The Steam page for Dragon Age: Origins wrote:From the maker of Mass Effect and Baldur’s Gate comes the dark fantasy epic Dragon Age: Origins.
You are a Grey Warden, one of the last of a legendary order of guardians. With the return of an ancient foe and the kingdom engulfed in civil war, you have been chosen by fate to unite the shattered lands and slay the archdemon once and for all.
A Stunning World to Explore
Complex Moral Choices
- BioWare’s deepest universe to date with over 80 hours of gameplay and more than double the size and scope of Mass Effect
- Travel throughout dozens of environments and fully immerse yourself in a shattered world that is on the brink of utter annihilation
- An epic story that is completely shaped and reactive to your play style
Full Character Customization
- There are no easy choices
- Tailor your Dragon Age: Origins experience from the very beginning by choose from six different Origin Stories
- Decide how to handle complex issues like murder, genocide, betrayal, and the possession/sacrificing of children without the security of a good/bad slider to tell you what to do
Engage in Bone-Crushing, Visceral Combat
- Sculpt your hero in your own image or fantasy
- Elaborate character creator allows you to create your own hero unique from anyone else
- Shape your character’s personality and morality based on the choices you make throughout the game
- Battle against massive and terrifying creatures
- Unleash legendary powers and choose from over 100 different magical spells and skills
- Experience the adrenaline rush of brutal combat, beheading your foes or casting spells that make enemies explode from within
I've been quietly curious about this game ever since I'd heard it touted as the spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate. Likely another Diablo-esque Hack'n'Slash driven movie, I had a creeping suspicion I'd end up buying it anyway and regretting the purchase, so I decided to have a look at what was available; I haven't the energy to explore gaming sites and try to tease the facts from their previews, so I stuck with what was available via Steam.
Dragon Age: Origins will be available on Steam from the 6th of November for the relatively low price of £29.99, though the Deluxe Edition arrives just a day later for an additional £10, marking the moment BioWare doubles over on the bathroom floor and begins to spew forth an unrelenting stream of downloadable content. To further confuse the issue and suggest that you've already began purchasing this stuff, a pre-order placed on Steam promises that your version of the game will include some additional magic items, shamelessly detailed on the purchase page as though their attributes need be carefully weighed up in deciding your latest purchase. Personally, I find this approach as insulting as Ultima Online's long-past offer of a pre-built character to enter the world with, except now you'd be doing it just to play with yourself. If anything, I feel such a need to disassociate myself from essentially purchasing cheats that will help me avoid actually playing the game that I couldn't pre-order even if I did plan to buy the thing.
The Steam page offers an Official demo, which on download turns out to be just the Character Creator. A pity, as I'd hoped to get a feel for how the game actually plays instead of just looking at screenshots of Dragons - All I can really conclude from these screenshots is that, like most games of late, the publishers are wholly embarrassed by the user interface and have opted to avoid jeopardising their game by omitting them entirely. I can only assume the worst and, having played NeverWinter Nights 2, know exactly what that will be like. Of course the graphics are fantastic and every suggestion of magic or heroism, however slight, is accompanied by epilepsy-inducing sparks of light, but we're long past the age of worrying about graphics - these are a given for a game coming from such a reputable developer, and I wouldn't have expected anything else.
I fired up the Character Creator in the hope of getting a feel for the ruleset they're using here, and to learn more about this ability to Sculpt your hero in your own image or fantasy. The in-game interface did remind me an awful lot of NeverWinter Nights 2, but it's okay. It felt a lot smoother, the Windows 7 to NeverWinter Nights 2's Vista. I was treated to a fantastical intro movie in which I assume someone explained the situation to me, but I don't remember much besides dragons, marching armies, and some woman in her underwear - or, for those of us who've played fantasy RPGs before, 'light armour'.
Character creation begins, typically, with choosing sex, class and race. Choices are starkly lacking here, limiting the player to Human, Elf or Dwarf, and their class to Fighter, Rogue or Mage. I understand that the class system branches out later into the game, and I'm actually impressed with their decision to cut back on the choices here so that the game can, I assume, tailor a more unique experience and deliver quality rather than quantity. Next is the 'Origin Story' bit that they went on about in the synopsis, which basically consists of accepting that your Dwarf is either common or noble. To make this clearer, there are only six such choices and five are race dependant. The sixth is simply 'Mage', which is the only choice for Mages. I couldn't help but wonder if the Character Creator was unfinished, but six is the number we've been promised and it's what we've got. I chose a Human Mage, who reached this point in his life by being a Mage, and couldn't help but feel I'm being pigeonholed into a backstory that offered me less freedom in character design than my own imagination would have.
As for the mechanics, I don't know what they were going for. You pick scores using a point-buy system from the following attributes:
IntelligenceMagic WisdomWillpower CharismaCunning
I wasn't allowed to reduce any of my attributes below 10, and I was tempted by the option to dump everything into Magic, buying all points at a 1:1 cost. Having not played the game it isn't fair of me to comment but I got the impression from later pages that a relatively low-Magic Mage who relied on Willpower and Cunning wouldn't be viable. Somewhere in this process (presumably the beginning) I had the choice to design my character's face and portrait using sliders, but I don't care. The pages that followed essentially told me I'd be using Magic Missile every 5 seconds, realising my worst fears of some sort of recharge system and mana pool - It's a personal preference, but the fire-wielding maniac isn't the sort of mage I envision in my romantic fantasy, nor does it provide the sort of gameplay I'm after. Now all that's left to wonder is whether Dragon Age: Origins is the sort of game where I have to click every time I want to fire a Magic Missile, or whether I simply need to click the bad guy once. Riveting. It's conceivable that some people want to play exactly this sort of Mage when they pick Mage, but for all its promise of choice, the Character Creator didn't really sell the game to me. Maybe I'll have more options once the game actually begins, but then why offer me the Character Creator to pass judgement on in the first place? It's the same situation as we had with the screenshots and the user interface; these guys aren't releasing anything that they're not perfectly happy with, so no-one should assume that the parts they've omitted are any better than the parts they're holding up as examples of their work.
When Dragon Age: Origins sits in the bargain bin beside all the other games I've yet to play, I'll tell myself a lot of people have said a lot of good things about it and that I should really get it, but with the number of cheap games out there forever growing, where do I find the time to fit in those that I've already formed ill-conceived opinions of, and dismissed out of hand? It might be fantastic, and I'm sure it'll sit well amongst similar titles such as Mass Effect and NeverWinter Nights but, like those, I feel it'll forever sit in limbo as a game I just can't bring myself to care about.