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Review: Dragon Age: Origins 452

Posted by Soulskill
from the blood-spattered-goodness dept.
Since the release of Baldur's Gate in 1998, BioWare has cultivated a strong reputation for quality role-playing games, exploring various aspects of the genre ranging from traditional D&D roles and rules to space marine and Jedi Knights. Dragon Age: Origins is a shift back to traditional swords-and-sorcery standards, unashamedly embracing the archetypes that made RPGs what they are, and using them to tell a complex, interesting story in a familiar yet unexplored world. In addition, BioWare has done yet another iteration of their combat system to make it deeper and allow the player to dictate the level of engagement. The result is that Dragon Age: Origins is one of the best RPGs in recent history. Read on for the rest of my thoughts.
  • Title: Dragon Age: Origins
  • Developer: BioWare
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts
  • System: Windows (Also: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
  • Reviewer: Soulskill
  • Score: 8/10

Character creation starts you off with a few simple choices that have far-reaching effects. There are three races (Human, Dwarf, Elf), and three classes (Warrior, Mage, Rogue), and they are much as you'd expect if you've ever played a fantasy RPG before. Depending on what you pick, one or two of the 'Origins' stories becomes available. These are short scenarios which detail the introduction of your character to the main plot line. For example, Human Rogues get their beginning as part of a noble house. Dwarf Warriors can choose either the dwarf noble or dwarf commoner starting areas, and both Elven and Human mages share a starter-story due to their class. (The only race restriction is that Dwarves can't be Mages.) These decisions affect how NPCs interact with your character throughout the game.

While only having three classes may seem limiting, your characters will have a high degree of customization as you start leveling up. You have talent trees (well, not so much 'trees' as 'lines') and each level gives you a talent point to spend. The talent lines are divided up into major fighting categories. The categories for Warriors are Dual Weapon, Archery, Weapon and Shield, and Two-Handed. Within each of these categories are sets of activated and passive abilities that grow progressively more powerful as you spend more talent points in that line.

The result of this is that you can easily have multiple Warriors in a group, each performing a different role and having different gameplay. One can swing a massive axe and lay waste to whatever he touches, and another can grab a shield and take on the tank role, utilizing a host of defensive talents. Mages get a similar selection of roles, and are able to play as elemental sorcerers, healers/buffers, or dabblers in the dark arts. On top of all this, each class has a set of four Specializations, which confer certain bonuses and unlock another set of abilities. Rogues can choose to become bards, which grants them songs to buff their party and mesmerize their enemies; they can also choose Assassin, making them better at finding weak spots, or Ranger, which lets them summon forest creatures to their aid. You get to pick a specialization at levels 7 and again at 14, but perhaps the most interesting part is how you acquire them. Some you can purchase, some are trained by various NPCs or party members, and others are unlocked by quests.

The stat system will be instantly familiar to anyone with experience in the genre; strength makes you hit harder, constitution makes you tougher, etc. It's quite simple, and the tooltips explain everything you need to know. Every level gives you three stat points to spend as you will. Various items and talents will have a stat requirement to use or acquire, but it's a fairly smooth progression. You won't typically have to wait very long to use that shiny new sword you picked up. There's no single, monolithic alignment system, but your actions will have an effect on how NPCs treat you. Perhaps more importantly, your actions will have an effect on how your group members feel about you. Each of them has an Approval Rating, which is a measure of how much they like you. Extreme ratings can unlock side plots — friendship and romance for high ratings, mutiny and abandonment for low ratings — and they can have an effect on the characters' stats.

The Approval system is a fun way to learn about each of your companions. There's a surprising amount of story to be told for each of them. Surprising, at least, until you realize how much story there is in the rest of the game. I was impressed by how often I had a meaningful choice in how the plot unfolded. That is, when the dialogue allowed for different options, they didn't feel like window dressing. (e.g. Do you want to kill him? Yes/No Yes. Are you sure? No/I Guess Not Damnit.) I just picked whichever option I felt like picking, and the plot still worked.

The story succeeds, by and large, for two reasons: the writing and the voice acting. BioWare made a lot of noise about getting some big names for Dragon Age: Origins (and they did; Kate Mulgrew, Claudia Black, Tim Curry, Steve Valentine, and Tim Russ, to name a few), but that isn't a guarantee of good voice work. Virtually all of the NPC dialogue in this game is spoken (you can skip through it if you care to; I rarely felt the need to), even when you're asking them about mundane things, so poor voice acting would be hard to tolerate after a while. But this cast turned in a performance that (sadly) I don't tend to expect from video games. What helped a lot in this regard is that the characters are very well written — which is to say they actually seem fleshed-out and believable, with a personality that's consistent from one scene to the next. The details of how the characters react to events and interact with each other are spot on. Your companions will occasionally trade jokes or insults at random times throughout the game, whether you're in the middle of dialogue or just wandering through a city.

Now, don't get me wrong; the plot itself is interesting too, but it's hard to tread new ground here (Doom threatens the world; a hero arises; things go wrong that the hero must put right), and the writers don't really worry about doing so. They're just trying to tell a cool story. Without spoiling too much, the Mage Tower story in the main plot is particularly fun. The writers leave you a trail of breadcrumbs to figure out what happened, dump you into fantasy land for a few puzzles and a different way of fighting, then top it off with an epic battle, all while maintaining an atmosphere of hopelessness and dread. What's more, all the different portions of the main plot are completely distinct, each with its own moral dilemmas, level layout, look, and back-story.

