Publisher: Electronic Arts
MSRP: $59.99 (on sale for $39.99)
by: Jason Love
Bioware has established itself with quite the RPG repertoire. From the fantastic to the futuristic, the Austin based company has been responsible for many of the biggest RPGs that have been released the past few years, including Dragon Age: Origins, a game that’s been heralded as the spiritual successor to their widely successful epic Baldur’s Gate.
If you judge your RPGs by the amount of time spent questing, whether it’s doing the main storyline quest or helping every random person with a problem that could have been remedied sooner with just an ounce of effort on their part, then Dragon Age has you covered. In my first playthrough of the game, doing all side quests and fully exploring the world of Ferelden, I clocked a total of 75 hours in the game; every minute of which was quite enjoyable and completely engrossing. Speaking of engrossing, if you critique your RPGs based on the depth of the world and the inhabitants, then once again Dragon Age measures up. True to form, Bioware has created a deep and expansive world for your adventures that comes with a full history, racial prejudices, a religious belief that is fervently adopted by some and scorned by others, and a cast of characters that, for the most part, deserve every bit of game/screen time they’re given. What’s more, while there are moral choices you must make during the course of the game, the choices you make only impact the way your companions, and a few other characters, interact with you; this is a greatly welcome change from the usual good/evil meter that determines access to player abilities.
Really, the only area that may be the chink in Dragon Age’s otherwise exquisite armor would be its combat system. As with other Bioware games, combat plays out in real-time with the player choosing to either control just one character and letting the AI assume responsibility of the other party members via a system similar to Final Fantasy XII’s Gambit System, or pausing combat every few seconds to micromanage and individually directing each party member’s actions. The former will get you through any engagement that involves a small group of enemies, but players will likely want more direct control when faced with particularly numerous or strong opponents. Bioware hasn’t quite hit upon the correct middle ground between the two, and reliance upon one or the other will likely lead to greater frustration and, possibly, having to retry some battles again.
So with all of this taken into consideration, is Dragon Age worth it? As someone who has played and loved RPGs since I created my first fighter, white mage, black mage, and black belt party, I would say without hesitation that it absolutely is worth every moment. What those moments are, however, are better left discovered on your own.