Not since an early teenage flirtation with Dungeons & Dragons has State ever really embraced the role playing genre with anything even approaching gusto, so it’s a testament to just how good Dragon Age: Origins is that we’ve lost sleep, been late for work and even spent time on a bus worrying about which Dwarven faction for the vacant King-ship we should align ourselves with.
You play as one of the last Grey Wardens, a legendary line of dark warriors who have traditionally protected the kingdom of Ferelden from the darkspawn, a race of Orc-like creatures as ugly as they are evil. When treachery and deception sees the human army decimated and civil war erupting across the land, it’s up to you and your not-so-merry band of fellow warriors (most of whom you can pick up along your travels), to reunite the elves, dwarves and humans for an epic battle to defeat the darkspawn and the nefarious archdemon (read, dragon) who controls them. So far, so ho hum. But while the overall plot is about as original as any novel based on a video game, the devil really is in the details and it’s here where Dragon Age excels.
The characters are incredibly well-developed for a game and the plot actually twists and turns unexpectedly, drawing you into its rich tapestry of mini-storylines and believable characters with ease. Indeed, the entire world of Ferelden is created with such attention to specifics that you really do find yourself being sucked in and constantly surprised. Even the fact that, while you control your party, they’re not above questioning your authority if you stray from their perceived moral path (and will even fight you for leadership), adds some welcome dilemmas.
The graphics are top-notch, the sound is superb (featuring some of the finest voice acting every committed to game) and the gameplay is highly addictive. The combat elements are easy to grasp and yet difficult to master, and often the best tactics depend on the foe you face: ranged weapons work well against the majority of humanoids but when it comes to giant spiders or werewolves, sometimes you’re better getting up close and personal. Or do you develop your magical abilities to take down enemies with real aplomb?
One of the game’s greatest strengths is that even non RPG-fanatics will find it simple enough to pick up and play, while there is enough of both detail and difficulty to keep die-hards happy. The playing area is absolutely enormous (it’s up there with Elder Scrolls IV in terms of longevity) and the variety of races, characters and tasks you’ll have to carry out to complete your quest is quite breath-taking. A stunning game to really immerse yourself in.