I’ve finally completed Dragon Age Origins and overall it’s the first BioWare game I’ve mostly not enjoyed, despite wanting to like it all the way through. The last three hours were painful and, although final bossfights tend to let me forget how much hassle they were moments after beating them, I still can’t forgive DAO after half a day and feel I’ve wasted far too much time on this game.
So wasting another 40 minutes on a spoileriffic post that shouldn’t be read by anyone who hasn’t completed the game yet [@PCurd, I'm looking at you!] to allow me to vent, seems perfectly reasonable to me.
First the good things:
- The writing is brilliant which is to be expected from BioWare.
- The voice acting is good, especially with Kate Mulgrew and Claudia Black.
- Morrigan, Zevran and Alistair are great characters.
Onto the bad things:
DLC. I hate that the game gave me conversations with people for missions that could only be played if I’d pay and download the content. I get that you want to make money, EA, but that’s low. A Mass Effect 2 like Cerberus network on the main menu would have been much better.
I hate how the game has messed me around with the party members. This is actually my biggest dislike of the game. Overall the game sucks if not playing it as a rogue. I wasn’t playing as a rogue, but instead as my default female warrior and by the time I realised the error of my ways I was past the beginning part and in no mood to go back. I also never had some of the more popular characters for various reasons:
Characters I didn’t have:
- I never met Leilana. I heard she is an amazing character, a great rogue and whatever else. Even though I spent hours in the first town and thought I’d explored everything I never found the tavern/pub and never met her. By the time I was told where to find her, the place was overrun by orcs darkspawn and I couldn’t get her.
- I couldn’t find Wynne after originally telling her I didn’t want her to join me just that moment after completing the Mage’s tower, even though both her and the internet told me she’d hang around there in case I change my mind. She didn’t.
- I started the game when I didn’t have the internet and never remembered to download Shale after that.
Characters that abandoned me:
- Zevran. Turns out my approval rating wasn’t high enough and I didn’t just lose my only rogue, but also an unstoppable archer and pretty much the only one, except Morrigan, with any ranged attacks. Losing Zevran made me stop playing the game back in November.
- Which brings me to Morrigan. My only witch and the only character I’ve used consistently since the beginning. Her entropy spells were brilliant and something I relied on, especially since Zevran’s death. Alas she left just before the last few hours of the game.
Characters that were in the end:
- Sten sucks and even though he was one of the remaining characters, I didn’t choose him for the final battle. I built up his two handed fighting early on, but no matter which tactics I chose he still couldn’t kill a fly.
- The dog/Hawkes was actually better than Sten with fast attacks. I still can’t believe it.
- Gimli or whatever the dwarf was called. Never thought much of him, he didn’t seem to die all that much though.
- I tried developing Alistair as a tank early on, but never quite succeeded. He died often and early, even if trying to deflect some of the attention to my main character with threaten or other talents.
Other things I didn’t enjoy:
It’s just like Lord of the Rings:
Before I started playing the game I was sure that I’d like any game that positively reminds me of Lord of the Rings. After all, I like books, the films and, especially the soundtrack. Here are some reasons why it didn’t work for me with DAO:
- The score, whilst definitely listenable in its own right, feels too much like a bad copy of Howard Shore’s excellent Lord of the Rings score. This is particularly obvious during the orcs darkspawn sequence at the end of the intro story.
- Orcs. I know they’re called darkspawn, but they look just like orcs! Half the enemies look like this charming fella.
- Gimli. Maybe I’m discriminating against dwarfs, but the companion looked just like Gimli. And sounded similar.
- Ents. There’s this part in this forest doing this thing for this elven clan [I played it in November, so shoot me for not remembering or bothering to look it up!] and there’s a talking tree. A slow talking tree talking about tree things. Come on, couldn’t you have picked a bush or a waterfall or something instead, BioWare?!
- Not remembering all that much about it now, but I recall the cutscene at the end of the prologue copying one of the LotR battles almost verbatim with rain, build up of tension and the first mistaken arrow fired by the good side. I think I’m thinking of Helm’s Deep, though again it was back in November that I played it.