In addition to countless hours of dialogue, one big way BioWare goes about establishing their game world is through books, scrolls, and notes scattered around the areas you visit. When you click on them, they'll put a page or so of text in your Codex explaining who's who and what's what, so you're not inundated with a flood of made-up, fantasy-world names at any one time. The Codex entries are relevant to whatever task you're currently doing, and vary in form from dictionary-style explanation to diary entries to poems.

So, how about the gameplay? Many RPGs have met their downfall on the weakness of their combat mechanics, or have succeeded in spite of it. (I'll name no names, but one such rhymes with Moblivion.) Like several other BioWare games, you can pause the action and queue up an ability that will fire off when you un-pause. You can also take control of any other party member(s) whenever you please. Group size tops out at four, which allows a fair amount of micromanagement without becoming tedious. For general commands like attacking or movement, you can control multiple party members at once. There's not a lot of movement during combat. Rogues have bit of an incentive to move behind their targets, and mages will occasionally have cause to kite a monster, but most of the running you do will be to get your melee in range to hit something. My only major gripe is that melee classes tend to run out of stamina quickly, so for long battles they spend a lot of time auto-attacking.

Even with just that, it would be a solid combat system, but there are three other major features which allow you customize your level of engagement. First, there are four difficulty settings. Easy will let you basically just point-and-click to win. Normal will require some planning and pausing, and some potion use on the tougher fights. Hard makes you do a lot more micromanagement, use consumables often, and watch out for friendly fire. Nightmare is for people who should probably be medicated. Second, you can set generalized behaviors for each of your party members; this will make them run to seek a fight, run away, ignore it altogether, or a few other options.

Third is your Tactics page. This lets you set up responses to a large variety of actions or game states. For example, you can set a Mage to cast a heal when somebody drops below 50% health. Or, you could have your warrior tank run over to attack whatever monster is beating on your rogue. There are hundreds of trigger conditions neatly laid out in a set of drop-down menus. You can set some some fairly complex behavior if you'd like to, or just automate the basic tasks. When you put this whole system together, you end up being able to tailor the fighting to your personal preference for involvement. You can micromanage as much or as little as you want.

The UI is very streamlined and responsive. The camera is over-the-shoulder, and if you zoom out far enough it pulls back to an almost top-down, "tactical" view. (The console versions are restricted to over-the-shoulder.) For using your abilities, you have a boilerplate action bar, and your group portraits are off to the left for monitoring health and mana. If I were nitpicking, I'd say the health and mana bars should be somewhat thicker; they're a bit small to take in the whole group at a glance. Click-able bars pop up on the bottom of your screen whenever you get quest or codex updates (and a few other things), which makes it very easy to keep track of what's going on with the plot. You can hold down a button to highlight everything on screen that you can interact with (chests, NPCs, monsters, loot-able corpses, quest items, doors), so finding what you're looking for is dead easy.

That streamlining carries over into the gameplay as well. Any of your party members who fall in battle come back to life if the remaining characters win the fight. It's silly from a realism perspective, but at the same time it saves me from spending 30 seconds casting Resurrection every other battle or keeping 500 Phoenix Downs in my bags. (Though, oddly, characters come back to life with injuries — minor stat debuffs — that require an item or a visit to base camp to heal.) Itemization is perhaps a victim of this streamlining. As I leveled up, I naturally picked up better gear, but it never felt like the items made a significant difference. On the other hand, stat gains from leveling were constant, and new talents provided obvious improvements. Quests are sometimes quite simplistic because of the interface as well, but those quests mainly exist to serve the narrative. I expected this to bother me, but it didn't; I just wanted to see where the story was going.

Dragon Age: Origins has a ton of (quality) playtime in it; even more when you consider replayability. I'm sure I could go through the entire game again and have a largely different experience, both in story and in combat. (I tend to stick with a group configuration I like, so one of my potential companions has been sitting on the sidelines the whole time, and I slightly killed another one. Not to mention different talent choices and specializations.) BioWare didn't blaze a new trail within the genre, but they succeeded in their effort to create a game that presents a new, fun take on the familiar with elegance and polish. (And Claudia Black.)

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Review: Dragon Age: Origins

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  • Black Isle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jgtg32a (1173373) on Monday November 09, 2009 @01:05PM (#30034720)
    Hopefully next year Black Isle or whatever they're called these days will get hold of this engine and make an absolutely amazing game

    ...

    with a minimum of 4 game ending bugs forcing us to wait at least 3 years for the modding community to fix them all.
    • by Samalie (1016193)

      Black Isle Studios is LONG dead, killed by the once-mighty and now defunct hand of Interplay.

      The closest remaining to BIS is Obsidian Entertainment, which was founded by some of the old BIS people. Their credit is Neverwinter Nights II, while some would also argue that Obsidian has shown it is Full of Fail with KOTOR II.

      • KOTOR II was good IMO. It was more of the same, but more of the same when the original was good isn't bad.
        • by RMingin (985478)

          Did you finish it? Did you (not) notice the absurd truncation and lack of ending? Multiple party PCs just DROP OFF THE FLIPPING PLANET, never to be mentioned again. The main PC suddenly makes a few leaps of location and status and is fighting the Big Bads. This was the result of Obsid. getting the 'release now or never' deadline from the publisher, after delays. There are tons of now-unused voice and animation clips left in the data files, from the very raggedly axed endings.

