Have You Played… Dragon Age: Origins?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Have you heard of it? Dragon Age: Origins was this little RPG put out by an indie studio in Canada called BioWare. Aha, my little joke. But it’s a question well worth asking, as with the release of Inquisition I’ve spoken to lots of people who’ve never played the original, and would absolutely love it. Including my dad. Dad – play this for goodness sake.

Origins is a pretty unique project. Somehow BioWare were able to quietly be making it for – it’s rumoured but unconfirmed – about about nine years. While the last couple of those were somewhat tainted by one of the worst, most ill-conceived advertising campaigns in gaming history, it meant an RPG was able to be created with extraordinary opportunity. And it was worth it. DAO has a depth behind it that lifts the whole experience. While the structure is a very typical BioWare format – do four big tasks then a big climactic task – along the way there’s a huge sense of thousands of years of known history, alongside the wonderful relationships you have with your companions.

It’s such a wonderful game, with so much to do, and so far to sink in. And in light of my enormous disappointment at learning that Inquisition doesn’t have a proper tactical turn-based mode (no, it doesn’t – it’s a miserable, abortive mess of an effort to crowbar it in at the last minute), I’m sorely tempted to go back and replay five years on.

128 Comments

  1. witzkawumme (wkw) says:

    I liked the world, story and characters, but there was way too much combat in it.

    • kevinspell says:

      Me and combat in Bioware games just don’t get along. Any time I try to play their games the combat just kills my will to play. I can not remember the last time I finished one of Bioware games because of this.

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        I recently started playing DA: O for the first time and to my backlog burdened self it’s a new and modern game. The combat really sucked the joy out of me. I reloaded so many times, because things went fubar in most fights and that was in Normal mode. Steam says I played it 137 hours and the in-game statistic says 104, so that means 33 hours of reloading. That’s mostly my fault for not picking the right skills early on and partially the game’s fault because the AI sometimes didn’t do what I told them to do.

        I had a much easier and more fun time playing KotOR when it came to combat. In KotOR you had the option to line up 4 actions in a row and that worked great. I don’t know why more companies, even Bioware, never copied that system. It reduced the micro management a lot and the AI is so stupid in both these games that you need to dictate their every single move. It’s great that you can set up tactics which prevent characters from using expensive or useless skills, but being able to select more than one action at a time would have been splendid.

        • JackMultiple says:

          Wow, really glad to see somebody else felt this way about DA:O. I went back and looked at my notes after playing it, and I even made the same comments about KOTOR you did. Combat just ruined this game for me. I was hopeful reading these posts would uncover some “secret handshake” I’d overlooked to make the game fun! Guess not.

          • Darth Gangrel says:

            Well, now that I’ve played the whole game once and started another character on Normal, an elven mage, combat is much easier. That’s mostly because I now know what skills to pick, but also because mages have a lot more useful skills than other classes. I have only reloaded once in almost 19 hours, because a fight went bad.

            I honestly don’t mind the micromanaging, since it keeps my characters from doing stupid things, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it. I can’t fathom why you’re only allowed to select one action in advance. Why scrap the 4-actions-in-a-row mechanic that worked so nicely in KotOR? Why hasn’t anyone anywhere allowed even *2* actions while paused? As it is now, I have to pause and give out new orders every four seconds to get the best possible result. Not doing so is okay in easier fights and using custom made Tactics assures me that no stupid skills will be chosen, but it’s hardly effective and smooth that way.

      • Premium User Badge

        Wisq says:

        I never really stopped to analyse why I could never finish a game of Dragon Age — I always ended up quitting around the point where I’d completed one or two of the “secure the aid of the factions” missions, if not earlier — but yeah, I think the combat was a major part of it.

        Granted, I wasn’t super keen on the story, either. I felt that forcing everything to be voice acted meant that they severely curtailed the depth of any particular conversation, and railroaded everyone down a single path, hard. In fact, as I discovered by either reloading or just playing multiple times in my repeated attempts to finish it, there were times where it literally didn’t matter what dialogue option you chose; the characters would respond in the same way each time — either because the characters were truly ignoring you and discussing things around you, or because they had recorded intentionally vague responses just so they could use the same one no matter what you chose.

        By comparison, I’ve been loving Divinity: Original Sin. The story is decent enough, but the combat is awesome (love the interactions between elements) and the humour is fun too. In hindsight, I felt like Dragon Age marked a low point of fantasy gaming, where everything had to be Ultra Grimdark and Ultra Serious, and taking a big step back from that and having lots of fun with the theme is incredibly refreshing.

      • welverin says:

        Does no one think to turn the difficulty down so you can speed through the combat? or are all of you too stubborn and macho to do that?

        It’s too bad you can’t deselect every character so the AI can control all of them the way you could in the IE games, then you’d really be able to skate through the combat.

    • Brosecutor says:

      This. People rave about DA:O’s combat system, but to me it always felt very MMO-y. Point & click that monster till it drops stuff. I loved the game despite the combat, not because of it.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Maybe, but on nightmare mode is a perfectly legitimate tactical game, a pretty challenging and very tight one at that and decently balanced; it never borders on “impossible” aside from the Golems of Amgarrack ( or something ) expansion.

        • Arren says:

          Seconded.

        • Horg says:

          My biggest complaint with the combat is the lack of talents for managing agro in the early levels. Until you get the group taunt and threatening stance mode, warriors can’t do anything but beat down a single target. Around the mid game it all starts to click together when you can manage the fights properly, and you start fighting more really dangerous enemies like high level mages. The game made you value the crowd control and agro management skills.

          • Darth Gangrel says:

            This isn’t the comment I was supposed to reply to, darnit.

    • Husa says:

      Exactly. I would’ve liked the combat if it wasn’t so broken. It was way too random and it sucked that they had to use stupid scaling to make the world explorable in any fashion. I went in expecting BG/NwN/Icewind Dale. And was faced with game/immersion breaking WTF moments.

