Yes, I admit it. I am one of the multitude of people who have been completely enraptured by the brilliance that is Dragon Age: Origins. Or maybe I should say enslaved? I beat it over a month ago, yet I am still playing it in most of my spare time. The game is so chock full of content that even when you win for the first time you have only experienced half of everything possible!
On the surface, the game just seems like a mildly beefed up version of Neverwinter Nights or Baldur’s Gate. Better graphics, more cutscenes, a new set of non-D&D classes, etc. But once you peel back that layer of first impressions and start to experience the guts of the game, you will be sucked into an epic, movie-quality story where your emotions are on a roller-coaster ride and you feel a very real vested interest in the outcome. I CRIED at the end of the game. As in, real tears streaming down my face! The full waterworks! ME!!! I’m usually just a gaming drone, trying to analyze the game system to get in the developers brain and then consequently min/max and find the most efficient way of defeating the game to earn my achievements or complete my goals. But not this game! Oh no, I lost myself in the tale that was woven around every decision I made. It helped that I made a character similar to myself, and that I made all the in-game decisions that I would make in real life. By the end, I was so deeply entrenched in this fantasy world in which I had forged myself into a legend through my actions that I cared more about what happened in the story more than whether or not I would get an extra +1 spellpower by equipping this staff or those robes.
And the story is just one of the many wonderful features this game possesses. Every one of the major companion characters (and there are 9 of them that can travel with you for a majority of the game) is incredibly complex. Just like the game itself, each of them seems like a blatant fantasy game stereotype when you are first introduced. But after just a small amount of time with them, they each begin to unfold into something you didn’t quite expect. The nuances of their personalities shine through in their dialogue with you and each other as well as their approval and disapproval of the choices you make. Just like most people I know in real life, these companions are strange compilations of traits that often contradict themselves and offer a deep richness not usually found in games. I grew to care about them even though I knew that their personalities were made of nothing but 0′s and 1′s, and when they disapproved of my decisions I felt genuinely bad!
The game is very dark and very mature, but it’s not all death and serious topics. There are some very humorous parts, things I would chuckle about for days. In particular, Shale the golem (part of the downloadable content called The Stone Prisoner) is an absolute hoot! I can’t tell you how many times I cracked up from some snarky comment spoken in that ridiculous golem voice with a british accent. Shale takes pride in being a cold-hearted killer of “squishier” beings like humans. My favorite line?
Leliana: You aren’t all stone, Shale. There is a person inside of you.
Shale: If so, it is because I ate him.
I still laugh about that one. If you take Shale with you through your adventures (which I highly recommend) you will be treated to all sorts of hilarious dialogues and one-liners.
Bioware also deserves some serious kudos for being brave and including GLBT content in the game. The fact that 2 of the 4 romanceable companions are bisexual and willing to engage in same-sex relationships speaks highly of Bioware‘s maturity and the progressive attitudes of the content creators. While I think the love-making cutscenes are generally cheesy and I couldn’t help but laugh at every single one of them, I am proud that they decided to include the possibility of gay romances without forcing it on the player. Like The Sims, it is up to the player to decide whether he or she wishes to engage in that kind of content.
I could probably write an entire book dissecting all the aspects of this game that I want to talk about–the equipment system, the achievements, the codex entries, the side quests, the talents & spells, the modding tools, etc. But then how would I have time to go experience the rest of the content I haven’t finished? This is a game that you do NOT want to miss out on. If you haven’t already purchased it, go out and buy it right now, or download it from Direct2Drive or some other online service. Be sure to get the PC version, as the game is best played with a mouse. I’ve tried it on the Xbox 360 and the controls feel completely clunky in comparison.
Hats off to you Bioware. You have stolen my life yet again. I would classify this as the best storyline I have ever experienced in a game. Ever. I’ll be playing this for quite some time to come. Oh well… off to kill more darkspawn!