What’s Killing My Social Life This Week – Dragon Age: Origins
Posted by The Fairy Wizard
Do you like games? Do you like games with dragons in them? Do you like playing said games? Imagine a game such as that and try to picture yourself playing it. Are you doing it? Are you? Good. Now stare at a wall for three weeks whilst thinking intently what that game would be like and you don’t have to play Dragon Age: Origins.
Dragon Age: Origins is a Fantasy RPG developed by Bioware that takes place in the magical land of Dragons and Aging. In it you play as a random individual of non-descript everything, in a surprisingly immersive story that is full of action, danger, romance, engaging characters, banjos etc but, most importantly, dragons.
To start off, the gameplay in DAO is some weird hybrid of real-time combat and strategy, though in this case it actually works quite well. You can control your little mini-you normally, as you would in any RPG, though you can also pause the game and pan out into a wider view of the battle to plan your next move. In fact you’ll have to do just that, as properly coordinated attacks are a must if you want your enemies to bleed out before you do and I hope you stocked up on them potions, because you sure as hell gonna need those. Actually the strategy mechanics are more complex than I give them credit for, including complicated tactics and behaviours you can tell your little party of scoundrels to follow and implement. However, while you could spend hours strategizing the perfect plan against any enemy and making sure your party is working together like a well-oiled combine harvester, the only real issue you can fix with the tactics menu is to make your guys drink a potion or two when their health is below a certain threshold. Ho yes, never has strategy been more advanced and complex now that you can tactfully remind your party members to maybe take a sip or two out of that Potent Potion of Healing, because that Undead Skelly Murderboss 3000 of +46 Constitution sure looks angry and “don’t you think you’ve got enough axes sticking out of your shredded abdomen already?”
Before you ask, yes there are a lot of interesting characters in this game worth talking to and yes you can also romance some of them, in what I can only refer to as flirt grinding. Seen an awesome NPC you’re attracted to for X reason? Well then, if they’re a member of your party that is –for want of a better word- romanceable and if you also meet the gender-specific requirements they demand (or don’t care about) in their personal relationships, then yes, you too can learn how awkward it is to watch crudely animated 3D modules of people have sex in their underpants. But before you can even get started on that goal, you first have to make a character approve of you, which is a lot more bloody difficult than it sounds. Approval can be gained either by talking to that character and saying the thing that makes them happy, or taking them adventuring with you and then selecting the choices that make them happy. This might not sound like complex social intercourse is taking place, but bear with me, there’s a lot more to it. You can also give a character gifts and character-specific plot items to both launch story quests, learn more about their background and eventually achieve either bestie friendship or the steamiest fantasy relationship since Connan winked teasingly at that cow. If, however, you spend your time doing anything other than trying to get into Zevran’s pants, then you, dear reader, have wasted the gift of having a snarky elven assassin join your cause after almost brutally murdering you.
You may have noticed my use of the term flirt grinding exactly 242 words ago and for those of you not paying attention, now might be a good time for some article backtracking. Put simply, romance in Dragon Age: Origins is really, REEEAAAALLY hard. In hindsight I’m glad that I played this game on steam, because it meant I could shift+Tab into a browser window and check the wiki whenever a troubling dialogue option came up. And if you are looking for a relationship with a series of ones and zeros then, I kid you not, you’re badly going to need a flowchart. In all honesty, while most choices at the start are pretty straightforward, you may as well be throwing darts at a wall for some of the later ones. And this is exactly where DAO both shines and glows in toxic radiation everyone; the Choices. Most characters will usually be –more or less- of the same mind when it comes to deciding about things, but in some cases opinions clash and you are left with either an unhappy companion/love interest or a really questionable call on your part that might even lead to some party members leaving. And don’t go about thinking that your choices don’t matter, because they absolutely do and they affect the overall story of the entire game and the sequels that follow, so make sure you don’t piddle around during your playthrough. Not that you’ll have any space to do so; the situations you’re placed in are more morally gray than a colourblind Mass Effect character.
Lastly, here’s a few tips for any of you out there that have been thinking about either revisiting DAO or finally seeing what all that fuss was about:
2) Once Wynne joins your party, have her replace Morrigan immediately and try to keep Morrigan out of your adventuring team if possible. Her “Survivor of the fittest” crap and general feedback is less that unwelcome and more often than not she’ll act like a self-righteous, whiny jerk. I’m sorry Morrigan (and Morrigan fans out there), I really like your story and you have some really human moments in the game, but sometimes you’re too much of a prat to have around.
3) Get Wynne in your party any way you can, because she is, quite simply, the shit. Prior to meeting her, my party would have the life expectancy of a Telltale Games character, but stick an old lady in one of the slots and suddenly you’re more unstoppable than that famous Disney character I’ve seen so many fics about.
5) DON’T.PLAY.ON NORMAL. Truthfully, this usually is more of a personal preference thing, but trust me when I say that you don’t want to be messing with that crap. The Deep Roads questline in particular is going to be a stresstravaganza shitstorm for you, especially if you don’t have an AoE-trained mage on hand. And if you want to be beating that fabled “Final Epic Boss Showdown Mowdown” within the next decade or two, you’ll have to turn easy mode on whether you want to or not. If you have managed to beat Dragon Age: Origins on Normal or harder difficulties, please let us know in the comments how -and in which market- you managed to sell your soul to Satan, the Devil, Lord Satan, Satan (Lord), EA, or whatever else you wish to call Mr. tosie-wosies lots-a-horns.
7) Try and complete the Sacred Ashes quest near the end. Again, this is down to how you want to play the game, but I found that doing so gave the story a nice and comprehensive arc that worked quite well. Then again, I thought it would be a good idea to start counting in primes, so what do I know about structuring a narrative?
In summation, conclusion and general need to wrap up, Dragon Age: Origins is a very solid RPG with an immersive world and a good story behind it. Word of warning though; if you do plan on checking it out, make sure you don’t get as hooked as I did and spend weeks completing every single quest offered to you, even for the lowliest of rewards.
-The Fairy Wizard
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Posted on July 9, 2015, in Features, Geekology, Reviews, Video Games, What's Killing My Social Life This Week and tagged Bioware, Dragon Age: Origins, Games, gaming, Video Game Reviews, Video Games. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.