          I would mind this less if they p

    • by Narpak (961733)

      Hopefully next year Black Isle or whatever they're called these days will get hold of this engine and make an absolutely amazing game.

      I for one would not object to a remake of Planescape: Torment.

      • by stagg (1606187)
        The problem with game remakes is rights. My only insights here are from working with Bioware briefly, but I understand that the rights to a lot of their older games are all over the damn place. In order to re-release a game like Torment they would have to track down everyone with rights to the game and secure permission. It sure doesn't help that the gaming industry is absurdly unstable, with small companies being bought, swallowed or merging left right and center. My understanding is that these days rights
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by AlamedaStone (114462)

        Hopefully next year Black Isle or whatever they're called these days will get hold of this engine and make an absolutely amazing game.

        I for one would not object to a remake of Planescape: Torment.

        What can change the nature of a game?

  • Sounds good (Score:5, Informative)

    by dusanv (256645) on Monday November 09, 2009 @01:08PM (#30034768)

    I was a huge fan of the Baldur's Gate (got both PC and Mac versions of all of them) series so I'll be getting this. It also helps to know that there's no DRM [gamespot.com] other than the disk check. So Bioware have come to their senses after the excursion into the DRM land with Mass Effect (that was using the dreaded SecurROM).

    • Good to know, this plus Left 4 Dead 2 and Borderlands are all making compelling cases for me to finally build out a gaming PC.
      • Good to know, this plus Left 4 Dead 2 and Borderlands are all making compelling cases for me to finally build out a gaming PC.

        I went over the top with mine and I have to say it was certainly worth it 100%. Nothing beats being able to play a game like Fallout 3, Dragon Age, Fear 2, all at full specs. You can budget it and still play them very comfortably for about $1200 (Including keyboard, mouse, case).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Creepy (93888)

      There is DRM of a sort, though - any premium content including stuff you might have gotten with the game (e.g. preorders) require the PC to be connected to the Internet when you start the game or that content is not available. This is rather annoying when you have the game installed on a laptop like I do.

      So far, the game seems pretty solid, but is certainly not without flaw. It still has the partial "rails" feel of NWN2 and Mass Effect which for me is always a nick in Bioware games (take a week and read a

  • by elrous0 (869638) *

    It's a shame this game has no coop or multiplayer. I know a lot of you will say there is nothing wrong with a well-done single player game, and I agree with you in spirit. But, in practice, a part of me looks at a game like this in 2009 and can't help but see it as, well...old-fashioned.

    It seems that this would have been the ideal game for coop, and whatever Bioware's justification for not including it, I can't help but wonder if it wasn't just laziness or "We'll just do it the way we've always done it" o

    • by Knara (9377) on Monday November 09, 2009 @01:15PM (#30034862)

      The game is solidly single player, for the folks who like single player RPGs.

      I really don't get the need for people to have coop/multiplayer in EVERY GAME they come across.

      • I really don't get the need for people to have coop/multiplayer in EVERY GAME they come across.

        It's a bit of a vicious cycle. GP demonstrates that well: old fashioned? Justification for not including it? Que? People are putting multiplayer into almost every game, so players come to expect it from almost every game, which justifies putting multiplayer into almost every game. A game is old fashioned if it doesn't include multiplayer? Multiplayer is pretty old, I had the option of multiplayer for Marathon (the FPS) 15 years ago. Shoot, Mario Bros had multiplayer. Not having multiplayer feels old

        • by Chyeld (713439) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .dleyhc.> on Monday November 09, 2009 @02:16PM (#30035828)

          Multiplayer makes sense for some things but for some things less so.

          Multiplayer RPGs in the fashion that Bioware makes their RPGs would be sufficently different from current multiplayer models that it would require alot of thought and effort to make even a cursory system.

          At the worse, you'd just be playing seperate characters in a party, one where the entire story is geared towards the idea where your main character is "The One". That isn't plot details concering the most recent game, that's just what BioWare games are about, single character going through the universe righting or doing wrongs along the way to defeat the big bad guy after having a couple of 'bonding moments' with their sidekicks. So who gets to be "The One" and who is the sidekick. And when your teammate starts the romance sideplot with you, are you going to feel uncomfortable about the sex scene?

          Or perhaps that isn't the worse, how about two competeing parties. "I'm sorry, you would have been able to save our village from the bandits, if your friend hadn't rolled through town last week and killed all the NPC's himself! Hope you didn't need that XP for leveling!" "Yeah, all the cool NPC's have joined your rival's party. Here are the NPC's no one ever plays with if they can help it.."

          Really, a multiplayer version of a Bioware game would need a completely different story structure (not to mention tech) than the one they use. Sometimes just because you can bolt a jet engine to a car, doesn't mean it's a good idea to do so.

      • by Random2 (1412773)

        But, as the game describes itself, it's focused around a party of four members. It doesn't seem too unreasonable to allow at least one of those characters to be a PC, even if it's just during battles. It's not like having a co-op option would ruin the 1-player aspect of the game.

        That being said, they couldn't easily modify the main story of this game to be co-op. The interface and statistics are too focused on one player (the relationship ratings, decision points with NPC reactions, and tactics). It cou

    • by Reibisch (1261448) on Monday November 09, 2009 @01:16PM (#30034874)
      I'm all for being a social animal, but every now and then I like to retreat to my own private world and enjoy a game crafted around the single player experience.
    • ... part of me looks at a game like this in 2009 and can't help but see it as, well...old-fashioned.

