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Dragon Age: Origins PDF Print E-mail
Written by Silver Sorrow / Starfox   
Monday, 07 March 2011 00:00
Article Index
Dragon Age: Origins
The Hands Of Destiny
The Grey Wardens Wants You
Too Damn long to write here!
Talents, skills and other things
Character creation and other self-torments
All Pages


Title: Dragon Age: Origins
Alternate Title: GODDAMMIT!: The Game
Developer: Bioware
Despised Of Christ: Electronic Arts
Official Site: Dragon Age Origins
ESRB Rating: M (17+) [Blood, Intense Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Elves]
Reviewed By: Silver "Questionable Ethics" Sorrow, with the invlauable input of Starfox.
Catering By: Tums®
Score: 8 out of 10

Note: The screenshots in this review show that I was not only using just a couple of graphical mods, but a LOT of graphical mods; more mods than you can toss a Dwarf at. I could have removed them all, but really: what a pain in the Elf. So in comparison to most other screenshots you see, my game may look a little different; better textures, characters, more hairstyles, cooler armor, etc. Just think of it as what's possible with the game. One thing I must tell you though: you likely won't get your characters to look like mine just through the in-game chargen. I created their headmorphs in the Toolset with the help of a half-dozen cosmetic mods. I tried to keep the screens generic and scenery-centric in nature, but sometimes the shot was too good to be true.

A good place to start would be Dragon Age Nexus and start browsing categories; besides fifty-three thousand useless "This Is My Take On Morrigan And Leliana!" mods, you will find a few useful things...but first, make sure you get a good ad/popup-blocker first, because they loves them some ads.

Dragon Age: Origins



This review contained many bad words...well, in number according to frequency of usage, that is. I tended to stick to several questionable words and use them a lot. However, in the interest of not turning this into a lowbrow slog through the gutter -- yes, this game really pissed me off that much -- I decided to replace the worst of the lot with less objectionable words. This is a common practice with some forums' language filters, and I'd rather amuse than be just another (cursing) voice in the crowd.


Drat/dratted/dratting: !@#$%!!
Fudge/fudging/frolic/frolicking/frolicked/freud/freuding: !#$*%!!
Sugar/sugary/sugar-coated/saccharin/sugar substitute: +%&#*@!!
Vegetable: @#$%@%$#!!
Big leafy vegetable(s): @#$%#>}&!!



In gratitude for the tremendous outpouring of apathy towards the Abstract of one of my other reviews (I think it was Mirror's Edge), I will admit that, yes, I do have some glimmer of insight into what the dreams meant; I did take *some* Psychology in school, after all. "How much is 'some'?" you ask. "Enough," I reply. Because once I realized that I'd have to train mice to do this or that, I was hesitant...and then I was informed that I'd have to give an oral report somewhere down the line, and that's where I said no thanks to an education in Psychology. I mean, training mice is one thing, but revealing to a group of strangers that Dr. Pepper lip gloss irritates my urethra is asking far too much in my opinion. Some things should be kept between intimates.


I hate this game.

That probably needs some sort of explanation.

Or not.


Well, I think we owe our readers a bit of explanation there. Usually, reviewers play a game once, twice at most before publishing a review. Here, we played the game a gazillion times before coming up with this. Normally it isn't much of a problem but Dragon Age is a particular beast. It is an excellent game (at least in my opinion) but plagued by tiny little things -- gameplay decisions, various bugs still unresolved -- that are not overwhelmingly apparent when one plays the game for the first time but that are becoming more and more present -- and unnerving -- in the following playthroughs when you don't have the pleasure of the novelty to sustain you anymore. As I said, we played this game a lot and consequently we couldn't help but notice more and more the tiny wrong bits. Consequently this review might seem bitter in some regards -- especially Silver's parts which form the bulk of the review -- even though the final score given to the game is quite OK.


Dragon Age: Origins


By The Wilting Of My Posies, Something Nasty This Way Moseys

Way back in yesterwhen a few guys decided to go to Heaven** but they corrupted it with their presence and were cast back to earth as twisted monsters and all hell broke loose and like a zillion people died and there were dragons and monsters and killing and screaming and wholly unquantifiable amounts of basic despair and then a bunch of guys calling themselves the Grey Wardens like totally kicked their asses and everything was okay again and a few hundred years went by and now the bad guys are coming back again and this is where you come in because it'd be a pretty boring game if there was nothing to do several centuries AFTER all the cool stuff happened.
[** I'm guessing it involved Gong Li in some way.]

Well, the story is more complicated and tortuous than that but fear not, there is a gazillion of codex entries  (near 300) you may gather through the game that will tell you all you need to know about the history, the world, the current situation and many other things... if you're not afraid to read. One of the strong points of Dragon Age is the richest codex I've ever seen in gaming. But even there one of the many little bad things of the game shows up: you need very good eyes and a sizable dose of aspirin so tiny the letters of the codex are on a Full HD widescreen (unless you're the fortunate owner of a 32'' panel -- at the very least ). Like for a lot of things in Dragon Age, there's a third party mod to rectify what was clearly a design oversight. Too bad Bioware didn't thought about including that in the game first-hand.

You are [name], a [gender] [race] [class] with [impressive gender-specific body part(s)], and after [origin story] you were recruited by Duncan, a Grey Warden, who sees a lot of potential in one so unleveled as of yet. There's a Blight a-happenin' and you're going to spend the rest of the game gathering allies, recruiting a variety of party members, looting unguarded crates, running all over the place, and fighting stuff.

No, no...don't cry. It's just a game.


Where The Hell Is This, This Hell Where This Is?

Welcome to Ferelden, an allegory for ancient England...Britain...whatever. I don't live there, praise Cthulhu. But this is a place where people speak in varying types of British-y accents ranging from cultured to provincial, with a soupçon of American/Canadian accents showing up here and there. I was disappointed not to hear a rippin' Scottish burr, as well as some guy attempting to offend Ireland with a Lucky the Leprechaun accent (although some come very close in either case). Other countries exist in this crapsack world, such as Orlais (France), the Anderfels (Germany), Antiva (Spain...or Italy...or whatever), the Tevinter Imperium (Rome? Byzantium?), and wherever the hell it is that the Qunari originate (they're an allegory for the Moors, anyway). But you go to none of them, thankfully.**
[** With all these allegories spinning around in my head, I started to refer to the Landsmeet as the Allthing...]

So you spend the game traipsing all over this Ferelden place, which is picturesque at least. There's no allegory for Holland, which is just as well; I'd have the insane complusion to go around sticking my finger in dykes. DIKES, I mean. Dikes.



