Dragon Age: Origins Review for PC

On: PCXbox 360PS3
Dragon Age's world is dark, bloody and brutal.
Dragon Age's world is dark, bloody and brutal.

Dragon Age's world is dark, bloody and brutal.

It is a giant leap back in time. It is an old school fantasy RPG for old school fantasy RPG fans. It is a 100 hour epic for those with the time and patience to experience it. It is a step in the wrong direction for some, but, for a chosen few, it is a step in the right direction.

Not for them is the third-person cover-based shooting of Mass Effect. Not for them are radial dialogue wheels. Not for them are cinematic camera angles and film grain effects. Not for them are trendy science fiction shotguns and power wheels mapped to controller shoulder buttons. For them, top down camera angles, text-based dialogue and spells and swords and rings and Dwarven chainmail are as welcoming as a camp fire set in an elven forest.

This is Dragon Age: Origins, BioWare's latest RPG epic. It is a game that modern day BioWare fans, schooled on the Canadian studio's skill in making console RPGs accessible without sacrifice, may have imagined as Mass Effect in Oblivion's clothes. They were wrong. Dragon Age is archaic. It is the spiritual successor to BioWare's own Baldur's Gate series, which last saw a release in 2001 with Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal. It is a game that reeks of decade-old PC mechanics, both good and bad. It is a game designed for the mouse and keyboard interface of the PC, and for PC fans familiar with the genre's jargon. Pause-and-play combat, spell combinations, aggro, tanking, dispelling, buffing, ranged DPS, melee DPS, talents, skills, willpower, constitution, rogues, warriors, mages, humans, dwarfs, elves... for the Dragon Age fan these terms are as familiar as the simple act of clicking on a line of unspoken dialogue.

This is not to say Dragon Age is a poor game - it is superb, in fact. It sucks you in from the moment it begins, and, like the best page-turners, leaves an itch in your mind. In the shower, on the bus, at work, in meetings, over dinner, Dragon Age's gargantuan world is there, compelling you to return like an addict seeking a hit of relief.

Duncan the Grey Warden acts as your guide during the early hours of the game

Duncan the Grey Warden acts as your guide during the early hours of the game

This addiction sets in remarkably quickly, which is testament to the gravity of the game's opening. Your first act is a choice; one you know will affect all that follows. Which Origin story do I wish to play? There are six: human noble, magi, city elf, Dalish elf, dwarf commoner and dwarf noble. Your starting area, your first hour with the game, and how the game's many non-player characters react to you, is changed as a result of this choice. It's a remarkable effort on BioWare's part. If we were to score replayability, Dragon Age would get a 10.

I am Alexia, a female human noble. She is tall, beautiful and blonde. She favours coercion over brute force, despite her proficiency with one-handed blades and shields. She is a herbalist, able to concoct healing potions by combining flasks with Ferelden's many plants. She began her adventure as a warrior in training - fearsome, but privileged. Her family are aristocrats, admired and respected as members of the noble house Cousland. But their cosy peace is about to be shattered: there is a darkness coming. The Blight is here. The darkspawn, evil mutant monsters, wish to purge the land of all that is good and green. Some wish to ignore the threat; others, including the mysterious and powerful warriors known as the Grey Wardens, know the truth, for they faced the darkspawn hundreds of years ago. Their mission is to first convince the races of the world to mobilise for war, then send the darkspawn back into the hole from which they crawled.

Whatever your Origin story, you end up recruited into the Grey Wardens and fighting the darkspawn in the Battle of Ostagar. It is a scene airlifted from The Lord of the Rings' Battle of Helm's Deep: As the battle rages below the fortress' stone walls, as the night sky spews a relentless rain, you, along with three party members, head to a tower to signal a flanking force. Inside, darkspawn defend. You make your way to the top and slay an ogre. Blood and guts adorn your sword, armour and face. But aid does not come: You are betrayed as your ally turns its back on the battle. You escape, but only just. You find the Grey Wardens' good name tarnished - you are blamed for the defeat. From there, you set out to spread the truth and mobilise bickering factions into action. The darkspawn have arrived, and their fury will be without mercy.

It is a familiar setup, one high fantasy fans will have seen before. Indeed, Dragon Age is a familiar game, one that does nothing new or groundbreaking. The PC version (the version tested), is particularly old school, with a tooltip-based user interface and a panned-out top-down perspective - one the console versions do not include - for easier party micro-management. The combat is a brutal, bloody, and slow clash of steel and magic. The mechanics are as they were a decade ago. The space bar pauses combat - your four-man party frozen in time as you dish out precise actions. What buffs should I trigger? What abilities should I use? What spells should my mage cast? Where should I position my rogue? Who is tanking, and what? Dragon Age on PC is unforgiving. BioWare violates the Trades Description Act with its "Easy" difficulty setting. The game demands careful planning, flanking tactics and clever use of skills. A word of advice: quick save as often as your F5 button can withstand.

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User Comments

goodterling's Avatar

goodterling

FINALLY someone who mentions the poor graphics. Every movie I've seen of Dragon Age, my reaction has been YUCK. Graphics are simultaneously flat and garishly colored--like they went in and cranked up the saturation after the fact. A 100 hours looking at that? Every reviewer goes on and on about the high detail, and ignores the crap art direction.
Posted 02:15 on 06 November 2009
Endless's Avatar

Endless@ mhrist

You can't review a game and not compare it to other games in the same genre, it wouldn't be a complete review if you didn't have points of comparison.
Posted 20:38 on 05 November 2009
mhrist's Avatar

mhrist

Hellow Reviewer, you also forgot to mention that there is no Laser Mk1000 and no Geth. I mean what kind of RPG is that? Ohh, it is not Mass Effect that's why. So how about the game on its own merit? I don't know if you guys do any schooling for this job but you should.
Posted 16:17 on 05 November 2009
Endless's Avatar

Endless@ wyp100

Thanks Wes.