      "Old-fashioned" is a lucrative market niche in and of itself. I like DA:O because it reminds me if NWN and BG so much. I'm sure many others do, as well.

      As a side note, speaking of single-player only... have you seen this tiny but awfully addictive thing called Torchlight? Yes, it's 2009 - and these things still sell like hot cakes. And where there's a buyer, there's a seller.

      • As a side note, speaking of single-player only... have you seen this tiny but awfully addictive thing called Torchlight?

        I have considered buying it after trying the demo, but a friend of mine says the game quickly loses its charm and there's no replayability. There's about 10-12 hours of play inside, and once you're done, there's nothing left to do except roam in some endless dungeon and collect uniques that are worse than your enchanted basic gear... That, and the classes are supposedly all mages in disguise.

        • by Shikaku (1129753)

          once you're done, there's nothing left to do except roam in some endless dungeon and collect uniques that are worse than your enchanted basic gear... That, and the classes are supposedly all mages in disguise.

          Sounds a lot like Nethack.

    • by illumin8 (148082) on Monday November 09, 2009 @01:28PM (#30035062) Journal

      It's a shame this game has no coop or multiplayer. I know a lot of you will say there is nothing wrong with a well-done single player game, and I agree with you in spirit. But, in practice, a part of me looks at a game like this in 2009 and can't help but see it as, well...old-fashioned.

      Coop or multiplayer only works in a game where the story is completely linear. This game has so many different plot twists and the story can change so dramatically that there is no real way you could do coop; the story would have plot holes all over the place. Also, what would happen if two people tried to play completely different in the same game world? One person could go around killing NPCs that the other person wanted to keep alive. It would be complete and total chaos.

      If you played the game you would understand why coop wouldn't work. Also, the combat in this game, while it can be played in realtime similar to WoW, is deep enough that it requires pausing the game to give command to your party members. Have you ever seen a coop game that allowed one person to pause the game? It would be a nightmare because one person would be pausing the game when then other wanted to play it.

      I don't fault Bioware at all for not having multiplayer in the game. This game is meant to be played like a well run pen and paper RPG, or a great fantasy novel. You need to take the time to read Codex, immerse yourself in the game world, and that just doesn't come through in a "twitch" oriented action RPG.

      • by Narpak (961733)
        I don't see why Co-op wouldn't work, it worked fine in Baldur's gate. Where, if I recall correctly, one was the "main character" and the other(s) basically played sidekicks.
    • by vga_init (589198) on Monday November 09, 2009 @01:31PM (#30035120) Journal

      I agree that multiplayer games are great (especially cooperative RPG's), but not every game has to fall into one genre. There are many things that can be done with a single player design that you simple can't do with multiplayer, so expect Dragon Age to offer a unique and comprehensive experience you wouldn't otherwise get if they included multiplayer. Sometimes games get torn between the two and end up suffering the most that way; they want to be both a single player and multiplayer game, but ideally you'd pick one since it defines how the entire game plays out.

    • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Monday November 09, 2009 @02:10PM (#30035726) Journal

      Well - if you haven't played Mass Effect - you don't understand how BioWare tailors their Single Player Experience.
      And if you have played Mass Effect - and you didn't like it, you are the first person I've encountered who didn't enjoy it.

      The thing with these SP RPG's that Bioware makes is that they are more or less trying to put you inside of an interactive movie, almost moreso than they are trying to make a game. Don't get me wrong, they have always been solid in their gameplay elements, but whenever anyone talks about Mass Effect, and now Dragon Age, the things they generally tend to mention are its incredible story and how well they get immersed in the game, usually through dialogue.

      The Trend that Bioware and myself are noticing is that when you make something Multiplayer - Pretty much the whole story element gets shot out the window. Its no longer about you being a hero to save the princess, its more about you and your friends having a fun social experience trying to kill the biggest badest thing you guys can find. Which is fine for some games, like World of Warcraft. But How many MMO RPG players read the quest text? How many players on Halo 3 consider themselves the heroic Masterchief when every other player in the game is just as equal?

      As for Co-op, there are always limitations to Co-op, and in my opinion they always detract so heavily from the game that I wouldn't even Bother. Fable 2 is an excellent example of how Co op ruins the experience. You can have 2 people in the same world, for sure, but they can't venture further than 20 feet from each other, and whoever is in the lead ends up running into an invisible wall and can't move forward. Meanwhile slowmo over in the back can't get around this fence because his buddy is so far ahead it restricts his lateral movement. And even if they managed to sort out those sort of issues, it still always feels like 1 person is the Hero and everyone else is just side kicks.

        The only games which seem to properly implement Co-op are First Person shooters, like Left 4 Dead, or ODST, where everyone is essentially Equal and MUST work together. Mass Effect (and probably Dragon Age) While approaching the FPS kind of gameplay, are still more Roleplaying games then they are shooters. You got levels, stats, and gear. Once you take those out, your gameplay is fleshed down a point and shoot. Which not everyone wants. There are plenty of Fantasy co op games out there, where you can get with your party of 5 and do an instance, get your gold and get your gear. Bioware wants to tell a story. And they do a hell of a job doing it.

    • by vlm (69642)

      It's a shame this game has no coop or multiplayer.

      Multiplayer DA:O would be as bad as multiplayer coop solitaire.

    • by Jaysyn (203771)

      Neverwinter Nights is multiplayer. Not massively (100+ player per server limit with certain NWNx plugins), but it is multiplayer.

