Dragon Age: Origins
Dragon Age: OriginsDragon Age: Origins is a role-playing video game developed by BioWare's Edmonton studio and published by Electronic Arts. It is the first game in the Dragon Age franchise. The game was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on November 3, 2009, and for Mac OS X on December 21, 2009.
Set in the fictional kingdom of Ferelden during a period of civil strife, the player assumes the role of a warrior, mage or rogue coming from an elven, human, or dwarven background who must unite the kingdom to fight an impending invasion by demonic forces. BioWare describes Dragon Age: Origins as a "dark heroic fantasy set in a unique world," and a spiritual successor to their Baldur's Gate series of games, which took place in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise.
Upon its release, Dragon Age: Origins was lauded with overwhelmingly positive reviews and considered a critical success. Review aggregator site Metacritic ranks the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 versions of the game with scores of 91, 87, and 86, respectively. The game also received multiple awards from numerous outlets, ranging from IGN's "PC Game of The Year " to the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences "Role-Playing/Massively Multiplayer Game of the Year 2009".
An expansion to the game, titled Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening, was released in March 2010, and the official sequel, Dragon Age II, was released in March 2011. BioWare intends for Dragon Age: Origins to serve as the foundation for a much broader intellectual property. Even before its release, plans to expand the universe introduced by the game were underway, including sequels, pen and paper games, books, and comics to expand the scope of the Dragon Age franchise. Several of those projects have since been released.
Dragon Age: Origins PlotIn every origin story, the player is introduced to Duncan, a Grey Warden who is trying to find recruits to join the order. By the end of their origin story, the player's character is selected as a potential Grey Warden, and leaves with Duncan.
The player and Duncan journey to a fortress called Ostagar in southern Ferelden, to join Cailan, the King of Ferelden, and Loghain, a legendary general and Cailan's father-in-law. The three leaders plan to make a stand against the encroaching Darkspawn before the Blight can overwhelm Ferelden. Duncan can sense the influence of an Archdemon, a god-like being hosted in the body of a powerful Dragon that commands the Darkspawn, which means that this would be the first true Blight in over 400 years. It is of utmost importance that this Blight is ended before it can gain momentum, as previous Blights have left Thedas all but in ruins.
Duncan initiates the player into the Grey Wardens through a dangerous ritual called the Joining. The Joining involves imbibing Darkspawn blood, which can either kill a person or imbue him or her with the powerful darkspawn essence known as the Taint. After surviving the Joining, the player attends a war council, where it is decided that Cailan's army and the Grey Wardens will lure the darkspawn into attacking the fortress. The player, along with another Grey Warden, Alistair, is given the task of lighting a beacon at the top of the fortress which will signal Loghain's men to charge the horde's flank, breaking the Darkspawn and ending the Blight. After fighting through Darkspawn occupying the beacon tower, the player lights the flame. But upon seeing the signal, Loghain abandons the battlefield with his army. Without Loghain's reinforcements, King Cailan and Duncan are quickly overwhelmed by the Darkspawn horde, who kill them, massacre Cailan's army, and seize control of Ostagar and southern Ferelden. Later, it is told that any survivors who did not flee from the battle at Ostagar were captured or devoured by the darkspawn.
The player's Warden and Alistair are nearly killed at Ostagar as well, but are saved by Flemeth, a powerful witch who lives in a secluded hermitage with her daughter and apprentice, Morrigan. The player, along with Alistair and Morrigan, decide that in order to stop the Blight from destroying Ferelden, and possibly all of Thedas, they will need to gather a new army and slay the Archdemon. Using ancient Grey Warden treaties, the player's Warden must travel across Ferelden to enlist the aid of the Dalish Elves, the Dwarves of Orzammar, the Circle of Magi, and the soldiers of Redcliffe, loyal to Arl Eamon. Unfortunately, all of these factions are facing problems of their own, which the player must help resolve to secure their allegiances.
Meanwhile, Loghain returns to Ferelden's capital city, Denerim, to inform Queen Anora, his daughter, of King Cailan's death. Loghain uses the Grey Wardens as a scapegoat, blaming them for abandoning the battle and betraying Ferelden, outlawing the order and calling for the deaths of any remaining Wardens. While Queen Anora inherits her husband's authority, Loghain quickly declares himself her regent and effectively seizes control of the kingdom. Loghain swiftly becomes a brutal and tyrannical ruler willing to do anything to retain power, igniting a civil war between himself and Ferelden's nobility, who refuse to acknowledge his authority. Both sides battle to an inconclusive stalemate, benefiting none but the darkspawn, who take advantage of the chaos to advance further into Ferelden.
