Review by vileCore
"Worthy to be in your collection. Casuals RPGer's need not apply."
This review and score is based on the premise that you are a hardcore RPG gamer. To get full enjoyment out of this game, you must have the patience, time, and motivation to learn and utilize the strategic elements put in place. For example; AI tactics, combat pausing, spell combinations, armor set swapping, etc. This is a first impression review, after playing for about 13 hours.
Graphics 5/10: I personally don't regard graphics as a selling point to a game. However, in the past 4 years, the realism of current gen graphics is playing a larger part the the immersive qualities of a game and immersion defines a Role Playing Game.
With that said, character and monster design, level design, and spell effects are pretty good, but animations are stiff and textures are downright horrible. I haven't seen such little detail in textures in a game in a long time. Why does skin glow? Why are eyes always unnaturally glossy? Why does chain mail armor look flat? Why do outlines and borders have jagged pixels? Why do landscapes in the distance look as if a 5 year old hand drew them? Why is there so much frame rate skipping when there's no action on the screen? There is no excuse and it seems the publisher forced Bioware to get this out already since its been 5 years. The point is; the immersion factor takes a beating because of the graphics.
Sound 6/10: So far its been a standard fair of high fantasy music. Nothing bad, nothing extremely memorable. The music gets frantic when battles occur so it definitely gets you in the mood. Sound effects are good and compliment actions well. Voices and accents are diverse and its nice to be able to choose your own voice for your character.
Game play: 9/10: This is where its most important to have a foundation as an RPG gamer and have the patience and motivation to develop strategy. I have to whole-heartedly disagree with Bioware's claim that you can play this game as strictly an action-RPG. You will hate this game if you go in thinking you can play it like KUF:Circle of Doom or Tales of Vesperia. IMO, this is more of a strategy based RPG than anything.
The AI battle tactics are highly customizable, deep, and very well designed. The hot key system allows for 12 (not 6) spells/actions to be triggered if you take advantage of the equipment swap action, which also allows for 6 more hot keys. The fastest way to utilize this and also to get the most fun experience, is to have the equipment swap hot keyed on both "sets" which will limit you to a total of 10 hot keyed spells. Combining AI battle tactics with equipment swap takes time to learn, customize, and master, but the end result is phenomenal.
For example: On my fighter, I have tank equipment and spells on the first set and DPS equipment and spells on the second set. My fighter starts off using a shield and sword and mitigating damage spells while my other party members use DPS. Once my target is below 50%, my fighter automatically switches to a two-handed sword and uses DPS spells to finish it off quickly. Meanwhile my mage and archer are also using crowd control spells on other targets and switch to damage spells when my tank picks a new target.
Combat isn't the best part of gameplay in Dragon Age. The seemingly unlimited paths you can take to give you a vast number if different experiences is almost overwhelming. Based on your backstory, your class, your race, the decisions you make on quests and narrative choices, and who you allow to join your party makes this game #1 in story elements; far greater than Mass Effect, Jade Empire, and Oblivion. Choices you make don't just alter one person's reaction to you, they can alter how an entire race of creatures perceive you. Also, unlike Mass Effect and Oblivion, investing in attributes that allow you to intimidate, lie, and/or persuade characters in this game is very important and can really change your game experience.
Production Value/Story: 9/10: This would have been a 10/10 if Bioware had anything unique in this game, but they really don't take risk in bringing anything new to the RPG genre. Though, everything from the story, to the voice acting, to scripting, and direction of cut scenes is top notch. This is a very good thing because it makes you forget how bad the graphics are. Skills trees are diverse and fun, the variety of level design makes you feel this is a vast world populated with many different cultures.
Conclusion: This game would have been a 10/10 if the graphics were up to current standards, if the combat system were more intuitive without sacrificing depth, and if there were unique elements brought to the genre (multiplayer would have been amazing) . As it stands, this is a highly addicting and enjoyable game with probably the most campaign replay value of any game ever made for the XBOX360 (maybe for consoles period) and should be in every hardcore RPGer's collection.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/09/09
Game Release: Dragon Age: Origins (US, 11/03/09)
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