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Gorvar Reviews: Dragon Age Franchise. Part 2: Origins

Gorvar April 5, 2011 User blog:Gorvar

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Dragon Age: Origins is the 1st real game for the Dragon Age Franchise. Released in 2009 it quickly became ‘the game of the year’ and received review ratings surrounding the 90% mark.

It’s an epic game, spanning over hundreds of hours in gameplay, added with incredible characters, telling a epic fantasy story over a two year period. Add that with a few campaigns which add more gameplay and stories and you have a proper long game people still play to this day.

But what makes it so good? Let’s delve into it shall we?

The Story

Dragon Age: Origins takes place in Ferelden during the ‘Fifth Blight’. You are the Warden, the newest recruit to the mystical Grey Wardens and the protagonist of this game. The cool thing Bioware did in this game was, much like Knights of the old Republic, you could change the character to your whim.

For example, the Origins in DA:O were you starting off point. You picked what race you are (Man, elf or dwarf) and what background they have. You could be a noble, a lowly peasant or a mage who never saw daylight because he/she is stuck in a tower.

Unlike other games where the Origins were just that, you actually play through two hours worth of questing, stating your place in life before your Warden joined the Grey Wardens. And better yet, in the main game your actions in the past come back to haunt you.

For example you are a Dwarven Noble who gets exiled for a crime he may or may not have committed (your choice). Later on in the game you return home you see that if you did not commit the crime (or lied about it) you receive more support. Also your second in command who also gets exiled (who you may or may not have had a romantic relationship with) tearfully greets you and is overjoyed to see you again when you find him in the capitol of Ferelden, Denerim.

If you are a Mage you can choose to set-up one of your friends who escapes either way, and his reaction towards you changes as well when you meet him later on in the game.

Warden: Oh hey Jowain, fancy seeing you here! Jowain: You betrayed me! Warden: Oh....right....about that...urghm....I...urghm...i’m sorry? Jowain: How could you do that to me?! I thought you were my friend! Warden: Oh get over it you giant pussy, I needed the XP’s. Jowain: You still would’ve had the same amount if you did it the other way around and actually helped me, you dick! Warden: You know what, screw you. –drives a dagger into Jowain- Harry Potter never had to deal with this shit....

After your Origins you get saved by Duncan who recruits you as a Grey Warden and takes you to the old fortress of Ostagar where an army is gathered to stop the Blight from spreading any further into Ferelden. You even meet the king, Cailan, and his aide-de-camp Loghain who come up with the ideal plan.

Taking his notebook from King Leonidas, the king plans to hold the Darkspawn in a bottleneck at Ostagar so Loghain can attack from the side in a pincer movement. Needless to say the plan doesn’t fly or else this would be a very short game. Loghain betrays Cailan, and the Wardens, by not attacking from the side and let’s the Darkspawn have you all.

However, you and Alistair, another Grey Warden, make it out alive and go off to rally an army (and party members) to oppose both Loghain, and the Darkspawn. How you rally that army, and what companions you take with you is all up to you. It’s all about choice in this game, and those choices have a real consequence on the plot.( and later on in Dragon Age II but let’s not go ahead of ourselves)


Companions

One of the major strengths of Bioware is the party members you travel along with. They feel and sound like real people and not just characters, and their banter and dialogue does give them a sense of true personality.

Alistair, the other Grey Warden , is the typical goofball many young men can relate to. He’s sarcastic, but caring, always wants to do the right thing and kicks major ass. You cant help to like him. Also he likes cheese. REALLY likes cheese.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNxyIL_UQyE

He’s your main tank guy, if you aren’t a tank yourself, and a love interest for female characters. This guy is so sweet if you initiate a romance with him he gives you a rose. A ROSE of all things. This guy is so popular he even has a dozen fanclubs!

http://www.google.be/#hl=nl&source=hp&biw=1280&bih=619&q=Alistair+fanclub&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&fp=e990283b97b28fa5

It probably doesn’t help he is voiced by Steve Valentine. You know, the big hairy dude from ‘I am in the band’ of the Disney Channel. Life is strange at times isn’t it?


Morrigan is the dark sultry witch/mage of your party, voiced by Farscape/Stargate actress Claudia Black. Who is one of the 1st party members to join your party in the main storyline. She was raised to be though, thinking survival is only for the fittest and will generally disapprove of you if you save fair maidens from Dragons and the like. However if you insult the clergy or aid renegade mages, you get approval of her.

She is also a love interest for male characters. When you start the romance you can just make it a sexual thing, which alone should get you interested, but later on in the game she will start to develop feelings for you, which may make you change her views on life and actually make her a better person. Or you can dump her and be a total prick, whatever floats your boat.

