Dragon Age: Impressions


What day is today? It’s Dragon Age: Origins release day! Yaaaay! It’s also the day the review embargo is lifted. Unfortunately, tearing through an 80-hour RPG takes…well…80 hours, so I’m not done with it yet. Instead, I present you with my impressions thus far. You may also feel free to ask me whatever you like and I’ll try to respond in the comments. Hit the jump to read on…

– First up, the setting. Yes, it borrows A LOT from Dungeons & Dragons and Lord of the Rings and is full of the fantasy cliches and stereotypes you’d probably expect. However, BioWare has created an insanely detailed world in Dragon Age that may borrow from other sources, but has an intriguing background and story all it’s own.

– Character stats & leveling also borrow a lot from BioWare’s past games like Neverwinter Nights, Jade Empire and Knights of the Old Republic. The key difference here is that they’ve really trimmed the system down and streamlined it to make every character option feel important and not like it was trying to retrofit a pen & paper RPG system into a video game.

– Gameplay, while viewed exclusively from a 3rd person perspective in the console versions, works pretty much like past BioWare RPGs. Target an enemy and hit the button to select it. It does the rest. Attacks are automatic, spells and skills recharge after use and will fire off again unless you pick a different one. This is not an action-RPG whatsoever (remember to stop mashing the X button if you keep hearing your character’s lame battle cry over and over). You’re free to move wherever want in combat and can instantly switch between party members with the shoulder buttons. You can also pause the action and hold L2 to bring up the radial menu and pick options not in your shortcut palette. Each character has a fully customizable and deep AI system so it’s pretty safe to leave them on autopilot for normal battles.

– The interface works well on the console. The radial menu is quick and lets you easily find what you’re looking for. The menu screen uses an odd combination of shoulder buttons, d-pad and analog stick to navigate, but once you get used to it  you’ll find it works quite well.

– Framerate issues. Yup, it’s got them. Most reviews out there are saying the PS3 has the worst time of it, but ends up with better textures than the 360. I can believe that. However the textures still aren’t the greatest and the art direction is kind of bland to begin with so you may want to go for a more stable version if you have the option. PC is definitely the king of the three platforms for this game.

– The party characters are fantastic other than lacking visual pizzaz. Each has a distinct personality and party interactions are incredibly well done. It’s really hard not to care about some of these guys.

– Finally, the story. The whole “origins” gimmick is interesting in the way it modifies what you experience throughout the game. The two character origins I played through (of 6) weren’t exactly the most interesting, but once you get past that and finally become a Grey Warden the storyline really starts to pick up. It is still pretty cool to see events from your origin come back while playing through the game. Overall it becomes quite compelling if not wholly original.

That’s it for now. Full review next week. My recommendation for the time being is to run out and buy it if you’re a BioWare RPG fan or looking for something a little more familiar if Demon’s Souls didn’t float your boat. While the PS3 version is perfectly enjoyable, it does have noticeable technical hiccups. Nothing that ruins the game thankfully, but given the choice I’d pick the PC version over it.

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Written by Mark Senger

Glenn’s second co-host on the podcast , Mark graced the airwaves from late 2007 to early 2010.

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