|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|
by Jonathan Marx
December 27, 2008 - The folks at BioWare are masters of their craft. With fan favorites such as the Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights series setting the tone in their early days, this development studio garnered rabid support from RPG gamers in the know. Later, games such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect have made this company synonymous with top-quality RPGs.
Their current project is Dragon Age: Origins, an original IP that is described as being the "spiritual successor" to Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights. Stepping outside of the Dungeons & Dragons universe, BioWare has fashioned a dark world and story that puts a premium on character development, complex, intertwining storylines, and intense tactical combat.
Amazingly, unlike most studios, BioWare has been able to tackle multiple gaming platforms with relative ease. The legendary Star Wars: KOTOR proved the company could develop for both PC and home consoles, Mass Effect reaffirmed this, and even Sonic Chronicles showed the company could take on the DS. With this coding expertise, BioWare will bring the Dragon Age: Origins experience PC and console gamers alike.
Dragon Age: Origins takes place in a world threatened by evil Dark Spawn. The kingdom of Ferelden is being terrorized by this menace, and it is up to the brash King Cailan and his Grey Wardens to protect the world from disaster. The Grey Wardens is an elite group within the Ferelden's armed forces made up of warriors and magi of great ability and renown.
Players start the game from a unique perspective depending upon the race, class, gender, and origin story they have selected. Commensurate with these initial choices and the subsequent decisions players make, the story, NPCs, player growth, and party make-up will be ever-evolving. One thing that does remain constant, however, is that players will be inducted into the king's army as a Grey Warden. As such, the game will follow an engaging main story arc that should act as a cohesive element regardless of your individual choices.
Still, the game should feel quite different depending on character customization due to its heavy emphasis on origin stories. After all, it's even found in the subtitle of the game. Consequently, playing the game as a human noble warrior will be very different than if you were playing as an elf mage. For example, humans run the world, and elves are considered second class citizens. Human noble warriors not only fight differently, but they also command respect from townsfolk and military members alike. On the other hand, magi are mysterious wielders of arcane power that are cautiously dealt with by the average citizen, but they are held in great esteem by other magic-touched members within their circle. The origin of each character will greatly dictate how the world around you initially reacts to you.
Likewise, Dragon Age: Origins will not confine your character to rigid alignment-based actions. Players are free to be as good or as evil as they want to be. In fact, often players will have to make tough decisions throughout the game; what's best for the common good may be decidedly bad for a few. Players will be given the freedom to make those decisions as they see fit. Again, the decisions players make will constantly shape and mold the story and world around them.
The only real constraint to your decision-making process is party approval. Throughout the game, you will be matched with NPCs that will join your group. These characters have their own ambitions and motivations that may coincide or contrast with your own. As such, players will constantly have to manage the chemistry and makeup of the party. It's quite possible for a party member to turn on you if your choices consistently and completely disregard their own outlook and moral compass. A precursory example of this was demonstrated in Mass Effect, when players had to try to convince Urdnot Wrex that the serum being developed to get rid of the biophage that plagued his people was just a false cure. Interactions like this should serve to make NPCs far more complex than what we've seen in most RPGs.