Monday, April 26, 2010

Dragon Age: Origins: First Impressions

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.


  1. Well said. This game took me by surprise in a big way. I agree about the lack of alignment in your decisions. One thing some of these games appear to be doing is making the decisions clearly "good vs evil" with the developers deciding what it means to be good and/or evil. It seems to me that it should be more ambiguous, like they would be IRL. For the most part, Dragon Age does that, at least better than most games out there. And man i feel you about some of those decision late in game. Probably the first time i had to step away from the game and torture myself over what decision i was going to make. I've never had a game make a decision feel that important to me. I still have played awakening yet, or the game at all in a couple months. I pretty much went about 70 hours in from launch and needed a break. But i'll definitely be getting back into it soon. Just curious, what system did you play it on? Because on PC it looked fantastic. I know the console version was a little lacking, and just seeing how the menu systems were layed out for a controller made me cringe.

  2. I disagree regarding the alignment bar. I've never much liked bars and I wasn't missing one in Dragon Age either >_> In fact, I quite hated the game but the one thing I DID like about the game was your pals. At first I didn't really pay much attention to that friend-bar at the bottom of each profile, and before I knew it, I had pushed the line and left my group. I, kind of gasped in my head I guess. I didn't believe it possible for someone to LEAVE once they've joined.

    And this brings me to my whole hatred for "bars" altogether. Unless it's to measure a stat of some kind (str, speed, ect) it just serves to take you out of the experience. I loved judging my progress in a relationship with a character in Mass Effect 1, by talking to them, engaging them. Depending on what they called me "Sheppard, sir, commander", I could tell how they felt towards me. And this is made even more apparent in Dragon Age. Except there's a FRICKEN bar! Morality (and relationships) should be measured in ways that need interpretation (scars, skin tones horns, wing, ect). Putting down a precise "bar" to measure where I am in the world just, always made it so calculated and scientific. It turns experiences of "Hmm, will I kill this dude?" into "Alright just one more evil act to get to this next portion of the evil meter".

  3. Ok, clarification time.

    I played it on the PC. I'd heard that it was better on PC, and it just seems right, anyway.

    I don't want there to be an alignment bar that you can see. I want some long-term consequences for your actions. People should KNOW that you killed that one guy in that one place for no particular reason. These things need to be there, but they do not need to be shown.

  4. Agreed! I apologize too if I seemed quite, passionate about simple bars, but I expect Bioware to present relationships/reputation than a little bar.

    I, hate, bars :)