Rediscovering Dragon Age

21 03 2010

Honestly, I was so done with fantasy RPGs, until a sinus infection put me on my ass for two days and I dove right back into it.

I got Dragon Age: Origins for my birthday, around thanksgiving. I played the crap out of it for about a month, killing my way through darkspawn with my sarcastic, but noble elf mage. I played through Redcliffe, then the Circle Tower (found out later THAT was a big mistake), then the Dalish Elf quests, then to the Deep Roads. I was nearly at the Anvil of the Void when I got Assassin’s Creed II and Brutal Legend for Christmas. Immediately I put down Dragon Age and never looked back, though AC2, BL, then Mass Effect 2. Now it’s three months later, and I’ve beaten just about every game I have for the 360 (with the exception of Halo Wars, because I suck at RTS, and Kameo, because the game is just weak), and I looked upon my return to Ferelden with dread. After playing it for two days, I can’t for the life of me figure out why I had so much trepidation about playing the game again. It’s awesome.

I have yet to make a choice I really feel good about, with the exception of cleansing the werewolves of their curse. My only complaint about that is now I can’t have an army of werewolves backing me at the Battle of Denerim. I made Alistair marry Anora, I executed Loghain, I saved the mages circle, I destroyed the Anvil of the Void, I saved the boy at Redliffe, at the cost of his mother. And even though I think I did the right thing, I don’t feel great about many of these choices. That’s the great thing about Bioware games, is that the choices you make are rarely ever clear-cut, there’s a rationale behind every option. My elf may be a just, upright guy, but I don’t think he’d sacrifice himself to kill the Archdaemon if there’s another way (i.e. a little pre-battle nookie with Morrigan). Alistair and Anora may despise each other, but what’s the alternative? Throw the most popular woman in Ferelden in the clink? That’s just not politically sound. In Fable II, anther RPG that was “all about choice”, it was pretty obvious what was right, and what was wrong. Hell, they went out of their way to be as heavy-handed as possible about your decisions, and as a guy playing evil, I kind of got tired of all the brow-beating. Even Mass Effect 2 gives you “Terminator face” if you’re just too much of a badass for the galaxy to handle. But Dragon Age just lets you be you, and that’s the mark of a great game. It’s not my favorite RPG (that honor belongs to the Mass Effect series as a whole so far, with Final Fantasy III/VI a close second), but it’s easily one of the most well made, offering a breadth of substance and character, and a cornucopia of options to play it pretty much how you like.

By the way, Shale = win. I like most of the characters (even that whiny bitch Alistair can be funny at times), but Shale is far and away my favorite of the party. His obsession with pigeons cracks me up, and borders on satire at times, but they keep it just grounded enough for him not to be a joke. The conversations can get a little long at times, but it’s fascinating just to see all the layers the writers of the game put into the characters. Who knew that the evil witch of the wild was into bling? How often do you get into a romance in a video game where your relationship is purely based on sex? Not many besides Leisure Suit Larry, I assure you. It’s Bioware’s ability to surprise me, more than anything, that draws me to their games. I can’t help but be curious what’s going to be thrown at my Jedi/Kung-Fu Master/Space Cop/Fantasy Hero next.

The combat’s not bad, the larger battles can be a bit of a bitch to keep track of, though. My mage/spirit healer just wipes people out left and right, and I still usually have enough mana to throw out a quick heal. I can totally see how people say the mage is overpowered in the game, but to them I say hey, go with a winner.  The other classes are alot of fun, though, and the different Origins can give you a taste of each, since they’re all pretty much geared towards a certain class/weapon combo.  But with your main character’s party, you’ll get a chance to play with all the classes, so I just played through the Origins for the achievements.

What the mage will do to pretty much every enemy in the game.

I’m not sold on the expansion, Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening, especially at $40, but maybe when it goes on sale I’ll pick it up. In the mean time, I’ve still got the AC2 DLC to get through, and later this month all the Fallout 3 DLC I don’t have is on sale $5 a pop. I am unable to resist cheap gaming. Final Fantasy XIII intrigues me, but I’m not too sure about the battle system and just the overt Japanness of it. I never played VII or VIII, or any on the PS2, but they just didn’t quite look like my cup of tea. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Just Cause 2 are next up on my list to hopefully play, and the wife and I need a new co-op game (Borderlands wears thin after like 60 hours) so I may pick up Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 or Army of Two: The 40th day. We’ll see.

Follow me on Twitter! @CharlieHamlin

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One response

29 03 2010
Joe

Arcane Warrior/Blood Mage is a lot of fun, even though I kill my team members a lot, either through neglect or because their blood (and tears?) sustain me. You sort of have to be a bit evil to get blood mage, though. You seem to be missing that many of your choices have a third option, for instance, the possessed kid: You can rally the Circle to get you to the Fade, sparing the mother and the douchy blood mage *and* the kid. Or, if you’re always looking out for #1, you can strike a deal with the demon to learn blood magic, in return for letting the demon have the kid (at a later date, it says)

The hardest choice for me: Who to support for the throne of the dwarves. One choice is clearly a dirty, but progressive dwarf (Belmot), and the other is good (as good as a noble can be, I suppose) but conservative. (Harromont)

Those two names are probably spelled wrong.

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