      It wasn’t even funny to slay a dragon without making a sweat and 5min later be instakilled by 5 highway robbers..

      Why I made the comparison to BG etc. BG2 had some really genuinely difficult fights, even if you stumbled upon the wrong guy or went to a place way above your head. But it really made sense and you learned stuff. You don’t just wake up some aeons old Lich King without getting served! :D And if you are a powerful group of world saving heroes, you really shouldn’t be afraid of the bandits. It’s the bandits that should be afraid.

      Three of the most annoying things in DA:O The damn dwarf “boss” (In another playthrough zero effort, in a later one where I was way stronger, took 15 tries with various strategies :D), the damn endless zombies at a certain castle and that band of pesky thieves. And I got so angry about it because the game would’ve been the sequel BG’s etc. deserved if it wasn’t such an arse to play.

      Edit: I played mostly on Nightmare, but the scaling was broken in all difficulties

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Well, there were MANY roughspots indeed, but come on, list some of the good stuff too at least!

    • oceanclub says:

      Although it was possibly too long a game I still loved it. And IMO had one of the best party combat systems in any RPG. Being able to pause, coordinate attacks and watch them unfold (one mage freezes opponents, the rest of the party launch critical attack hits and shatter them) was great. Am finally playing Awakenings right at this moment.

      P.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Lexx87 says:

    I’m replaying this at the moment after a good few years since finishing it the first time.

    It’s such a wonderful game. It takes me back to the days of Baldurs Gate 2 and how invested I got into that. I’ve used a fair few mods to spruce it up a little,

    I used this to sort it out:

    link to pcgamer.com

    • mukuste says:

      These “essential mods” lists are always so bizarre. “White Teeth” is their idea of an absolute must-have mod? WTF.

      • Premium User Badge

        Lexx87 says:

        I’ll contact PC Gamer right now and tell them to put that one under “somewhat nice to have” then.

    • Horg says:

      Not one mention of the Dragon Age Fix Pack. I’ll take the fan made bug fixes over the no helmet look and whiter teeth mod (someone actually made that : | ) any day. At least they included extra dog slot. Once you go extra dog, you never go ba(r)ck.

      • TrixX says:

        Actually all the fixes from the DA Fix Pack were included in mostly more detail in the Improved Atmosphere mod. Seeing as the DA Fix Pack will conflict with that mod I would choose one or the other, but IA is easily the best mod out there for DA:O overall.

        There’s another one which synergises with IA called FCR or Flash Creature Rescale. It rebalances the entire game so it’s not dependant on area but Enemy type. So a hard enemy will always be hard, whereas a simple bandit will never be boss level. It can massively increase difficulty in the early levels, but evens out nicely as the game progresses. It really does make all the Boss fights absolutely epic though!

        All in all I usually run around 70-100 mods for DA:O, easily one of the more mod friendly games out there despite it’s steep learning curve and until you realise the power of tactics, one of the clunkiest combat’s going. There are a few Tactic slot mods that allow for incredibly complex setups. Some games I’ve seen have upwards of 50 slots with them all filled!!

  3. LegendaryTeeth says:

    I’ve actually been going back and playing DA2 before I get to Inquisition, since I never did the first time around. So far? Not horrible. Very sparse, and repetitive environments, but I think I’ll be able to finish and enjoy it for what it is.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Likewise. In fact I would go as far as to say that I prefer the actual Role Playing aspects in DA2 over DA:O.

      • jezcentral says:

        Agreed. It may have been rushed out by their EA masters who were trying to work out if they could get a huge fantasy RPG out every coupe of years (answer: NO), but, by god, the NPCs were fantastic, far better than I’m-cool-coz-I’m-stoic Sten, burpy Oghren, and I’m-so-old-what-do-you-mean-I-have-the-breasts-of-an-eighteen-year-old-I’m-old-did-I-mention-I’m-old? Wynne.

        Not that I hated the game at all. I loved it, playing it through three times. That’s a lot of hours.

        • bleeters says:

          I actually found Sten only particularly interesting when he wasn’t being stoic, myself. It’s just a shame you hardly ever get any of those moments unless you actually bring him with you.

          Still, the Dragon Age 2 cast is great. It’s one of the few things that makes the game actually worth playing.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Same goes for me, it’s a pity that all the other elements couldn’t really live up to that. At the end of the day i still have 5x more hours on Origin than on DA2, but there are some notable things about the latter that are just too good.

      • skyturnedred says:

        I started DA2 a while back. Just put combat on easy so you can get to the good bits faster.

        • icarussc says:

          This man is 100% correct. I was playing on ‘Hard’ or something, and I got so frustrated with the boring, obligatory, three-rounds-of-teleported-in-baddies combat that I almost gave up.

          Instead, I switched the combat to Casual. Been having a blast with the RP ever since.

        • SanguineAngel says:

          Yeah, I played the game briefly back near release and so was already aware of what a bore the combat was. So this time I just started with combat down at casual. It suits me much better.

  4. Guvornator says:

    As good as, DA:O is, it’s better with Shale in it. She’s DOA’s HK-47.

    • Solidstate89 says:

      I’m so glad I never had to live through the horrible experience of not having Shale in my party.

    • katinkabot says:

      Shale is the best. Honestly though, anytime there is a non-humanoid companion in a Bioware game I end up liking them about 100x more than the humanoid characters. Shale, Legion, EDI, Justice…all favorites of mine. Cole in DA:I is completely adorable as well.

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        phuzz says:

        In Mass Effect I pretty much only talked to the non-human companions, and when I had to decide between Ashley and Kaidan I actually looked for a way to get rid of both of them.
        In the end I had to bring Kaiden back because he had a slightly less annoying voice, but I made a point of being horrible to him.

