Video Game Thoughts: Dragon Age: Origins

Dragon Age: Origins was a 2009 computer role-playing game by Bioware that I played on the PC. It followed the classic Bioware form. The player created their own hero in the beginning from several choices. They got treated to some cinematics and dialogue to give some background on their character and the world. Then they were left to explore, meet people, and solve the world’s problems. Most of the world’s problems were solved through combat. Dragon Age: Origins featured a top-down, tactical, combat system. The player’s character and the others that joined their party had several skills and weapons to choose from based on their class and the choices they made when they leveled up. In typical Bioware fashion, the main quest objectives could be completed in any order. In other words, the player could explore the various locations of the world in any order.

My history with Bioware goes back to the original Baldur’s Gate in 1998. One of my friends in elementary school picked it up. Eventually, he let me borrow it and even burned a copy of it illegally (I didn’t care in those days). I had an absolute blast. After a few years of releasing great role-playing games for PC, Bioware went on a console streak. They did release ports for PC, but the stories and game mechanics were simplified for the console audience. Finally, they went back to their roots with Dragon Age: Origins. It was a PC-first game. This meant all the development was focused on making it a great PC game first before they even thought about porting it to consoles.

Dragon Age: Origins oozed quality just like Baldur’s Gate did. The graphics, sound, voice acting, characters, story, and more were all amazing. The only downside, which was really big for me, was the maturity of this title. There was a lot of blood and guts. There were sex scenes if I chose the romance options with party members. Also, the world was very dark and depressing compared to Baldur’s Gate’s bright and inviting world. Baldur’s Gate’s world was very dangerous, but a place I’d want to explore more. It was hard for me to get into Dragon Age: Origins, so hard that the first time I played the game I ended up stopping only around 10% of the way into it. It took another year for me to come back to it and finish it. I really only did it to get my money’s worth out of the purchase I had made.

I can’t say this is a bad game though. I think had I played it way back around the time of Baldur’s Gate I probably would have loved it. It just didn’t fit my older preferences. Because of my stronger faith in Catholicism these days, I try to avoid anything that makes me feel bad in a fantasy world. In real life there are many things it’s okay to feel bad about. That’s what motivates me to help out. I see people in need, and I want to do something about it. In a game though, it’s just wasting my mental energy.

Dragon Age: Origins had several downloadable content packs (DLC) and one large expansion released for it. The version of the game I got included everything, but I never touched any of the DLC other than the ones that were “add-ons” to the base game’s world. I’m sure the expansion and other DLC were great for the players who loved the game, but I was just too bored at this point.

The Stone Prisoner DLC

The Stone Prisoner added a new companion to the game, Shale. I really liked his personality. He kind of reminded me of Alfred the Butler from Batman. He had an English accent and a cheerful outlook. Compared to the darkness of the world in Dragon Age, Shale was refreshing. The game mechanics for him were a little weak though. He had no equipment whatsoever except these special gems or jewels that functioned as his weapons. All his abilities came from the skills the player chose for him. He was very powerful, but there was very little thinking required. This DLC also came with a short quest to awaken Shale from his paralysis. It played like a detective mystery. I had to find clues and solve puzzles to complete it. This was a nice break from the endless combat most of the rest of the game features.

Warden’s Keep DLC

The Warden’s Keep was one of the downloadables that should have been in the base game. This DLC added a good-sized dungeon to the game. Once completed, the dungeon became the player’s base of operations. Really, the base game should have had a base for the player to call their own. It also featured a nice storage chest. This chest had no limit to how many items that could be stored it in. Instead of having to hold all the useful items I found, I was able to store some I didn’t need yet in the chest. This was especially useful with crafting materials. Until I got all the crafting ingredients I needed, they just took up space in the inventory.

Blood Dragon Armor DLC

The Blood Dragon Armor DLC wasn’t much. All it did was add a set of armor to the game. The player started with one piece in their inventory and the rest were bought from a vendor. I had no issue with adding more items to the game, but they should have done it in an interesting way, such as a nice quest line to recover it. Instead, it was pretty much dumped in my inventory. I did have to buy some of the pieces, but they were all available from the guy in the camp. It was one of the best armor sets in the game, so early on for a Warrior, I never had any interest in later armor pieces I picked up.

Return to Ostagar DLC

In this one, the player could go back to one of the earlier battle areas and explore it for some more story. In the original game, it didn’t make sense why some characters did what they did. As its name says, this DLC let the player return to Ostagar to get some answers. Basically, around the battlefield the player could find things to examine. Eventually, they could find the body of one of the main characters that perished and do a proper funeral for them. This downloadable has more insight into the game world, more lore, and more story, exactly what I look for in DLC. The only bad thing I could say about it was the short length, thirty minutes or less to do everything.

Feastday Gifts and Pranks DLC

Much like the Blood Dragon Armor, this DLC pack just added some items to the game to make it easier. I never like this type of DLC. It doesn’t really enhance the game. It just makes it easier. That’s not what I look for in DLC. I want more content that I like in the base game, which in this case was more story and combat. That was what the game did well, so that was what all the DLC should have focused on. The Feastday Gifts and Pranks were just shortcut items that let the player boost their character’s relationship with party members quickly and easily. It was basically a cheat code. They did cost some money to buy but not much compared to the utility. I guess this DLC was made for those that had played the game several times and just wanted to see certain relationship-related story scenes. This type of DLC was really made for a MMO, where the player can give gifts to their friends and loved ones.

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