Dragon Age: Origins Review (PC)

If nothing else, Dragon Age: Origins is a testimony to the "bad day". Just for a moment, imagine taking all of the bad luck in the world: every twisted decision, every subtle betrayal , every wrong turn... taking all of that, and then stuffing it into one game, where it happens to everyone, everywhere, at the same time... at maximum resolution.

Nothing, it seems, can go right in this game: Your family betrayed and slaughtered, the King and your fellow guardians also betrayed, leaving two novices to unite the land. But wait, the elves are having a problem with werewolves! The mages have suffered a demonic coup! Your friend in the court is dying! Even the initial betrayal that started everything off isn't going according to plan. You all know the saying, "When it rains, it pours"? Well in Dragon Age that saying has been re-written to say, "When it rains, everyone gets jack-hammered in the face".

Dare you do a deal with the demon?
The background vistas can be superb at times, although there have been better.

Witty digression aside, the latest title from acclaimed studio Bioware is one dark tale, but by far one of their greatest epics to date. The story itself is superb, the writing fuelled with emotion, and there is just this undercurrent of 'epicness' throughout the entire adventure that keeps you coming back for more. To top it off, they brought in Kate Mulgrew (aka Captain Janeway) to voice a minor character - what more could you want? Pegged as the 'spiritual successor' of Baldur's Gate, Dragon Age sees the studio return to a dark-fantasy setting, although this time it's more Diablo than D&D, and encompasses lessons learned from both KOTOR, and Mass Effect.

The combat is both focused and finely crafted, even stylish when it comes to final blows. Whilst there's only three basic classes, those classes can then expand into four different customizations each, so there's plenty of choice. The dialogue, as mentioned before, is second to none, but the range of choice and how it affects the game is also a triumph for the genre. Add to that a pretty lengthy and intriguing campaign, and this is one of the finest RPG's to date.

Even one on one fights can be a struggle. Don't get complacent!
Apparently the war dog is the secret weapon of the game. Wish I'd known that earlier.

But If you've already read our review of the console version however, this praise will be nothing new. In fact you've probably already completed it, haven't you? Twice? Gotten the foursome yet? No? Don't worry neither have we. As there were subtle differences between the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, so there are (not so) subtle differences between the console and PC versions, which is what I've been playing all week. Comparison reviews like this one can often be a quandary, as you don't want to repeat what has already been said, and yet you must make a comparison of some kind. At the end of the day, one could argue that all games are to some extent superior on the PC, as you can do so much more with a mouse and keyboard than you'll ever be able to do with a console control. Even talking about the graphics wouldn't do any good, as it really depends on what kind of rig you are running.

Still, there are differences to be had. Combat is much smoother than the console iteration, and coming back to graphics on a technical level they are much smoother as well, giving the larger scale battle a certain grandness to them that the console versions unfortunately lack. On a related not, the PC version lends itself to a more tactical playing style due to the fact that you can zoom out to a top-down view, and move to scout out ahead. The biggest change however comes with the interface. MMO veterans will instantly recognise the skill panel along the bottom edge, and the WASD controls, and all this combined makes for a decidedly different experience from the console version. Apart from a few other differences between inventory and menus, Dragon age is as epic on the PC as it is on the consoles. It might just look at little bit nicer, that's all.

But like all games there are flaws, however Dragon Age's flaws are more of a puzzle than anything else. As good as the story is, the opening section for the Human Noble was a little too rushed for my liking - not only does your character seem to get over the slaughter of his family a little too quickly to be healthy, but your brother seems to drop off the face of the earth entirely, only to be glimpsed at the end. It's possible that in an effort to create multiple beginnings, some details slipped through the cracks, but when compared to the rest of the game these can be quite easily over looked. Also, despite the afore-mentioned increased stability, there was the odd crash or two whilst Alt-tabbing, especially during conversations.

You meet another one of these guys later on in the game. He's not so tough then...
The cinematic quality is almost movie worthy, even if Mass Effect looks better.

Another oddity is the game's fascination with demons. Aside from the Darkspawn, everywhere you go you seem to fight Demons at some point or another. Even the Elvin quest, which is a rather routine extermination of some pesky werewolves, manages to involve demons somehow. You'd think that a studio as top-class as Bioware would be able to add a little diversity to the enemies you fight, especially considering how rich the game world is. But these are minor points, and actually fit more under the "what we would have done different" heading than true flaws. Glitches are at a minimum, stability is good all around, and despite the sex scenes being a little too 'corny' for my liking, this is one extremely polished game.

