Dragon Age: Origins Review
BioWare has given fans of role playing games some classics that include Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Baldur's Gate, and Neverwinter Nights. For the past several years they have been in their chilly, at times, Edmonton studio working away on what they hope will become their next classic fantasy RPG. They have now released Dragon Age: Origins. Does it deserve to sit along side the past award winners from BioWare's RPG stable, or should DAO be considered DOA?
What does the Origin in Dragon Age: Origins refer to anyway? I believe it has two meanings. First is that this is the introduction to a whole new universe that BioWare has developed and has created with great detail. They have stated that there is a 1,000 year fully developed history for the DA universe. Origins is just our introduction or start into it. The second, and most obvious, refers to one of the six different stories for your character at the beginning of the game. DAO has you making some big choices right from the start. You start the game by creating your character and this usually simple task is what makes DAO different right away. Depending on the race and class you select there are different background stories, or Origins, for you to choice from. You could be a City Elf on your wedding day. Or maybe a Magi about to take a secret ritual. Maybe you'll select a Dwarf Commoner where you serve a crime lord. In all there are six possible stories. Each story will last a couple of hours. During this time you will learn some of the basics of the game, a lot about your chosen character, and about your land of Ferelden.
Regardless of the background story you chose, Ferelden is your home and there are some bad things happening. Kind of like what happened a couple of hundred years before when there was a terrible evil that almost destroyed everything. The only thing that saved the land back then was a group of brave guardians known as the Grey Wardens. Well, guess what? Yep, whatever that was back then is pretty much back again but this time there are not so many Grey Wardens around anymore. Actually, you will end up becoming a Grey Warden, with the how being unique to each Origin story. That means it's up to you to save the world. Now as far as stories go, DAO isn't trying to be terribly original. I mean, I think we have all seen our fair share of "save the cheerleader/save the world" stories. But that doesn't mean that a well known plot can't be told very well (for example: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings). DAO does have a few twists on the traditional fantasy genre; for example, Elfs are not revered but instead are treated very poorly by humans as slaves. It's changes like this that make the story interesting instead of feeling stale or recycled. Of course there is also betrayal, murder, sex, and all sorts of things going on that will keep you playing. So while the story in its simplest terms can be said to be that of saving the world, it's the building of your character and your group that makes the experience worthwhile.
Thankfully you are not expected to save the world all by yourself. Well, actually you kind of are as DAO is strictly a single player experience with no online action. Anyway, as you progress in the game you will find different people who will join you. Some of them you will not have any concerns about as you know exactly what their motives are. However, as with real life, there will be people that join you that may have different motives. This keeps you not only on your toes but the interactions between party members really help to bring some depth to the game. DAO has literally hours of spoken dialog and hundreds of thousands of text. The voice acting is spot on and rarely, if ever, does the voice not fit with the personality of the person. Since there is so much spoken dialog it's a huge relief that the vast majority of it is high quality in not only the voice but the words themselves. There are moments of the over dramatic and some unintended silliness, but by and large the dialogs draw you more into the DA fantasy world then make you realize it's just a game.