|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: BioWare||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 3, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Outside of combat, Dragon Age: Origins is keenly focused on telling great stories. The overarching plot is an epic tale of the struggle between the goodly races of Ferelden and the evil taint that afflicts the world. Going deeper within that tale, players will also come across intrigue between power groups, significant racial tensions, powerful love triangles, and layers of decisions that shape their character and even the makeup and outlook of your party. What's more, every play-through will be different, assuming you select a new class and race each time. Rather than simply affecting the way your character deals with combat threats, the race you choose, its background, and its class will give you a distinct origin story and determine how NPCs interact with you. While this isn't as revolutionary in practice as I had hoped, it definitely goes a long way toward providing the game with real replay value and lasting appeal.
Like any good RPG, leveling in Dragon Age is quite satisfying. In fact, rather than feeling like a power-grind, it's much more like developing a character. Rather than getting railroaded onto a set track, players will have lots of power selections and even four class-specific specialties from which to choose. That means I could play a mage, warrior, or rogue in vastly different ways due to the secondary fighting styles (sword and shield vs. two-weapon vs. two-handed, etc.) and the back-story that accompanies each specialty. For example, you could create an Arcane Warrior mage with shapeshifting capabilities concentrated on entropic and primal powers. The next time you could play as a Templar and Champion that destroys enemies through vicious two-handed weapons and an indomitable will. As such, making your way through Dragon Age: Origins multiple times seems less of a chore and more of a challenge.
Production value in Dragon Age is extremely high. The impressive amount of voice work is all outstanding, effectively bringing the player deep into the story. Also, the booming sound effects and epic musical themes really help the action hit home. Additionally, the sweeping, detailed environments really set the tone and nicely flesh out the world, and the excellent character and creature design makes conversations and killing a whole lot more fun. While graphical quality is generally excellent, it's not quite as sharp as the very best games out there - Gears of War 2, Killzone 2, Uncharted 2, etc. Crysis, Empire: Total War, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, et al. Nevertheless, it's still a great-looking game. If you're a PC gamer, you're going to have to have a high-end rig to really enjoy the game, though. While it will play on most decent systems, playing with the low graphical settings really cuts into the game's overall appeal. In fact, if your PC doesn't exceed the recommended specs, I would suggest picking this game up for your console even though the battle system is better-suited to a mouse and keyboard setup.
There is so much more to Dragon Age: Origins I just don't have room to explain here. Simply know that there are tons of weapons and loot to find, craft, and coat with poison, thousands of quests to take on, storekeepers to intimidate, and NPCs to persuade. If you're a Western-style, fantasy RPG nut, or if you love a great tactical challenge, you simply can't go wrong with Dragon Age: Origins. BioWare has outdone itself once again - they've created an RPG masterpiece that I'll be playing till Mass Effect 2 drops.
CCC Editor / News Director