Ok, so I've been playing Dragon Age: Origins the past few days. I've gotten just past the first ogre at the top of the Tower of Ishal with my newest character, but with a previous character I went a little farther. Anyways, the main thing that strikes me is how different it is from all the other RPGs I've played in the past few years. It's very traditional- about the only thing the gameplay is missing that would make it more so is a D&D ruleset. This is by no means a bad thing. It's an awesome game, but if you've been playing Bethesda's RPGs or Mass Effect, this will take quite a bit of time to become re-accustomed to. As the game progressed, it kept getting harder, and I think it's because I continuously messed up my character, but I didn't like the auto-level for myself. What's the point of an attract aggro skill if you don't raise your constitution at all? This got to the point where I restarted, and we'll just have to see how this works this time around.
You may have heard that DA:O doesn't look that good. Maybe it doesn't look as good as Uncharted, but it's still amazing. The cutscenes seem to be done with the ingame engine, but they still look incredible, mostly thanks to Bioware's awesome story-telling ability and soundtrack.
The combat animations are great as well. The fighting is really good, and it's pretty good at disguising the very turn-based nature of the game, but that's nothing compared to the awesome kill animations. It's pretty cool when you're fighting this enemy and you chop his head off, or stab him with your sword and push him off with your shield, but that's nothing compared to some of the bigger ones.
There's a fight early in the game where you fight this huge, ugly ogre. The kill animation, should you get it, is absolutely epic-on the scale of a QTE finishing move in something in God of War, albeit with worse graphics and from the same perspective. Slash, slash, leap to his head, stab, ride him down, stab him AGAIN in the face. I managed to take a bunch of pics this last time, and they looked really cool.
The sound is pretty good too, and I especially like the soundtrack-but that's me, I like video game soundtracks.
Anyways, one thing that DEFINITELY bears mentioning is the lack of an alignment system. Surprised? I was. You can definitely be as mean as you want, on the order of a Renegade from Mass Effect, but there's no scale for this. The closest there is is the approval ratings of your companions. I definitely prefer it this way. I think there should be one, but it should work more as a reputation, allowing people to know what you've done in the past, etc. etc. But the way Dragon Age works is a good thing for the game. I haven't gotten to most of the major decisions, but the one I HAVE done was the grayest decision I have EVER made. I still think it was the best option for everyone involved, but Alistair seemed to disagree on principle, which makes sense all things considered.
This is a VERY good thing. Mass Effect's decisions, while they influence the story more and are decidedly more epic, are amazingly easy to choose from. Good, or bad? Dragon Age actually makes you choose, and it feels much more real and adds to the overall experience.
The amount of replay value is going to be absolutely through the roof. The different origins stories, the different tacks you can take in the missions, the different classes, the different companions to focus on, and everything, makes me think that I could spend a couple hundred hours playing this.
Personally, I like Mass Effect better, because I really like Mass Effect's universe, and its combination of RPG and FPS-possibly my two favorite genres. Dragon Age is awesome (I especially like the dwarves-Lord of the Rings was awesome, but their portrayal of dwarves was just sad), but the world and playing style just doesn't cater to me quite as much.
Well, that was a long first impression. From here on until I finish it, I'll just talk about the things that occur to me as I'm playing, specific aspects that I want to focus on. When I finally finish I'll do an actual review, and we'll see how it works.