  5. shaydeeadi says:

    I was running low on drive to finish it by the end of the Deep Roads, when I was doing the final mission I realized I didn’t quite have enough potions to make it to the end, so I never played it again. The thought of redoing that 3 hours was just too much.

    I found the enemies boring to fight and the plot average at best.. The map was lifeless the first time and flat-out barren if you dared go back anywhere. I remember a room where you all had to go in and it was pure RNG whether your party died in the first move or not.

    I never understood why it took so much praise.

    • Leucine says:

      I’ve been hoping I’d run into someone who felt the same. Partway through (I don’t remember exactly) I had to give up because the combat was so unbearably tedious. People talk about combat in TES games but nothing, nothing I have ever played has come close to replicating the sheer sense of off-putting-ness the combat in DA:O exudes.

      In fact, I can remember nothing of the plot, only time spent wondering when I’d next be subjected to another combat scenario. Everything else took second stage to trying to manage my party so as to make combat less horrible. As someone who generally doesn’t get all that miffed at bad games, this one perplexes me somewhat. Maybe it’s just that I find the combat so egregiously bad that evokes such a strong reaction.

      That sounds hyperbolic. I know, but I am in no way exaggerating. Like you, I cannot get my head around how people could enjoy the game. I haven’t so much as looked at the sequels because I don’t want to waste any more time on games that follow its combat system.

      Unless it was completely revamped and I’m missing out on something great.

      • FCA says:

        Yeah, I completed it once, and that was quite enough.

        I quite liked some of the story bits (the final part of the Redcliffe, the background on the Fade, the different Origins, some interesting choices & consequences), much of the rest was rather average (the world as a whole, the dialogue most of the time, the character design), but the combat sunk it for me (saying this as someone who played through BG2 around 4 times, each time with increasing combat difficulty mods (SCS2+Tactics +Ascension makes for quite a fight)). I can stomach some blandness in setting/dialogue (there weren’t too many topdown tactical party-based RPG’s around at the time anyway), but good combat was a must.

        There was just too much wrong with it, and there was too much of it. Companions would stop doing what I told them to do the moment I selected someone else, enemy placement was rather random (and they would pop up from the ground in random places as well, foreshadowing some of the biggest complaints with DA2), you could just spam the same ability again and again, and there was way too much “filler” combat. It seemed they went with a quantity over quality approach. Even the big fights (like the High Dragon one, for example), most of the focus was on the hotbar, looking at the ability cooldowns to see if you could use that 1 ability again, or needed to chug a potion. The combat wasn’t difficult, but it was just too boring, and there certainly was too much of it. Given the fact that it is using a much developed version of the original NWN-engine, which is rumoured to have the same underlying movement/combat engine as the original IE-games (completely different renderer of course), this baffled me, but apparently all the good combat designers had left Bioware already at this point.

        • Myrdinn says:

          You must be a big fan of the changes they put in DA:I then. Makes DA:O seem like the pinnacle of RPG combat.

          • FCA says:

            I didn’t buy DA:I precisely because everything I learned of it warned me of this. I don’t mind action RPG’s (in fact, I rather liked Witcher 2 and Dark Souls), but then I want proper dodging and precise control. What I saw of DA:I was some sort of MMO-type hotbar watching. On a more positive note, at least there’s Pillars of Eternity coming (and I still need to finish Icewind Dale 2).
            Also, on a less Real-Time basis, I’m currently loving Divinity: Original Sin and Wasteland 2, so there is no shortage of games for me! It took a while, but it seems there are finally a lot of good RPG options for many different playstyles around, so I’m not bitter at all how the Dragon Age series turned out.

      • malkav11 says:

        If you disliked Origins’ combat, you’ll be some of the few people pleased to learn that neither subsequent Dragon Age’s combat resembles it in the slightest. With the result that IMHO II’s combat is an awful, dreary, repetitive slog free from any semblance of tactics or skill, and Inquisition’s is kind of satisfying in an explody sort of way but very simple and (so far at least) not hard in the least on the Hard difficulty. But you might feel differently.

    • K_Sezegedin says:

      Yeah and I like how a few years out its frequently described as some sort of classic, – though it was a pretty damn mediocre game when it was released.

      I was sort of enjoying it and ignoring the flaws until redcliffe, when all the non-plot traps I’d set during the day in prep for the attack disappeared when the attack occured, since the night map of the town was apparently a completely different area.

      That pissed me off so much it soured the rest of the playthrough, all I could see was the crap art, tired Bioware characters, ankle-deep RTwP combat with its ludicrous health and mana regen between encounters, MMO cooldowns on spells instead of a proper magic system and way too much combat padding/thoughtless encounter design.

      I appreciate the effort put into the origin concept, though it does punish repeat playthroughs with what amounts to drawn out tutorials.

      Also the world is a pretty impressive fantasy pastiche for an in-housel creation. Never really hooked me but there is a lot of thought put into it.

    • Asurmen says:

      I don’t understand the combat hate personally. I enjoy party management. Pausing, using Skill X on Enemy Y becase Situation Z is occuring, using spell combinations. I enjoyed Deep Roads and didn’t find out people disliked it until some time afterward.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      DA:0’s combat is a really poor reproduction of Dungeon Siege’s more simplistic system. The fact that it doesn’t work right out of the gate in DA:O means mods have to be installed in order to get any enjoyment out of it, and that’s an instant strike in my book. I woudn’t even put DA:O in my top *250* RPGs due to the repetitive nature of the combat.

      Of course, the fact that the story is partially a blatant ripoff of The Wheel of Time book series just makes it even easier to dislike the game. Originality is hard to find these days.

      • Thrippy says:

        I was thinking the same thing. How fluid Dungeon Siege was compared to this stulted MMO thing. I have never played Dragon anything before but got Origins for free courtesy of Origin On The House. Thank you EA. I have played Bethesda’s stuff. I tried to play free Witcher from GOG. I have never played World of Warcraft. It is no wonder swords and sorcery fans do not like the combat these games have to offer. The combat just isn’t fun or rewarding. Please try Mount & Blade to see how drastic the difference can be.

