Dragon Age: OriginsRodney 6 comments
Inspired by my love of Bioware's Mass Effect 1 & 2, I decided to check out their "unknown blockbuster", Dragon Age. Dragon Age is Bioware's "other big game" of the moment, however it's been heavily overshadowed by the success of Mass Effect.
Fundamentally, the game mechanics and engine are obviously similar. You can feel a lot of Mass Effect type physics, gameplay and concepts very clearly in Dragon Age: Origins, however it would be unfair to say the games are too similar.
Dragon Age is a traditional RPG, set in a World of dragons, swords and magic. The game has a lot of similarities to the old Might and Magic series (something I personally loved). You build up a party over time and build up the experience points of your party members, gaining new skills and abilities as you go.
As with all such games, there is a core plot line with many, many sub plots you can chose to pursue or not. Playing all such lines through makes Dragon Age: Origins simply massive. I have read other reviews claiming to have clocked up over 250 hours of game play - without yet finishing the game. When you add on the enormous amount of DLC available for this game, it could easily become a never ending story.
As with Mass Effect, Dragon Age offers players the opportunity to build relationships with people and behave in a variety of ways. Dragon AGe actually has a much more complex character system than Mass Effect, where the player does not have to be either "good" or "bad" and can in fact get away with being extremely duplicitous. For example, you can behave in one fashion around some of your team members and in another around the rest, as some party members like "good guys", while other are turned off by it.
Likewise, you can have much more complex relationships with your party members, basing your relationship with them on truth or lies.
The gameplay itself has some similarities to Mass Effect, in terms of camera angles and in that you control a small party of players, however again here, Dragon Age has a much more complex mechanism for combat. As you have various classes of combatants in your party (mages, swordsmen, etc) there is more variety in how people fight. Likewise, the game allows you to provide much more detail in strategy and character control during combat, including a top down view (PC only).
The fights themselves are also quite gruesome, with characters being simply coated in blood by the end of close range combat and decapitations or other "finishing moves" quite frequent. See below for an example:
As well as this promotional video for the game:
In most areas of the game, Dragon Age offers a much more complex and detailed approach than Mass Effect, as is more fitting of an RPG. None the less, it lacks the polish which makes Mass Effect so enjoyable. The game has many very minor glitches and the graphics are nowhere near the standard of Mass Effect 2 (although Dragon Age 2 is making up a lot of ground on this).
Character voices are extremely hit and miss, some of the voice acting is just woeful. Unlike Mass Effect, your playable character has no voice of their own and this actually becomes a massive drawback for the game. Instead of conversing with NPCs in the game, you simply click a speech option and then listen to their response. This detracts significantly from the game and is something the developers promised to resolve in Dragon Age 2.
At the end of the day, however, Dragon Age: Origins has a legion of fans online and is an extremely popular game - for a reason. If you like traditional RPGs then this game is unparalleled, at the current time. It will provide you with a simply enormous amount of gameplay, for the same price as any other game, so if you want value for money, then it's not a bad choice.
None the less, the game is probably a little too long for anyone who has other commitments, as even a "quick run through" (ignoring side quests) will probably cost you around 80 hours (4 times as long as Mass Effect) and the lack of polish detracts from the gaming experience.
I'm certainly happy I bought the game an eagerly await the soon to be released sequel. Even still, this game is no "Mass Effect" and probably appeals to a much more niche market.