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Dragon Age: Origins | game review

An epic for the (dragon) ages.

 

Game summary: After four hundred years since the last Blight, a new Archdemon seeks to destroy the land of Ferelden. It is up to the two remaining Grey Wardens - to unite the divided armies of Ferelden and save humanity. (IMDb)


This is going to be a bit of a strange review because I don't see the need to play up what I find so enjoyable about Dragon Age: Origins. I mean, there are posts on this site going back to 2018 when I started my most recent play-through and continued with even after technical errors threatened to end it early - that's not something you'd do for a game that you didn't love as much as I do this one.


If those thousands of words across many posts aren't enough to get across how much I love this game, the characters, their stories and interactions with each other, the setting and it's mythology, how much your choices seem to matter on a micro and macro level, as well as the epic central story, then these first two paragraphs added to the last one and the score below should really seal the deal.


So what I'm going to do in this post is go through some of the pieces that might put other people off even if they don't affect my enjoyment of Dragon Age: Origins at all. Let's start with the length of the game, which is considerable. This is absolutely not the kind of game you can rush through to get the main story done, at least not on your first attempt and not without great difficulty at some points.


I don't think there's anything inherently bad about long games, but more a case of not justifying their length - to paraphrase the late Roger Ebert, one of the most influential film critics ever, no good game is too long and no bad game is short enough. While he was originally talking about movies, I think it's pretty applicable to pretty much every form of media (and even more aspects of everyday life - swap out 'game' for 'relationship' and it's still true).


There is a lot to read in Dragon Age: Origins, but it's mostly world-building, so you can easily skim over them or skip them entirely if you'd like - I certainly haven't read anywhere close to everything in the game despite playing through it at least eight times now. Likewise, there's a lot of dialogue in the game, but I think the sheer variety of people you speak to and why you're speaking to them - never mind how much what you say can influence how events unfold - tends to ease any frustrations there.


As for the central story, I think it's actually a pretty decent length and the world-ending threat justifies the game sending you to each location you have to visit. I think if there were fewer locations, the ending would feel a little lightweight considering you are being sent to recruit armies after all. On the other side, it doesn't go over the top and force you to recruit absolutely every single person you meet, which would have been tiresome to say the least.


I think what would actually put most people off is that Dragon Age: Origins isn't exactly the prettiest game in the world, and it wasn't among the best lookers when released either. Hell, Mass Effect 2 came out just a couple of months later and looks years more advanced as a game even taking into account the genre differences between science-fiction and fantasy.


On top of that, the combat system may put some off and I think was quite an issue with the original console releases back in the day - I'd certainly encourage anyone who wants to play this game to do so on PC with a mouse and keyboard as it'll be a lot easier. It might be a little overwhelming at first, but the fact that you can pause the action at any time to take a moment will certainly help newcomers.


None of these issues bother me though, as I wish the game was even longer than it was, use mods (which are plentiful) to smooth some of the visual issues (nudity feeling natural thanks to the game not being designed around that visual choice, and Grey Warden armour from the start for the win!), and a comfortable familiarity with the controls that only came about because I knew I could freeze things at any moment if things got out of hand were all huge helps for me.


In fact, the only real problem I have with the game now is that it just isn't as well supported now thanks to how old it is, meaning technical issues and glitches are never going to be fixed, so if you come across any you're just going to have to search for the solutions and/or workarounds yourself and hope they work. If you want a plug-and-play experience, that could actually be the deal-breaker.


Saying that, I love Dragon Age: Origins so much that having technical issues was never going to stop me from seeing the story through to its end (and am now playing Dragon Age II to continue in the world of Thedas), so I do have to admit that I can't really be impartial about the game's weaknesses. Thanks to its age, the Ultimate Edition, containing all the DLC too, is on sale with very deep discounts on a regular basis, so it'll hardly cost you anything to give it a go.


Dragon Age: Origins is a fantastic game whose characters and stories are just as enjoyable to go through again now as they were on release. It's not technically the most brilliant game you'll ever play, but being able to create a character that is distinctly yours - aided especially by the six titular origins - is something games still struggle with now and yet something this game mastered over a decade ago.

[10/10 - Phenomenal]

 

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