Dragon Age: Origins


It Has Begun...You're In The Hands Of Destiny

You have several choices for your character's background: human noble warrior, human noble rogue, human mage, elf mage, city elf warrior, city elf rogue, Dalish elf warrior, Dalish elf rogue, casteless dwarf warrior, casteless dwarf rogue, dwarf noble warrior, dwarf noble rogue. Further added to those is the choice of gender, which may alter certain details in each case. All that's missing is:

human commoner warrior
human commoner rogue
apostate human mage
apostate city elf mage
Dalish elf mage
Dalish elf warrior mage who knows how to pick a friggin' lock

Each origin story is at least interesting in construction: from the dispiriting world of the city elves and the casteless dwarves, to the Dalish life of eating bugs and wiping one's ass with poison sumac (judging by how friendly they are), to a life of privilege and comfortable shoes as a noble human or noble dwarf, to a life under the constant scrutiny of the Chantry, you'll find one you favor above the others. Unless there's something wrong with you. So whichever one you think is the "correct" story, they're all well-made.


And It Seemed We Were Getting Along So Well...

There are...three main races, I guess:

Dwarves are irritable fireplugs who can scratch their feet without bending over. A curious sense of aesthetics is at work here, and I hope someone crushes it with a hammer.

Elves are aggravating shorties with Spock ears. The elf implementation in DAO is definitely a notch above Bethesda's Wood Elf paradigm, however.

Humans are a bunch of hairy inbred racist rednecks with delusions of grandeur. (There are no human subraces, despite the skin color options. You're a honkey no matter what.)

Others include the Qunari, who are very tall, and...well, I guess that's it. So...four? Four, then.

In the not-quite-a-race category go the Darkspawn (ubiquitous monsters) and golems, which...well, never mind. You'll find out how they're made soon enough.

The Darkspawn are not quite a race, because they are all of them. Wow! that's profund... But you'll learn that soon enough too.


Dragon Age: Origins


Deorcspawne? Fiscstikkas!

You'll hear the term "Darkspawn" about as much as you'll hear the phrase "Grey Wardens" throughout the game. Both grate on the nerves after a while, to put it mildly. Take how many times they used "Spectre" and "Shepard" in Mass Effect and multiply that by a few million.

Side Note: I thought it would be funny to name my Mass Effect character either "Commander" or "Shepard," as that's what they call Shepard most of the time. Of course, I was totally wrong about the hugeness of the comedy value, so with this knowledge in mind I restrained myself from naming my DAO characters either "Grey" or "Warden." And forget the name "LuvAznCh1ks74" because that's just so very wrong.

The Darkspawn are a curious gaggle of soul-less monsters who delight in killing living things, not that I blame them (hey, I've been to Wal-Mart). They live underground and are battled constantly by the Dwarves, who just can't seem to find out what creates them so they can nip the problem in the bud.** They encompass several subgroups, each with its own commander-type variant (i.e., boss; a Hurlock Alpha, for example): Genlocks are short. Hurlocks are the size of humans. Sharlocks, or Shrieks, are pop-up-behind-you-causing-you-to-choke-on-your-granola-bar types. Ogres are very large. Very large indeed. And now they're all commanded by an Archdemon, which may very well be a dragon corrupted by their taint.
[** I find it ridiculous that these idiots have been fighting these things for centuries and can't figure out where the hell they're all coming from, but it only take me the course of an afternoon to find out the truth.]

Indeed, Dwarves occupy a central place in this game due to their relation to the Darkspawn. What Humans call a Blight, Dwarves call that the daily routine. Which is a good representation of humanity behavior in general. As long as a problem only concerns others, it doesn't exist. But when the said problem comes knocking at the door then it becomes worth fighting. If all the races in Thedas had taken arms to fight alongside Dwarves in the gloomy Deep Roads instead of ignoring the whole problem during the 4 centuries or so between each Blight, the Darskpawn would be eradicated already... But of course without Darkspawn there would be no Dragon Age either and your character would be in a bad situation of unemployement.

Let me backtrack a bit: there were a few really powerful dragons back in the days of yore, and they were known as the Old Gods. Subject to worship, tribute, mass phallic adoration, etc.; whether they were really gods or just supremely powerful dragons is a matter of conjecture. At any rate the Maker -- the absentee deity -- expelled them from dear old Draconian U or something and caused them to burrow deep into the earth and take really long naps...

There were 7 Dragons in total. In Dragon Age your character fight the 5th one called Urthemiel so a simple calculation allow us to predict that Bioware can release at least two other games, probably three as we already know that the upcoming Dragon Age 2 begins during the same Blight as Dragon Age: Origins and don't extend to another Blight although Darkspawns are still a thematic.

...don't ask ME if this sugar substitute should make any sense...

No problem. I don't.

...and so the Darkspawn, always on the lookout for prime leadership material, dig and dig and dig** until they find one of these old gods/dragons. Their taint immediately corrupts the poor lizard and it becomes the Archdemon. This Archdemon then leads the Darkspawn horde to the surface where they lay waste to the world, killing anything and everything they possibly can, as well as refusing to leave an adequate tip at their favorite bistros or say "excuse me" after belching the alphabet. Animals. The people call this a "Blight," although I would term it somewhat differently. "Frolicked Over By God" has a nice ring to it. Anyway, a Blight doesn't happen very often, every few hundred years or so, but it's something of an inconvenience when it does happen.
[** Grand. Now the "Dig-Dug" theme is stuck in my head.]

Which leads me to...


Dragon Age: Origins


The Grey Wardens Want You, Bitch

Long ago during the first Blight, long before your character was a lump in his or her daddy's pants, a bunch of soldiers, fed up with the futility of dying with no headway being made against the first Archdemon and his crew, foreswore fealty to men (which includes women, I suppose) and drank the Darkspawn blood. Usually this causes the person to go nuts, but they added other stuff to it, like a sprinkling of nutmeg and some maraschino cherries. They mastered the taint and killed the first Archdemon, but they were all wiped out in the process. I think. The acolytes (or whatever...I lost interest a long time ago, frankly) became Grey Wardens themselves, founded the Grey Warden order in a proper manner, and defeated a couple more Blights in the ensuing years.

Several decades before your part in this story, the Grey Wardens were banned from Ferelden for their part in conspiring against the king. The details of this aren't explained unless you play the Warden's Keep DLC (just $7 and 10% of your immortal soul!), but that's just the way it goes. At least Bethesda had the decency to straight up LIE when they were accused of cutting out content for the purpose of turning it into DLC ("No, really! The Orrery wasn't cut out! We're serious!"), but these guys...yoiks. No shame at all. Are you surprised the DLC fits so seamlessly into the game? It's because it IS part of the game! It's just been omitted so you'll pay for the full experience.

Surely, Bioware is on their way to turn marketing into an art. No matter if you don't have the DLC installed, you still find this guy at the party camp who wants you to help him. If you decide to help him you're transferred to the DLC buying page. Of course you may choose to not help him and leave him alone but the guy won't budge. He will remain there, following your party everywhere until you actually buy the damn thing! It's the first case I know of a commercial proposal so shamelessly plugged directly within a game. You're tempted to give the guy money just to make him go away! It's also the first time that someone want me to help them and ask me money to do it. Good go Bioware, a true product of our society.

