My New Addiction.

Dragon Age: Origins

- An Orgasm For Your Mind -

Alright, now that I’ve got your attention: there’s one thing you need to understand about this post.  That thing is that the sole purpose of me writing this is to express an entirely biased review of how awesomely awesome Dragon Age: Origins is. I started playing the game because a good friend told me “if you like NoX, then you’ll like this game.” Since I love Westwood Studios’ games, I had to check out something that had their comparison. Now I must stress it’s as much like NoX as water is like piss. There’s a couple similarities, but ultimately they are different things entirely.

It must be said that Dragon Age will steal at least one overtime-working week from your life (read: 60 hours) on the first play. But it’s a 60 hours that you’ll gladly sacrifice to be a Grey Warden.

Without spoiling anything: You are a person with a background that winds up with a group of demon-fighting soldierly badasses called the Grey Wardens. The Darkspawn (the things I just encompassed with the term ‘demon’) are twisted creatures that are plaguing the land because some of our forebearers pissed off God. When these Dark Spawn awaken a false god they warp it to evil and head out into the lands to rape, pillage, and plunder. Mainly just mass murdering roving bands of crazies. Here’s a Darkspawn for you, meet Hurlock:

You get drafted into the elite Darkspan killing machine league by Duncan. He’s a total badass and I’ll show you a sweet shot of him standing in front of a bonfire. Note: He is a badass.

There he is, the badass Duncan himself.

The game mechanics are that of a 3-way hybrid. You can switch the camera from isometric to over-the-shoulder at will, and the game is a melange of hack-and-slash and a turn-based feel. You can pause the game at will and fully navigate the 3D environment to make tactical decisions (or just to check out the epic blood sprays). This allows you to pace the game at exactly the right momentum for yourself. You’ll never run into those OH SHIT! OH SHIT! OH–*dead* moments because a quick tap of the spacebar and you can collect your wits to realize “oh, I need to light that dude on fire (yes, you can KILL IT WITH FIRE here).

Where the game really shines is in the characters. All of them are superbly voiced and with a few graphical tweaks they look superb. You’re able to develop relationships and piss people off alike, and as you please (nobody is your ‘in it through everything’ sidekick. Sam Gamgees need not apply).

The graphics are amazing, and there are some HD texture packs that a trained monkey on crack could install with ease and really ratchet up the quality of the visuals. BioWare has a lovely habit of stretching tiles to decrease strain on rendering the environment so that the screen can have more happening (and you WILL fight hordes of objects on screen with no slow down as  long as your computer is somewhat decent).  The world of Ferelden comes alive as you crawl through dungeons and fight dragons in your epic quest to recover ancient lost holy artifacts and save the world from the Archdemon.

Ahh… I love the smell of decapitations in the morning.

The game is bloody, it’s adult, and it’s made for one word: Epicness. I can’t seem to stop thirsting for Darkspawn blood or watching the ‘Wardens Call’ trailer:

There are some areas where the game doesn’t shine. Depending on your viewpoint this is either terrible or not that bad. The problems are mainly all technical in nature. There’s memory leaks, problems in the capital city with saves going wonky in the heavily populated merchant area (the game will crash to desktop), and the CPU utilization on anything but a quad core is 100%. Make sure and shut the game down and give your system a breather every now and then. That being said, the game was MADE to run on a quad-core system and it shows. I’ve got everything set to max with 8xAA and 4GB worth of custom HD textures and the game hums at 60fps with my 2.83Ghz quad core, 8GB DDR2, and a GTX 275.  The only time I get tearing or fps slowdown is if I’ve been playing for a very long time and repeatedly smack TAB (it highlights interactive objects). Hardly noticeable at that.

I WOULD NOT recommend getting this game on console. There’s no support for it. PC version you get a toolset for making your own campaigns, a lively community, tons of mods to fix that every-annoying thing that you hate about the game, and content patches to fix your woes. BioWare has done a great job with this game, and I’ve managed to addict friends, my wife, her 19yr old sister, and her 15yr old sister. I am now a missionary for the church of Dragon Age. Can I haz hai clrik nao?

The story is involving and you, as the character, can to a lot to affect the way it goes/turns out. While you can’t have a direct effect on the main story arch (good wins, sorry evil-doers), so there’ll be no pissing of everyone you’ve promised to help by switching to evil at the end, you can really burn some bridges along your bloody trail. Another very nice thing is that everything scales to your level (at least as far as I could tell). Every area felt suited to my level. Even applying a mod to fix the godawful two-handed swords (which are slow as piss and not the most useful things otherwise) by upping their attack speed a smidgeon stuff stayed hard, which is probably because any mod that changes character weapon behavior also inadvertently applies the same change to the NPC’s (monster’s) stuff as well. You think that dual-weilding two handers that attack like daggers is fun? Wait until a Hurlock Alpha rips you a new one.

I need to get to the finisher. The single greatest and mostest bestest thing evar (!!) about Dragon Age: Origins is the chance to play a Grey Warden. The order is shrouded in mystery and almost as old as the Darkspawn themselves. They pay a heavy price for the burden they bear, and you get to step right in on the action. Nothing in a game has been as satisfying to me as shield-bashing a tough enemy to the ground and fonging him, his insides on the outsides, entrails becoming extrails, and the gore going all the way up to 11. That is, provided that it isn’t a Revenant  who will more than likely wipe the floor with your sorry ass. Dragon Age has an intense replay value due to completely different direction you can take the story and relationships, as well as the different Origins. Something I all but forgot to go into. The Origins are your characters’ background stories, and there are six different Origins in the game. Combined with the path of the Grey Warden, you’ll find yourself sticking to your backstory and making the decisions a Human Noble, or dirty slum-born Elf would make.

Strap yourself in for a dose of Dragon Age: Origins and really treat yourself to one of the best games that’s come out in years. If you can’t find something to love about DA, then you should get therapy. I’ll leave you with the order’s motto and the best four minutes and eight seconds you’ll spend today.

“In peace, vigilance. In war, victory. In death, sacrifice” —Grey Wardensmotto.

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