  • by Degro (989442) on Monday November 09, 2009 @01:12PM (#30034832)
    You can't go two minutes in this game without being thrown into a long cut-scene. I like to play my RPGs, not watch them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Knara (9377)

      The intros are heavy on cut-scenes due to them being "intros". They're not really cut-scenes, anyway, due to you having to make choices in the middle of many of the dialog sessions.

      It's nowhere near as cut-scene heavy as MGS4, though, so I'm happy enough.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Spazztastic (814296)

        The intros are heavy on cut-scenes due to them being "intros". They're not really cut-scenes, anyway, due to you having to make choices in the middle of many of the dialog sessions.

        It's nowhere near as cut-scene heavy as MGS4, though, so I'm happy enough.

        It's also not as bad as your average Final Fantasy game which you can't skip through at all.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Valdrax (32670)

      You can't go two minutes in this game without being thrown into a long cut-scene. I like to play my RPGs, not watch them.

      It's called "plot," and not all RPG fans are as convinced as you are that it should be given cursory treatment. Anyway, Bioware's RPG have had long scenes of linear dialog for as long as I can remember. (Baldur's Gate, Planescape Torment, etc.)

  • by tangent3 (449222) on Monday November 09, 2009 @01:13PM (#30034846)

    And I haven't had much luck trying to get it to run on Wine. 1.1.31 from wine1.2 package on Kubuntu 9.10, hangs at the end of installation when it tried to install Nvidia PhysX. I'm using an ATI 4770 with FGLRX drivers, running the game gives me garbage on the screen.

    Had to boot back into my WinXP partition that I haven't touch since April.

    Looking at appdb, it seems not many people have much luck either, but some have managed to get it to run. Wonder what I'm doing wrong.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Wonder what I'm doing wrong.

      You're trying to play a video game on Linux. Just stop it already.

    • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Monday November 09, 2009 @02:31PM (#30036064)

      Wonder what I'm doing wrong.

      Trying to run it in Linux. Think back to when you set up your system, I'm sure there's a good reason to have that WinXP partition there. But when you buy a game and try to run it on an OS that it wasn't built for, you can sort of expect as much..

      You did buy it, right?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chris Burke (6130)

        Trying to run it in Linux. Think back to when you set up your system, I'm sure there's a good reason to have that WinXP partition there.

        You did buy it, right?

        Windows XP? No, I didn't, which is why I don't have that option for playing games.

        Oh, you meant games. Yeah, well, I knew what I was getting myself into when I went Linux-only, so no I don't tend to buy many games. I will only if wine/cedega users report that the game works great (e.g. World of Warcraft), or they have a download-able demo I can test

  • by illumin8 (148082) on Monday November 09, 2009 @01:15PM (#30034866) Journal

    First of all, let me just say that I'm loving this game so far (about 10 hours in). This game has all of the rich storytelling and character development that Bioware are famous for, with an updated graphics and combat system that really works well and is extremely polished.

    With that out of the way, let me just say one thing: EA, keep your fucking money grubbing hands off of Bioware! You can see their "mark" on this game in the DLC.

    In your party camp, there is a quest-giver that actually tries to sell you DLC! I started chatting him up, since he has a quest ! above his head. He starts talking about how Duncan of the Grey Wardens owes his family a debt, and would you be so kind as to assist him. I get 3 minutes through the conversation about how his family needs help, and just when I'm about to agree to help him, it gives me a menu option that says something like "Help him - Purchase Downloadable Content."

    Let that sink in for just a minute... there is an NPC quest giver that tries to sell you content that is available on the day of release! This makes me think even more that EA intentionally stripped content out of the game to try to nickel and dime you. Tycho and Gabe talk about this and have a hilarious comic strip at Penny Arcade [penny-arcade.com].

    I'm still enjoying every minute of the game, but it kills the immersion when I have a quest giver try to hawk DRM laden "premium content". What makes it even worse, in order to get a storage chest, you have to purchase this content. No thanks, I'm not going to buy it. You already got my money, and that's all you're going to get.

    • by TheKidWho (705796)

      Thankfully the toolset for the game has been released and the game will fully support FREE user made mods.

      Although as for myself I did purchase the Digital Deluxe Edition which includes the DLC.

    • DLC Abuse - (Score:5, Informative)

      by gadlaw (562280) <gilbert&gadlaw,com> on Monday November 09, 2009 @01:22PM (#30034976) Homepage Journal
      I bought it pre order, the game has already had it's first Patch for the PC and it's still buggy. All that but the game itself is awesome, completely awesome. Now the DLC - Downloadable Content stuff is not making me happy. I've bought it all but apparently it's not actually mine if my internet connection goes down. WTF? That's not acceptable, I bought it, give it to me, don't make me a prisoner of my internet connection. That particular aspect of the game is a true 'bend over and prepare for your surprise' moment. I don't know why they felt it necessary to do this either. I'm reading also that you need your 360 connected to the internet to be able to play the downloadable content and not just to download it. Another slap in the face of the fans. So I'm torn, love the game, hate the crap surrounding it.
      • by Ceiynt (993620)
        I don't know what kind of copy you bought. I got mine from D2D, got the 2 "free" DLCs and I bought Warden's Keep, all day one. I then proceded to to play the game, all while disconnected from the interwebs without any issue, AND use the DLC without any issue.
      • by Narpak (961733)

        I've bought it all but apparently it's not actually mine if my internet connection goes down.