Anyway, the Grey Wardens are few in Ferelden, having only been granted access only twenty years previously by King Maric. As the story starts, you learn that Duncan, a senior Grey Warden, is not only looking for aid in the fight against the Darkspawn, he's also recruiting. And he thinks you, yes YOU, have potential. I guess you do. Maybe. But never mind that now. We have stuff to kill. Or be killed by. Whichever.


If It Doesn't Engage You In Conversation, Kill It

Most things want to kill you. At the very least, they wish you were dead. This is a distressingly true statement in real life, and it's just as true in the game. But rest assured that there are no [adherents to a religion known to have a distressingly large number of terrorists associated with it] here. Filthy rotten [aforementioned adherents].

On the fauna side of things, we have: wolves, bears, undead of various types, werewolves, dragons in small, medium, large, and VERY large, demons, wraiths, a couple of realistic-adjacent animals (bronto = rhino), a few made-up animals (deepstalkers), and even a few rats if you play as a human noble. Otherwise, you won't have to worry about fighting rats. Ever. Fighting *as* one, however...just wait'll you visit the mages.

Oh, there are dogs, too. Mabari warhounds, I mean. Your own warhound is smarter than any of your other companions. Hell, he has 50 IQ points on Morrigan, easy.

Let's not forget Ents malevolent possessed trees, tainted wolves, demon-possessed corpses, demon-possessed people,** a demon masquerading as a cat (DLC only), and so on.
[** I wonder how a demon would like it if a human possessed HIM, huh? I'd take total control over his every action...just to stand in line at the DMV. All day.]

Scenery props include regular animals such as cats, regular dogs, squirrels, goats, dead cows, an alleged butterfly or two, and halla, which are elvish (elven?) deer, I guess. No horses, though. Like that's a big surprise when it comes to Bioware's games.


Dragon Age: Origins


...And The Most Terrible Foe Of All:

The game itself. It hates you and wants you to die.


This Window Into A World You'd Never Wish To Enter

At the top left of the screen are the character portraits lined up vertically. Each one shows the face, health, and mana/stamina of each party member. Top middle is reserved for the various functions (Tactics, Journal, etc.). Top right is the map of the area. Bottom right is where the annoying Tool Tips pop up, much like that stupid paperclip in MS Word. Bottom left, covering the middle, is your quickbar. This is where you can stow shortcuts to your spells, talents, potions, etc.

That's essentially it for the HUD. You interact with the world mostly through a mouse pointer, which is far too small for anyone running at a good resolution. You can use the mouse solely to move, or you can use a combination of keyboard and mouse; if you want to move around like you're in a game that has a better interface, you need to hold down the right mouse button (assuming you're right-handed in this example) while steering with the mouse, and use the movement keys to actually move. Despite becoming second nature after extended use, it remains cumbersome and irritating, and it didn't do my mouse OR my wrist any good.**
[** Go ahead. Say it. There. Feel better now? Good. I hope you die.]


Remember: It's Not Technically "Murder" If They Beg You To Kill Them

Like anything worth something, this game has characters fleshing out the story.

...I'm not sure what that statement means. Not a friggin' clue. Moving on.

In this game you will find a menagerie of NPCs, some of them even worth engaging in conversation. Primarily though, you will be interacting with your party members more than anything, sometimes while naked.

...well...okay, you're all wearing underwear,** thanks to the legions of nervous mommies (fascist soccer moms!) and politicians (nutless douchebags!) who think that video games, not their saccharin parenting/brain-dead paranoia, is to blame for their kids going totally freuding bananas.
[** Because nudity is wrong and shameful in the eyes of whatever imaginary deity is currently in the lead.]

How about an overview of the characters? Because Odin knows that's easier than actually coming up with insights into a game featuring not only elves, but gay elves too. Okay, so he's bi. That doesn't change the fact that he's going to give you a reacharound at some point, which is mighty White of him.


Thankfully, not everyone or everything in the game wants to kill you, although you might feel like killing *them*; your companions, for example, aren't all out to get you. However, it's in your best interest -- on several levels -- to *keep* them friendly (through the use of gifts or encouragement, etc.), otherwise they might just pack up and leave. You might even have to fight a couple of them if your decisions aren't to their liking. For example, defiling a certain excessively-holy relic will cause the pious in your posse to turn on you; you'll be forced to kill them, thus depriving yourself of potentially useful meat shields helpers. It's best to make morally sound decisions...you know, if you like that sort of thing. Or you can be as evil as you want. They're not called "White" Wardens for a reason.

Lessee...there's Duncan, a senior Grey Warden who recruits you at the beginning of the game, no matter what your origin story. I liked Duncan a lot; I didn't think there was enough of him to go around, but then again...the story's all about YOU, isn't it? Selfish little bastard. I'd rather the entire story be about Duncan than you. I...I just can't look at you right now.

Dragon Age: Origins

[Long, tormented nap.]

Your first legitimate** companion, depending on your origin story, is Alistair. He was a Templar when Duncan recruited him into the Grey Wardens six months prior to your part in the story. He's a wisecrackin' ginger rascal with an infectious laugh. You have the ability to romance the hell out of him IF you are female. He makes a good tank, so max out his Strength and Constitution.
[** Ha! ...no, no...you'll see.]

If you play as a human noble, your first constant companion will be your Mabari Warhound (if not a human noble, you'll get the chance to add him to your party after a certain turning point in the plot), whose name is...up to you, really. This was a supremely nice touch on the part of the devs. I don't know about you, but I named my four-legged friend Dogmatix. He (or she?) is the only one in the bunch who loves you unconditionally no matter what, and no you can't have sex with the dog you sick freak.

But to console yourself, if you start as a human noble, you may have sex with a human male or an elf female (your gender doesn't matter so it's up to what suits you the most, really) early in the game a feature that none of the other origin stories have. I suppose that to the nobles go the spoils, as usual. There is definitely a bit of sex in this game (even more so if you donwload the good third-party mods) but as Zevran (another of your companions) would say: the Maker didn't give us these parts just to look pretty.

Speaking of bestiality, Morrigan is another companion you will pick up early on...after the aforementioned turning point from the above paragraph. Morrigan is a shape-changer, which makes the fact that you can (if male) romance her a decidedly uncomfortable prospect. Sure, she's all icy and cruel and maybe even a little bit evil...you know: total turn-on...but don't let that blind you to the horrible, horrible notion that out of whim or just plain meanness, she might decide to change into a giant spider at the worst possible moment.

All eight eyes glinting, mandibles chittering in demoniacal laughter as you helplessly spill your seed, screaming and screaming and screaming in horror, your mind forever shattered...

Oh, and she's a human apostate mage (a "Witch of the Wilds," so to speak), so you're going to want her in your party. Or so I'm led to believe. She dislikes just about every decision you make in regards to helping people ("Morrigan Disapproves -12" has become something of a tiresome meme...which is true of all memes, really), because she's a total pudenda.

