All words presented in this blog are purely opinion, not fact - unless specifically stated otherwise in the post.

Friday 28 December 2012

Dragon Age Re-post

As I'm still away I've set up an old review from my old blog to post today.
I gotta be honest, I didn't re-read this, my opinion may have changed.


Legend tells that darkspawn were not always the vile creatures that tear at the flesh of man woman and child alike. Once they were mages, mages who attempted to usurp the throne of gods.
These men were cast out, left to transform, bend, mutate into vile creatures; the first of the darkspawn. Tortured souls led by the Arch Demon.
These creatures killed and destroyed everything in their paths, it appeared that nothing could stem the tide, until the grey wardens came. Men and women, dwarves, humans and elves, warriors, rogues and mages alike who had given up everything in order to defeat the darkspawn and the arch demon, and they succeeded. For a time.
Thousands of years and a hundred battles later and the grey wardens feel the stir of an arch demon once again.
It is here that Bioware lands you, at the entrance way to the latest blight of Ferelden, to create a character in the middle of a world torn asunder by magic, politics, greed, ambition and hatred to make things right, amass an army, become the next grey warden and the final line of defence against the darkspawn.

Before I continue I want to clarify the rest of my review with the following statement;
Saying that I am a fan of Bioware is like saying that Christians think Jesus was an all right guy.
Which means that anything positive I say should be taken with a grain of salt and anything negative should be treated as gospel. This being said I try to be as impartial as possible, so hopefully this review will be accurate, not a Bioware promotional seminar.

Next in line is the games character creator. As with most character creators in modern gaming this one is fairly intricate, offering the ability to define your characters facial appearance down to the minute details of the characters eyes. Still, while it is a very customisable editor that lets both hard-core and casual players create relatable characters it isn't by any stretch the best editor out there. It has too few options for my taste and solely allows head editing, this is common place in many RPGs, of course, (Mass Effect, Elder Scrolls, Fallout) but when the capability is out there I don't see why not allow the player to create a character of their own description, except that it might look a little odd to have a 300 lbs. 6 ft. woman charging angrily into battle at the head of the wardens, granted it would look balls, but it should be the players choice.
The player must first choose their gender, Male or female, a pretty straight forward decision as this adds nothing and takes nothing from the characters stats. The only real difference it makes is slight dialogue changes and character interactions this all and ever so slightly different opening stories.
After this the player is given the choice of race, Human, Elven or Dwarven, each have their own possible back stories, and individual style, Humans and elves can be any class of character, while the Dwarves are limited to Rogue and Warrior. However the biggest difference is in their starting stats. Human characters have the highest cunning, while they share high strength and dexterity with Dwarves, who have the highest constitutions, and the Elves have high willpower and magic but fairly average stats everywhere else. To decide which race is best for you depends on two things, which you feel comfortable with and which class you intend to become.
Players are asked to choose between three classes, Mage, for the mystical ability loving, highly intellectual player, Warrior, for those who have a passion for brute strength and thuggery or the rogue for those back stabbing, dextrous tricksters out there. Each class has four sub-classes, that widen their abilities, but that's information for later in the review. Each class is primarily ruled by 2-3 stats. Warriors are based on Strength, Dexterity and a little Constitution. Rogues are ruled by Dexterity, Cunning and a little Will Power. While the Mage uses Willpower, Magic and a drop of Cunning.
Lastly you are given an option of 6 back stories and choosing them depends on both your character's race and class, and on your own idea of what your character is like.
Humans must either choose the noble back story (you are the youngest son of a lord of Denerim, flee the castle as another lord takes everything you hold dear), or the mages back story, the elves may choose to be Dalish (forest dwelling elves with hatred for humanity in their hearts) city dwellers (impoverished elves living under the oppressive boot of humanity) or, again, use the mages back story. Dwarves may choose to be of noble birth or impoverished, what these two options mean I can't tell you, as I have only played four of the six back stories to date. Finally magic users of both Human and Elf kind are forced to join the circle of mages, offering them only one entrance into Ferelden, something I maintain as a lost opportunity. Giving the players an apostate back story to choose from, in my opinion would be pretty cool.
After deciding how you want to play the game you are then given 5 stat points to place how you wish in order to improve your character. I personally chose a Male Human Mage, on my first play through, throwing all of my stats on the Magic basket.
A skill point to give you an extra one of the 8 skills. As a mage I automatically started with a Combat Tactics slot and an Herbalism slot, so I opted to add one point to coercion in order to be better and conning people into believing my bull shit.
And (in the mages case) 2 spell points to spend on the 16 different paths of four spells, all set out in groups of 4 under the titles 'Primal', 'Creation', 'Spirit' and 'Entropy'.
I chose to go the route of the elemental and throw a point into buying an ice spell and a point into creation magic to get 'Heal'. You know... just in case.

Finally done with character creation I was thrown into my background story of the Circle of Magi. A tale of oppression, fear, love and loss. Good magic and Blood magic, I won’t ruin the story or any readers, however suffice to say My character ends up accidentally breaking some of the most carnal Magic user laws in existence, causing the grey warden, 'Duncan' to take an interest in me and whisk me off under the law of conscription to become a Grey Warden as the King and the Grey Wardens are about to fight off a blight.
Upon arriving war camp in a little place called Ostagar I am greeted by none other than the king, who welcomes me to the crusade. After talking to his highness I am sent to find my first permanent group member, the ex-Templar, Grey Warden, Alistair.
I quickly establish myself as capable, after performing various tasks around camp and then going out into the wilds to retrieve ancient agreements of aid, where I meet the sarcastic but ultimately alluring Morrigan, my future second permanent team mate, she shows my group to her mother, who returns the deeds to me and sends me on my way.
Skip to the battle for Ostagar and Alistair and I are sent to a signal tower to light the flare which signals the flanking attack of general Teyrn Loghain, however once I followed these instructions I was overwhelmed by forces, only to wake up later in Morrigan’s home, having been saved by her mother.
It appears Loghain turned on the King and fled, naming the Grey Wardens as traitors.
Now I am forced upon a quest to make Loghain pay for his crimes, to gain the support of Elves, Dwarves and Wizards for a final fight against the dark spawn and destroy the arch demon or good.

Dragon age: Origins is an action packed engaging story with many colourful characters and scenarios along the way. Players collect group members with incredibly well designed personalities around them to help against your foes.
The combat is done using off-screen statistics and dice rolling, as with most Bioware games of merit, however this is easily its best iteration.
There is an obvious feel of progression throughout the game without the feeling of becoming overpowered. As the player gets stronger the enemies come with more force. As with all games the gameplay gets tedious over time, however with the engaging and original characters as well as the heavily story based gameplay this minor issue gets easily overlooked, where in other less well thought out games it wouldn't be.
The world feels real, ancient and the player really feels for the state of it and of the people all around them.

I personally love this game. It's the best game I played in 2010 and I'm still re-re-re-re-playing it.

If I had to give it a score out of 10 I would give it a 9/10, seriously. The only thing letting it down is its graphics. As awesome as the game is my initial reaction watching trailers and looking at screen shots was that it'd be terrible, but I was wrong, thank the maker I was wrong! The story, the gameplay, the expansive world and unforgettable characters all make up for the 2008-2009 graphics engine. More than make up for it.

- James

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