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PlayBack: Dragon Age

Here be dragons.

Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, Knights of the Old Republic; for well over a decade, BioWare has been one of the leading names in the roleplaying genre. In its time, BioWare has worked with esteemed licenses from D&D to Star Wars while nurturing its own creative talents to produce original IP.

Hot on the heels of Mass Effect, 2009 saw the release of Dragon Age: Origins, a traditional fantasy RPG with a lot to live up to. Having just spawned a new AAA series and with fans pining for more Neverwinter, BioWare must have been feeling the pressure.


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Thankfully, and just as many had expected, Origins turned out just fine. In fact, it was better than fine. As with Mass Effect, the studio crafted an organic fictional universe with the help of Dragon Age lead writer, David Gaider.

Set in the lands of Thedas, BioWare’s first instalment followed the journey of the last Grey Wardens. These ancient protectors – once thought redundant – are the last line of defence between humanity and an evil horde known as the Darkspawn. Given the amount of fantasy literature and video games already in circulation, Origins maybe didn’t prove as original as its sci-fi counterpart, but it still span a tale worthy of merit.

The overarching narrative may have been fairly easy to predict, yet Dragon Age’s lore has many facets for players to explore. Within the first few hours of Origins, the game had already laid out a number of conflicts and tensions that permeate Thedas’s history. Mages are policed by Templars, Elves (generally considered superior in fantasy novels) are treated as scum, and the Grey Wardens – as you soon discover – have a rather strange auditioning process.

To support such an enriching backdrop, Gaider and writing team populated the game with some truly memorable characters. Not only that, Dragon Age empowered its players, allowing them to manipulate the story based on a series of key decisions.


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Sadly, where Origins came up short was in gameplay - at least where consoles were concerned. From the outset, it was clear that Dragon Age would be a spiritual successor to BioWare’s previous work with Dungeons & Dragons. This meant plenty of on-the-fly menus and giving players a sense of control over every combat scenario.

In the end, Edge of Reality did a good job in porting the game to both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 but, compared to the PC version, they felt noticeably inferior. All the options had been transferred over, but it just didn’t feel natural when holding a gamepad. Compared to its sequel (which copped some flak for feeling more “casual”) Origins often came across as a tad convoluted, forcing players to stop/start whenever they wished to issue commands and generally get the most out of combat.

Compared to a lot of the games I’ve revisited while running PlayBack, Dragon Age hasn’t aged particularly well either. Character models are repeated far too often and betray the game’s otherwise impressive art and sound design. When coupled with jagged textures and persistent dips in frame rate it makes for an experience that truly feels last-gen, at least in direct comparison with Dragon Age II.


With a third game on the horizon, there will no doubt be plenty of newcomers eager to spend time with previous iterations ahead of its launch later this year.

Though there is nothing fundamentally wrong with Dragon Age: Origins, and though this game is well suited for PC roleplaying veterans, I’d advise picking up the sequel on consoles, which proves to be just as good of an entry point to the series.

7 Comments
  1. bigchrissyc
    Member
    Since: Aug 2013

    I loved Dragon Age: Origins, although the gameplay felt slighty stiff and bogged down, the story more than made up for it for me.

    Comment posted on 21/02/2014 at 09:33.
  2. Germanos
    Member
    Since: May 2011

    A friend of mine recommended DA to me, as he played it on PC and really lied it. Before I never played any western type RPG like Neverwinter or BG, so did not know what to expect from the gameplay. in the end I really liked it, the story was good, but I think I’m not into choice based RPG and that was the biggest problem for me. As a fan of Final Fantasy, Suikoden, Breathe of Fire etc. I felt disappointed that I cannot grind my characters levels before the boss fights OR that non story fights almost do not exist.

    Comment posted on 21/02/2014 at 09:41.
  3. Avenger
    Member
    Since: Oct 2012

    I first tried the game on PS3 and thought it was really good, but I got put off by the technical issues. I played it on PC the year after and I loved it to bits for well over a hundred hours of gameplay in total. I’m not being a PC fanboy or anything, but the game is a lot better on the PC, and it really doesn’t take that much to run it. One of the best RPGs of the last generation.

    Comment posted on 21/02/2014 at 10:58.
    • MadBoJangles
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      I really enjoyed the game on PS3, after reading ur comment I may pick it up the next time it’s in the Steam sale :)

      Comment posted on 21/02/2014 at 11:24.
      • Avenger
        Member
        Since: Oct 2012

        The technical drawbacks were a personal sort of thing. I’d highly recommend the PC version as it plays slightly differently with the isometric view, abilities bar and sharp graphics.

        Comment posted on 21/02/2014 at 12:02.
  4. Lieutenant Fatman
    Member
    Since: Jul 2013

    Dragon Age was excellent fun, all the banter and interactions between the characters was a lot of fun, only thing missing was the main character had no voice. I skipped the second game as it sounded very rushed and a bit broken. They’re taking their time with the third one so fingers crossed it should be another classic.

    Comment posted on 21/02/2014 at 13:37.
  5. Feri
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    Nonono, Dragon Age II is really really bad, avoid it. Go on with the Origins and then Awakening on PC and read the story of the second one somewhere or watch it on youtube, but don’t waste your time playing it.

    Comment posted on 23/02/2014 at 03:56.

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