Taller and thankfully more taciturn is Sten, a Qunari warrior. You'll find him in the first village you get to after recruiting Morrigan, and I can't say he's any more pleasant to have around than Morrigan at times. He questions your motives, your leadership abilities, and so on (even going so far as to attempt a mutiny if his opinion of you isn't high enough), but at least he has quite a few funny lines. Sten's another tank, but thanks to the insipidly SLOW nature of two-handed weapons, I'd suggest getting a respec mod that lets you turn his talents to something more useful, such as sword and shield or dual-wielding. Romance? You can't ask him to bang your gong no matter what, so I wouldn't worry about it.

Sten doesn't like helping people that much either, being a monomaniacal type (you recruit him to fight the Darkspawn and that's all he wants to do) in search of some form of atonement for his actions prior to your meeting. He will point out that certain decisions on your part are pointless and won't help defeat the Darkspawn...and damnably, the game is inflexible in this regard, not letting me retort, for example, that helping a certain person out will make our course of action easier.

Side Note: Some of my companions just aren't Big Picture people. Sten's the worst of the lot.

There's a difference between Sten and Morrigan though (aside the obvious) that is related to your character "coercion" skill (only the player has this skill as it is only intended for conversations). If your coercion is high enough you can often "persuade" Sten that the situation is not what he thinks or that a particular action can be necessary which will prevent loosing points with him and in some instance allow you to gain some. With Morrigan, your coercion level is of no use at all. You're confronted with her to an awful lot of no win situations where no matter what you say if you don't do as it pleases her, you'll loose points, period. It's not even open to discussion. Which is perfectly fine as it fits the "Me, Myself and I" character's personality. Her opinion is the only good one and the rest of the world is wrong.

On the lighter side of humanity (along with Wynne and Alistair), we have Leliana. Dear, Leliana. Sweet, delicious L...you get the idea. She's available for either male or female enjoyment, but I think it's only natural and good that my female character will lay with her beneath the moribund moon. By the fire. With a bunch of people watching HEY CAN'T WE GET A LITTLE PRIVACY HERE?!?

Side Note: "Share my tent" seems to be a metaphor, as I guess they couldn't get the camera in there. Dark, too. (And adding a night vision effect just turns it into a scene from Paris Hilton's only blockbuster hit.) So there you are by the fire, test-tasting and judging all that is Leliana's,** While I could see Alistair and Sten wandering around...yeesh.
[** With the first drop of your blood in her veins, I'll BET her face will be convulsed in mortal pain, what with your Darkspawn taint and all. Although I doubt you'll have the inclination to eat her corpse and thus turn into a Slipperman. But...my chocolate fingers smell like garlic. Why *is* that, brother John? Sure...don't answer. Why don't you and your honey pouch, which your slouch will wear very low, go play in the rapids?]

ANYWAY, Leliana is a bard from Orlais, which explains her accent. I've seen some backlash to the voice actress' accent, which is odd. She's French, providing a French accent, y'know. But what the hell do we Americans know about French accents? We think that they all sound like Pepe Friggin' Le Pew, for Azazel's sake.

Corrine Kempa did a very good job as Leliana (but I'm biased as Silver knows it). Being a dual language person (French/English) certainly helped although the accent there is very subtle. Another good example of a more pronounced French accent in the game although it is faked (but doesn't sound like it is) would be Arlessa Isolde in Redcliff. All other French accents in this game are hoplessly and blatantly faked... and worst they sound like being faked.

Your Mabari Warhound, [choose name], is four-legged fury. He (or she) is also the funniest of all the characters...well, everyone else's reactions to the dog makes him (or her) the funniest character. He's also handy to have in your group, considering that his Overwhelm ability is a useful weapon against bad guys, well-suited to the nickname of "mage-raper."

Wynne is, to put it bluntly, old. She's, like, 40 or something. She's all weary and aged, and doesn't hesitate to inform you of that fact in every frippiting conversation. She's also grandmotherly and can be quite annoying when you show some sort of confidence in your abilities. "Do not let your confidence blind you to your weaknesses, dearie. Want a cookie?" I switched her Ostacal with petrified rabbit doots... Anyway, she's a healer mage, which makes her quite useful.

Considering that you die quite a lot in Dragon Age even at the easiest difficulty setting, she's certainly the one companion you'll want to keep near.

Shale is a golem, available through the Stone Prisoner DLC. Shale's an excellent tank alternative, and keeps referring to you as "it." Could be worse.

Zevran is the bi elf who wants to give it to you SO HARD. He's also an assassin whom you meet in less than cordial circumstances. If you're not into funny smirking entendre-spewing elves, just kill him when you meet him.

By the way, these companions can be de-recruited through various means, leaving you just with the dog. (That is, only if you're a human noble; other origins can simply ignore the quest that would add him.)  Fine by me.

To Clarify, Sex

If you are male, you will have the chance to have sex with the following NPCs: Morrigan, Leliana, and Zevran.

If you are female, your choices are: Allistair, Leliana, and Zevran.

If you use certain mods, the field is wide open and you can pick and choose whomever you want. So I'd definitely go with the mods. Remember, I won't judge you...but that doesn't mean I won't laugh at you.


Dragon Age: Origins


It Doesn't Matter Whether You Win Or Lose; What Matters Is If You Had Several Of Your Ribs Removed So That You May Properly Congratulate Yourself For Beating The Game On Nightmare, You Dumbass Loser

Gameplay: this is where the game kills you every single time. If you are a careful player, open to utilizing tactics, then you probably won't have too many problems once you get the hang of it. That was the most optimistic statement in this review. And, like all examples of optimism, it is totally false.

See, the idea here is a so-called "tactical" RPG, something which Bioware seems to find interesting. Aesthetics fall by the wayside as the entire purpose of the game is to toss the player into a meat grinder.

Let me just say here, for the record, that some of Bioware's other games -- specifically, the Mass Effect series and Jade Empire -- were a lot of fun and weren't designed to make you hate yourself and everything everywhere forever. But for some reason, games like Neverwinter Nights and Dragon Age are more inclined to just kill you quickly and be done with it. I remember hating NWN and its stupid combat...but never mind that.

Happily, though: in contrast to NWN, DAO *is* playable, but it's infuriating if you don't plan your character carefully, by which I mean: start as a mage, unlock the Arcane Warrior specialization, and nothing will trouble you again. Melee characters (warriors, unless you pick up archery as a skill, or like the crossbow) will have a horrible time of it...in fact, warriors are just cannon fodder to distract the bad guys while rogues and mages toss arrows and magical goo at them, respectively. Rogues straddle the line between useless and useful, as archery is a great skill...but melee fighting is just asking for a headache.

Mages, however, do far better. Indeed, the gameplay is spectacularly unbalanced in favor of mages, which is reason enough to award Bioware at least one gold star for excellence. And when you think about it, this unbalance does fit in with the game: everyone's scared to death of powerful mages, and with good reason.

