Dragon Age: Origins Initial Impressions

Dragon Age Origins cover

Since last Friday, I have been playing Dragon Age: Origins. It’s been a while since I played any PC games, but this one was pretty interesting since it came from the makers of Massive Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, two games which thoroughly engrossed me.

This isn’t a review, I’ve just noted down my initial impressions on the game. I’m about 22 hours into the game and it has been challenging at times as well as frustrating. I’ve noticed a few bugs, but all in all, it’s a great experience.

Warning: These impressions include spoilers, so if you are planning on playing the game, be forewarned. I cover the Brecilian Forest missions here, so there are spoilers ahead.

The First 20 Hours

I hadn’t heard anything about Dragon Age until a friend mentioned it two weeks ago. We were talking about upcoming games and he said that he was looking forward to this one, but there were others that he had planned on buying first. At first, I didn’t realize that Bioware was making this game. Once I did, I realized that it would be a good game to try out. I’ve known Bioware since Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and more recently with the first Mass Effect game. I only played it and finished it last year. It was pretty damn good.

Let’s just mention this quickly, Dragon Age is nothing like Mass Effect. It’s not like Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion either. It’s more of an inheritor of Baldur’s Gate than anything else. I had a distinct Diablo-esque feel while playing it

It took me 20 hours to finish the Brecilian Forest part¹, including the Elven Ruins where the werewolves took refuge. On the way there, I faced a small dragon, a few shades, as well as an Arcane Horror. The actual Ruins were quite long, as they had at least 3 levels. After having faced werewolves, there were a lot of undead populating the ruins. I came out of the place having resolved the situation, without having shed any needless blood. Plus, the Dalish Elves are now ready to be called for the army against the blight. On the way, I picked up Morrigan, Sten, and Leliana, as well as a Maburi hound. For sentimental reasons, I like having the dog on my party, but in actuality, it’s best to have two melee fighters with two casters on it. This combo works well. While the fighters are doing the deed, the casters attack from a distance, healing up the fighters as much as they can. This tactic works well, as long as you are careful not to get surrounded. Also, some enemies will target your player, which is strange.

I naturally created an Elvish Mage. I’ve mastered a few spells and I’m currently a Level 9 magus, having unlocked the shapeshifting specialization, but I haven’t yet decided to take it. I wouldn’t mind trying out the Arcane Warrior spec. As I’m playing a Lawful Good or Neutral Good game, I’m staying away from Blood Magic.

I’ve had to launch fireballs at my party quite a bit in order to get an area effect when enemies surround us. It’s a good tactic when everybody is healed up. I’ve had the most difficulty with the dragon, who killed me about 10 times before I understood what to do. The Arcane Horror and the Shade were easy enough, as well as Zathrian, as I simply applied the tactics that I developed earlier on.

The feel of the game is enveloping. I did not like being stuck in a dungeon for so long. It reminded me too much of Diablo. It has taken me 21 hours to finish the ruins. I tend to finish all quests before moving on to another location. This is how I played Oblivion. At the end of the mission, even when I stopped to heal up and change characters before facing the dragon, I ended up with at least 5 dire injuries on my main player character, who’s a mage. The melee fighters were also in bad shape. It was getting a bit pitiful, but at least I made it through.

Also, I haven’t brought up a thief yet, so I’m currently trying to make Morrigan into one. It won’t work out, as Leliana is much better at it. I like Morrigan because having two spellcasters in a party is really good. The gameplay is pretty straightforward and the graphics are good, if your machine can support them.

Needless to say that the game is engrossing. I expect to play it at least 100 hours, if not more, which is quite astounding. I’ve just arrived at Redcliffe².

The game is hard. It isn’t easy, no matter what other gamers will say. I’m an experienced RPG player, and getting the dragon took a while. The same was true for the Arcane Horror. Saving a lot and thinking about tactics is important while facing the bosses. Blindly charging into the fight might work initially for ogres, but it just won’t cut it with the more powerful enemies.

Zathrian was an interesting boss. I died once and then changed tactics. I wanted to involve the werewolves, but they didn’t fight. Still, I kept to the back of the room, fighting off the Sylvans with fire and healing up the fighters. In the end, Alistair still died, but Sten was still going well. It also took me a while to figure out how to make potions. A good mix of potions helps out in any fight. I like brewing them. This is one part of the many parts why I enjoyed Oblivion.

* * * * *

[¹]: A small caveat: I had the game on pause for a few hours, but I’m pretty sure I played it for at least 15 hours.
[²]: I’ve just completed the siege, which was long because a lone undead was hidden in the village below. It wasn’t too bad, but everyone died except the player character.

Author: range

I'm mathematician/IT strategist/blogger from Canada living in Taipei.

4 thoughts on “Dragon Age: Origins Initial Impressions

  1. I’m afraid to start because I know I will lose many hours of my life.

    Thanks for the review and i’m looking forward to this RPG. I just completed Morrowind 😉

  2. Morrowind was incredible. Oblivion blew my mind. Dragon Age is different from them both. I think that Oblivion was probably the best of those games. Dragon Age is also quite different from Bioware’s other recent offerings, like Mass Effect.

    I don’t mind wasting a few hours, as when I play DA, I’m not connected to the internet, through RSS feeds and Twitter. It’s kind of liberating. I associate my feeds to work, since I’m a freelance blogger.

    There are some parallels to made from DA to Neverwinter Nights. I remember playing that game. It reminds me of DA, though DA has got a more cohesive storyline.

    Knights of the Old Republic wasn’t in the same genre, but I really liked that game, better than the second one they did a while ago.

    It’s actually making me want to play Oblivion again.

    Cheers and thanks for your comment, and hope you enjoy DA.

  3. Good article. It took me a while to get used to the game’s camera and find that “hold position” button, but I’m loving it now. My main character is a rogue – worth it for the backstab, traps, grenades, and poisons.

  4. I’m having quite a bit of fun as well. It’s a good game. I wonder what kind of extra DLC will be available. I’ve already gotten the Soldier’s Peak one, though I haven’t played it yet.

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