        Maybe its guns and skill shots I’m missing. Can we has Mass Effect 4?

  6. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    Origins has turn-based combat? I’ve played it for around 150 hours (adding up all DLCs and the expansion) and I never noticed. Also, it’s great, yes.

    • K_Sezegedin says:

      No it doesn’t have turn based combat, not sure where Walker was going with that.

      Probably has auto-pause settings though I don’t really remember.

      • Premium User Badge

        Bluerps says:

        Ah yes – maybe it has an auto-pause setting that creates a kind of pseudo turn-based system by pausing every couple of seconds. I’ve seen that in a couple of pausable real-time games and I always found it very jarring, so I never used it.

      • sinister agent says:

        As I recall, it’s effectively turn based, there’s just no pause between turns and it’s assumed you’ll repeat your attacks unless you intervene.

        • malkav11 says:

          So, not actually turn-based.

          It’s really very simple. If the gameplay executes in real-time, pausable or not, it’s a real-time system. If the game acts only when you make decisions (and, often, press a confirmation button), then it’s turn-based. It doesn’t matter if the pacing of the real-time execution is based on discrete periods of time (or “turns”) if it’s still executing in real time. The play is totally different.

          • sinister agent says:

            If the characters all act in chunks of time, and changes you make are only acted on in between those chunks of time, it’s effectively turned based. All that’s changed is the exact moment that you give the orders, and the requirement to constantly re-enter the same commands if you don’t want to change anything is gone.

            It does depend how it’s managed (and to a large extent, how large/uniform the time units / turns are), sure, but there’ve been quite a few games that animate as real time, but are functionally turn based.

          • malkav11 says:

            No, they aren’t functionally turn-based at all. They are real-time. They play like real time games. They do not play or feel like turn-based games. It is a very fundamental divide. In an actual turn-based game you never need to worry about your personal reflexes or whether you can finish entering a command (or pausing the game, depending) before an enemy’s attack goes off, etc. Even the most lenient real-time system inherently involves that sort of tension between intent and execution based entirely on the way game events are processed.

            Furthermore, although there are a variety of ways to do turn-based combat and some games have you enter turns for entire sides at once, or even do simultaneous resolution between both factions, it is not ever the case that real-time games simulate the orderly taking of turns that turn-based combat often involves. There is no version of real-time combat where the enemies wait for your characters to execute their moves or vice versa. At most, there is some staggering of execution that’s based on an initiative stat, but this just isn’t the same thing.

            And even if it were possible for a game to be “functionally turn-based” while operating in real-time, which is nonsensical, Dragon Age: Origins wouldn’t be it. Everyone is moving and acting in real-time simultaneously, the only “turns” are the length of time it takes to execute an attack or special ability. It would be like insisting that WoW is turn-based because it has a global cooldown mechanic.

          • Asurmen says:

            Malham, based on that premise Frozen Synapse isn’t turned based. Sinister is correct.

          • Wizardry says:

            It’s not. It’s phase-based.

            Can you interrupt a phase as it’s being played out like you can in Dragon Age/Baldur’s Gate by pressing the pause button? If not then it’s not even comparable. You gain an advantage if you pause every millisecond to reassess things in RTwP games like DA:O. That is why they are not turn-based.

          • Asurmen says:

            No, it’s very much turn based. You also gain no benefit in pausing every microsecond until an action has actually occurred, which makes it the same as turn based.

          • Wizardry says:

            If actions are issued and resolved simultaneously then there are no turns as you do not take it in turns.

          • Asurmen says:

            Still wrong. Just because actions occur simultaneously does not mean it isn’t turned based. The game is very much turn based. Everything about the advertises it as turned based.

          • Wizardry says:

            They also advertise it as good. You can’t trust adverts.

          • Asurmen says:

            Subjective argument vs objective gameplay mechanic (as described by the development themselves). Nice.

          • Wizardry says:

            If saying “Doom is turn-based” is objective then so be it.

      • airmikee says:

        The mechanics are turn based, in that you can pause the game to issue commands to each character and then pause after those commands have completed to issue further commands. It’s like Neverwinter Nights or KOTOR combat, real time but kinda turn based when necessary.

        • K_Sezegedin says:

          Well real time with pause and turn-based are fundamentally different mutually exclusive systems, the abilty to pause after orders does not a turn-based game make, as enemy/ally actions when unpaused occur simultaneously, and there’s no resource/time management associated with movement.

          You could say RtwP games like Baldur’s Gate and Origins are *inspired* by turn-based combat but that’s about as far as you can stretch it.

          • vecordae says:

            DA:O’s combat is not real-time. It is, under the hood, a turn-based system that simply doesn’t auto-pause between turns and cycles the most recent command given. Units even operate in an initiative order. New commands are not initiated when the player inputs them (as they would in a real-time combat engine). They are, instead, queued to initiate on the next turn, exactly the same as they were in Baldur’s gate, Neverwinter Nights, and Knights of the Old Republic.

            It is absolutely a turn-based engine. It is also absolutely tuned to not feel like one, so some amount of confusion on this matter is to be expected.

          • Premium User Badge

            Bluerps says:

            What about attack speed? Standard attacks are made every X seconds, and X can be many different numbers – for example, a character who uses a two-handed weapon attacks every 2.5 seconds, while a character who uses two weapons attacks every 1.5 seconds, and these base numbers can then be increased or decreased by tenths of seconds by several different effects.

            What about different conjuration times for spells, or cooldown times for talents and spells? None of that fits a system like you are describing.