Indeed. After playing as a mage you understand why the Templars (the guys who are tasked with hunting down mages that go rogue) don't want to confront one unless they have a little army to back them up. Considering the number of "rogue" mages one encounters in the game, its obvious that Templars are not doing a very good job (probably too busy soiling their trousers). And Templars are especially trained to fight mages so other kind of warriors? Not even a match. Low level mages may experience some difficulties but it takes a lot to stop middle/high level mages.

Still, the warriors and rogue get it square in the nuts. A good strategy is to target enemy mages first and kill them as quickly as possible before anything else. This may prove a problem, as upon seeing you, many of them will rip away with a fireball or, curse them all to fiery damnation for all eternity, a Misdirection Hex. (One of the worst things in the game, besides being stuck in Crushing Prison by two mages who each keep spamming you with it.)

Ah, the infamous misdirection hex. Imagine that: during about 20 seconds, your character continues to perform attacks but absolutely none of them hits. Arrows get lost in the wilderness, sword cut thin air... Quite unnerving, especially because the enemy will probably reduce you in tiny bits before you have time to recover and without you being able to do anything to prevent it. Underestimating mages in Dragon Age is the worst possible error you could make.

And there's nothing better to fight mages than another mage. If you take the proper spell called Mana Clash (it's a high level one so not directly accessible at the beginning of the game) you can finish most mages in just two seconds if your spellpower is high enough. This spell nullify the mana of the enemy mage but also makes them loose as many hit points as the amount of mana they have lost. As most mages have more mana than life, the calculation is easy to do. And Mana Clash is an area of effect spell so you can target several mages at once. So not only mages are very good against any regular ground meat you throw at them but they are supremely good against other mages.


Dragon Age: Origins


Okay, while I say the game is playable, it's not without moments that make you wish you were a vengeful psycho angel of death smeared with the blood of the just and unjust alike. Instead of the snivelling pathetic pasty-faced weasel you actually are, I mean. Maybe it's just me. But what can you say when you get into encounters with overpowered bandits? Do what I do: I say "GODDAMMIT!" at the top of my lungs and break a keyboard. Okay, not  anymore. A long time ago I learned the John Bonham method of peripheral slamming: how to hit something and make a loud, satisfying sound without breaking it. For example, an optical mouse, slammed flat on a Func mousepad, will make a satisfying sound without killing it. Multiple slams, accompanied by an enraged "GRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAG!" is a fine stress reliever, and is far more satisfying than squeezing a rubber sand-filled object. Those things are for touchy-feely New Age vegan pussies anyway. Stumbling outside in a rage to sledgehammer the neighbor's dog, now THAT'S the way to deal with stress. And, when your neighbor shoots your ass for killing his spaniel/rat mix, you can die easy, knowing that you've killed one more example of mankind's fudgery with canine genetics.

But as I was just about to say, it's a tad infuriating to survive an epic battle with a planned encounter, and then travel to a new location via the map, only to be jumped by a sugarload of overpowered bandits, or a sugarload of overpowered Darkspawn, or a sugarload of overpowered wolves, on your journey. These random encounters are by far the thing I hate most about the game (besides the Overwhelm ability that the dratted werewolves and spiders use far too often on my character): they don't seem to be scaled very well (everything in the world is better than you! HA!), and they're annoying as fork-all.

For example: a tiny section of forest with a narrow path leading up to a ridge. A perfect ambush point, yes, but I would have hoped that my group was smart enough NOT to blunder into obvious traps...a futile hope, as it turns out. Of course, the path to the boss bandit (of course there's a boss...almost every single encounter has an overpowered boss!) is strewn with fireball traps and leg hold traps...and it doesn't help to try and disarm them. If you tell your party to hold up while you (or your rogue) attempts to disarm them -- if the skills in question aren't good enough, that's too diddly-dum bad for you -- the bad guys will just kill your guys while you disarm it. If you don't hold your guys back, they'll just blunder into the trap and everythig will get a lot worse than it was. I...just hate it. I really do. It makes no sense, and it's a serious drain on my already-thin patience.

In short, the random encounters while traveling is a stupid feature that should've been canned.

Although the most stupid of all the random encounters does not even feature a fight. it's a merchant dwarf you meet on the Imperial Highway and that the game typically throws at you when it doesn't find any ambush to pester you with. Problem is: this merchant does not level up (likely a bug) so at the end of the game when you're likely to encounter him a lot because you exhausted all other possible encounters, he will propose you the same very low level crap, and when I say "low level" I mean the kind of stuff you start the game with. And like if one time wasn't enough, the game is likely to make you meet him several times... possibly in a row. Only things interesting this guy has to sell are a book and a couple of gifts for your party. Once you bought them all the game should stop pestering you with this useless guy but it doesn't. Sometimes you just feel like killing him but its not even an option.


Dragon Age: Origins


Plastics...I Mean, Tactics.

One alleged feature of DAO is Tactics. Bringing up the Tactics screen and assigning actions to your henchmen/followers/companions/WHATEVER is assumed to be the key to life itself.

Don't believe it. Relying on default tactics will be the death of you and everyone else in your party. Unless you manage them extensively, your companions will let you down every single time. They're morons, what can I say? (Again: "GODDAMMIT!") Your melee types will not take healing unless you direct them to do so via tactics; your mages will not be overtly useful unless you specifally tell them what to do in a given situation (for example, "use Cone Of Cold on the big scary freaking dragon instead of shooting weak little zaps at it from your staff, you goddamn idiot"); and your archery-gifted rogues will switch to melee the first chance they get. (I have not yet found the magic words that will get them to hang back and use their bows...they always switch to their daggers and run directly into the middle of the whole mess.) Leliana is a friggin' idiot on so many levels, by the way. She keeps switching to melee, even though I specced her to be a great archer, and she talks about the Maker constantly. Frak the Maker, I say. Just learn to use the fruit-cupping bow, you ding-dong.

The only tactical trick in Dragon Age is the same than used in Neverwinter Night: the spacebar (which pauses the game while allowing you to issue orders to your party). If you really want to go tactical with this game (and as only one order can be queued for each member of your party) it goes like that: Strike with your sword -- HIT THE SPACEBAR -- check the health of all the party, tell your mage to cast Crushing Prison on the enemy mage other there, tell your warrior to intercept the bad guy who obviously want to go after your mage, tell your archer that it's better to fire arrows on the enemy archers rather than on the guy who's standing right at their feet especially because he's the one that your rogue is currently attacking (dammit) -- HIT THE SPACEBAR -- Go with a couple of sword strikes and -- HIT THE SPACEBAR -- do the check / order thing all over again. Tedious but well, it can be done for those with a huge well of that thing called "patience". Generally the tactical screen is OK for quick and messy combat with few or no challenging opponents but it simply is not extended enough to replace the spacebar and common human sense in all those difficult fights where one has to micro-manage combat (and in Dragon Age it happens a lot). Plus there is not enough tactical slots available to make the thing really interesting even when you fully max out your tactical skill.



