Bioware, the new masters of the RPG, have released there latest enthralling, engaging, story driven, action packet delve into the genre: Dragon Age: Origins. Like many RPGs, Dragon Age follows the route of the fantasy epic but with a focus on the background, or Origin, of the character that you play. Players are offered to start the game from one of six very different backgrounds, covering a variety of races, social backdrops, and genders. The player’s start position in the game very much effects how the game will unfold as you are ferried along the storyline, and your choices and moral decisions effect the game world and how characters interact with you. The initial part of the game is unique to each character type and, unless you choose to play the game through six times, players will experience only one Origin story before the game proper begins.
It doesn’t take long before the depth of the storyline is hinted at, with a rich back-story unfolding that includes suggestions of deep class and racial divides throughout the land of Ferelden. This complex background is the canvas upon which the main plot is painted. A dark threat to all living creatures, in the form of the demonic Darkspawn, is unleashing a Blight upon the land. Not long into the game we see humanity’s big stand against the monsters, and it goes horribly wrong. Unsurprisingly, despite the player character’s age and inexperience, we soon discover that you are the only person who can unite the divided lands and people to make a final heroic stand against the Arch-demon (a Dragon). Made a member of the Grey Wardens, an elite group of warriors sworn to destroy the Darkspawn, you and your band of warriors, mages, war dogs, elfs, dwarfs and Golems and sent off to finish what the armies of men could not.
The game is very long and engaging. Expect to lose tens of hours to the intricacies of the storyline, combat and character customisation. The combat itself seems to breach the gap between the needs of the hardcore RPG fan and those of the part-time gamer, with real time fighting that can be paused to choose and customise attacks and other actions from any of your player characters in order to achieve a victory. Moving away from the usual turn based combat that RPGs traditionally use, this form of combat interface allows gamers who are new to the genre to enjoy the game without loosing interest due to the intricacies of the character profile and the effects of attack, defence and chance upon the successful outcome of any action. It is all there for gamers who want it and can be ignored by those who don’t.
The game suffers slightly from long loading periods and on the Xbox 360 version some of the graphics and background textures can detract from an otherwise excellent gaming experience. On occasion some of the cut scenes suffer from glitches or missing segments of dialogue but these are very few and far between. Re-playing the section concerned often fixes the problem. Dragon Age: Origins is, overall, an RPG fan’s dream and Bioware’s efforts to make the genre more accessible to gamers not usually drawn to such titles is remarkable. With downloadable content available and more planned for the Christmas market the games longevity could well increase like other titles such as Mass Effect and Fallout 3.