Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dragon Age: Origins on PS3 Impression

Dragon Age: Origins
Over 3 million games sold, 30 industry awards and its triple platinum in sales. There is no doubt BioWare has crafted another masterpiece with Dragon Age: Origins but what makes this title so great? Could it be the engaging story, impressive battles or slew of fresh downloadable content including Awakening, the most recent? Well the answer is yes and then some as Dragon Age is one of the rare games that can justify buying a gaming system on it’s own. It has legs that most console titles can only dream of and is on par with the best of the PC only RPG’s. High praise, yes, but the industry can’t be wrong and when the weather is so cold, blizzard is passed and power back on what else is a Grey Warden to do?

Gameplay – Go back to the fantasy setting in which BioWare made it’s name, pick your character class, gender, looks and initial attributes then enter one of six unique stories, play the linear tale for a few hours then join an epic quest in a world rich in history, characters and settings. The gameplay is not a Diablo style hack-n-slash and it’s not a straight RPG. Gamers must control and manage their party from putting characters on auto-pilot, setting their actions based on how the battle progress to constant pausing to setup their next move and manage resources. There is a lot of live action fighting but the brain is never turned off while playing, thinking and the next move is always required. While not as unforgiving as the difficulty in Demon’s Souls, what Dragon Age: Origins does it challenge gamers to manage their party and feel a true sense of accomplishment in any and every battle. This is a simplification of what is a deep and engaging battle experience and while titles such as Jade Empire and KOTOR were great, Dragon Age really takes it to a new level that does not have an end in sight thanks to downloadable content.

Graphics – While not the most gorgeous next-gen title Dragon Age is no slouch when it comes to graphics. Starting from the beginning with the creation of your chosen character the level of detail is great and supporting characters are unique and fit the fantasy world but some of the levels feel bland and generic in a fantasy world sense. There are awe inspiring moments but the real focus is on combat where magic spells can be mega impressive. The game looks really good but feels so familiar. This may be due to BioWare’s excellent history from KOTOR to Jade Empire the skins, lands may change but they all feel familiar.

Sound – Voice acting can be very cheesy in a fun way and dead serious but no matter the avenue it’s all good, well above the industry standard. The soundtrack kicks in with the action and adds just the right feel to the atmosphere. It’s a very worth fantasy soundtrack. The lack of sound, of a voice, on the main character actually hurts the overall experience as there are no real replicas, just shrugs and gestures to go with the phrase choices the gamer picks.

Design – While the levels may feel familiar they are no less fun to traverse. The world of Dragon Age has been created in great detail as Tor’s line of novels will reveal and the game world shares the same depth as so much has been spelled out. Much to see, do and accomplish especially with six unique starting paths that last for a few hours before joining a main quest. The real treat to the design is the downloadable content. This shows how flexible and expansive the world is, but more on that in a minute.

Miscellaneous – The reason for writing this late in the game, the downloadable content. New characters, quest, items, settings … just so much more. This is the future of console gaming that PC gamers have had for years. Buy a game, enjoy it and don’t wait for a sequel, download more, more and yes, more. There is a cost association but when gamers can compare this to buying a whole new title it’s very preferable. The upcoming Awakening, characters such as Anders (attitude pulled from the high-collar 80’s), Velanna and her … assets, the creepy as hell children; these are just a few of the downloadable items that warrant a game by themselves but which gamers will be soon getting their hands on without waiting years for a developed sequel. It’s not only the amount of content available for download but also the release cycle. Every few weeks, just enough time to play prior releases, there is new content, new characters and stories to explore. Dragon Age: Origins can receive a review weeks, months later as there is fresh content, there are new gamers jumping into the world, and it’s this freshness that really sets Dragon Age apart from it’s preceding cousins.

Overall, Dragon Age: Origins is not a fire and forget title. It’s one of the few, thus far, titles that show how PC gaming meets console gaming with staying power. Gamers get a deep and re-playable title that offers up different story elements depending on how nice or mean the gamer is in their conversation and relationships. The amount of downloadable content is also amazing and keeps the game very fresh and relevant. After gamers are done with hours of off the shelf adventuring then it’s time to download hours more at a decent cost. Mass Effect 2 is outstanding and due it’s accolades and it’s a very safe bet Dragon Age will be right behind even with a very quite protagonist.

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