Dragon Age: Origins


Talents, Skills, And Other Things Requiring Eternal Vigilance

Each class has its own set of skills and such.

Warriors have Weapon &Shield, Dual Wielding, Archery, and Two-Handed. Which one you focus on really depends on you, but I'd recommend staying away from Two-Handed unless you have a mod that increases attack speed. Without one, it'll take you a week to swing a greatsword. It's a total mystery as to why anyone thought it'd be a good idea for this skill to be so cumbersome and useless...sure, two-handers inflict more damage per swing in addition to some nice abilities...but if they were trying to balance the game, they screwed up already by making mages more powerful than a minor deity.

Rogues have Dual Wielding, Archery, and...well, that's about it for their offensive capabilities. The rest encompass such things as stealth and lockpicking. You can even try pickpocketing an enemy while in combat if you're good enough, but that begs the question: why would you want to??

Mages have access to an incredible array of spells, divided into four "schools" of magic: Primal (explosions! yay!), Creation (mostly healing), Entropy (spite-based magic), and Spirit (even more spite-based magic).

Not much to say. Every class has access to the same basic skills (Herbalism, Poison-making, Coercion, Stealing, Trap-Making, etc.), so...yeah. That's fantastic.

Now that I think about it, I'm so very glad I added this section. It really brings the whole review together, don't you think?


No, No, No...The Greatest Thing I Ever Saw Was A Pair Of 38s...

Although the game isn't the most fantastic thing you've ever seen, it is adequate. Mostly. At many times. Some places, such as the terrain around Redcliffe, I found quite pleasant...although that may have been enhanced by the lighting. The lighting, by the way, I liked a lot. Very natural.

Character models, however, fall a bit short of great. They're *okay* you see...not great. Let's just say that the face animations and skin textures, etc., aren't mind-blowing in any way, but it's good enough, I suppose. I have a fairly good system, which I insisted be aimed at the visual side of games. But it seems that most of what it deals with are the horrendous memory leaks...if they had fixed the memory leaks and worked a bit more on making the textures a bit more crisp than a 512x512 texture can pull off, then this game would've looked a lot better.


...They Were On A Japanese Girl, Who Was Eating A Drippy Coconut Dreamsicle. God bless Japan.

In any given category of wearables and weapons, there are only several variations on each. This is mitigated slightly by throwing a color overlay on them so they don't all look the same, but that only fools children and simpletons.

Well...maybe not either one. Children are sharper than you think (at least until they're marched off to the lobotomy factories we Americans call our educational system), and I've seen plenty of simpletons complaining about the textures online, so I guess Bioware's ploy fooled no one except for the special brand of simpletons known as "Xbox 360 owners."

Further explanation: let's say that you have chainmail armor. Now, depending on the quality of the material (Iron, Grey Iron, Steel, Veridium, Red Steel, Silverite, Dragonbone), your armor will have various strengths, durability, etc.; however, the one thing that singularly marks them as different is the tint of the armor. Red Steel features an ugly red overlay, the Veridium features an ugly green overlay, and so on. It's a cheap way of doing things. Each armor weight (light, medium, heavy, massive) has several variations, and each of those has its own material type. While this provides a robust array of choices, it's still lazy.


[AND I WILL TRY TO TURN THEM INTO USEFUL BITS -- yeah because that's the kind of game we play Silver and me when we're bored :)) ]

Dragon Age: Origins


Bitter Annoyances

  • Being able to see an archer on a platform, but not being able to hit him with a ranged weapon. My shots are blocked for no reason other than he is on a platform and I am not. So I have to lope over to the bastard in my stupid bow-legged jog (which is a much kinder description than "...in my stupid just-crapped-my-greaves hobble") and get on the same platform he is to kill him.

    True. Doesn't happen a lot with a mage staff but with arrows? Constantly. It's even more curious because if your dexterity is high enough, your arrows become guided missiles that will track your target to the farthest corner of Thedas (I saw some of them make a 90° turn, really). But those missiles are apparently not smart enough to overcome the really huge obstacle that is a tiny rock at your feet.
  • Having someone say something to me in one of the faux languages, and then they translate into English (or whatever I'm speaking in-game). Why didn't they just say it in my language in the first place? Save time. What's worse is playing, for example, a Dalish Elf and my own clan members switching back and forth between Elvish and English (again: or whatever). A staged sample: "What are you doing? Stop that this instant! Do you want the shemlen -- the humans -- to see you doing that??"

    If I am -- against all common sense -- rolling an Elf, I think that perhaps I wouldn't need someone of my own race to translate my own language to me while we're speaking "English." Instead, why not come up with a list of common Elvish terms and list them in the Codex? If I'm confused about whatever the hell my Elven cohorts are saying, then I can refer to the handy entry in the Codex. Simple, right? And it wouldn't require ponderous underlining of a concept. Like now.
  • I need an understanding of poison-making to throw a flask of caustic liquid? And why is my range so limited? I have to be up in their grill before I can throw a firebomb, for example...this is not something I, a squishy flammable creature, would suggest doing. If they're going to tack on stupid prerequisites for throwing a simple bottle of acid, why not make it interesting: call it the "Wild Thing" skill. Four ranks of skill in pitching bottles of liquid death: speed and range increase with each rank, until at Master rank, you can rip a 110-mph fastflask right into the face of a darkspawn 60 feet away, taking his head clean off.

    I tend to stay away from bombs are they are pretty much useless anyway. Unlike your sword, daggers, arrows and whatnot, they do the exact same amount of damage in all circumstances whatever your attributes levels are. Same applies to the basic attack from a mage staff. The power of mages is in their spells not in their staves.
  • Why do the mage robes suck? The one cool one in the game, Morrigan's, you can't equip! Feh on the lot of you!

    Curiously elven standard mage robes -- that is if you start the game as a Circle of Magi elf -- are much more refined than human mage robes. To the Circle it seems that humans are the second-class citizens.
  • Frustrating: no cross-classing. You cannot be a mage who knows how to pick a lock, nor can you be a rogue who casts spells. You can be a mage who is good at combat (especially once you pick up the Arcane Warrior specialization), but by then you're a walking magical catastrophe anyway and won't even need to bother with weapons.

    Dare I say that "there is a mod for that too"? Well, in fact there is a mod on the Nexus that unlocks all specializations and all talents including spells (everything accessible on levelup) whatever your character class is. Pure cheating, I agree... But after a nth playthrough it feels really good to be able to cross-class without any limits...
  • Morrigan: besides being a total douche-nozzle, her Renaissance Faire-tinged linguistic flourishes make me want to punch her in the mouth. The total package, which includes her goodies on public display, inspired me to dub her the 'Tis 'Twas Tits Twat.