        • Wizardry says:

          *sighs*

  7. Anthile says:

    Why, yes, extensively so. I played through the two previous Dragon Age games in preparation for Inquisition. Quite frankly, Origins has not aged too well despite its rather modest age. Combat is pretty much nothing but auto-attack for warriors and rogues while mages get a ton of abilities, most of which are useless, duplicates or buggy.
    The writing is often hammy even by Bioware standards:
    link to youtube.com
    Same voice actor as male Hawke from the second game by the way.
    Really, for all its faults, Dragon Age 2 was a big improvement and Inquisition is superior still.

    If you really want to play it again, there’s plenty of mods on the Nexus. Many of them fix gamebreaking issues and other bugs. Origins remains a remarkably buggy and unstable game even after a full expansion and plenty of DLC.

    • Zekiel says:

      It is a great shame that stamina is so difficult to re-fill. It does make any protracted combat boring for rogues and warriors.

      I didn’t think many spells were buggy were they? I thought most operated as they should. As I recall the highest level Paladin ability always crashed my game though!

      • Anthile says:

        I remember that Mana Cleanse, a spell supposed to completely drain your opponent’s mana, actually refills it and the haste spell makes your archers slower.

        • Zekiel says:

          Eh… yeah that sounds about right to me. Still, um… Fireball worked OK right?

        • bleeters says:

          There were community made fixes for those, at least. Though obviously that’s of no use to console players.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      Oh God the city Elf origin really was horrendous. Unbelievably tone-deaf, howlingly camp RACISM IS BAD, MMMKAY nonsense. On the other hand (YouTube comments)

      I can’t play the City Elf origin anymore without thinking ‘…Then a couple of guys who were up to no good, started making trouble in my neighborhood!’

      had me giggling like a lunatic just now, so cheers for that.

      • Arglebargle says:

        After all the ‘High Elf Snootiness’ of rpgs, I kinda liked the ghetto elves and their wicca wannabee cousins out in the woods. I am absolutely sure that the developers would have happily designed the game without elves and dwarves, but had to include them due to fannish and marketing pressures. So they took it out in the writing on those particular groups.

        Hey, at least they weren’t cookie cutter Snoots and Squats…..

  8. Syt says:

    As a matter of fact, I have played this … I bought this at release in 2009, and after several abandoned attempts I finally finished it … yesterday. :D

  9. Jams O'Donnell says:

    Pros:
    * Sten <3
    * Leliana <3
    * Sten & Leliana's kitten conversation

    Cons:
    * Alistair
    * Morrigan
    * probably the rest of the companions (I think I blocked them out?)
    * Deep Roads for THIRTY GODDAMNED HOURS OF MY LIFE

    edited to add…

    Pro:
    * Being able to consign Alistair to a life of misery & be told of him ending up a washed-up drunk

    • Anthile says:

      I was quite impressed by the depths the game allows you to sink to. Considering you are pretty much doomed to be a hero, you can still do some incredibly evil deeds. It’s not Fallout levels of depravity but it comes close.

      • katinkabot says:

        So true. I miss how cruel you could be. Not mustache-twirling evil, but actually hateful. 2 fond memories of my first playthrough – the 2 kids in the chantry at Redcliffe I said something spiteful to them or tricked them or something and Morrigan laughed at them. Hilarious. Also the option to knife Brother Genitivi in the head during the Urn of Sacred Ashes quest…priceless. Lelilana horrified. Alistair was all “is that necessary’? Yes. It really was Alistair.

    • Zekiel says:

      Really? I loved Alistair and Morrigan. (Zevran and Shale too.) Perhaps its because I appreciated the fact that they provided twists on the usual Bioware companion archetypes – Alistair was Carth but with funny sarcasm, Morrigan was Bastilla/Jaheria except with a surprising naivety about life in civilisation.

      • TrixX says:

        Morrigan was probably my favourite character. Great VO and fun to have in the party with her rather different moral views.

        Alistair was annoying as well as pretty cool. He was determined to be a nice guy despite knowing what was going down. Kinda naive though which also helped with his personality.

        Oddly it’s one of the few RPG’s that had so many strong characters in it that it really polarises opinions. That in my view is a great thing, it means people are actually associating with different characters well.

  10. Yachmenev says:

    Tempted to go back to Origins, now that the MMO feeling is growing to strong in Inquisition after 18h played.

    • Jimbo says:

      Did you get to Skyhold yet? If not, it’s worth sticking with it until you get there. The actual Bioware game part doesn’t really start until then.

      I have no idea why they thought a 10-20 hour offline MMO introduction would be a good idea but there we go. The MMO stuff does post-Skyhold as well, but at least there’s other, proper content to be doing instead.

  11. Geebs says:

    Not being particularly into fantasy stuff, I hadn’t ever tried this until it was free on origin (by comparison, I loved KoToR and the first mass effect), and so far the opening part has been an absolute Passat. Presumably at some point it stops being the blandest thing since sliced bland?

    • Yukiomo says:

      It’s never really a not-bland game. Maybe the biggest tragedy in DA:O is that Bioware spent nearly a decade making this vastly detailed and thought-out fantasy world that turned out to be super generic. The Mass Effect setting was certainly not original either, but it always felt a lot more realized to me. But despite the boring exterior, the game has some very strong character work, surprisingly reactive quests (eg, the whole Redcliffe sitch), and a fun and challenging combat system. (There is too much combat, particularly in the Deep Roads, but given fights tend to be engaging.)

    • iainl says:

      I did the same, but it’s RPG that rather put me off, rather than fantasy per se.

      So far I’m only an hour in, but I don’t know I’m going back in a hurry. The combat is dull as all hell. I really enjoyed Skyrim, so the setting didn’t bother me, but I think I’d rather just re-read Game Of Thrones and play a game that’s fun on a mechanical level.

      But then I bounced right off Mass Effect, too – copy of Halo, an Iain M Banks novel, and you’re done.

  12. Zekiel says:

    I LOVED Dragon Age: Origins. In my opinion it features some of Bioware’s best companions, it has a lovely sense of history, it has fun gameplay (even if it can get a bit grindy sometimes). It lacks the stupidity of a morality tracker. It has some genuinely interesting moral choices.

