Words by Calasade

Dragon Age: Origins received critical acclaim upon release in 2009. Much deservedly so for story, world, characters, music, and the combat system. Among its accolades were Game of the Year and Best Role-Playing. Lofty achievements indeed. However, none of the praise that I recall was directed towards its banal appearance or the clichés and tropes (would have won those hands-down were such awards to exist). A little generic, graphically speaking, but character-expressions were pretty ground-breaking in the RPG genre back then. What wasn’t generic in the least was the voice-acting for DA:O. That is rather incredible and features the likes of Tim Curry and Claudia Black.

DA:O was supposed to be the spiritual successor to the legendary Baldur’s Gate series from the late 90’s and early 2000’s. While DA:O isn’t as great as BG, the game succeeds at its goal for the most part, especially in the way of non-player character (NPC) personalities, romances, and story. Still, the role-playing in DA:O is not as rich. Neither does the story begin as gripping. At least not for the origin I chose, which was human noble. I’ve probably played DA:O five times over the years. Always start out the same. Don’t know why. Guess I relate more to a human than I do an elf or dwarf and a rogue or warrior versus a mage.

The game is a long one, so I’ll be reviewing it by area in the order I reached the area. Castle Cousland, Lothering, Denerim, etc.

Main premise is you become a Gray Warden. The Gray Wardens are an order responsible for protecting the populace from creatures called DarkSpawn. DarkSpawn periodically wage a blight on the lands and it will be your responsibility to stop this latest blight. It is a straightforward premise which would get boring if not for the many wrinkles the writers created.

My player-character (PC) is a rogue. Not exactly a powerhouse fighter in the beginning, but fearsome and adept depending on the talents you choose later. The rogue will eventually become more dangerous than a flat-out warrior and is more entertaining to build because of all the options you’ll have in the way of talents upon leveling up. Too, there’s the added bonus you can loot from the beginning. Looting is important for better weapons, armor, and selling off items for coin.

Though Origins is party-based, you’ll start out alone. In the human noble case, given a simple task of finding your brother Fergus. Roam about a bit. Talk to characters. That will help keep up the interest level until things get involved and gain you experience points (look for tomes/books, pick all the locks you can, etc.). If you’re the kind who appreciates a bit of naughty fun, make sure to strike up a conversation with the young man (Dairren) or woman (Iona) you meet when talking to your mother. Pay attention to the conversation. This will inform you in which room those two are staying. Should you choose to romance one, you’ll wake up with that choice after speaking to Fergus. Seems at that juncture the writers at EA stuck with the horror morality cliche`.

Having sex gets a character killed.

But here things finally take off when a siege is made upon the castle. Some of this early fighting can be challenging (appreciate that because DA:O is woefully unbalanced and you’ll be sleep-walking through a lot of fights later even on Nightmare level). The story does a good job of imparting immediacy, though you might want to resist that and get in all the fighting you can. The one which takes place in the chapel is good.

A few notes on DA:O. This is not an adult-oriented game (PG rating), but can be made more so at least in presentation through implementing user-based game mods. The number of mods for DA:O is astounding and will improve the game tenfold. Unfortunately, there’s no way of adding to the story’s complexity and your choices are clearly in the black or white rather than the much more entertaining gray area.

Following are the mods I used:

Theta HD (Graphics), DAO Mod Manager, Natural Bodies All In One (Nudity – otherwise, the sex cut-scenes with underwear are creepy and sophomoric), Dragon Age Redesigned (Graphics), Dragon Age Beguiler (Character Customization), Dual Weapon for Arcane Warriors (Character Customization), Advanced Quickbar (UI Enhancement),  Arcane Warrior Plus (Character Customization), Ancient Elven Boots (Bug Fix), Expanded Inventory (Game-play Enhancement), Misha the Hoarder (Game-play Enhancement), Rasana’s Armory (Game-play Enhancement),  Soul Reaver (Weapon), Wolfship (Game-play Enhancement), Improved Atmosphere (Graphics), Visible Console Commands (Game-play Enhancement), Advanced Tactics (Game-play Enhancement), Last Night with Morrigan (Cut-scene Enhancement), No Helmet Hack (UI Enhancement), No Auto-Level for NPCs (Game-play Enhancement), Polyamory (Game-play Enhancement), Leliana Fixes (Bug Fix), Dialogue Tweaks (Game-play Enhancement), The Hell Out of Howe (Game-play Enhancement), Arcane Warrior Fix (Bug Fix), Less Tedious Fade (Game-play Enhancement), Nightmare Plus (Game-play Enhancement)

I cannot recommend Nightmare Plus enough. Game developers today have the idea that gamers are crybaby pansy-asses who want everything handed to them. Me, I like a challenge, to work at things so I gain a sense of accomplishment.

Castle Cousland in its entirety, available in 1080p HD.

15 out of 40 points


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