After the player successfully obtains the assistance of all the primary factions, a meeting known as the Landsmeet is called among the nobles of Ferelden. There, the player confronts Loghain and rallies support from the rest of the kingdom to face the Darkspawn. The player is also presented with the option of executing Loghain for his crimes or sparing his life. Sparing Loghain causes Alistair to leave the player's party in anger and disgust (if Alistair has already agreed to marry Anora and become King, he will remain in Ferelden and be present at the end of the game, but he will not rejoin the player's party for the final battle). If Loghain is spared, he is forced to undergo the Joining and takes Alistair's place as a Grey Warden, showing sincere regret for his actions as regent.
At this point, the player learns that only a Grey Warden can slay the Archdemon because of the Taint present in a Grey Warden's body. Killing the archdemon releases the demonic essence within it, which is automatically drawn to the Taint in the Grey Warden who slew it, and effectively kills him or her as well; if anyone other than a Warden slays it, the Archdemon's essence survives and finds a new host in the nearest Darkspawn, making the monster effectively immortal.
On the night before the final battle, Morrigan offers the player's Warden a way to slay the Archdemon without sacrificing anyone: Morrigan believes that if the player succeeds in conceiving a child with her, that the child would also carry the Taint. Once the Archdemon dies, its demonic essence would be drawn away from any Grey Warden to safely merge with the unborn child instead. The resulting child would be born a demigod, which she plans to raise on her own. Morrigan admits that this was her true motive for joining the player's campaign all along. The player can accept Morrigan's offer, convince Alistair or Loghain to take part instead, or refuse the witch's proposal, causing her to leave the party. If the Warden is female, she can only refuse Morrigan or convince Loghain or Alistair to do it.
The next day, the player and the newly assembled army of Ferelden fight their way through the city of Denerim, which is now overrun by the darkspawn. After fighting their way through the darkspawn horde, and an epic final battle against the archdemon atop Denerim's highest tower, the player is given the chance to deliver the killing blow or to let Alistair/Loghain do it. Either way, the archdemon is killed and the rest of the darkspawn army retreats from Denerim, marking the end of the fifth Blight. Unless the ritual with Morrigan was performmed, whoever slew the Archdemon also perishes.
The story ends with a ceremony attended by the people of Ferelden during which the player and his or her companions are honored for saving the kingdom. The game then presents an epilogue in text and pictures which details the ramifications of the player's in-game choices on the future of Ferelden and the lives of his or her companions.
Dragon Age: Origins GameplayThe game incorporates 6 "Origin Stories", the choice depending on the race and class chosen. Dwarven nobles begin the game as part of the Dwarven royal family, whereas in the Dwarf commoner origin, the player starts as a "lowborn" living in poverty. Elven commoners begin their story in a segregated area in the capital city of Ferelden. In the human noble origin, the player begins as a Cousland, one of the human noble families in Ferelden. Elven and human mages start their story off in the Ferelden's Circle of Magi, and the Dalish Elf story begins with the player living in the forest amongst their clan. Origin stories determine the background of the player's character prior to the main events of the game's story, forming an introduction to the world, and a gameplay tutorial, while also comprising hours of play. Events of an individual Origin are reflected in the game story and characters. Characters that the player meets during the Origin story may reappear throughout the game, some as adversaries.
There is no tracking of moral alignment, just party favor. The player can give party members gifts and their dialogue choices can gain favour or displeasure with the group but the moral choices of the player will still affect the story throughout the game. The player will accomplish different goals depending on if they choose to be good or evil, but the decisions that the player makes in the process will change the game world accordingly – deciding who will become king, for example, and affecting nations, races and their places in the world. These decisions will also influence the companion NPCs, possibly causing an NPC to leave the party or even attack the player if they disagree strongly with his or her actions.
The game has been described as the spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate by BioWare co-CEO Ray Muzyka, as players are able to issue orders to NPCs in real time, but pause the game to queue up actions such as spells and special attacks, a game mechanic from the Baldur's Gate series. There are three base classes to choose from: warrior, mage, and rogue. These classes can be upgraded into a specialized class such as the berserker or templar for the warrior class, shapeshifter or spirit healer for the mage class, and assassin or ranger for the rogue. The game uses a party system similar to that of the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, another BioWare roleplaying game, featuring the main character with up to three active party members chosen from a pool of NPCs.