    Yet at the same time it is so LONG, and it includes some very odd mini-quests that feel like they belong in an MMO (the don’t-even-bother-with-a-quest-giver Chanters Board/Mage Guild/etc quests). And the Bioware-standard structure really irritates me – by the time you get to the fourth of the do-them-in-any-order main quests I really begin to lose interest.

    So I could never conceive of replaying it for a third time. Shame really.

  13. Laurentius says:

    I did and completed it clocking around 50/60 hours with it but halfway through I knew that it has way to much combat for my taste and then I reached Deep Roads and I’ve had enough but I’ve soldier on to beat the game knowing that I will never played this game ever again. I liked many things about DragonAge:Orgins but combat and Deep Roads, brr… plz no..

  14. Kefren says:

    I tried it for a few evenings, and gave up after doing a boring dungeon run that ended with a baby dragon or something (my first dragon) which killed me every time. I made a number of attempts and it just got frustrating. Since nothing in the game had yet appealed to me, and it had seemed pretty linear and scripted, I decided it was time to accept some wasted evenings and not spend any more time on it. If you’re not into a game in the slightest by that point then it is a dead loss (for you – obviously it might be great for others).
    Just for information with regards to tastes: I completed KOTOR 1 and 2 and Jade Empire, and got some enjoyment from them, but not enough to ever go back and replay. Morrowind immersed me; Oblivion bored me. I have completed Fallout 1 and 2, Deus Ex, System Shock 1 and 2, and Vampire TM Bloodlines many, many times, and am still not bored with them. I cannot tell you what the difference is.

  15. digitalsoap says:

    I actually did get my Dad playing this. He got me into RPG gaming at a very young age, playing Might and Magic I, Bard’s Tale and Eye of the Beholder. He hadn’t been into gaming for a long time then DA:O came along and I knew it would be perfect for him. We are both very much into this series. Guess what I got him for Christmas?

  16. cpugeek13 says:

    Been playing through this lately. I don’t quite understand why it has so much praise. It has some of the worst writing/voice acting of any Bioware game, boring quests, a bland fantasy universe, etc. Baldur’s Gate 2 is one of my favorite games of all time, but this doesn’t hold a candle to it. At this point, I’d even say that Jade Empire was a better game, or at least a more interesting one despite its flaws.

  17. Cross says:

    I’ve been playing this recently as well, and i will join the choir of dissenters. The characters are bland, the combat boring, and the game has a really bad habit of not telling you shit. Now i’m in Denerim for the Landsmeet, and there’s no fucking way i can survive, because the game doesn’t expose the enemies’ levels for you to see, so now i’m just over my head because i didn’t bother with the boring sidequests. Dragon Age 2 may be a less interesting world with “Quick cash-in” written all over it, but at least it doesn’t hide stuff from you.

  18. Fenix says:

    Played and loved it, but what is this “one of the worst, most ill-conceived advertising campaigns in gaming history” you speak of? I don’t remember it D:

    • Eight Rooks says:

      Mister Walker presumably refers to the trailer plugging it with Marilyn Manson’s This Is The New Shit, IIRC, and focusing on the blood’n’stabbing to a comically over-the-top degree, as if your stereotypical CoD audience was going to buy into the franchise en masse as a result.

    • Asurmen says:

      Probably the Marilyn Manson incident, when they had a trailer chock full of nothing but combat and blood set to This Is The New Shit.

    • Yukiomo says:

      Origins did end up being Bioware’s best-selling game ever for a while. So maybe the Manson video was actually successful.

      • Arren says:

        Yeah, couldn’t possibly be attributed to anything else…..

    • drygear says:

      That ad was worth it when someone here suggested you mute the trailer and play the Hawaii 5-0 theme instead. It worked really well. I couldn’t find the original post but I found it linked in another RPS story. link to youtube.com
      I don’t know if you’re reading this, dude who came up with that, but it’s still great.

  19. Oakreef says:

    Most important question for me: Is there grinding involved?

  20. jgf1123 says:

    I may have to try DAO again… after I finish a playthrough with each faction in Endless Legend.

  21. blind_boy_grunt says:

    i played it for a while, but the game and i never got on that well. The point where i stopped was some quest where two factions (i think one of them werewolves) were in a feud and it came to a sort of climax and my character was in the middle, and all the time i only thought, “guys please don’t make me part of this, don’t make me choose which side gets to die, i don’t know you, i don’t care”. And somehow my involvment/refusal ment it all came to a good end, they stopped killing each other and i just wanted to smack them on the head. The writers too. Consequences for your actions are great, but i don’t want to roleplay in a world that just waits for me to make their decisions for them. Or something.

  22. Themadcow says:

    The pause based tactical view combat was a massive part of the appeal for me. Such a shame that the morons at Bioware / EA couldn’t bring it back properly for Inquisition.

    There is a hack that allows for a better tactical cam (distance wise) but it still encounters issues indoors and under trees etc outdoors.

    DA:O was probably my favourite CRPG since the days of Fallout, Wizardry (6-8), Pools of Darkness and the like.

  23. Samolety says:

    So many people are hating on DA:O here in the comments that I have to come in and say how absolutely wonderful I think it is. It’s my favourite RPG, by far. I didn’t start playing RPGs until after the classics like Planescape and BGII had aged so much that I just couldn’t get into them. I did manage to get into Arcanum because of the setting, and I loved it.

    But Dragon Age, so good. It had its flaws, but the setting and the history were just so good that I spent like 2 weeks playing it and doing practically nothing else. I’m a history nerd, so the fact that Dragon Age took ‘generic fantasy’ and stuck it in a medieval world with obvious real-world parallels was cool to me. And then there’s the fact that it really felt like the game was meant for my character. They managed to take a game with, what is it, 7 possible characters? And they made it seem like it was only made for mine. I can’t imagine the Hero of Ferelden as anything but a female elf mage, and that’s a victory in itself.