- The clichéd ‘look, here are your secretive dwarfs, your reclusive elves, your humans that think they’re all that that’. Would mixing the formula up a little really have hurt anyone? As far as I’m aware, though correct me if wrong, DAO is based on a whole new universe not based on any other canon? It’s like handing someone a carte blanche and they just copy something that’s already there.
As evident by now most of my frustration with the game stems from the inability to pick up characters, good and developed characters I’d learned to rely on abandoning me without any option to change that and the fact it felt just like a cheap version of Lord of the Rings to me. That isn’t all though.
The Fade: I have never been fond of dream sequences in games or anything that randomly changes the game dynamics for no reason at all. Jade Empire did this by having the main character die and fight through the afterlife back to life. Cue a lot of messed up blue swirls and generally randomness. Rainbow Six Vegas 2 had me stop playing at a point where it took away my entire squad for a mission. This is a game I’d spent five or more long levels playing it as a squad based shooter just for them to turn around and change it. I’m all for innovation in games, but don’t change the dynamics for just a short strech just because you can.
Orzammar: This isn’t so much criticising the dwarf place, but rather long sequences in general. Entering Orzammar starts a billion and one quest leading through three main maps and countless houses and pubs with more quests up to the point where I lost the will to live or rather play the game. But oh, that wasn’t it, no, there’s a whole lot more to go in some deep underground roads that lead to even deeper underground roads and, you guessed it, even more underground roads. Due to the mission layout it wasn’t actually possible to leave the deep roads once starting the quest and I ended up spending several days in identical looking caves relying on my map fighting some dragons and darkspawn. Mass Effect 1 kind of did the same, the bits on Noveria and Feros were too long with no option to return and do some sidequests in other locations. If I know that the game will just dump me at the same place for many hours it makes it difficult for me to come back to it.
The final fight: After doing this and that and so on and so forth, the game cuts to the Landsmeet, the evil guy gets killed [at least he did in my game] and then the endgame starts. This is where I lost interest in the game. Morrigan left and voila, I was without my strongest character just as I’m about to fight all ogres known to exist and what seems like all the orcs ever made. For hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours. This is where I lost interest in the game. Thanks to IM conversations I actually know how much time I spent on the end:
- 2.10am – Morrigan leaves me.
- 2.20am – I start fighting in the first area after choosing my final companions. Bye bye Sten, hello Hawkes [the dog], Gimli and Alistair.
- 2.40am – Got bored of fighting. Already.
- 3.40am – Changed the difficulty to casual after dying on my fourth attempt to defeat the first of two of the orc generals I had to fight in the market of Denerim.
- 4.02am – According to an IM convo I was on fire at this point. As in literally. Which greatly amused the person I was talking to. Also at this point I was surrounded by about five ogres.
- 4.14am I finally enter the castle. Cue another three floors of the same stuff I’ve done before. It did make me wonder though, how did the ogres ever make it through the castle doors?
- 4.26am – I hit level 20. I’m playing on easy. I’m majorly struggling.
- 4.39am – Rooftop, cutscene, dragon, final boss, yey.
- 4.41am – I’m dead.
- 4.43am – I’m dead.
- 4.45am – I realise I have no chance on Earth of defeating the final boss with the characters I have.
- 4.47am – Google reveals there’s a glitch, huzzah!
- 5.16am – Game completed after 26 minutes of firing a trebuchet dealing 47 damage with a five second reload at a boss with 4100HP. That was.. fun.
The obvious question is, why did I keep playing it if I didn’t like it? Well, initially I waited for the game to get better, but then I reached the point sometime after the Fade where I realised I’d invested too much time into the game to not finish it. I like to complete games and after 32 hours [which is where Zevran left] it was simply too late to just ignore it. There are things I enjoyed about it, mainly the writing and the different ways the story is influenced, though it did make my game so much more difficult as I was missing vital characters.
I’d want to play it again just to see what would be different, but I don’t think I can.