Score: 8.5/10 (9/10 for PC)
Dragon Age: Origins
Release Date: Nov 3, 2009
Pros: Incredible Replay Value, Interesting Story and Characters, Unique experience for each player, Strategic Combat that varies upon party member, +40 hours of content
Cons: Slight framerate issues, Graphically nothing to write home about, Ability wheel and targeting take time to navigate on consoles
Bioware is no newcomer when it comes to creating solid RPGs. Some of the best experiences I've had in an RPG have come straight from Bioware (Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, etc). It makes sense that Dragon Age: Origins would also be another solid title to add to their already impressive collection.
What is great about this game is that the story depends on the player. You choose a gender/race/class and one of 6 backgrounds. Each of these backgrounds has a different beginning to the game. It's like World of Warcraft in a sense, you'll start in your own unique setting but eventually end up where everyone else will go.
Regardless of your choice, you are selected by the Grey Wardens, a group of fighters whose sole purpose is to end the blight. Evil orc-like creatures known as the Darkspawn are overunning the land. Nobody knows their true origin, but it's up to you to amass an army of races and destroy the leader of the blight, the Archdemon. Of course, the plot is a lot more complicated than this and there are plenty of twists and turns along the way. The best part is how the story is shaped around your actions. When it comes to a solid story, Bioware does not disappoint.
I'll admit that I was worried when I heard Marilyn Manson on the teaser vids and questioned whether this game would be littered with guitar riffs every time I entered a battle. Luckily the soundtrack proves to be as epic as the story. With a pure symphony in the background as you slash your way through darkspawn, you are drawn into the game even more.
It's the environments and character models that truly make up for the lacking textures. The worlds and environments you visit are incredible in detail, from underground dwarven cities to dreary swamps. Of particular mention, is "The Fade", a dark realm strewn with a ghostly ambiance and disfigured landscape. The enemies you encounter are truly detailed and Darkspawn possess intinimdating features. Weapons, armor, and spells are also displayed well, shimmering in the light and illuminating dark caverns. As an added bonus, if you are in the fight you will find your character covered in blood...it's the little things like this that help you overlook the fact that this game is not nearly as detailed as others.
My problem with the gameplay, lies only in the console version. In the PC version, you are given a large bar for a slew of abilities to hotkey. This makes issuing commands fast, simply clicking an enemy and then an ability. With the console version, you are only able to hotkey 6 commands to the face buttons (Using the R trigger to alternate between them). This is fine on early levels, but as you progress this can become problematic when you gain more abilities. The console version contains a "wheel" that you must navigate through to find the spell/ability you didn't hotkey, taking you out of the action. This is further made frustrating by the targeting system, which you must cycle through all enemies on the field with the D-Pad, whereas the PC is simply a click.
Despite a step back in graphics and the dreaded console ability wheel, Dragon Age still gives a solid RPG. Though Knights of the Old Republic still reigns high on my list, Dragon Age is not far behind. With over +40 hours of content it's a lot of fun with a huge world to explore. Chances are if you are a fan of KotOR, you will love this title. If the option is available, I would get this game for PC for the best experience.