Back in December I gave you a general look at the games made by the gaming company Bioware but I barely even scraped the top layer of their games and why I enjoy them so much. With Dragon Age 2's release date rapidly approaching I decided this would be a good time to do a review of Dragon Age Origins, Dragon Age Origins: Awakenings, and the pieces of downloadable content that came out for it. Rather than writing one long review, this one will be divided into seven parts so I can properly address everything. But for now this is the Illusive One's review of Dragon Age: Origins, Part 1.
The game takes place in the medieval fantasy type world of Thedas, in the country of Ferelden. The game features six different Origin stories for you to choose from that range from a human noble to an elf commoner, but I'll get into more details of them later.
Early in the game your character is recruited by a man named Duncan to join an order known as the Gray Wardens who do everything they possibly can to stop creatures known as darkspawn from overrunning Thedas. Once every few centuries a demonic dragon know as the Arch-Demon organizes these creatures into huge armies that go on a campaign to destroy everything. These huge armies of darkspawn are known as Blights and a new one has just begun.
After proving your combat skills to Duncan he takes you away from whatever life you led to fight the darkspawn. Your character and Duncan go to the fortress of Ostagar where King Cailan of Ferelden, his army, and the Gray Wardens have been successfully holding off the Blight. Unfortunately another battle takes place after you arrive and things don't go so well. Cailan and the Gray Wardens are betrayed by Cailan's uncle, Loghain when he pulls his forces away from the fighting and Cailan and Duncan, along with most of the Gray Wardens, are slaughtered. Thanks to both luck and help from a mysterious witch, you survive and have to build an army to fight the darkspawn, reveal Loghain's treachery, and somehow slay the Arch-Demon.
The World of Dragon Age
While this game did, at times, seem like a collection of all the old fantasy clichés rolled up into one game, there were several things that separated this game from the other pieces of fantasy media that I feel I have to address. There are, however, many different things to address about the world of Dragon Age so I'll just stick to the more interesting and essential things about the world. The first thing to note is the way mages are treated in this game. While most fantasy stories have mages being some kind of overlords of the land, in Dragon Age just the opposite is true. They constantly live under the shadow of the Chantry, (the church of Dragon Age), and their warriors, the Templars with their itchy sword hands who will kill any mage at the slightest sign of “evil” practicing of magic.
Another thing to note is the way the elves are divided in this world. First you have your city elves that live in slums and are treated as second class citizens. Then you have the Dalish Elves, a kind of wood elf group who live in clans, constantly wandering and are ever at odds with humans.
Then there are the dwarves who have a strict caste system that separates the warriors, the nobles, the merchants, the blacksmiths, etc. Unfortunately, there is also the group known as the casteless who are treated like dirt just for being born. As a result, they often form the back bone of criminal organizations and the underworld of dwarven society.
The last thing to note with the races is the way the Gray Wardens treat them. To put it simply, in the eyes of the Gray Wardens, they are all equals. If someone can fight well enough then they can join the Wardens, whether they are nobles, commoners, champions or criminals. They also reserve the right to draft anyone into their ranks which can sometimes cause hostilities but makes the recruiting of criminals easier.
As I mentioned, there are six different origin story lines, each adding a different subplot for your character and determines how people will react to you throughout the game. For starters you have your human noble origin story. In it, you are the youngest son/daughter of a high class noble who joins the Wardens after tragic and treacherous events befall your family. The second is the mage story where you are recruited into the wardens after helping a friend try to escape the magi tower. The third deals with an elf commoner who is drafted into the wardens after he kills a noble. The fourth deals with a Dalish elf who is infected with the taint of the darkspawn taint and has to join the Wardens to avoid a painful death. In the fifth you are a dwarven prince who is forced to join the Wardens after being framed for the murder of your elder brother. In the sixth and final you play as a casteless dwarf who proves he can fight just as well as anyone in a social class above him and is forced to join the Wardens after he kills a local criminal boss.
And that's all I got to say about the world itself.
Well, that's it for Dragon Age: Origins, Part One. For info on the gameplay, characters, and my final verdict on the main game, please look at the upcoming article, Dragon Age: Origins, Part Two.