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Posted on Apr 8th 2015 at 09:01:35 AM by (noiseredux)
Posted under PC


The first quarter of 2015 has been relatively quiet for PC gamers like me. I say relatively quiet because this is PC gaming, and as we speak another several thousand or so games are probably arriving on Steam, Desura, Newgrounds and so on. However, it felt like a slow start to me because there have been no really "big" releases that I had been looking forward to coming out yet. For instance, Grand Theft Auto V saw two delays in its release date on PC this year. As a result, most of the new releases that I've been playing have been smaller, indie titles and re-releases of old games. That's all well and good, but to kill time until the next big time-suck comes out, I started going through my own library of stuff I had yet to even install. And that's how I accidentally fell in love with Dragon Age.



I should start by saying that I have been meaning to look into the Dragon Age series for years now. The problem is that those games would always get bumped down on my list. You see, I'd actually consider myself more of a fan of sci-fi than fantasy, so I would be more likely to investigate the Mass Effect games first. And when I am in the mood for an RPG proper, I'm also a much bigger fan of Japanese RPG's than Western ones. But lately, I've been in sort of a D&D kind of mood. In the past few months, I've managed to watch Mazes & Monsters, play The New Dungeon board game with my wife, and get sucked into many, many hours of Talisman Digital Edition both solo and with friends. So when Dragon Age Origins popped up in one of my folders, it immediately caught my eye.

I didn't even remember that I owned this game. I actually had gotten it for free from Origin back when they were giving out free copies to help promote (or celebrate) the release of Dragon Age Inquisition, the third full game in the series. It was just one of those things - free copy if you click here - and I like free stuff. But at the time, I wasn't really interested in playing it. In fact, I was more interested in just jumping into Inquisition since it was the new hotness at the time. Then a friend told me that it really wasn't wise to skip games in this series. See, it's not just about the storyline, but about the fact that your character and decisions will carry over from one game to the next. So while that sounded pretty cool to me, I wasn't in the mood to start playing a whole series just to get to the game I actually wanted to play.


I was put off almost immediately after discovering that the PC version actually had no gamepad support. This seemed odd to me, knowing that the game was also available consoles. I've gotten quite used to playing First Person Shooters with keyboard and mouse, but a third person game like this - not so much. I did some Googling and found a way to use a controller via Pinnacle - a program that translates keyboard presses to controller buttons. But... it felt weird. The camera was odd.....something just wasn't right. So, I figured I'd tough it out. After a little while, I started to not only feel comfortable with the keyboad and mouse, but actually preferred it. I couldn't figure out how folks who played on consoles could get by with a controller. Though I suppose my recent descent into the world of keyboard and mouse, it is a whole 'nother rambly post on its own.

The controls are brilliant - at least when battling. While I've always been a huge fan of turn based combat and admittedly, have always hated the RTS genre, the battle system here sort of meshes the two. Although battles are action-oriented, and happen in real time, you can: pause them at any moment and swing the camera around for a better view, pan the camera out completely into an overhead Baldur's Gate appearance of the battlefield, switch to any one of your characters and command them to attack, use a spell, or item, or change the tactics of any member of your party to melee, archery, aggressive, healer, or many other combinations. In other words, this game is as turn-based and strategic as you care to make it, and that alone is a huge hook for me. This is the sort of game that I've spent hours reading about so that I could understand it better.

The character I created was a Dalish Elf. Basically, this decision was 100% based on the fact that apparently Dalish Elves are great with archery. And in a game like this, I really wanted to be using a bow and arrow. I decided to let the random name generator pick her name for me, and I swear that her resemblance to Uma Thurman is totally unintentional. It wasn't until a couple hours in that I said to myself, "Man, she looks familiar." I'm now pushing 20 hours of game time and I've grown quite accustomed to Lyna. The way I play her in the story is sympathetic, kind, and loyal....though she's not perfect. After being hijacked while making her way from one village to the next, she was given the option to let her assailant go, question him or murder him. There was something about the underhanded way that he approached her... Lyna slit his throat without a second thought.


But Lyna's character would mean little without others to interact with. Luckily, storytelling is one area that Bioware absolutely shines in. I've already started to feel quite attached to my party. I have a solid respect for Alistair and know I can depend on him to run into battle bravely ahead of the rest. I feel slightly bad for Morrigan, and am able to give her gruff personality a pass because she is just so loyal and helpful. Each new party member that I acquire helps flesh out the group dynamic. And the gigantic world around us is full of NPC's to chat up.

The world that Bioware created is equally compelling. I'm notorious for not bothering talking to most NPC's in RPG's. I also tend to skip out on sidequests. I feel like I'm generally just always trying to proceed towards the end of the game, but not so much here. I enjoy the game world so much that I'm constantly exploring. I enjoy the battle system so much that I go out seeking enemies, yet it never feels like grinding to me.

I've just finished up a rather infamous section of the campaign known as "The Fade." I can agree that it was a long and challenging section, but it was never not fun for me. In fact, I'm already keeping my eye out for the expansion Awakenings, as I know when I'm done with this game I'll want to continue to have access to the world of Dragon Age. The best way I can describe this feeling is that when I was a kid I played Final Fantasy a lot. I never beat it, but would always start new parties and name them after my friends. Because I was looking at 8-bit sprites, and because a child's imagination is awesome, I'd imagine my characters fighting their way through intimidating monsters against a brutal and beautiful, fantasy world. Playing Dragon Age Origins feels like my childhood imagination has finally been made into a gaming reality.



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Comments
 
I loved the first Dragon Age game. It's always great when you find an unexpected game that clicks with you. I'm looking forward to hearing more as you play through the game.
 
I am *SO* happy for you!
 
I love the Dragon Age series, glad to see you're enjoying it. And don't believe the haters, Dragon Age II is awesome too, just different. I can't wait to get my hands on Inquisition.
 
Great read, man.  I played on 360 back when it came out and all I kept hearing how the console and PC version are night and day, mainly because of the controls.  I own the game on the PC and one of these days, I'll go back and give it a go.  Probably not before inquisition, though.
 
"I couldn't figure out how folks who played on consoles could get by with a controller."  IT HAS BEGUN!!
 
I know. I'm scared too.
 
I've enjoyed this series for some time, and I've got Inquisition sitting in the stack. I really enjoyed Origins, much more than 2, but the whole series has nice lore. Glad you're enjoying your stay in Thedas.
 
There have been no big releases? Pillars of Eternity was just released and it's a way better D&D inspired RPG than Dragon Age Origins.
 
@Namelessone: well I said there was no big releases that I had been looking forward to. But actually I have since added Pillars Of Eternity to my wish list.

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