        Yeah I had the same problem. Bought the game on steam, internet went down for a few hours and I got a message I wasn't allowed to load my game since I had activated DLC on it that required I log into EA. Which is pretty crappy; so I wrote and complained about it (and hope others do so to).

    • by stagg (1606187)
      That content had development/testing deadlines that came AFTER the cert date of the game itself. It was developed separately. I'm not a fan of DLC either and find it jarring that it's not handled entirely outside the game, but I don't believe that anything was hacked out of the game to facilitate it.
      • by illumin8 (148082)

        That content had development/testing deadlines that came AFTER the cert date of the game itself. It was developed separately. I'm not a fan of DLC either and find it jarring that it's not handled entirely outside the game, but I don't believe that anything was hacked out of the game to facilitate it.

        I know they said this, and I can believe it, knowing how the software dev lifecycle works, and how different content teams can have different schedules, however, they still had to have someone QA the quest-giver

        • by TheKidWho (705796)

          Planning Ahead?

        • by stagg (1606187)
          Oh, they always intended to have DLC start rolling out the day of release. The quest giver was in loooong before the content he linked to was completed. It certainly shows their intent. But for the content he triggers to have been included as part of the core game, they would have had to push back the cert date. Cert isn't very forgiving, especially for consoles. (ESPECIALLY for PS3) I totally agree that there are a lot of scuzzy things about the way DLC works, but I don't think that it stole content or re
        • How can you certify the quest-giver is in the game and working properly unless you're confident the DLC he links to is working properly as well?

          They chose to risk it. On the off chance that they did not hve the DLC ready in time, they would have to field your exact same comment in relation to putting the quest-giver in without the DLC being ready.

    • by denton420 (1235028) on Monday November 09, 2009 @01:44PM (#30035310)

      I laughed pretty hard when I was going through the dialog for the DLC. I thought the guy was trying to pull a nigerian inheritance scam on me, talking about family debts and assisting him to unlock untold fortunes!

    • I was going to say exactly what you've said, basically. Firstly I'm definitely going to buy the game (for the Xbox 360). And I may buy the DLC if it's worth it. But I won't buy the DLC straight away and I'll consider not buying it at all. The excuse is that the DLC couldn't have been put into the game during time constraints - I say, fair enough, but if you have expansions coming out on the same day of release you are Doing It Wrong. If you deliberately end up with DLC that's ready for release day, you

  • by vga_init (589198) on Monday November 09, 2009 @01:29PM (#30035068) Journal

    I've always played PC role playing games, but nowadays my computers don't cut it for games even though they are perfectly good for everything else. I don't want to buy a new computer (upgrading existing hardware would also entail buying a new motherboard/case/everything). For this reason I've been tempted to buy a console just to play games like Dragon Age, but I have a hard time imagining how you would adapt a computer RPG to a console control scheme. Isn't the game crippled without a keyboard and mouse? I have similar concerns over the upcoming Final Fantasy 14, which is supposed to be an MMORPG (but how do you communicate with other players if you can't type?).

    If anyone could share their insight on this issue, I'd be grateful. I don't have a lot of experience with PC->console migration.

    • by Alexpkeaton1010 (1101915) on Monday November 09, 2009 @01:40PM (#30035246)
      According to the reviews and talk online, the PC version is the superior version by a significant margin. Some of the advantages of the PC version are better graphics (obviously), a better UI, and the ability to put the camera into isometric view similar to the old infinity engine games (i.e. Baldur's Gate et. al.). For control, on PC you have a standard spell bar and can click the ground to move, but on console you have a radial menu for your skills and have to move using standard 3rd person controls. This means that in combat, on the PC, you can queue up all parties members exactly where you want them to go without controlling them manually. But the biggest advantage to the PC version, in my opinion, is the toolset that Bioware just released to create user campaigns that you can download for free. They talked about porting some of the best ones to PS3, but on PC you will have access to everything.
  • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Monday November 09, 2009 @01:34PM (#30035152) Homepage Journal

    Why didn't they just call the classes Plate, Cloth, and Leather?

    • by jgtg32a (1173373)
      That's a very good point, I was rather amused to find that the Bard class was part of a Rogue's progression
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by smartaleq (905491)

      Arcane mages (a specialization) are mages that wear plate. Shapeshifters are mages that spend all their time in animal form. Warriors specialized in ranged weapons are equally competent at it as rogues.
      It isn't as simplistic as the review makes it, and I've been quite happy with it.

  • Content Galore (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    While I too, like many of the posters here, was a bit annoyed by the $7 "Warden's Keep Tax" - the sheer breadth of the game has won me over.

    I'm over 20 hours in and (except for the opening Origins section) I've barely touched the main storyline. I've just been doing sidequests and experiencing the huge amount of dialog options your companion characters have.

    In other words, I suppose I'd rather pay $57 for a fantastic game than $50 for a mediocre one.

    • "In other words, I suppose I'd rather pay $57 for a fantastic game than $50 for a mediocre one."

      But weren't you supposed to pay $50 for a fantastic game when you bought it? DLC is basically extortion, when you buy a car and it's missing it's doors, would you be happy if they sold you the doors after you just laid down 20 or 30K for a car? I didn't think so either.