Sten is a Qunari Warrior, a race of big bronze skinned warriors with huge horns (except Sten whose not born with them.) He’s a bit of a arse first, but later on you grow to like him more as he begins to treat you with respect. However his religion, the Qun, will constantly keep you at bay if you’re a woman, since women aren’t supposed to fight according to the Qun. But like all big, gruff men he has a soft spot for cookies and playing with kittens, which he exclaims he never had cookies before (and this should be remedied in his homeland for they don’t exist there) and he was ‘training’ the kitten.

Leliana is the bard of our group, who is best at the back firing from afar and her songs buffing up the party. Like Morrigan she is a love interest (for both genders) and seems much more girly-girl then her. She likes her flowers, her shoes, pets and of course a shoulder to cry on to. She loves telling stories, since she is...well a bard, and speaks with a French (Orlesian) accent. In personal opinion I thin ka lot of people have a hit and miss thing for her. When she’s cute, she’s cute, but when she starts worshipping the Maker and the Chantry....it’s a tad hard to like her if you are a Dalish Elf or a Dwarf since you do not worship the same religion.

The Chantry is the official ‘church’ of all the nations, besides Ferelden, and is sort of based on Catholicism with a martyr, Andraste, and a uncaring god of the old testament, the Maker. Because of Andraste, most of the clergy are women, to which Leliana was a lay-sister of until ‘the Maker’ send her a vision to join you in your fight to stop the Blight. Crazy or Devoted, your pick.

Oghren is by FAR my favourite companion out of the bunch. Imagine Gimli from Lord of the Rings, but on STEROIDS. This dude drinks, swears, womanizes (or attempts to) and fights like a man on fire. And the best thing of all is...he is voiced by none other then the god of voice acting himself Steven Blum!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jm09hKO8Nqs&feature=related An Academy Award in the making.

And there is also the Dog....who is...well, your dog. A clever dog at that, since he can manipulate you into feeling so bad, you give him what he wants. Everybody likes the Dog, even Sten! More so because Fereldans think of dogs as equals and are almost as smart as humans.

There is also Zevran, the elven assassin and, from what I’m told, has a big gay following. Yes, an gay elf, bwahahaha, laugh it up, dude is bad ass though. He can end your ass in more ways then Agent 47 does in Hitman.


http://fusedfilm.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/hitman.jpg Amateur

http://oyster.ignimgs.com/wordpress/www.ign.com/16989/2011/02/DragonAgeZevran.jpg Pro

The second to last member is Shale, who is a Golem and...well you can compare her to HK-47 from KOTOR who dislikes meatbags...I mean fleshlings, and pigeons which are, as well know, rats of the sky. Yes I said HER, don’t be so sexist. It’s not because she is a woman she cant be a three meter tall made of stone killing machine that hurls boulders the sizes of a bus at you.

And of course the last character is Wynn, a spirit healer mage who is your main healer and your grandmummy figure. Oh yes you can go off killing darkspawn, but drinking out of the milk carton, that sets her off. She’s a sweet character who always gives advice, but hides a secret she will only tell later on which might change your opinion on her.

What’s so nice about your party member is that they interact with you and each other. Alistair and Morrigan bicker, Oghren has a rivalry with Zevran...sort of, Wynn treats Alistair like a son, Sten discusses with Leliana and so on. It adds much character to your group and urges you to swap your party regularly so you can hear them all.

Other characters

Not just your party members are memorable. I mentioned Cailan, the king obsessed with glory, and your mentor Duncan. You also have Flemeth, voiced by Captain Janeway herself (Kate Mulgrew), who’s Morrigan’s mother and the one who saved you at Ostagar. H motives are quite unclear as to why she’s helping you and you might have to visit her again later on in the game.

You have Arl Howe, voiced by Tim Curry. And as we all know, if Tim curry is in something, he’s always the bad guy. Well in this one he’s Loghain’s second and the main antagonist for the Human Noble because he killed your entire family, including you three year old cousin and possibly your fiancé.

Tim Russ aka Tuvok also makes a appearance as Zathrian, the leader of the Dalish elves who are beset by the werewolves. There is defiantly some star power behind this game, but even those characters without a celebrity voicing them are interesting.

Characters like Gorrim, the loyal second in command for the dwarf noble, and Sandal, the ‘special’ dwarf who enchants your weapons and armour. You have the orphan city elf who manages to find new ways of haggling money off you (and you just pay him because of his uniqueness). There is Loghain, who despite being a utter villain still cares about his daughter, Anora, and does everything in his power to protect her from harm. You have Isabella (who makes a full fledged appearance in DAII) the sultry pirate lady and so many others.

Combat

Well...here is where things change for the game. Combat in Dragon Age is very hard to tell. Pc wise it’s a rather alright combat system, but it’s very, very, slow. On Pc it makes sense since it’s a strategy game of sorts and you need to manage your party members well for combo’s and the like. On consoles however it’s really dragging out long fights and your button mashing and long cooldowns sort of take the action away from you.

