The combat gameplay of this game is not unlike that of World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XII, where the basic attacks are done automatic with you triggering special attacks and the usage of potions. In truth, I'm not much of a fan of this kind of gameplay and it nearly made me regret buying it but it made up for it in everything else that it had.
As you level up in this game, as with most RPGs, you gain different sets of skill points that you put towards your character. For starters, you have your skill sets which allow you to select the skills you want. These include, but are not limited to, speech abilities, trap making abilities, poison making abilities and potion making. Next there is the talent area. These are determined by what class of character you choose. For example choosing a mage will give you spells for your talents while being a warrior will go towards how you use your weapons. The third to note are you attribute points which go towards your strength, dexterity, willpower, magic, cunning and constitution and the way you choose to use these determine which skill and talents you can use. Finally, there are the specialization points. Unlocking these gives you more talents to choose from and can make for some interesting and useful abilities.
Next you have weapons and armor. The kinds you can use are determined by your class and you can only use them if you have a certain number of attribute points. For example, a warrior can only use certain kinds of weapons and armor if his/her strength is up to a certain level and a mage can only use certain staffs if his/her magic is up to a certain level.
Then there is the companion system. As you would probably expect from this kind of game, your companions are a diverse group of warrior, mages, and rouges. Beyond your camp you can only take four people, including your character, out to fight. Their leveling system is nearly identical to yours with only a few skill and talent sets missing, (you either obtain them on your own or your companions have no use for them). How well your companions fight is determined by how much they like you, displayed on a meter on the characters' record. Depending on how high your or low these meters are a companion may leave your group, may try to kill you, may consider you his or her best friend, or can become a romantic option.
As the game progresses and you try to recruit the races to your cause, you always find the situation with potential allies worse then you could imagine. This in turn leads you to make difficult decisions that have lasting effects on the regions and races and often makes you choose between what is good for the races you are defending and what is good for fighting the darkspawn. As a result you fight a huger verity of enemies that include darkspawn, demons, werewolves, golems, and more organizations, cults and other enemies then I can remember.
My God, I still haven't even gotten into the characters. Now there are way too many characters for me to go into so I'll just stick with the companions and major supporting characters. There are a potential of nine different companion characters to recruit to your cause. The first is Alistair, another new member of Gray Wardens who is a funny but idiotic warrior and has a black and white view of good and evil and makes for interesting companion.
The second is you dog who you get to name. As a noble, he is your dog from the start or you recruit him in Ostagar after helping him with a sickness. Part of a breed of dogs known as the Mabari, your dog is extremely intelligent and, while a ferocious fighter, makes for comedic gold with your other companions and different situations.
Next is Morrigan, a witch raised outside of the Circle of Magi, who tends to have a darker view of things. She is recruited after her mother rescues you and Alistair from the battle at Ostagar and asks you to take her with you for unknown reasons. She often favors evil actions and her bickering with Allistar is just hilarious.
Then there is Sten the Qunari, a member of a race of abnormally tall humanoid creatures with bronze skin, who comes from an unknown land south of Thedas. He was imprisoned after he was found and confessed to the slaughter of a farm family who helped him when he was near death and you recruit him, promising a chance at redemption. He is a silent, stoic type of character and finds Ferelden strange and is frequently homesick. His confusion and bigotry towards Feraldon makes for hilarious dialogue and is worth recruiting him just for it.
Recruited in the same town as Sten is Leliana, the lay sister of the Chantry and former bard. Like Alistair she has a black and white view of the world and believes that good must and will always triumph over evil. While initially she isn't very interesting her, background adds more depth to her character.
Then there is Oghren in warrior dwarf. You recruit him in the dwarven city of Orzammar after you help him try to find his long lost wife. His character is a complete drunk and this makes for the best and funniest dialog in the entire game.
Recruited at the Circle of Magi Tower is the old mage Wynne. You recruit her after dealing with the problems at the Circle tower. A veteran of the Magi Circle, she often offers you words of wisdom and tells you stories of allegory that make you think about your actions in Ferelden.
Then there is Zevran, the assassin elf. He is sent by Loghain to kill you but ops to join you after sparing his life after a battle. While he is my least favorite of the companions he is still a good character with a disturbing take on the world.
Finally, there is Shale the Golem. The only downloadable character, you recruit Shale after finding her control rod but find it no longer directly controls her. She ops to join you after you release her from a decade’s long state of suspended animation. She seems to believe that people are of an inferior race and has a hatred of pigeons as they used to poop on her while she was suspended.
As far as good supporting, non playable character's go, the only one worth noting is Duncan. The head of the Gray Wardens in Ferelden, Duncan was everything a mentor character should be. He was smart, dedicated to his order, and was a kind but firm man. He is definitely one of my favorite mentor characters and I felt it was a bit of a shame that he wasn't in the game longer.
As far as villains go, the Arch-Demon was just your typical dragon that had to be slain but the human antagonists were far better. The one worth noting, however, is Loghain. While he did betray Cailan and the Gray Wardens, his reasons for doing so are complicated. It's obvious he loves his country but is wracked with paranoia that everyone is trying to hand it over to their former enemies.
The last character to mention is Flemeth, Morrigan’s mother. A mysterious and ancient witch of the wilds, Flemeth's reasons for helping you are completely unknown to you until the end of the game. Even then you are not entirely sure what her ultimate goal was and seems to be something that will be addressed in the sequel.
As my stuff has suggested, the characters of this game are great.
Wow! That was my longest review ever and I still have five more post to go before I'm done. But relax; they won't be nearly as long so please bear with me a little longer. While I'm not a big fan of the combat system of this game or its collection of fantasy clichés, it is still probably one of my favorite medieval fantasy games of all time. It's a great game so don't miss out on it.
On the Main Game