Apart from my faulty internet connection, there is one big reason why I haven’t been online much and why my WoW characters have been gathering cobwebs this week: Dragon Age: Origins.
In Dragon Age: Origins, players can create a unique-looking character (details such as eye size and distance, jaw and chin width, and nose height can be customized) that they will play as throughout the game. Players can choose their character’s gender, class, and “origin” story. There are six different origin stories to choose from, each with their own separate settings and plots.
While the six origin stories differ, the main plot of the game remains the same. The main character is somehow drafted into the Grey Wardens, a group of warriors whose goal is to defeat demonic creatures called darkspawn.
There are three character classes in Dragon Age: Warrior, Mage, and Rogue. Each class has four different specializations (e.g. Templar and Berserker for Warriors, Duelist and Bard for Rogues, Blood Mage and Shapeshifter for Mage) that players will have to unlock by either finding trainer NPCs or purchasing the right item from a merchant.
In combat, players can pause the game to queue up their party members’ actions, and can also assign Tactics for each party member. Tactics work much like how Gambits in Final Fantasy XII work; you assign actions for each character that will be executed automatically if certain conditions are met (e.g. players can assign characters to use a healing item if their health drops below a certain percentage).
Plot-wise, Dragon Age is a typical BioWare fantasy epic; the protagonist gets dragged out of their normal life and winds up having to save the world while picking up some comrades along the way. The characters themselves are what, for me, make the game more fun. Though also falling under fantasy stereotypes (your party can include a sexy evil sorceress, an exotic male assassin, a big burly warrior, and a drunkard dwarf), the characters have depth and distinct personalities, plus the interactions/dialogues with them are well-written and often amusing.
Your character’s own personality isn’t measured by a morality gauge or by the usual Dungeons and Dragons alignment system; you are free to make your own choices when it comes to the various scenarios that involve a major decision. You can choose to save a clan of elves from cursed werewolves or aid the werewolves in slaughtering the elves. You can choose to help drive off a merchant who sells items to poor folk at outrageously opportunistic prices, or help him out to get your own share of profit. The closest thing to a moral compass you’ll have is your party’s approval. Certain actions and decisions will increase or decrease your approval rating with your party members. Things like murder and underhanded scheming will often amuse “evil” characters like Morrigan or Zevran, but will offend the “nice” characters like Alistair or Leliana.
I have quite a few characters, but I’ve only finished the game twice using a City Elf rogue and a Human Noble rogue. The City Elf rogue was my first character, so her “personality” wasn’t well-planned out since I was seeing everything for the first time. My Human Noble rogue is a goody-two-shoes type who tries her best to do what’s best for everyone without having to resort to anything underhanded. Now I’m playing as a slightly psychotic Elf mage who seems to have a penchant for murdering people and making deals with demons to get what she wants. With all the various options and possible outcomes in the game, I have a feeling I’ll be playing this game for a long time just to see all the possibilities.
Though I’m having fun with my mage, I seem to have developed quite a fondness for rogues. I’ve been thinking about drafting a Rogue guide since there aren’t a lot of Dragon Age guides around…but we’ll see.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to my quest to defile Andraste’s ashes so that I can unlock the Reaver specialization.