My “Game of the Year”? Here you have it…December 24, 2009
I know people will disagree with me on this one, and I guess that’s the beauty of the gaming industry, we all like different things, but for me this year has only really released one title that has captivated me, had me strategising in my sleep and longing to get home just so that I can finish it off; and that game, dear readers, is:
Dragon Age: Origins
So why DA:O? Well, there are many things that I could say about this game; many wonderful, hyperbolic things, but if I had to keep it brief I’d say that if Mass Effect and Lord of the Rings were to have an illegitimate love-child, Dragon Age: Origins would be it; and if you know me at all, you know that’s no bad thing.
Fortunately, this is my site, so brevity is not a necessity. Read on if you want to know why a throw away quip isn’t enough to sum up this game, and why the latest BioWare offering has sapped more than 90 hours of my life and already had me planning my third playthrough less than half way through my second…
As with Mass Effect, you begin this game by choosing your background. You have both genders and 3 races from which to choose – human, elf or dwarf, and 3 specialisations – mage, warrior or rogue. Your choice here will affect your opening or origin quest and a couple of the options available to you later on in the game, but mainly it will affect your battling abilities – if you play as a mage for instance, be ready to kit out Alistair as your main tank. If, however, you want to make yourself queen towards the end of the game, you have to play as a female human noble warrior.
Once you have battled your way through whichever origin story is appropriate for your character, you meet Duncan, a Grey Warden who has come to recruit you. The Wardens are an elite order of warriors who are the only ones able to end the impending Blight by killing the Archdemon in charge of the massive army of darkspawn hell-bent on wiping out Ferelden (which, respectively, bear an uncanny resemblance to Peter Jackson’s interpretations of orcs and to Middle Earth…)
In brief, you have to gather the support of different nations in order to save Ferelden from certain destruction. In a perfect world (but a rubbish game) this would be very easy – you would walk up to the leader of each nation and say something along the lines of “Remember that treaty your people signed centuries ago promising to aid the Grey Wardens against future blights? Well, time to step up” and they would respond with “Certainly Warden, I’ll ready several hundred of my best men now and see you on the battlefield”. And ten minutes later the game would be done. Thankfully BioWare also saw the problem with this plan, and gave each nation a crisis of its own that must be dealt with before they can/will agree to help.
The human kingdoms are divided (naturally) and one of them is in fact the villain of the first three quarters of the game. The good-guy human has been poisoned and lies close to death, and his son has been possessed by a demon. The Dalish Elves are being attacked by warewolves on a regular basis and can’t help until their hunters and soldiers stop getting killed. The Circle of Magi has been invaded by demons who’ve killed most of them and taken the rest prisoner. And the Dwarves technically have no King to enforce the treaty since the last one died and now two others are fighting over who should be the next King. So all in all Ferelden’s in a bit of a mess really, and it’s your job to sort it all out and unite them against a common foe – no mean feat!
Along the way to resolving these issues there are, of course, many side quests to complete, which satisfies the likes of me as I am a bit of a side quest junkie; and also many areas to explore and character developments available. There are romance sub-plots (which you can find a great article on right here) and of course many stories and tales to be heard from your companions (not to mention one who frequently falls down drunk mid-conversation which is quite amusing…) Once you have gathered your forces it is time to head up for the final battle. Of course it’s not that simple. You need to decide who will be the new King first, and what sacrifice you are willing to make in order to kill the archdemon, but with all that pesky business out the way it’s off to fight the archdemon with your allied forces in tow. The battle is, as expected, a toughie, and you need to plan your use of allies carefully as there is one point where you quite simply have to use the elven archers as no tank force will be of any use to you, but I don’t want to give too much away, so just save before you start!
Essentially this game follows the standard format of any RPG/FPS. It has real time fighting rather than turn-based which is a big plus in my book, but the depth that RPGers enjoy. I get totally carried away when playing it, and I love all the different worlds and different facets available in the game. Despite now having almost completed my second playthrough, there is still so much more to this game that I have yet to explore, so much that I need to do in order to fully do it justice. It’s the game that keeps on giving, a true joy to play, and I only hope I can get that 3rd playthrough finished by January 26th, because let’s be honest, after that, all bets are off.