    I've seen the actress who does the voice-over for Morrigan (Claudia Black) in some of her other work (mainly TV series) and she can be hilarious, really... However as Morrigan she is... NOT. I'd venture a guess that she wasn't meant to be hilarious so she really did a fine job at that.
  • You should not confuse "abilities" with "magic." Though they look extremely similar in practice, appearing to be almost the same thing to ignorant nose-picking yahoos such as yourself, they are totally different. Yes. Totally different. And please, at all costs refrain from pointing out that Templars use magic too. They use anti-magic, which is the complete opposite of magic, even though it looks suspiciously identical to magic itself. Remember: it's not what happens, it's who makes it happen. Mages use magic. Others utilize their abilities. Got it? Of course you do.

    Refer to my previous note about cross classing.
  • Blocked! Blocked! Blocked! Blocked by invisible things! Blocked by a slight rise in elevation! Blocked by bounding boxes! This game is shot-blocking me!

    Please... Could someone prepare Mr Sorrow personal straightjacket... Yeah, the one with titane padlocks and shock electrodes... Thank you!
  • The dialog options aren't all that great. They usually depend on this or that, but your choices aren't always how you would respond to circumstances as a normal person might; this implies a failure on the part of whoever was in charge of dialog. I think someone who knows how people talk to each other would be an actual boon to NPC interaction, but then again, what do I know? Perhaps this is something that is understood in RPG circles and I, as a casual RPG enthusiast,** am missing the point entirely. I just think that it would have been more interesting if my character's responses could have been more in keeping with the character.

    If anything, they usually come across as fundamentally naive, even downright whiny. When my armored egg...uh...Dwarf is accused of a spolier-specific crime, this weathered bastard can squeal "but it wasn't me!" like a teenage girl being accused of...of...something that teen girls do that causes them to get into trouble, whatever that might be. (Shoplifting frosted pink nail polish or knob-polishing the entire boy's basketball team...whatever.)

    For example, as I confront -- how I hate that word and all it implies...go to Hell, Oprah! -- a certain incredibly spoileriffic individual at an extremely spoiler-centric event, the person is able to rant at my character about all sorts of things, and I'm reduced to these lame-ass responses that make me want to immolate the writers. As this game is an awkwardly clunky exercise in excruciating verbal masturbation, you can't just grab that person by his armored collar and punch the asshole out, no...you have to listen to the ranting, throw in a few stupid responses -- and God help you if you choose the wrong thing to say -- and probably get into yet another stupidly difficult fight.

    As much as I hate human interaction, this game's narrow, isolationist dialog makes me miss talking to actual people, if only a little.

    My own personal disappointment with the dialogs (other than the fact that they are sometimes not as well handled as they could have been and that the way they are presented appears to be coming directly from the RPG pre-history period -- I thought we were clear from the voiceless main characters in RPG games then I met DA:O) is that often different choices result in the exact  same character reaction (I mean the character talking to YOUR character). So why having a choice of things to say if it is for having the same result? Personally I have no idea. As for my other notes I'll keep them for an upcoming review since it would involve a comparison with another Bioware game that has just been released *wink* *wink*
  • You can't even jump, for Garfunkel's sake!

    Apparently common to all games based on the Neverwinter Nights game engine or one of its descendants (For Dragon Age: Origin, the Eclipse engine).  The Witcher was like that too. Not that jumping would be particularly useful in Dragon Age...
  • There comes a certain point -- in the game, I mean -- when you face a potentially impossible battle of epic proportions. This occurs after a specific point late in the game, and your entire party's defeat is meant to happen, should you choose to fight. You can either fight and they will stomp the snot out of you, or you can give up and keep your snot, whereupon it will be extracted via unpleasant methods at the (implied) torture scene later on. Either way, you end up being captured and tossed in the pokey. I assume they call it "the pokey" because it involves invasive anal torment, and in no way refers to Gumby's beloved sidekick.

    Back up a moment: you *can* win the fight if you're skilled enough, but the game really wants you to lose this battle. "Dying" doesn't mean a reload in this specific case, it just means that you've been rendered snotless through repeated stomping and will eventually wake up in a cell wearing only your underwear. The actual battle involves a zillion overpowered foes and one tremendously, RIDICULOUSLY, overpowered boss (who would likely win against a high dragon with both arms tied behind her back, thanks to her stupidly-buffed stats)...so yeah: they want you to lose for the purpose of plot.

    Now that I've explained that, let me assure you that I have no love for this development. My character is an ass-kicking Grey Warden, someone who has destroyed HORDES of monsters and other crap, but then I'm expected to just acquiesce to being taken prisoner, even being defeated by a bunch of glorified guards??

    Who the bleeding hell does Bioware think they are, anyway??

    This is yet another example of the piss-poor story transitions that litter this game; there's no innovation behind this "twist" and...hell. There's no innovation anywhere anymore, so I shouldn't let it bother me in this case.

    Anyway, the whole point of the exercise is to get two of your followers to go through some sort of allegedly amusing subplot in order to spring you from the joint. Goin' over the wall and under the wire. Whatever. Yes, the comic relief is good, but let's be honest here: the whole stinking mess blows. It's not within my character's makeup to simply give up, nor is it within the bounds of sanity that he or she should be wiped out by mere guards and the right-hand person of Big Bad Boss Guy.

    Big bad boss guy who is ridiculously underpowered compared to his lieutnant. Go figure.
  • And that's another thing: why do we have boss fights, anyway? Has imagination become so stagnant that--

    --I just answered my own question, I think...


Dragon Age: Origins


Frequently Overheard Comments In This Very Room, And Possible Explanations

"Goddammit, people!"
[Various explanations. My followers are morons.]

"Protect your mage, ya dumb verybadword!"
[All of my followers were concentrating on a small group of Genlocks, while I -- playing a mage -- was being massacred by four Hurlocks. Crap tactics.]

"Stand...stand STILL, goddamn you!"
[I have trouble clicking on containers and the like, because my followers are glued to my ass; whenever I make the slightest move in any direction, they have to rush around and get in the way and I click on them by mistake instead of the container, ending up in a conversation with them and I have to say "Never mind." Drives me NUTS.]

"Get out of the way, verybadwordhead!"
[See above.]

"[Very bad word beginning with an 'f', drawn out by its single vowel]!"

"I am in a happy place! I am running through a meadow and there's a beautiful girl in pigtails running through the wildflowers with me!"

"Now I'm in a wide-open field with long grass and I'm flying a red kite!"
[Very often.]

[Every single bad-wording time I play.]

"Me? I'm just a lawnmower. You can tell me by the way I walk."
[In reference to some other game I was playing at the same time, but it always makes me happy just saying it.]

"The damn dog is smarter than all of my other henchmen put together."
[I hate my stupid followers.]


Dragon Age: Origins


Character Creation And Other Self-Torments

In-game character creation is okay; the options are limited and sometimes lead to some wonky results (strangely truncated noses, for example). Oblivion, by contrast, had an incredible number of option, but all the stupid sliders were dependent upon each other and you could screw up the face completely by a single accidental click. I finally became tired with the vanilla facegen in DAO and went to the Toolset to make my characters' faces. The options are far more comprehensive and you have a lot more control over features. With that said, I wish the eye shape, cheekbone, and nose controls had more options. Not a lot of freedom there, really.

