPG.
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