I recently read the Kotaku review and they tested it with an early AMD Phenom, 2gb of ram and a radeon 3650 and still said the game looked better and ran smoother on PC than either console version.

Though you do have a much beefier gpu than mine (Radeon HD 4650) or theirs (Radeon HD 3650). I think i'll be getting the PC version now, I have 4gb of the speedy 1066mhz stuff on Vista 64 and a core2duo with 16mb cache which i hope should speed up the slow loading times you're getting, though as i recall Baldurs gate 2 had massive loading times as well lol. I'll chime in with how it runs when i get it tomorrow.

It's probably too hardcore for my wife anyway lol
Posted 11:00 on 05 November 2009
Karlius's Avatar

Karlius@ wyp100

Risky mate running Vista with 2gb maybe an update to windows 7 on the cards or a memory update?
Posted 00:24 on 05 November 2009
wyp100's Avatar

wyp100@ Endless

Specs:

8800GTX
AMD Triple Core
2GB Memory
Vista 32 Bit

Loading times were awful. Performance ranged - with the settings at max, combat was a struggle. Otherwise, it ran wonderfully.
Posted 00:07 on 05 November 2009
El-Dev's Avatar

El-Dev@ Mastorofpuppetz

Eurogamer panned it and give it an 8 for some reason when the review read like a 6.
Posted 22:49 on 04 November 2009
wyp100's Avatar

wyp100@ Mastorofpuppetz

I fear you've missed the point. "Archaic" is not a negative term. It is to say from the distant past, which Dragon Age certainly is. From the review: "This is not to say Dragon Age is a poor game - it is superb, in fact."

How is the ME radial wheel better? It's more dynamic, intuitive, and reflective of an actual conversation. It works brilliantly and I can see no good reason why it hasn't been used in Dragon Age.

Your comment on the combat is puzzling. The review praises it.

The paragraph regarding Mass Effect, again, is not a criticism. It is, as the review says, a warning to those who might have expected Dragon Age to be a game similar to Mass Effect.
Posted 22:42 on 04 November 2009
Endless's Avatar

Endless@ Mastorofpuppetz

I actually agree with this. RPGs have been getting dumbed down and simplified progressively for a long long time, both single player and Massively Multiplayer. If Dragon Age is a return to the way things used to be, then i welcome it.
Posted 20:53 on 04 November 2009
Mastorofpuppetz's Avatar

Mastorofpuppetz

What advances it ME and fallout 3? Worst dialog, lack of meaningful role play or choices? More basic less strategic combat? easier simplistic combat? Seems this is a return to form, not the other way around like this moron reviewer tries to say.
Posted 15:44 on 04 November 2009
Mastorofpuppetz's Avatar

Mastorofpuppetz

Single worse review I ahve ever read, like it was written by a 12 yr old console gamer? How is it archaic? How is the ME radial wheel better? The me radial wheel made it to easy to know how your response would go over, in DA, you never know how someone will react to you. The combat is vastly more involved, complex, ME was a RPG shooter, but good at neither. How is Dragon Archaic? Please explain, it is both more complex and deep, if by Archaic, yuo mean not dumbed down for the console masses, then yes I guess.

every other site has this game @ 9-9.5. Go back to your little console.
Posted 15:42 on 04 November 2009
Endless's Avatar

Endless

Out of interest what spec was the PC you tested it on and how would you rate it's performance?

I'm also trying to decide between which version to go for, though PC and 360 are my choices. If the controls are similar to those of mass effect then i have absolutely no quams about that, but i get the feeling it'll just look sub-par on my laptop as opposed to the 360 version.
Posted 12:35 on 04 November 2009
Wido's Avatar

Wido@ wyp100

Cheers for that. The menus and etc was fine with Mass Effect via the console. Sounds like Dragon Age wouldn't be no problem with the controls. Just the matter of which verison shall I pick! Xbox 360 or PS3. 360 with the DLC which can also work for ME2 or go for the PS3 verison and get future Dragon Age DLC....

Toughie!
Posted 11:23 on 04 November 2009
wyp100's Avatar

wyp100@ Wido

We've only been sent the PC version for review. I have played the 360 version however at various preview events. Obviously there's no tool-tip and the UI is different. There's no top down perspective either. Instead, radial menus, like those seen in Mass Effect, allow you to select party member powers and what not. It's perfectly playable, but in truth is best on PC.
Posted 22:58 on 03 November 2009
wyp100's Avatar

wyp100@ DarthKratos7

The information you're talking about is already in the public domain and has been discussed in many previews.
Posted 22:55 on 03 November 2009

Game Stats

System Requirements
Dragon Age: Origins
8
Out of 10
Dragon Age: Origins
  • Vast, engrossing high fantasy world
  • Brilliant supporting cast
  • Huge replay value
  • Generic graphics
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 06/11/2009
Platforms: PC , Xbox 360 , PS3
Developer: Bioware
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: RPG
No. Players: One
Rating: BBFC 18
Site Rank: 206 16
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