A Look Back At Dragon Age Origins

A Look Back At Dragon Age Origins

Dragon Age Origins is a curious game. Graphically it’s not very pretty, the storyline is the epitome of clichéd high fantasy, and mechanically its a hardcore RPG (apparently unfashionable these days). Yet those that like the game, love it. So much in fact, that it’s sequel is considered to be the inferior game, despite having far more technical polish. So why do I and other gamers love it so? Read on to find out.

dragon age origins 2Considered as somewhat of a spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate, Dragon Age Origins is what I would call a proper, old school RPG game. The kind of game Bioware is seemingly convinced no one wants to play any longer. Every bit of armour and weaponry has stats to pour over and compare. Characters have multiple builds to explore, and stats to tweak. Every enemy corpse is a chest to be looted, and dungeons are full of secrets to find. There’s three different races to play; Human, Dwarf and Elf. Three different classes to play; Warrior, Rogue and Magi, each with their own specialisations. Combining the races and classes, there’s six separate Origin stories to explore. If you’re starting to get the impression that Dragon Age Origins is a big game, you’d be right. It’s chock full of the kind of content that RPG fans love.

After you’ve chosen your race and class, your first steps into the world of Ferelden take place during your origin story. Each story, although unique to your heritage, serves to explain the chain of events that lead you to joining the Grey Wardens, and embarking on the main quest properly. Ferelden is facing another Blight, an event that will see a horde of evil Darkspawn (undead creatures?) unleashed upon the land, and it’s the Grey Warden’s duty to stop it. Unfortunately, the Grey Wardens are lacking in numbers, and rather unpopular, so things are already looking bleak. King Cailan has a far more romantic view of the Grey Wardens, and is eager to join them in battle against the Darkspawn at Ostergar. Teryn Loghain, the king’s general and father-in-law, has other plans though. Seeing political gain in the king’s death, Loghain withdraws from the battlefield, leaving Cailan to die and the Grey Wardens to take the blame. You and Alastair somehow survive the battle at Ostergar, and are left with the unenviable task of stopping the Darkspawn, all the while under suspicion of treason.

dragon age origins 3After the opening stages of the game, you’re left to decide how to proceed next. Your plan is to recruit allies from the three races, but the order in which you do it is entirely up to you. Also undecided is your choice of companions. I’m not just talking about who you party with, either. Several characters can be left un-recruited, or even expelled from you camp in the future, and it goes some way to bringing a sandbox feel to a game which essentially has a linear story. The game world tries the same sort of thing too; the various locations are fully explorable, but only within their limits. Try to venture out into the countryside between towns, and you’re automatically taken to a map and asked where you want to go.

One of my other favourite aspects of the game are the various origin stories, and how they tie in together. For example, in Denerim there’s a dwarven weapons merchant called Gorim in the town square. If you talk to him he’s polite, but he won’t reveal how he got there. It’s only by playing the Dwarven Noble origin story that you find out who he really is, and how he became a lowly merchant. If you play the Human Noble origin story, your run in with Arl Rendon Howe later in the main quest has a far more personal edge to it. If your class choice is Mage, a certain prisoner in Redcliffe will have featured in your origin tale. Dragon Age Origins is full of these little crossovers, and while they’d never be classed as major plots points (within the context of the main quest line), they do add plenty of charm and flavour.

dragon age origins 1My love for Dragon Age Origins isn’t complete however, as it does have one or two things I don’t like. There’s a section during the rescue of the mage’s circle that takes place in the Fade that I suffer through every single time I play the game. I find it repetitive, and in places confusing. Considering that the game is so large anyway, I could happily do without it. Then there’s the colossal amount of DLC to get through; it’s almost overwhelming at times, and I still haven’t finished it all. But those two pale into comparison when compared to venturing in to the Deep Roads. Every time I go in there, I get lost. Every. Single. Time. And I’ve done it multiple times too, so I should know better. The biggest problem is a lot of it looks exactly the same, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve lost track of which direction I’m going in.

I started off by calling Dragon Age Origins a curious game, and I stick by that. At the time, I agreed with the reviews that give it a 5 or 6, and yet I played it endlessly. I liked it despite it faults, and I’ve never been able to quite work out why. I rather suspect it’s because (to my mind) it’s the last time Bioware really made a full on RPG. Dragon Age 2 and the Mass Effect games are fine, but they’ve had a lot of the RPG elements stripped out, and I miss those things. It may feel old fashioned by today’s standards, it certainly lacks the technical accomplishment of the later Bioware titles, but Dragon Age Origins retains a certain level of charm that other games often never have.

Chris Jacobs

Old enough to remember the Atari 2600, I’ve seen my fair share of consoles come and go. Xbox and PlayStation owning PC convert. Also, father of two and amateur Hobnob enthusiast.

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  1. The Sto0nes
    April 25, 2013, 1:10 am

    How fuck does DA2 have more polish? it looks worse and plays worse than the original. It lacks any kind of depth or plot as well.

    • Jennifer Taylor
      April 25, 2013, 12:44 pm

      An opinion is an opinion, dear friend. I would be happy to read your piece on the original if you happen write one :)

      • The Sto0nes
        April 26, 2013, 1:52 pm

        Lul. Typical. Da2 is awful, it’s a fact not a opinion. I’ll let you get back to liking awful games.

        • Chris Jacobs
          April 26, 2013, 5:12 pm

          I prefer DA:O to DA2 in many ways, and it’s my favourite of the two, however in my opinion the second game has more technical polish. Perhaps you’re comparing the PC versions when you say that DA:O looks better, I don’t know, but I can assure you that on console, DA 2 is the visually superior game.

          Your reaction doesn’t surprise me though. I’ve spent enough time on the Bioware forums to know that there are some gamers that simply cannot stand good things being said about DA 2. Just like you, their opinions are absolute facts too, and rather amusing, made without any hint of irony.

          It’s OK to not agree with me, it’s OK to not like DA 2, it’s your rudeness I don’t understand.

          Reading comments like yours makes me realise how lucky I am. I’m OK with people liking different games to me, it’s why I didn’t leave my wife after she declared she liked DA 2 more. Just think of what might have happened if I felt as strongly as you…. ;-)

        • Jennifer Taylor
          April 26, 2013, 6:27 pm

          Liking something or not is always going to be an opinion, and never fact.

  2. Ryan Syrett
    April 26, 2013, 6:25 pm

    I’ll agree with Sto0nes that DA2 was pretty darn poop story/location wise but it certainly is more ‘polished’ in terms of graphics.

    Still, it doesn’t make me angry enough to act like a child on the Internet.

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