    I was so disappointed that DA2 lost so much of the depth that made me love DAO, and I’m so excited that Inquisition has brought it back. Inquisition hasn’t managed to capture me quite like the original did (I don’t think anything can bring back experiencing the world for the first time), but Inquisition is a very worthy successor. Okay, end gushing.

    • Premium User Badge

      SoundDust says:

      Yeah, the variety of the player characters was very nicely done. I think one of the reasons I felt more invested in Origins – compared to the later games – is the lack of voice acting for the player character. It takes something away from the immersion when you can hear someone speaking your own lines..

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Inquisition also currently holds the all-time record of space/density ratio, the world is unbelievably large and even then it still retains all the minutiae and attention to detail of a small corridor.

      I positively don’t know how that was possible.

    • craigdolphin says:

      Gotta agree. DAO is my favorite game of all time. I was really hoping Bioware would make a worthy sequel but instead we got DA2, and a full blown aRPG MMO in DAI :(

    • Yeggman says:

      Agreed, I absolutely loved Dragon Age: Origins. I’ll grant that the combat system wasn’t that great and the story was pretty generic, but everything else was incredible. The characters, the world, the insane amount of choices and actual consequences for them (looking through the Keep there are many choices/outcomes that I was entirely unaware of despite playing it somewhat obsessively when it first came out). I can’t think of another RPG that felt as big and expansive as DAO. That said, if you don’t like Whedon-like characters (which IIRC is a comparison John made in the distant past) I can see how you might bounce off them and the rest of the game.

      I didn’t think DA2 was terrible, but it was still a huge letdown. Unlike some I loved the idea of staying in one city and watching it evolve, the problem was Kirkwall just generally felt empty and lifeless. The characters also didn’t grab me in the same ways Leiliana, Alistair, Shale, etc. did.

      I’m so excited to finally play Inquisition in a week (I’ve been away from my gaming computer for a while).

  24. DanMan says:

    I got it free off Origin recently and am playing it currently. It’s nice. I keep coming back to it, so it can’t be all bad.

  25. Premium User Badge

    SoundDust says:

    Started my fourth play-through a couple of weeks before Inquisition came out. Still haven’t finished it, but plan to. I think it’s still a great game – easily in my all time top 10. It is starting to date a bit though. And the Skip The Fade mod is handy – that’s the one part of the game I’m sure I’ve seen enough of.

  26. kament says:

    Have you? Based on the last paragraph you haven’t. And to think: combat is something the game has in unholy redundant amounts, much more than other things we love it for.

  27. Unruly says:

    I bought it at launch, and I started up a dwarf rogue as my character. I played through the intro bits, and made my way to the village where you find Sten caged up. And that was when I quit. At that point, combat had become a grueling struggle for me, and regardless of how conservatively, aggressively, or tactically I played even minor fights were an absolute beast to win and left me nearly dead every time. Combat had been hard before, but I was able to get through it. At this point it was no longer fun. And so I quit.

    Then, just shortly after I quit playing, they released a patch that fixed a major problem with the rogue’s damage. It was something that had been making the rogue’s damage fall to something like half of what it should have been, like the bug was that the dex bonus got applied as a penalty or something. From what I’ve been told by friends who came along after that patch, it fixed everything that I complained about when it came to the rogue being nearly worthless in combat. But that initial experience left such a bad taste in my mouth that I still haven’t given it another chance.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Balance could have been better, especially since in the starting bits you don’t have any healing spells and too few talents to make the most stupid party setup work properly: the dual mage.

      I remember nightmare transforming from “too hard” into “too easy” somewhere mid-game, but i still would recommend the combat in this game to anyone. Too bad about you, but it’s understandable, i too have some games i still can’t get back into just because of the first impression.

  28. tomimt says:

    I didn’t care for DA:O that much personally. I found the game to be relatively boring and the story was as bland as they come in the genre.

    DA2 on the other hand, a game often sneered at, I liked. Mostly because despite its flaws and fairly boring dungeons and repetative structure, the story itself was pretty interesting. There was a lot of room for improvement in that as well, but unlike DA:O, I played DA2 through pretty quickly and I was more than entertained through it.

  29. jezcentral says:

    Also, it was the last moddable Bioware game. It was the first game I spent hours downloading mods for, (aka, getting Skyrimmed, which, with some of the DA mods available, is even dirtier than it sounds).

  30. Hedgeclipper says:

    Nope, not going to help EA ruin gaming by giving them money to kill more developers – from the comments it doesn’t look like I missed much either.

    • Horg says:

      It’s a good game. You will always find people who don’t like some or all of what a game offers. That does not mean it is inherently bad. Considering how cheap DA:O is now, you really are doing yourself a disservice by not trying it out.

    • green frog says:

      Going by RPS comments you’d never play anything because the comments here are notoriously negative. It’s exceedingly rare to find a game that gets more positive than negative comments here, even among games with such considerable critical acclaim as Origins.

      People are perfectly entitled to voice their opinions, don’t get me wrong. I’m just saying that this is a very hard to please crowd, so unless you learn to take the negativity with a grain of salt, you’re going to miss out on a lot of really worthwhile games.

      RPS (the writers) gave Dragon Age GOTY, so that should tell you what they think the game is worth.

  31. Werthead says:

    DA:O had terrible writing, terrible voice acting (Claudia Black, of course, excepted), pretty bland characters, pretty ropey combat (the inability to form bottlenecks due to enemies pushing or even clipping past your charcters is just ludicrous), repetitive quests and does absolutely nothing of interest with the more original bits of worldbuilding in the setting. It’s also easily twice as long as it needs to be, with the story padded out with insane amounts of filler fetch quests. The finale battle is also utter drivel.

