Monday, May 23, 2011

dragon age: origins

Progress: On my second playthrough

I have been growing my Dragon Age: Origins (DA:O) beard again this past weekend. This game is so long you have time to grow a few weekend-warrior-type beards with this fantasy based role playing game (RPG) released by EA. A blight is steering down on the the world of Ferelden. The Humans, Dwarves, Mages and Elven people are all threatened by hordes of Darkspawn. As one of the last remaining Grey Wardens you must unite the people in time to face the blight and the dreaded archdemon behind it.

DA:O is truly as deep an experience as you want it to be. From the very first screens, you make choices as to what your experience will be with DA:O. You can choose your race, gender and specialty right away. Choosing to play as a warrior will give you a more hands-on battle experience while choosing to be a Mage will allow you to launch powerful spells from afar. Also, the non-player characters (NPC) in-game will treat you differently based on your race and specialty. Even the gameplay is customizable letting you choose the order that you complete quests in allowing the story to unfold at your pace. Lots of additional DLC material let you add more depth to the story in an already vast world.

Saving is key to a successful DA:O journey. As a general rule with RPGs, I like to keep a rotation of five saved games. Good points to save are after major plot changes and before going into battles you feel you may lose. After I have five going I generally save over the oldest as it is least likely I'll want to backtrack that far into the game. This is very important, especially in a game like DA:O where your decisions throughout affect how future parts of the story will unravel. For example, saying the wrong thing to one of your allies may cause them to leave your team, or trusting the wrong person may lead to consequences down the road. Part of the draw with a game like DA:O is exploring all the different plot points and replaying by choosing a different path and seeing a different side to the story.

My first playthrough was 61 hours in length. I chose to be a human warrior, a very simple choice. After 61 hours I've grown quite attached to the characters in my party. Stand outs include Alistar, the whiny would-be king, Morrigan, the devilish Mage and Leliana, a rogue who was raised by the chantry. There are many more but the ones I've mentioned you can actually start romantic relationships with, providing you are in good favor with them.

There are some bugs that really messed up my experience. Long cut scenes with no audio. Awkward boss battles that ended with mis-ordered cut scenes. NPC starring off or running into walls. There are some humorous bugs too, I once used a fire spell on a thug and ended up in a conversation with a guy on fire (Much like the banner I chose up top). All these bugs, while frustrating, did not bother me as it would in most games. I almost feel with a game as open ended and as long as this there are bound to be a few hiccups.

Big shout-out to the Dragon Age Wiki, without which I would probably have had to take notes throughout the game. I don't condone walkthroughs unless it is a last resort but this site is a handy reference. The cast of NPCs is very large; there are so many, it is easy to lose track of who is who. Most have small roles that they play in the numerous side quests you can partake in and often, you can run into a character you were introduced to previously without remembering who they are. The game does feature some very in-depth glossaries and maps called codexs that you can also refer to. I found having my laptop on the DA Wiki page to be handy to keep the game moving along while doing research.

DA:O really left an impression with me on many levels. The story, while slightly predictable, never let me down. Ideas of race, religion and the consequences of your choices are all relevant. Like I said before, this game can be a deep as you want, you could blaze right through skipping over cutscenes and hacking your way to the bosses or you can sit back, develop your character and learn more about the vast story of Ferelden laid out before you.

"enchantment? ....enchantment!"

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