Published Nov 19, 2009Long before BioWare won over the sci-fi world with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect, the Edmonton, AB-based studio built its rep on their beloved series of Dungeons & Dragons-licensed computer role-playing games like Neverwinter Nights and Baldur's Gate.
Well, cue the clarion call and let fantasy fans rejoice because the developers have gone home again, crafting an all-original single-player epic, Dragon Age: Origins. Dubbed the "spiritual successor" to uncontested classic Baldur's Gate II, BioWare's latest title offers the bar-none best swords and sorcery world since Oblivion.
Like BioWare's previous efforts, Dragon Age also lets the player's moral actions determine the game's direction, if not its ultimate outcome. But this time morality is computed within the code rather than onscreen (just like the theoretical dice-throwing), which adds a deeper level of grey to the proceedings.
It also means that your good and evil choices aren't always clear, so choose wisely, as each decision can have wide-ranging implications. Even your original pick of race (human, elf or dwarf) and class (warrior, rogue or mage) will set you off on one of six completely different origin stories, hence the title, although after an hour or so, you'll wind up in the same basic place.
Make no mistake, this game is intended for the hardcore RPGer ― the folks who pine for the AD&D days of pen and paper role-playing ― and there's a shit-ton of character customization, party micromanagement, real-time strategic combat and tactics, not to mention a mind-bogglingly complex back-story for their sprawling new game world, Ferelden.
The admittedly boilerplate plot involves you joining the mysterious warrior cult known as the Grey Wardens. With the help of a small party, you must fight an invasion of up-from-the-depths demonic Darkspawn, as well deal with surface-dwelling traitors and a raging civil war. You must unite the races and defeat the monsters in small skirmishes and full-blown battles. The game will entertain for weeks, if not months, as players drop in and out of the main story in favour of wandering the lands and whiling away hours with side-quests and random explorations.
It's not a cutting-edge game, by any means, graphically or otherwise ― there is nothing groundbreaking. These are familiar races in familiar struggles across familiar landscapes inspired by familiar sources like J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.
But BioWare transcends its traditional dark fantasy tropes with their richly developed characters, multi-pronged plot and deeply detailed game world. Ultimately, Dragon Age: Origins is another classic RPG from the company that helped define what that means. (BioWare/EA)