Also when you are in combat your hunched over and walk around like you have a stick in your arse.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbF5XVpN8SI BULLSHIT!

The combo’s are nice though, for example you can a much to freeze a target and ask the other to slam a stone fist spell towards the enemy, breaking him up in a dozen pieces. Or use the Holy Smite spell to knock the enemy of their feet before casting a large AoE (Area of Effect) damage spell to take them down.

The blood and gore, especially if you use walking bomb which blows up an enemy when his health hits zero, are very cool to see splattered on your armour and face. Proper dark fantasy at it’s finest! In fact that was the direction it was going for.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8E1kG3IbTI

Say it with me everyone, FUCK YEAH!!!!!

Leveling up

Leveling up in most games is awesome, and same counts in this one. Also depending on your relationship with your party members or buying manuals, you can specialize into different classes. For example if you are a Warrior you can specialize as a Templar if your good friends with Alistair. A Templar uses spells that cancels out enemy buffs or long charging spells. Or if you are a Rogue and good friends with Leliana, you can learn how to be a bard. It adds some customization for your characters and it gives some wicked spells you really need for the tougher fights.

Quests

Quest wise, the story line ones are excellent and very well written. However the side quests are pretty lame and mostly serve as quests to get money and sometimes just giving you a chance to fight Darkspawn. You know the guys your supposed to be fighting.

However one major Q-line is quite annoying, the one that takes place in the fade. A dream realm where you have to go front and back to different dreams to unlock specific forms to progress through them. It’s just busy work and it really grinds the plot to a standstill.

But other then that, the quests are alright.


Graphics

Graphics are alright in this game, and they do an good job. The fancy spells bright up and the blood splatters around nicely. There are a few glitches here and there, but nothing game breaking. Well except for the part where Leliana’s arms freeze up and she walks around like her arms are in casts. Speaking of bugs...

Bugs

They’re a LOT of bugs in this game. Leliana’s bug is one, and sometimes you’ll walk around like your still in combat like your Donkey fucking Kong! Some Quests cant be accepted or trigger properly and if you’re a dwarven noble and went through all that effort to make sure your kid is going to be part of your family house again, the completed quest section will say you fucking failed to give him the life he deserves! Gee thanks game, you just ruined my son’s life! God damnit!

Another problem is the integration from DLC’s. We’re heading into spoiler territory here so be carefull.

In the DLC witch Hunt you go after Morrigan after saving the day from the archdemon. To survive the death of the archdemon you have to had a ‘dark ritual’ with Morrigan, which results in a baby. However for some idiot reason the choice never goes through and Morrigan complains you never had the ritual! Which doesn’t make any fucking sense since A: I survived. B: Alistair Survived and C: She says she had my dwarf noble’s son!

WHAT. THE.HELL?!

Also I had four votes for the Landsmeet to overthrow Loghain, and he only had two and he won! I mean doesn’t this game know how to count, why is this happening to me. Aaaaargh!


Bossfights

Bossfights are amazing in this game. Each introduction is well done and most fights are entertaining, but son you have to play LIKE A BOSS to beat them. Make no mistake, one mistake and it could be game over on the higher settings.

The very final fight for example against the archdemon needs you to be on top of your game or you’ll be wiped out immediately. The only good points about that final fight is that you have two things going for you.

One, you can summon one of the armies you recruited to help you. You want the elves to come and help, sure they can shoot the bastard down or keep his minions at bay so you can face him. You want the dwarves to help? Sure they can aid you in melee. Or you want to be awesome and use the Werewolves to kick some ass, YOU BET!

The second is balista’s are located all around the battlefield and you can use them to pin the archdemon down, slowly sapping his life away. Not quite as epic as charging in swords a blaze, but hey you survived and no bard is around there to say ‘And so the Warden ran to the balista’s and kept firing it at the Archdemon like a little bitch.’

That’s just the prime example, each bossfight needs strategic thinking and carefully weigh down healing cooldowns with potions and what spells are best used before the other. Also try not to freak out when you face the Brood Mother, you’ll get slapped down like a fly when you do. Trust me, personal experience.....

However every time you or a companion make a final blow, you get a awesome finishing move that makes you think like your watching 300. Except with elves...and dwarves....and a hot-ass witch your tapping on the side.

MOVING ON!

In conclusion

This game is indeed one of the best games out there for the RPG genre and defiantly a good franchise for Bioware. It’s a unique universe with interesting characters and a lot of hours of gameplay worth playing the games several times over for. Different origins, different choices, different romance options and different classes.

If you want to get into RPG’s and you own a decent computer or an Xbox 360, defiantly try this game out, you wont regret it.

Next up, we’ll look into the expansion pack for DA:O called ‘Awakening’.

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