Dragon Age Origins: console review

  • Format: Xbox360 (version reviewed), PS3, PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts
  • Developer: Bioware
  • Players: 1
  • Site: www.dragonage.bioware.com

Often when a game is released across the main consoles and on PC, they do not differ in as many ways as a Wii or hand-held port would due to similar specifications. However, Bioware’s Dragon Age Origins plays very differently on PS3 and Xbox 360 compared to PC, and as such we have decided to review both versions.

The world of Dragon Age is that of high fantasy. Really high fantasy. If you are immediately put off by Elves or Dwarfs and the like then get out while you can, because you’re going to be waste deep in pointy-eared lore here.

Set within the kingdom of Ferelden, you play as one of three races through one of a handful of different origin stories as one of three classes before being recruited into the Grey Wardens. The job of these wardens is to defeat an Archdemon, a dragon that leads an army of Darkspawn up from the bowels of the earth to destroy, pillage and generally do nasty things.

At its heart, Dragon Age is an RPG working on a system similar to D&D with the trademark diplomacy and conversation choices from other Bioware games (such as Mass Effect and Knights of the Old Republic) being as important as fighting.

Well...it wouldnt do the title justice unless it had at least one dragon.

Well...it wouldn't do the title justice unless it had at least one dragon.

Be prepared for a tough time, as this game is not easy. That is to say, that normal isn’t easy, but easy isn’t easy either. A small patch already released fixes imbalances found by players, so as long as you’ve got that, then easy should be easy and normal should be normal. Hard and nightmare are still hard and “Is that my spleen on the floor?” though, so have fun with that.

While the PC version can play like those other games we mentioned, it can also be played overhead in a similar manner to older games such as Neverwinter Nights. The action can also be paused so orders can be given efficiently and tactics better employed. The console ports do not have this luxury, and can only be played in Mass Effect type ways – with swords replacing guns. A radial wheel can be opened to pause play and select abilities (which is a must as you only have six quick slots) but this is no substitution. A similar AI tactics system to FF12’s Gambits pales in comparison to the level of control you can yield over your four man team on PC.

The lack of full tactical control also made the game feel a little too much like a hack-and-slash affair at times (though that may in fact make it appeal more to console players as a result). It is a good thing, then, that the saving grace of Dragon Age Origins is in the storytelling.

While we found ourselves getting a little bored of combat by the end, the story was captivating from the off. It does fall back on some fantasy stereotypes, but it gets high marks for not making the Dwarfs Scottish (or perhaps it loses points since they just sound American, depending on your opinion) and for putting you up against excellent choices. Your actions make a difference everywhere and it is refreshing that these choices and consequences are presented to you to shape a story rather than simply to obtain rewards.

The story is helped along by an almost entirely stellar voice cast. Stand out mentions include; Simon Templeman as Loghain, Steve Valentine as Alistair and Claudia Black as Morrigan.

Having compared the console ports to the PC version running at full settings we can surmise that (roughly speaking) the consoles get the equivalent of medium-to-high. The game is only moderately good looking. It is by no means ugly, it is just surprising that more effort was not made. In fact the only place effort does seem to have been made is in blood splatters being persistent on your characters after battles, which was a very poor choice as it’s both distracting and incredibly silly looking.

A single play through of Dragon Age Origins will take a minimum of thirty hours (and that is an absolute minimum), granted that is partly because of the vast amount of conversations you’ll be having more than anything else but that is part of the charm. It feels as though creating an in-depth and original fantasy world was the most important thing here and for RPG lovers we’re sure this will be a good thing. Those not so into their role playing may be willing to look past the mountains of dialogue, but we suspect that in most cases that won’t be possible.

For those into their RPGs that don’t have a PC capable of running Dragon Age Origins (which is possibly quite a lot of you, as it seems there are some serious problems with ATI based systems) then we can still recommend the console port – if you can put up with the limitations. At time of writing there are bugs, but the console version appears to be spared from the most serious and we only encountered one which solved itself after a while.

We will close with a warning to console owners that decide to purchase this game. There is already free and paid for DLC available and if you download either and activate them then you must play the game online and be signed into EA’s servers or your save will not load. These days most people have an always-on connection, but it is still an extremely poor decision that will hopefully be rectified in the future.

With all that said, get out there and slay dragons. Or do some talking. Lots of talking. Or bed an Elven assassin that sounds like Antonio Banderas. Seriously.

7/10

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Written by Ian D

Misanthropic git. Dislikes: Most things. Likes: Obscure references.

One comment

  1. an assassin that sounds lik Antonio Banderas??hmmm interesting…. Seriously, I’m so looking forward to playing this Dragon Age game. Thanks for the infos!

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