It wasn’t easy for me to like Dragon Age Origins, but after giving it a lot of time, I’ve finally come around to it. The Dragon Age Origins: Ultimate Edition package consists of the original Dragon Age Origins campaign, the Dragon Age: Awakening campaign, and the complete set of smaller DLC campaigns and quests that were released for the game.
The main Origins campaign has some pacing issues. The structure of the game is such that it starts off linearly with a story that depends on what background you chose for your character. Once you complete this introduction sequence, you are let loose into the world where your main task is to gather the support of various factions across the land of Ferelden. If you’ve played Mass Effect, this should sound extremely familiar. However, two of the quests that you are required to complete are extremely long and monotonous. I won’t spoil too much, but needless to say, you’ll know which sections of the game I’m talking about. It was one of these sections that caused me to originally stop playing the game before coming back to it months later.
The other issue I had with Dragon Age is with the combat. That combat is very tactical with you controlling your character along with up to three other party members you’ve recruited. The combat is not action oriented like the Mass Effect series has become, but if you’ve played Knights of the Old Republic, you should be right at home with this game as it plays almost exactly the same with a semi-turn based brand of combat. However, I felt as though the Normal difficulty was too hard for the average player. I had no hesitation in bumping it down to Easy as my experience with the game started off with dying a lot. Its not as though it was an issue of me not putting time into grinding my character either. Truth be told, there’s no controlled mechanic in this game to level your characters up via random encounters. You do get random encounters while travelling between cities, but they are few and far between. Secondly, the game doesn’t do a good job at explaining how Combat tactics work nor does it hold your hand on how you should be spending your skill and talent points for your character.
Frankly, the combat just wasn’t fun for me for a majority of the game because of my lack of understanding of the tactics system and the skills and talents system. That being said, once I did start to understand the game’s various systems, I really started to enjoy the combat and no longer did I have to pause the game and micro manage every little move by my party as I was able to use the tactics system to automate the way I’d manage my party members in combat.
I enjoyed the expansion campaign, Awakening, much more due to my better understanding of the game systems and due to the laser like focus that the story and quest structure in Awakening. Whereas a few combat heavy sections in Origins felt like they were there just to extend the length of the game, Awakening was distilled down to the essentials which resulted in a campaign that was shorter but had a much more effective story element. I was much more invested in the fate of my party members in Awakening because there was a much better story-to-action ratio than in the original Origins campaign.
The story was spread a little thin in the Origins campaign just due to it’s length, but where the game excelled was the banter between your various party members. While exploring the game world, your party members would get into interesting arguments and conversations with each other which would give you insight to their character and beliefs. It would also make it fun to mix and match party members to be able to hear these conversations.
The graphics for Dragon Age hold up well despite it being a 2 year old game. Awakening seemed to improve on the graphics a little in the new areas that were in that game. The soundtrack for me was a mixed bag. I enjoyed the main menu theme and a handful of tracks at key moments during the game but for the most part, the music is nothing to write home about.
Dragon Age Origins: Ultimate Edition is definitely worth your time if you are a fan of classic fantasy RPG games. I got around 50 hours of playtime, and that was with skipping many of the side quests.
Retails for: $38.98, recommended purchase price: $38.98