Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Xbox 360 - Dragon Age Origins

Dragon Age Origins by EA Games / Bioware

I was hoping for great things from this RPG. Having seen Mass Effect and
Knights of the Old Republic, I was hoping for something similar in terms of play value. Well, unfortnately, Bioware doesn't fully deliver.

It almost seems as though Bioware felt the need to start over in this genre. While the party system and the questing system seems similar to Mass Effect, at the same time, it feels very much like a rewrite. I also don't remember so many fundamental problems with Mass Effect or KOTOR.


You play through this tale as any of the standard RPG classes: Warrior, Mage, Rogue (middle of the road), etc. You can choose from the standard races of the Tolkien-type era: Human, Elf, Dwarf, etc. I say 'etc' because I'll leave part of the game unspoiled in case you want to play through yourself.


The game play style is similar to Mass Effect in that you roam levels, find things and reveal a story in the process. So, the controller layout is similar and there's nothing overly complex about it. So, that's at least a good thing.

Fundamental problems

Where this game falls down at gameplay is the incessant dialog. The dialog is not just never ending, it's downright annoying. Seems about every place you end up important in the game, you end up having dialog that goes on and on and on and on. Yes, you can make choices in the dialog, but please. This is overkill. This is fundamental mistake number 1 from Bioware: too much dialog. At first, I found myself walking through the dialog carefully. After the twentieth time of it, I find myself skipping most of it (X key).

With this game, save early and save often. Especially if you think something is about to happen (like more incessant dialog). This way, you can go back to a previous save and see the various outcomes of various dialog choices. Saving early prevents your entire party's death.

Health issues

The second fundamental problem is that, unlike Oblivion, the enemy is whatever level that they are. So, that means that if you're level 6, you might end up fighting a level 20 enemy. Oblivion would level up the enemies around you close to your level, but yet still a challenge. With Dragon Age, I find my character is far far weaker than the characters in my party and even the enemies. On top of the characters being far weaker than they should, the game is predisposed to throw massive amounts of enemies at you at once. So, your party of 4 may encounter 20-30 creatures at once. You do have the ability to heal and the ability to drink potions. So,while a mage character can heal party members remotely, you must take control of each character separately to drink potions (tedious and time consuming).

Inventory system

The final fundamental problem is that Bioware failed to provide an adequate inventory system. First, the inventory bag is too small. So, after you pick up a certain amount of items (not very many I might add), you're out of space. So, I find myself constantly destroying items to pick up others. Selling items to traders is few and far between. Second, there is no rhyme or reason to size or weight of items. So, for example, you might have to destroy many items just to allow another item to be picked up (like a scroll). It's very random with regards to this issue. I find myself having to go through and delete items throughout the inventory just to find the proper item type or size to allow me to pick up something new.

On top of this problem, there's the lack of randomness of items around the levels. So, when you find an item, nearly every chest or container has the same item (and lots of it). So, you end up picking up 20 of a thing. Worse, when you go into the inventory to destroy an item (or 20 of them). You put them in the trash all or nothing. You can't choose to move only 10 of them. If there are 20, you must move all 20 to the trash and you must destroy all 20. Stupid.


The map is limited and problematic to navigate. There is no fast travel to speak of other than from the main map which only allows travel when you reach a 'World Map' portal. You can open the world map at any time, but you can only travel using this map when you are at a 'World Map' portal.


For as long as it has taken to get this game to market, the graphics feel far too low res. In fact, most of the texture maps (landscape, trees, plants) are poor quality and far too low resolution. I was definitely expecting more out of this title considering the quality of Mass Effect. Unfortunately, it didn't appear here.


Because of the fundamental problems that Bioware did not resolve before bringing this game to market, it makes the game tedious and not very much fun to play. The overly long dialog sequences make the game grindingly tedious. I find the story uninspired and not engaging. As well, the story feels unfinished and the game feels rushed even though I know it took Bioware plenty of time to get it to market. Because of these fundamental problems in design, this game is nowhere near a 10. In fact, Mass Effect's story far exceeds the quality of this story.


This game could have been something special. Unfortunately, Bioware managed to botch the title and make it average. The game unfolds far too slowly, the dialog is incessant, the characters are far too weak, and the fighting portions are overly uninvolved. That's not to say I don't recommend playing this RPG, just don't put it at the top of your list. Instead, for RPGs, save the top for Oblivion, Fallout 3 and even Mass Effect and follow up with some great shooters like Bioshock and the Halo series. Or, pick up some new titles like Assassin's Creed II or Halo 3 ODST. For more adult themes, there is great play value with Grand Theft Auto, Saint's Row (1 or 2) and even Call of Duty. If you have played all of the other major RPGs, only then would I suggest playing this game. Alternatively, you might want to save the money and wait for Mass Effect 2 in 2010.

  • Sound: 8/10
  • Graphics: 6/10
  • Gameplay: 6/10 (too many fundamental problems)
  • Story: 7.5/10
  • Bugginess: N/A
  • Controls: 9/10
  • Bang-to-buck: 3/10
  • Play Value: $15 (rent first, then buy)
  • Overall: 6.5/10