A standalone tool for character creation exists in the Dragon Age Character Creator. This allows you to put together a bare-bones character for uploading to the social network,** as well as importing into the game. (However...the game, as far as I could tell, doesn't have a shiny little button that says "upload character." Oversight? Incompetence? One wonders.) This allows a bunch of people to upload their lame attempts at interesting characters, all for the world to mock and laugh at. Another blonde with gigantic lips. Yay.
[** I identify "social networking" with "social disease"; thus you can see my distaste for interaction of any type.]

Personally, I obsess so much over my character's appearance that I've restarted games from the midpoint, just because I didn't like her cheekbones. I would seek help, but it all seems so futile, what with all the other, larger issues staring back at me in the mirror every morning.

Anyway, the Character Creator WOULD be a great resource, except for several drawbacks that turn the entire concept into one gigantic, useless clusterverybadword:

What Worked For Me: A possible solution is to open your profile diagnostics page on the social site, open DAO via the launcher, make a hard save with the character you want to update, then do a few things (change clothing, armor parts, etc.), play for a few minutes (performing a minor quest is ideal), and alt+tab back to the diagnostics page. It should either update on a refresh or tell you something about the site being busy...either way, check back later and you should see your character updated, maybe even a new avatar uploaded, and so on. If not, don't worry about it.

Of course, if I could keep myself from worrying about it, figuring out how to get it working wouldn't have been necessary in the first place.

Myself, I just disconnected from the server after the patch 1.04 because of all the mess with the DLC authentication process. I never connected again after that. I recommend it. Alleviates a lot of stress. But then again, the first thing I did when I installed the game was to turn off any communication with the server, including profile updates, a feature that as far as I'm concerned is the most useless in there.


Hark The Herald Strumpets Sing

I barely register the music to RPGs anymore. This game's music, for example, is like a pseudo-Celtic version of Mass Effect, but nowhere as good. (I'm somewhat biased in favor of Mass Effect, if you haven't noticed yet.) And then there's the licensed music...while I liked the Aubrey Ashburn material a great deal, I was sorely disappointed by the inclusion of 30 Seconds To Mars' "This Is War," which is a dubiously shining example of all that is wrong with modern mainstream rock today. I hated that stupid song. If they wanted something more appropriate to the game, they should've gone with Cycle Sluts From Hell's "By The Balls."


Dragon Age: Origins


Change Sucks

Yes, mods are very much possible. (By contrast, Mass Effect 2 is almost as intransigent as its predecessor.) For *other* people to make, I mean. Because the Dragon Age Toolset is just about the unfriendliest, unintuitive editor I've messed with in a long time.

However, keep in mind that I had problems with editors for Doom, Unreal, and Half-Life. I'm just not a technically-oriented person, nor do I have the creativity necessary to put it all together. While every other kid was making elaborate Lego sculptures, I just made little tombs for my Star Wars and G.I. Joe figures. Multi-colored tombs. Because I may have had nine million Legos, but they were never in a *theme*, if you catch my meaning. My parents did their best,** but it was cheaper to buy them in small amounts than buying, for example, a Lego Death Star. But when you consider that, I'd just have a bunch of gray Legos. Boring. Anyway, I have a better time of it using words instead of my hands, which hurt all the time now anyway. This helps my typing a great deal, as you can imagine. Not that I ever learned to type correctly.
[** Working on radar systems for Raytheon wasn't exactly a high-paying job for my dad. But at least it paid more than the motherf**king Air Force did. "Join the Air Force! Watch your family starve to death!"]

Waitaminit...whatever happened to my Legos, anyway? I've never given it any thought before, but now...

ANYWAY, the Toolset is made for people who can handle such things, those who have been fiddling with Bioware's editors for years on end. I much prefer the friendly atmosphere of Bethesda's editors (the Elder Scrolls Construction Set [TESCS] and the Fallout 3 editor [the G.E.C.K.] which...well, I never did anything elaborate really (I'm from the Humanities, remember?), but I managed just enough to be dangerous to myself and several others. Different engines, different ways of doing things, I understand. But it's far more fun to just right-click in the armor section, select new, add in all the stats, assign the art/materials, drop it in a box, save, load up the game, find the box, get your new armor, and enjoy.

Well, the Toolset's a little different. By which I mean a LOT different. First, you have to choose "Manage Modules." Then you have to go on a long, tedious trip where nothing is fun. The inflexibility is maddening, as is the fact that very little is explained. Going to the DA Builder Wiki is futile, as I very little of use to me with what I was doing. ("Oh...that's helpful," I snarled often in the most sarcastic way imaginable.) That's a curious aspect of the Bioware community, I found: I saw a lot of pleas for help with certain issues, but they either go unanswered or are answered with condescending disdain (in a way meant to be technically confusing) so that it probably would've been more merciful just to have left the original question unanswered. But what's the use of teh intrawebs if you can't rip someone a new one with your awesomeness?

In fact, after several days' worth of researching and following tutorials, I finally managed to get custom armor in-game and (sort of) working. At which point it dawned on me: so fudging what?!? I spent three days on this and I learned very little of use; I was just following instructions. I can't apply any of this to ANY part of my life! And I don't even like the game that much!

In summary:

  • The Toolset isn't designed for the casual modder.

    Which is fine as 99% of the gamers out there won't even bother downloading the toolset in the first place (especially because it comes with an installation bug that requires from you to manually set up a database hence to have at least a basic knowledge of how MySQL Server 2005 works). It takes a particular brand of masochists like us to tinker with it.
  • The community is rampant with retards.
  • My time "modding" would have been better spent learning something useful, such as how to reattach digits after an unpleasant encounter with power tools.


Dragon Age: Origins


Bring It Home, Satchmo

Dragon Age: Origins is a game that defied my usual conception of a "good" game. I usually like my games a lot less touchier, but I had fun regardless. I mean, there were moments when I would have gladly sold the developers into slavery, but there were also moments when I was glad I had bought the thing. One of those Loathe/Like things, I guess. The frustrations outnumbered the good stuff, but I played it almost constantly for a couple of months. That means it was good. I think. I may just be confusing "something to do while bored out of my mind" with "good." Either way, I'll take it.

Overall, Dragon Age: Origin is better than what the tone of the review might led you to think. If you play it just once you probably won't even notice the gazillion of little things that get on the nerves during subsequent playthroughs. You'll pretty much notice the overall difficulty of combat though, especially on the first playthrough. That's the one really bad point of the game, associated to a blatant unbalance between the different character classes. It maybe the only RPG where the class likely to die the most quickly is the warrior, especially when equipped with a two handed weapon.


The Envelope Please, Ms. Li...And Please Stop Rubbing Your Body Against Mine. You Insatiable Goddess, You.

I give it an 8 out of 10.


And Finally...


Maybe once they're done with Mass Effect 3 and its DLC? The Return Of Scholar Ling!


Game Rated 8/10

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