Dragon Age is, quite simply, awesome! I don’t want to give too much away in terms of spoilers, so I’ll just give the simple description of the story provided by Bioware – “You are a Grey Warden, one of the last of an ancient order of guardians who have defended the lands throughout the centuries. Betrayed and abandoned by a trusted general in a critical battle, you must hunt down the traitor and bring him to justice.”
So, if I’m not going to talk too much about the story, what am I going to talk about? The graphics, the control system, and favorable and unfavorable comparisons to similar Xbox games – Mass Effect, Oblivion and Fable II.
First, the graphics. I’ve got to say, I think the graphics are amazing. The engine seems really solid, and maintains a deent pace even when the screen is loaded with enemies. I’ve heard complaints that only the engine is used, and that FMV (full motion video) should have been used for cutscenes. Personally, I prefer the consistency of style, especially with graphics that look this good anyway, but if you want fully endered cutscenes, you’ll hit a slight disappointment. The game is 18 rated, and you’ll soon see why – it’s bloody! Sword fights normally end up with your adventurers covered in bloodstains, and that adds to the feel of the game – its almost deliberately making you aware of the consequences of your actions, good and bad.
The control system can take some getting used to, and though I haven’t taken the path, I suspect it might be a little frustrating playing as a mage. Essentially, you have two methods to activate items and talents or spells – you can work through a radial menu to find absolutely anything you can do, or you assign specific talents to the main coloured buttons on the controller (with the right trigger allowing a second set of options). Thats only 6 choices in total. For fighter and rogue types, I don’t think thats too limiting, but for mages with a range of spells, it might prove more limiting. The oddest thing I found was the use of the green button in combat to initiate standard attacks – once its started, you don’t need to button mash – it’ll keep going. I’m used to having to click for every stroke, so that was odd at first, but really useful – it lets you step back, keep an eye on your whole team and work out special attacks without leaving your characters in trouble.
The voice acting is generally top notch, with the only disappointment being that youtr character is voiceless – they haven’t recorded all the options with all the possible voices for your character. Thats mixed – I don’t mind it, but it can spoil the immersion.
The game will obviously be compared to various other roleplaying games. Mass Effect is obviously science fiction rather than fantasy, but is unsurprisingly closest to Dragon Age in style, though I prefer the darker sweep and harder moral choices in Dragon Age. If you liked Mass Effect, and don’t mind a fantasy setting, you’ll like this!
Fable II is possibly the closest comparison in many ways, with the dog and character development. The main difference here is the adult tone of Dragon Age … in a grown up sense, rather than anything filthy 🙂
Oblivion is a harder comparison. Speaking for myself, I’m addicted to Dragon Age (my lady fair now refers to herself as an Xbox widow since Christmas), and I couldn’t get into Oblivion in the same way. Dragon Age is heavily story driven – you have lots of paths through the game, and your choices matter, but the main readon to play is to find out what happens next, and you don’t really have the freedom to ignore the plot and wander off totally at random. Oblivion, on the other hand, has real freedom … but I find too much. I get bored wandering around trying to work out what I should be doing – I prefer a higher level of story telling to sandboxing.
In summary, this game is brilliant, and terribly addictive once you master the tactical combat interface, and stop trying to button mash on auto pilot! Alan, I think you’d enjoy playing through this for story. James, I’m not so sure its your cup of tea, as I know you favor a faster FPS type of game – but if you enjoyed Fable II I think you’ll like this.