Dragon Age: Origins is already a smash hit on the console, and now Strategy Informer takes an in-depth look at the PC version. (PC)
If nothing else, Dragon Age: Origins is a testimony to the "bad day". Just for a moment, imagine taking all of the bad luck in the world: every twisted decision, every subtle betrayal , every wrong turn... taking all of that, and then stuffing it into one game, where it happens to everyone, everywhere, at the same time... at maximum resolution.
Nothing, it seems, can go right in this game: Your family betrayed and slaughtered, the King and your fellow guardians also betrayed, leaving two novices to unite the land. But wait, the elves are having a problem with werewolves! The mages have suffered a demonic coup! Your friend in the court is dying! Even the initial betrayal that started everything off isn't going according to plan. You all know the saying, "When it rains, it pours"? Well in Dragon Age that saying has been re-written to say, "When it rains, everyone gets jack-hammered in the face".
Dare you do a deal with the demon?
The background vistas can be superb at times, although there have been better.
Witty digression aside, the latest title from acclaimed studio Bioware is one dark tale, but by far one of their greatest epics to date. The story itself is superb, the writing fuelled with emotion, and there is just this undercurrent of 'epicness' throughout the entire adventure that keeps you coming back for more. To top it off, they brought in Kate Mulgrew (aka Captain Janeway) to voice a minor character - what more could you want? Pegged as the 'spiritual successor' of Baldur's Gate, Dragon Age sees the studio return to a dark-fantasy setting, although this time it's more Diablo than D&D, and encompasses lessons learned from both KOTOR, and Mass Effect.
The combat is both focused and finely crafted, even stylish when it comes to final blows. Whilst there's only three basic classes, those classes can then expand into four different customizations each, so there's plenty of choice. The dialogue, as mentioned before, is second to none, but the range of choice and how it affects the game is also a triumph for the genre. Add to that a pretty lengthy and intriguing campaign, and this is one of the finest RPG's to date.
Even one on one fights can be a struggle. Don't get complacent!
Apparently the war dog is the secret weapon of the game. Wish I'd known that earlier.
But If you've already read our review of the console version however, this praise will be nothing new. In fact you've probably already completed it, haven't you? Twice? Gotten the foursome yet? No? Don't worry neither have we. As there were subtle differences between the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, so there are (not so) subtle differences between the console and PC versions, which is what I've been playing all week. Comparison reviews like this one can often be a quandary, as you don't want to repeat what has already been said, and yet you must make a comparison of some kind. At the end of the day, one could argue that all games are to some extent superior on the PC, as you can do so much more with a mouse and keyboard than you'll ever be able to do with a console control. Even talking about the graphics wouldn't do any good, as it really depends on what kind of rig you are running.
Still, there are differences to be had. Combat is much smoother than the console iteration, and coming back to graphics on a technical level they are much smoother as well, giving the larger scale battle a certain grandness to them that the console versions unfortunately lack. On a related not, the PC version lends itself to a more tactical playing style due to the fact that you can zoom out to a top-down view, and move to scout out ahead. The biggest change however comes with the interface. MMO veterans will instantly recognise the skill panel along the bottom edge, and the WASD controls, and all this combined makes for a decidedly different experience from the console version. Apart from a few other differences between inventory and menus, Dragon age is as epic on the PC as it is on the consoles. It might just look at little bit nicer, that's all.
But like all games there are flaws, however Dragon Age's flaws are more of a puzzle than anything else. As good as the story is, the opening section for the Human Noble was a little too rushed for my liking - not only does your character seem to get over the slaughter of his family a little too quickly to be healthy, but your brother seems to drop off the face of the earth entirely, only to be glimpsed at the end. It's possible that in an effort to create multiple beginnings, some details slipped through the cracks, but when compared to the rest of the game these can be quite easily over looked. Also, despite the afore-mentioned increased stability, there was the odd crash or two whilst Alt-tabbing, especially during conversations.
You meet another one of these guys later on in the game. He's not so tough then...
The cinematic quality is almost movie worthy, even if Mass Effect looks better.
Another oddity is the game's fascination with demons. Aside from the Darkspawn, everywhere you go you seem to fight Demons at some point or another. Even the Elvin quest, which is a rather routine extermination of some pesky werewolves, manages to involve demons somehow. You'd think that a studio as top-class as Bioware would be able to add a little diversity to the enemies you fight, especially considering how rich the game world is. But these are minor points, and actually fit more under the "what we would have done different" heading than true flaws. Glitches are at a minimum, stability is good all around, and despite the sex scenes being a little too 'corny' for my liking, this is one extremely polished game.
Top Game Moment:
DRAGON AGE: ORIGINS VERDICT
All in all, Dragon age is a triple A dark fantasy bonanza. PC gamers will want to hear more about the modding community, and whilst Bioware have released developer grade tools, it’s going to take a while before things really get going. What kind of content will be released is anyone’s guess, because the game is pretty solid as it is. For now though, enjoy the un-edited version of what is without a doubt the best RPG adventure of the decade.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Despite feeling a little rushed, the cutscene where the characters parents are cruelly slain almost moved me to tears. And that’s only the opening act.