Thursday, June 15, 2017

Dragon Age: Origins

I'm getting a new computer soon, which means that I'll be able to play games where the graphics setting are not set to Ultra-Crappy. To celebrate, I'm finally doing my "canon" play through of this game series so that I can finally enjoy Inquisition in all of it's glory.

But that's at least a month away. Right now, we're going to talk about the game that started it all. Origins very much feels like an old school, classic RPG, from it's dialogue trees to it's combat.

It's a very tactical combat, complete with friendly fire. You can pause the game at any time  in order to issue commands to your party members. The thing is that you can only issue one directive per person at a time. You can't string together a bunch of commands and forget about that person for awhile while you chop the head off of an ogre. There's a degree of micromanaging here that can sometimes be annoying. But if you enjoy lining up complex tactical combos, then this is definitely a system that will work for you.

This game came out about 8 years ago, so the graphics are a bit dated. The character models still look pretty good during conversations and cinematic moments, but the backgrounds and world itself is starting to show its age. It's nothing all that distracting, and there are mods to update them if it really bothers you. I personally only mod the hair styles if only because I want my noble rouge to have pretty, flowing princess hair. (I'm 90% sure that the hair styles are taken from The Sims 3, and it honestly looks pretty jarring in world but I don't care.)

The dialogue trees are honestly where the game shows its age the most. Now, I've heard both sides of the debate on whether or not a voice protagonist is better for an RPG. I can see why some people my prefer a silent protagonist. It's easier to shape them into your character, as opposed to having them sound exactly like everyone else who has played the game. But I always run into the issue of not knowing what tone certain dialogue is said in. There have been multiple times where I've interpreted dialogue as joking, only to have other character react as if I had just been cruel to them. Now, maybe this is my own fault. But I find that having a voice character takes away any ambiguity over the intent of the dialogue choice that I'm selecting. And I think that giving the protagonist a choice makes them feel more alive. So I wish that my Warden had a voice of her own. That would probably be the biggest change that I would make to this game if I had the power to do so.

What I wouldn't change is the story. Yes, it's a little cliched. The main story doesn't really deviate from the expected path at all. But that doesn't matter when the execution of those ideas is so good. Each area has its own unique story, and none of them are bad. The Circle of Magi gives you great insight into your current party of companions. The Dalish gives you actual werewolves to fight against. (Or with!) Denerim gives you court intrigue and one of the most satisfying moments of the game if you manage to turn the nobles against Loghain. Each section allows you to triumph as you slowly build up your coalition.

But those victories come at a cost. The world of Thedas is very much a dark fantasy world. You will be forced to make some very tough choices, and you won't have a morality system to guide you. That may be one of my favorite things about this series. There is no Paragon and Renegade system, no Light Side and Dark Side. Do you sacrifice a woman to free a possessed child, simply kill the child, or run for outside help and just hope that the child won't kill everyone while you're gone? You need to make that choice with no guarantees that you're making the smart or moral decision. And no matter what you do, people will die as a result of your actions. It really gives your choices a sense of weight to them. It forces you to think about your actions and choices before you make them.

The companion characters in this game are probably the best that Bioware has ever created. And I know that that's a really bold statement. I do. But I stand by it and will defend my position to anyone who says otherwise. Every single one of them are more complex than they initially appear to be. Sten is a proud, stoic warrior, yes, but he also loves sweets and flowers. Zevran is an outrageously flirty assassin, but of you pursue a romance with him he stops at every point to make sure that you're still comfortable with how the relationship is going. Morrigan is originally sarcastic, bitter, and self-excludes herself from the group, but over time she realizes that she has found a family here, maybe even a lover or a sister.

I love all the romances and how different they are from each other. My favorite is a toss up between Alistair and Zevran. Zevran is charming and sexy while Alistair is sweet and potentially heartbreaking. Actually, knowing what could happen to a Warden Alistair in future games, basically all endings with him are heartbreaking. Zevran has a much happier ending overall, I think.

It's a ballsy move to (potentially) kill off your main character. And this isn't some sort of Mass Effect 2 fake out. Your Warden can actually die at the end. It's a heart wrenching choice, and I definitely cried whenever I made it. But you also have the option of taking Morrigan up on her offer. Honestly, unless it makes absolutely no sense for your character to agree to making an Old God baby from a role playing perspective, I see very little reason not to make the deal. If only because the baby feels like it would play such a large role in future games. I'm not sure if he does or not as I haven't played through a world state where he's alive. Yet. If I change my position come Inquisition, I will let you know.

But that's a problem with these kinds of games, especially when you can see the consequences that occur down the line. It's very easy to meta game it, to make sure that everything turns out alright. I'm guilty of doing it. The only reason why my Cousland became Queen as opposed to staying in the Wardens with Alistair is so that I don't have the make an extremely difficult choice when my Inquisitor eventually gets thrown into the Fade. But I guess that's ultimately up to the gamer to decide how much they want to indulge in that kind of behavior.  

Random Thoughts

Alistair and Cailan look so similar that I'm surprise that no one called them out as being related to each other.

I really, really love that there are 6 different origin stories depending on your race and class. And I love that there are references to all the other possible Wardens too as you go through your journey.

I didn't really touch the DLC for this game for the simple reason of I haven't played them yet. I'll probably at the very least do a review for Awakening.

I noticed this when I played through the Human Noble origin for this review: they really heavily hint that your family is going to die. Like Fergus told his son that he would see a real sword up close very soon, and less than five minutes later poor Oren is dead. I'm not sure if I should laugh or cry.    

The whole gifts mechanic is a little stupid. It's way too easy to exploit. You essentially bribe your companions to like you. And they do, even if you make decisions that are completely counter to their beliefs! (With a few notable exceptions.)

This is my 200th post! Go me!

This is one of my favorite game series, and replaying it is like coming home.

9.5 out of 10

~An Honest Fangirl 

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