      When you buy a product it should be the WHOLE product. DLC has shown itself to be nothing more then ripping off gamers everywhere and these stup

  • 360 Owner's POV (Score:3, Interesting)

    by svendsen (1029716) on Monday November 09, 2009 @01:54PM (#30035490)
    So far 20 - 25 hours in and the game is pretty good. Few complaints:

    1. Seems every 10 hours or so the game locks up and have to restart the 360. 2. If you tell a person no who wants to join you then you can never get that person again. It would have been nice to get a warning or something like "Hey if you say no one more time you will never ever see this person again". I did this to 2 characters before I found out. Crap. 3. Triggers for battles drive me nuts and you better save often. For example walking down a hallway in a dungeon you get attacked by a few skeletons. You bet them and as you recover 8 more rise up around you and attack. Game over every time. I've encountered a few places like this and it is frustrating. I think to truly to get into this game a 2nd replay is in order but not sure if I will have the time to do that
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by greenreaper (205818)
      Heh, I know the skeleton battle you're talking about. You need to use tactics - like sending one guy ahead to test while the others hold back. Sometimes you can split them up. And take it slowly! Real adventurers who just ran into every battle would get slaughtered, and rightly so. You also have to read the location. For example, if there's a bunch of webs around, maybe you should be on the watch for a spider ambush - or if there's a huge pile of bones and rusting weapons on the ground, chances are you sho
  • The opposite of a buff is a nerf.

  • The game uses the same base engine of previous neverwinter games and you can tell when you look at the combat mechanics of the game, go play some quick battles in NWN1 and NWN2 and you can still feel how the never got rid of the clumsyness of battle system itself.

    Dragon ages would have been better as an ARPG instead they tried to stuff it into Neverwinters moldy engine. The only thing that keeps the game going is the art and interesting characters and dialogue.

    I must admit though the art direction is what

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday November 09, 2009 @02:30PM (#30036054) Journal

    Bioware has done it again... and that as I will try to make clear is not entirely a compliment.

    Dragon Age is the fantasy RPG from Bioware that is NOT D&D. As you may know, Baldur Gate and Neverwinter Nights were both based in this universe. And to be honest, after having the same exact skillset for over a decade, it was time for something new. Anyway, Bioware no longer got the license so they set out to create a bright new world with dragons and dungeons and elves and dwarves and magic...

    So what is new in this brave new world? No magic arrow and colored spray. Everything else is the same. Oh okay, not exactly the same, stats are simpler but if you played Baldur's Gate, you will have a strong sensation of Deja Vu. But then you should be used to it, because you had the same sensation in Neverwinter Nights.

    So it is more of what we come to expect, is this bad?

    Yes.

    Why? It is NOT because we got dwarfs and elves and such. Their are enough subtle changes to make it interesting while at the same time giving us that warm feeling of a familiar place.

    The problem is that the game STILL plays the same. You will STILL need a rogue who is useless in combat because they need to be specced to the max to detect the traps that are only in a few dungeons but then are so numerous you can't move an inch. You STILL get locked wooden chests that this time you can't even bash, even with a golem around. You STILL only get 1 ingredient from said locked chest that is 1/5 of a potion. You STILL get said chests in the end game where you are fighting for your life and stop the entire war to pick a chest that then has a shield that never was of any use during the entire game.

    Some, like me, might have hoped Bioware had gotten past this, that the endless looting of chests all over the place every 2 meters, the idiotic loot drops etc had just been part of D&D. But that is not true. No dungeon master would do that. Loot goes at the end of the game, the dragon horde. Not every 30 seconds.

    Will I like the game

    Yes: if you want Baldur's Gate 3.

    No: if you are sick to death of the same game OVER and OVER.

    A brief walktrhough

    You choose a race, a class and a origin. This bit is actually very well done, you can really see the different stories blend in with the main storyline and they are interesting enough. It is once you get on the main story that you get another MAJOR and disappointing Deja Vu moment. Bla bla bla, world in danger from an enemy, unite the races, all three races want you to do something for them, gain a force, give them better equipment, assault the enemy in a final battle. Been there, DONE that. It was TWICE in Neverwinter Nights.

    Is it REALLY that hard to come with a new story type? Apparently it is for Bioware.

    Remember please Bioware, people play your games multiple times, so we have united armies and equipped them dozens of times before. COME UP WITH SOMETHING NEW PLEASE! And no, collecting 3 items to create a weapon is NOT NEW.

    But how is the combat

    Messy and idiotic.

    One of the most braindead decisions by Bioware is to limit you to four, to make story dependant on who you pick (only people in your part comment and get affected by choices) and to LIMIT their AI settings based on skill points you NEED for other things.

    So unless you cheat, you are either going to have to do without skills like herb and tracking or do without a full list of ai options.

    The idea is that you can create a very simple "if this, then do that" list for your party members. It works, it takes some thinking but it really does work. Provided you pick your own because the ones Bioware has cooked up suck donkey balls. Oh, and you got to cheat.

    Let me explain:

    The ideal foursome in DAO would be a tank who can gain agro, a DPS who shoots the crap out of enemies, a disabler who disables stuff you ain't ready to deal with and a healer.

    The only decent tank is Shale, a golem

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You know, it seems like you just never really got the hang of *playing* this. All the people I know that are playing this have no complaints about pacing, lack of mana potions, use of rogues, etc. I haven't had problems with Alistair. You don't have to use him. There are other characters you can choose in your party. You can level Wynne (and it is Wynne, not Wayne) so she gets more stats to Willpower which will give her more mana to use, did you know that? You can make the party stay where they are during c

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 09, 2009 @05:02PM (#30038138)

      About halfway through your review of the game you say "The ideal foursome in DAO would be a tank who can gain agro, a DPS who shoots the crap out of enemies, a disabler who disables stuff you ain't ready to deal with and a healer," then going on to explain how this is nearly impossible to set up.

