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Batman: Arkham Origins features an expanded Gotham City and introduces an original prequel storyline occurring several years before the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City. Taking place before the rise of Gotham City\'s most dangerous
Dragon Age: Origins Review
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Nov 03, 09 (released)
|» All About Dragon Age: Origins on ActionTrip|
What makes a good story? How do you get people to like the characters, creatures and the virtual world before them? It's no easy task to answer those questions, much less create a game where every RPG fan can feel right at home. With its long history of successful party-based single-player role-playing games, BioWare musters enough creative energy and manpower to wrap-up one of its major projects - Dragon Age: Origins, simultaneously released on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.
If you consider yourself an RPG fan, there isn't a chance in hell you haven't already heard of this game. BioWare launched a massive marketing campaign and even offered a pre-release character creation tool for PC gamers, so they can get into the game immediately come launch day. This was a commendable move and certainly something gamers are bound to appreciate (now, we did read a lot of reports about the Character Creator being rather buggish, but I believe most of the problems were resolved on that one). Anyhow, in this review, we'll take a look at Xbox 360 version.
Look, I wasn't the one using your toothpaste.
Dragon Age puts strong emphasis on first-class storytelling, which once again stands as BioWare's greatest talent. You are able to start one of several distinctive introductory character storylines, experienced either as a dwarf, elf or human. Choosing the hero's origin tale doesn't just shape the first portion of the narrative, but also has a tremendous affect on how the main protagonist is perceived by other characters. The following choices are possible: Human Noble, Human/Elf Mage, Dwarf Commoner, Dwarf Noble, Dalish Elf and City Elf. That alone is a major plus for an RPG. It's also a testament as to how meticulous BioWare is about their work. As the initially part of the tale unfolds, your character meets Duncan, the leader of an ancient order called the Grey Wardens. Duncan serves as sort of a guide to help you fulfill your destiny of becoming a Grey Warden. Grey Wardens are known for standing up to a primordial evil known as the Darkspawn. Gathering massive forces, the demon-like Darkspawn emerged from underground, invading surface dwellers. The evil, also referred to as the Blight, has to be stopped at all costs.
Dubbed as the "spiritual successor" to BioWare's Baldur's Gate series, Dragon Age is a proper slice of old-school RPG fun. Unlike Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights, the game doesn't have a complex Dungeons & Dragons rule set, although it hinges on a system that's very similar, but less bound by strict rules and regulations. Obviously, there are still many facets for hardcore RPG players to enjoy. There's the usual process of leveling and assigning experience points to various skills, attributes and talents. Personally, I've opted for the archetypal Human Noble, Warrior, character who eventually specialized in diverse defense and dual-wielding combat abilities. From this perspective Dragon Age is an awesome experience in almost every way. I've also started an alternate path with a Dwarf Commoner, which, after a few hours into the game, ended up being equally entertaining.
In practice, the Xbox 360 version of DA works quite good. The developers created an easy-to-use interface, compensating for the lack of the famed PC quick-slot bar. As a result, spells, items and skills are easily selected by pressing down the right and left trigger buttons. Quick and efficient.
Combat wise, there's quite a lot to get into, regardless of what you're playing - warrior, rogue, mage, etc. The fighting can be paused to utilize various skills and spells of party members. The system also features a circular interface similar to that of Mass Effect. This is where you can drink potions, use appropriate magic, employ specific combat abilities (active/sustained/passive) or simply draw on the desired sub-class skill or as they are referred to in the game Specializations. There are quite a few Specializations, such as Champion, Templar, Arcane Warrior, Shapeshifter, Duelist, Reavers, Assassin and so on; all of which are mastered after gaining sufficient exp. and completing certain quests. You'll also need to talk to specific NPCs or party members who are able to pass on the knowledge of particular Specialization.
BioWare's familiar character alignment mechanics are not included in this game. You won't have to sway the character towards the "light" or "dark" side. On the other hand, there are moral dilemmas throughout. Okay, you want choices. Dragon Age gives you choices. Dialogue choices, combat choices, character development choices, story choices, quest choices... you name it. The decisions affect not only you, but your companions and the world around you. Actions taken by the player determine each party member's approval (or disapproval) of the main character. It's an all too familiar system, but one that works rather well, as you weave your own story in the kingdom of Ferelden.
The AI puts up a decent fight all the way and at times can even be a serious challenge no matter how much of a gaming veteran you consider yourself to be. There's the possibility of adjusting friendly AI and fiddling around with party tactics. Character behavior may be set to Aggressive, Ranged, Cautious, etc. However, we went through the entire campaign with the tactical settings on 'Default,' which is why the system feels a bit obsolete. That's not saying it doesn't work in practice. The selected behavior usually functions okay in battle. It's just that, from our experience, you really may not need to use it that much.
One thing that may cause a bit of a stir among more the casual gaming crowd is the fact that Dragon Age features some truly tough battles. As with most of their previous work, the developers give you a chance to lower the difficulty at any time during gameplay. So, if you happen to be stuck, just access the 'Game' Options screen and set the difficulty to 'Casual' if you wish. This really helps since all opponents get weaker, while your character becomes more resilient to damage (poultices and healing spells will restore more health and mana). We've discovered that a lot of people complained about this actually. The PC edition, for instance, had BioWare slightly increasing attack, defense, and damage scores for all party members at 'Normal' difficulty, while they also made 'Easy' difficulty even easier. These changes can applied with latest PC patch.
Emphasis on old-school RPG mechanics (which is good), excellent voice acting, characters skillfully woven into a riveting storyline, filled to the brim with engaging and well-structured quests, sub-plots, challenging enemies and boss fights. Altogether, this is the RPG experience you've been waiting for;
A few minor bugs here and there, can be a tad difficult at times, questionable art direction.