All in all, Dragon age is a triple A dark fantasy bonanza. PC gamers will want to hear more about the modding community, and whilst Bioware have released developer grade tools, it's going to take a while before things really get going. What kind of content will be released is anyone's guess, because the game is pretty solid as it is. For now though, enjoy the un-edited version of what is without a doubt the best RPG adventure of the decade.

Top Game Moment:
Despite feeling a little rushed, the cutscene where the characters parents are cruelly slain almost moved me to tears. And that's only the opening act.



By Kres (SI Elite) on Nov 20, 2009
The best RPG I ever played. Should be 10! :)

This game has a spirit of those "older" games that we like to recall from time to time. It feels like it was in development for 10 years and not rushed like a certain % of new games.
By Nicolas19 (SI Core) on Nov 20, 2009
I second that. Awesome game.
By Toma1982 (SI Newbie) on Nov 23, 2009
Smells like old school, feels like old school, look like old school, i love this game. Thanks Bioware. Great game.
By Nicolas19 (SI Core) on Nov 24, 2009
Well, it's not THAT old-school. BGII felt like a long journey, Dragon Age is more like a lengthy nightmare. Much fewer places to visit or people to talk to, less variety, more dungeon crawling, but more intense fighting, darker story and heavier atmosphere.
By benny180 (SI Core) on Nov 24, 2009
Just got it yesterday, its disturbingly similar to WoW.Its too early for me to rate it though.
By fredyzg (SI Core) on Nov 26, 2009
Not the best, but is in the top 5 rpgs!
By noobst3R (SI Core) on Dec 09, 2009
I'm thinking of getting it. I hope it's worth it. :D
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Dec 12, 2009
It is a great game, but i don't think it is old school Nicolas19 has it pretty tight. But if you have played Mass Effect and KOTOR - you will feel right at home. Because beneath what is served as the spiritual successor of BG2 - we have more or less a Knights Of the Old grey jedis, er sorry wardens... it is fantasy KOTOR if you want to be a bit mean, and I haven't had my coffee yet so i say that.
But, what they excel at here is to make a main story that is not only good, it is really good, so this game is more akin to Planscape in that regard. You don't matter as much as the story - and I think that is a good thing. bioWare should really stop making so many games and let every other title be an animated movie. They are not doing games, they are doing interactive stories so when you make your second character. A bit of the glamor and magic is gone.
However, the background stories for each class/race is simply greatness in a small package. Lovely.
Too bad that the rest of the game can't really follow suite. You have the KOTOR feeling whenever you get outside. Enemies cling to small groups and all of a sudden the game freeze and they all start running towards you and attacking.Same as in KOTOR/Mass Effect, and honestly, this is the same in BG2 - but in the BG2 engine - this looked overwhelming and fearsome. In KOTOR you know you have a few options to make and then yada yada yada - long fighting. Enemies are tough - close to boring to fight sometimes. Magic on the other hand is fun, great fun and I noticed that if you pick carefully - many enemies will be simple - others a total nightmare so the balance is nice in the end. I am nitpicking ;) - but hen you say Spiritual successor to BG 2, you have to live with people getting both overjoyed and suspicious.
all in all - this game blowed away all other games' game time - Borderland is just a 'meh' in the start menu, Left 4 dead 2 begs for attention - but BioWare knows what they do - this game is more solid then KOTOR and Mass Effect - too bad that the companion side with quests and talks are such a bother - not even Viconia was this hard to get to like...
By fredyzg (SI Core) on Dec 15, 2009
Gameplay is more NWN 2 style than BG2... Great story!
By noobst3R (SI Core) on Dec 21, 2009
Played the first 3 hours of the game, pretty awesome, but too much cutscenes.

Also, in my view, the world isn't open enough, too "scripted". :p
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Feb 01, 2010
As I sit and play ME2 right now, it kind strikes me that BioWare has slowly gone from in-detail games like Baldurs Gate and Planescape that had both stories, grognard game tags, to a nice looking (ME2 at least) game that is easy on the game-technical stuff, also simpler item handling and all-over changes that is made to control with a game-controller (not so surprisingly perhaps) and what is left is starting to look more and more like an interactive movie. I say it again; BioWare should make a movie and be done with it! Soon they won't make games anyway if they keep this up ;) By the way, I would love for them to make a KOTOR Star Wars series.
By slaythat (SI Veteran Member) on Aug 10, 2010
I agree with noobst3r way to many cutscenes and dialogue. I also hate the fact that when you've completed the main story you can't do anything else! It's so irritating they should have made it like Fallout 3 where once you complete the main story you can still continue playing.
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Aug 10, 2010
I love this game. I got every DLC that came out for it. noobster is right about the limited world explorations - or is there any? That reminds me on how closed Mass Effect really was... Too bad the newer DLCs for this game are really just rip offs, and they don't know what to do anymore...