      This seems to ignore the most obvious argument: that that is not, in fact, the ideal foursome in Dragon Age: Origins. If you go to the forums there are hundreds such complaints coming from users with similar problems, people who insist on playing this like the game it isn't. When you're given a system, the "ideal" build is dictated by the rules of that system, not whatever you've cooked up in your mind beforehand.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MikeBabcock (65886)

        That's almost exactly what I was thinking. Besides, since when does any set of characters need to be ideal at all? I find it much more interesting to try and play through RPGs with less-than-optimal character sets anyway.

  • Mixed Bag (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ender77 (551980) on Monday November 09, 2009 @04:02PM (#30037258)
    I have been playing Dragon Age at a friends house, and have been tempted to buy it, but I think I will hold off after running into the guy trying to sell me DLC in the camp site. WTF?!?! Bioware, how you have disappointed me. I am sure this is EA's decision to milk the franchise even more, and this is what all of us were screaming about when EA bought them out. Ah, how the mighty have fallen. Whats next? In the next game, we will have ads playing during loading screens? Or perhaps we will have company brand names put on items? Pathetic. Still, the game IS fun, and besides the DLC annoyance I am having a blast. I will probably get it, but not as it is. Why buy an incomplete product? I will wait till the mondo, super, complete edition will be released in a year or two at a reduced price that will include ALL the DLC, addons, extra content, etc.
  • My Dragon Age Review (Score:5, Interesting)

    by junglebeast (1497399) on Monday November 09, 2009 @04:14PM (#30037436)
    For reference, let me start by giving my opinion of some previous BioWare titles.

    In my opinion, Baldur's Gate is the best RPG series ever made. I also enjoyed Neverwinter Nights, but I was a bit disappointed that the tilesets and UI made the game feel stale. I enjoyed the LAN play ability of BG, and I thought NWN online was a bit of a failure.

    I was also really blown away by Mass Effect, I loved the dialoge interface that allowed me to easily choose options that corresponded to my emotional response without needing to read in my head the exact words that my character would be saying. The dialogues were so well recorded that they seemed more engaging than Star Wars episodes 1-3. Truly this is one of the first games where I actually enjoyed sparking new dialogues.

    Now onto my review of Dragon Age Origins. The game feels like NWN with improved graphics mixed with Mass Effect style scripted dialogues. Unfortunately the dialogues do not work so well in Dragon Age and quickly become monotonous, because none of the character responses are pre-recorded (making them sound oddly one-sided), and also because you need to read through the full sentence as opposed to the easy to use dialogue interface of Mass Effect. This was a step backwards towards Baldur's Gate style dialogue. Despite BG being my favorite RPG, I can admit to sometimes getting impatient with the dialogues. Also, there is a bit too much dialogue in this game and not enough fighting.

    I was excited that they strayed from traditional D&D rules with Dragon Age because I thought it would be fun to learn new spells. An example of where that worked very well was Guild Wars. Unfortunately, the skill trees remind me more of Hellgate London...although a little better than that.

    First, they are highly unbalanced. There are WAY too many "sustained" abilities because you can only active one at a time and yet they occupy nearly 1/3 of all skills. This is a waste because any build is simply going to pick 1 that remains active 99% of the time.

    Second, the skills themselves are highly unbalanced...some of them are awesome, and some of them totally suck. There's no way to tell which ones are good because the skill descriptions don't give any stats or equations, so the only way to figure it out is by trial and error. Trial and error works fine in an action RPG like Diablo, but it's not fun to re-do the same story lines over and over just to try out a different spell build, especially when there's no easy way to go out and level without having to go through the story.

    The skills for the Warrior are even more unbalanced. The skill categories are broken into sections like "dual wielding," "sword and shield" and "two handed." Obviously a fighter is going to specialize in only 1 area, which makes 1/3 of all skills useless. Then because 1/3 of those are all sustained, this makes only 1 + 1/9N of all N skills actually by any one build. A further 1/3 of those are passive, leaving only a petty few active combat skills to choose from, and 90% of those are so useless that when I level up, I can't think of a single skill to put a point into that would have any practical value...so sometimes I don't even bother to use the skill points anymore. Also, the skills all have level requirements for the Fighter, whereas the Mage skills (spells) have no level requirements. That's not really fair!

    There are more class/party unabalances. First, it seems like 2/3 of all chests in the game are locked, but for the entire first act you can't open these locked chests unless you are a Rogue. It's really annoying to torture the other 2 more popular classes (Fighter and Mage) by not being able to open any chests, and not providing any party members that are Rogues that could join the party except for short durations of time.

    this brings me to my next complaint: The chests never contain anything useful. After a while, you will discover that pretty much the only loot you ever find is useless crafting materials and potions. I'v
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rcuhljr (1132713)
      and also because you need to read through the full sentence as opposed to the easy to use dialogue interface of Mass Effect.

      If you spend more time reading a sentence then you do thinking about what response you'd like to choose I think that says a lot. I disliked Mass Effects one/two word selections because they often didn't accurately reflect what he was going to say, I like more control over my character.

      there is a bit too much dialogue in this game and not enough fighting.

      Again I can't agree her
  • by lennier (44736) on Monday November 09, 2009 @05:19PM (#30038386) Homepage

    and elfage and dwarfage... and hackage and pillage and luggage...

    but is there winnage?

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