The game features a degree of interactivity between spells, such as a fire spell igniting a grease slick before being put out by a blizzard. The game contains many combinations which can be discovered by the player either by accident, or by finding clues as to which combinations are valid.
ReceptionDragon Age: Origins received significant praise from many major videogame and media outlets upon its release. While the game is considered to be virtually identical across all platforms, differences in user interface, graphical performance, and online content delivery have led the PC version to be reviewed more favorably than the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions; Metacritic ranks the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 versions of the game with scores of 91, 87, and 86, respectively.
Kevin VanOrd of GameSpot reviewed the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 versions separately. The PC version was given a score of 9.5 out of 10, plus an 'Editor's Choice' award. The game was described as "that kind of game, so rich and involving that you are powerless to resist its wiles and whims, so touching and triumphant that your mind and heart will be moved... Few games are this ambitious, and even fewer can mold these ambitions into such a complete and entertaining experience. You might spend 50 or more hours on your first play-though, but there are so many paths to follow, so many details to uncover, and so many ways to customize your party that you'll want to play again as soon as you finish the first time."
When comparing the console versions, the PlayStation 3 "features higher-quality textures than those on the Xbox 360, better color saturation, smoother facial animations, and shorter load times," although "minor visual hiccups, like corpses that disappear and reappear, are a bit more common on the PS3. The Playstation 3 version was given a 9.0/10 while the Xbox 360 version was given an 8.5/10. "
Giant Bomb writer David Snider also reviewed all three versions of Dragon Age: Origins together and gave an overall rating of five stars out of five. The review favorably described the game as "a real throwback to the good old days of PC role-playing epics... While that means you could rightfully fault the game for not being especially innovative, it's this adherence to a classic style of gameplay that will ensure that it's welcomed by the legions of nostalgic RPG players that make up this genre's core audience." Snider did remark that the game might be daunting or inaccessible to casual players due to the amount of in-game micromanaging that is required, especially on consoles, which he considered to have a more cumbersome interface.
IGN's Jeff Haynes gave the PC version of Dragon Age: Origins a score of 9 out of 10 and characterized it as "one of those titles that can easily swallow up dozens of hours of play and keep you coming back for more... a game with a ton of re-playability and an incredibly vivid world that is the start of an impressive franchise." While the review was mostly glowing, Haynes did note grievances, namely that the combat difficulty was scaled awkwardly, the graphics sometimes appeared dated, and the plot was repetitive of Bioware's other games.
1UP.com editor, Jason Wilson, gave the PC version of the game an 'A' rating, and surmised that "while the story may not be completely original, it's told in a way that enthralls and enchants the player. It's the best RPG of the year -- and maybe the best of the HD era." Wilson briefly compared the PC release to the PlayStation 3 release, and said that combat on the console controller was comparably "hamstrung" and felt "stripped down".
GamePro editor Will Herring awarded Dragon Age: Origins 5 out of 5 stars, writing that it was "a spectacular experience from beginning to end, and with an enormous amount of choices to make, cities to visit, dungeons to crawl, NPCs to interact with, treasure to find, quests to complete and crafts to master. I feel pretty confident in saying that Dragon Age: Origins is, without a doubt, one of the most enjoyable and immersive RPG experiences I've had since my Infinity Engine days." Herring also noted differences between the PC and console releases, but considered them to be minor.
The New York Times writer Seth Schiesel wrote a positive review of the PC version of Dragon Age: Origins, favorably comparing its scope to another popular RPG, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion; but he added that Dragon Age: Origins provided a more engaging experience.
PC Gamer UK, which awarded Dragon Age: Origins a 94%, declared it the "RPG of the decade".
Official Xbox Magazine rated the Xbox 360 version of Dragon Age: Origins with a score of 9.0, listing the combat interface as a plus, while criticizing the amount of story choices available to the player as being potentially overwhelming.
Michael Lafferty of GameZone rated Dragon Age: Origins at 9.9/10 for the PC, stating, "The development team has done a sterling job of creating emotional content within the game’s atmosphere." The 360 version, on the other hand, received a 9.0/10.
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