    In between the tedium, there are moments that shine. It has one of the better depictions of dwarven society in a fantasy game. The lore is interesting, even if all the best bits are locked in the codex. There is some variety in the landscape. Shale is amusing, even if he is a bit of an HK-47 reskin. Erm, that’s it.

    DA had better writing (although we’ll draw a veil over the very bizarre and illogical ending), better voice acting, better characters (even if they’re all selfish bastards) and somehow managed to make the more interesting and original bits of the world (like the qunari) come to life despite the game being locked into a single city. Kirkwall is kind of a fantasy Babylon 5, a place which slowly becomes a nexus for all the struggles in the setting and draws people and events there rather than you having to go out to them. Given EA’s limitations on BioWare in making the game (“You spent HOW much on DA:O? Bash out a quickie sequel and get some more of that money back!”), BioWare did pretty well. It also didn’t outstay its welcome.

    On the other hand, combat is somehow even worse than DA:O, the use of repeated maps is farcical (seriously, they couldn’t have just built 3-4 different maps in different configurations rather than just 1 with some poor partitions dropped in?) and going up that fricking mountain in the elven area gets boring way before the fourth or fifth time you have to do it.

    I think for these reasons I actually nominate AFTERMATHS as the best bit of the franchise to date*. It has the (somewhat) better DA:O engine, it fleshes out the world and factions a lot better, giving much-needed depth to the darkspawn. The evolving keep mechanic is pretty good. It’s long but not too long – in fact it’s almost as long as DA2, which is surprising – and has a much smaller, tighter cast and sprawl than many of BioWare’s games.

    * Whilst of course acknowledging I haven’t played DA:I yet.

  32. Premium User Badge

    Risingson says:

    Dragon age to me is a mean game. I have been trying to replay it as a mage lately, and I realized that as much as you want to take care of the prose and the conversations, if you don’t take care of the characters there is nothing to do. In Dragon Age I feel like Alastair is the only decent guy in the group; the way your character treats Wynne, with such humilliating patronizing for being around her 50s (the dialogue options are usually “say something stupid to her”, “say something mean to her”, “say something cruelly patronizing to her”), the other witch is just an a&%·$hole, the female rogue is something like the plain character from any chick lit book, and Shale is there just to make jokes about fat women. If you put that and a game design where with just only a couple of mages and a couple of spells are needed to win the game, then Dragon Age is, again to me, a routine with people that I don’t like. Like a job itself.

  33. X_kot says:

    Never forget:

    “This is the new shit.”

  34. ffordesoon says:

    Yes, I’ve played DA:O, and Awakening(s), and DA2.

    I’ve played about fifty hours of DA:I now, and I’d say it’s easily the best game in the series. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still miss certain aspects of Origins (the streamlining of the skill trees and the baffling half-measure of a tactical camera being the most painful compromises), and the bugs are a constant if minor annoyance. Ultimately, though, DA:I does so much so right that any complaints I have feel like churlish quibbles in the face of its nearly uniform excellence.

  35. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    What I most disliked about Origins.. well, besides the checking online status and in-game dlc advertisements, was that not all character specs were equally viable nor as fun. Certain playstyles simply weren;t catered to as much. Mage seeed the most fun and rogue (whether dagger or bow) the least.. and in fact I would have preferred a more flexible system like Kingdoms of Amalur’s way which allowed the player to more freely pick and choose (though still not as much as I would’ve liked).

    • Frank says:

      Fact: rogues are always the most fun, independent of game design.

      • Jason Moyer says:

        Have to agree, and being a rogue in the first 2 DA games didn’t disappoint me. In DAO the way a rogue can slip through a crowd, incapacitating people and then jabbing a dagger in their back, never gets old. It did a feel a bit cheaty once you had the ability to disappear in the middle of combat, particularly during the fight at the landsmeet, but what’s a rogue build without some hit and run? And in DA2 I found playing a rogue to be just as fun, if different, with the way the cross-class combos allow you to literally make things explode in a shower of blood.

  36. Frank says:

    I just started playing it in the last month, that’s how bad their advertising was. Terrible trailers and the worst AAA demo ever (for DA 2) kept me away.

    Anyway, yes, it is excellent. It’s amazing that they were able to do almost everything BG did while bringing it to a 3D engine for exploration and combat.

  37. Vardas says:

    I started playing this about a month ago and I LOVED it. The characters depth of conversation and their exchanges at certain points in the game made them incredibly amusing and interesting to me. The exchanges between Morrigan and Alistair, and the comments Shale makes throughout the game were brilliant touches of amusement. Even though they’re basically bits of code my heart would break when I heard Alistair talking about Duncan and the Grey Wardens.

    Perhaps this is because in my head I compare them with the Skyrim companions (not THE Companions, the NPC companions) which were interesting before you acquried them, and then seemed as fleshed out as a baked potato once you got them to adventure with you.

    As for combat, I fking loved every minute of it on HARD mode. Agreed there is A LOT of combat and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have liked it as much if I hadn’t picked Mage as my class. But the mage is beautiful. He has the potential to wipe out an entire room of enemies without being touched, but he can die within seconds if you don’t manage cooldowns and aggro well. I’ve been dying A LOT although being wiped happens very rarely, when it does I need to replan my strategy and set the team members in position before we pull aggro and I love that strategic “bend”

    Having said that I’ve not finished it yet, and it will be a while before I do, but that’s because of ORAS coming out and my competitive Pokenerd coming out with them. Still, a brilliant game imho.

  38. damoqles says:

    I found DAO unbearably bland, dull and insipid in comparison to basically every single Black Isle game. It made me seriously sad at the time.

  39. DThor says:

    Loved this game. The characters were great and the interactions between them were hilarious and poignant. My memory of it is a great story with great characters and, oh yeah, it’s a game too. Was skeptical of DAI hitting the target after the relative failure of the previous one in the franchise, but I’m 50 hours in and I’m feeling the love, although I miss Shale.