I am engrossed

November 4, 2009 by Tim

I was excited for Dragon Age: Origins when I first heard about it. A huge, epic dark fantasy RPG from Bioware? What’s not to be excited about?

I kept the game on my radar, but mostly at arms-length. I do that with titles I’m excited for, sometimes. I absorb what information comes my way, but I don’t gorge on every little detail, screenshot and video. I feel that doing this makes the wait for a game’s eventual release just a bit harder. Then a week or so before the game comes out, I’ll sit down and dive into the media, get myself really pumped.

And so it was with Dragon Age… a few days ago I sat down to read some previews, watch some trailers. However, what I saw initially was… let’s call it a turn-off. I saw a video that was not a candlelit dinner or long watch on the beach. It was gameplay from the PS3 version of the game, and it just did not fall in line with what I had expected this game would be.

The voice-acting was laughable and/or annoying, the graphics and textures were a bit blurry and bland, and the gameplay looked like nothing more than hack and slash drudgery. I will admit, I started to feel doubt that this was a title I’d be interested in.

Boy was I wrong.

I’m not quite sure what eventually prodded me into buying the game regardless… perhaps it was simply that Bioware had never done me wrong before, and I felt that at the very least I owed them as much to check out the game first-hand, rather than form my opinion from videos and reviews.

Whatever it was, I’m glad that I purchased Dragon Age: Origins. Now, I can’t vouch for the console versions here, I purchased it on the PC. Looking at the toolset they’re offering the PC community, it was a no-brainer decision for me. Some of the things I’ve seen of the console versions, the PS3 one especially, still look a little sub-par to me. So once again, the amazement that I’m going to talk about here applies to the PC version, and I have no first-hand experience with the console editions.

A simple way to describe the gameplay in Dragon Age is a mix between Baldur’s Gate and Fallout 3. You can play up close and frantic in real-time, or you can pull the camera way back to practically top-down view, and use pause to micro-manage every move your character’s make, and you can play anywhere inbetween. It’s the perfect level of freedom for an RPG like this, because it keeps the action moving when you want it to, and some encounters against lesser/fewer enemies can just be steamrolled with a few health potions and party preset tactics. Other encounters, however, you’re really going to want to pause to issue specific commands, and execute specific strategies to maximize outgoing damage and minimize incoming damage. And it all blends together seamlessly.

So the fun RPG gameplay is definitely there, but where Dragon Age really shines is the story. The first few hours of the game is going to be unique depending on which origin and race you choose. You’ll then merge with the main story, and from there on out your game is entirely affected by the decisions you make. There’s no blatant “Good/Bad” meter here like in Kotor. Your decisions and how they effect the future are often not entirely clear.

The voice acting is, for the most part, top-notch. I haven’t run into that guy from the PS3 trailer, but he must be the exception, because so far most of the actors have been at the very least good, and at the very best, incredible. Some of the character animations can be a little stiff at times, but often the voice acting is good enough to compensate for those situations.

I haven’t put a ton of time into the game yet, and I assure you, this is a game you can put a ton of time into. But in case there are other people out there who were doubting or on the fence about whether or not Dragon Age would be any good, I’ll vouch for it. The first few hours have been a fantastic gaming experience, and I have no reason to suspect that will change for the long haul. If you’re looking for a great fantasy RPG with a gripping story, look no further than Dragon Age.

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