Recently I’ve been experiencing a lot of problems with my home PC. I’ve had hard disk partition losses within the last 12 months that caused me to spend a day (with friends thankfully) trying to recover all my data (that I now backup weekly to an external drive). This meant I had to rebuild my machine and damaged some of my saved games. Also, since Christmas my Internet has not been stable, after planning on casually raiding with this patch and trying to keep up with content not being able to play because of crippling lag kind of destroyed my desire to play. Hence my WoW time went to none and I decided to finally try to finish Dragon Age. I’d created a few characters here and there and even had a mage that had done two out of three of the main quests, but I decided to start from scratch with a new toon in a starting area that I hadn’t done yet.
So, enter Theron (not pictured, that’s an Ogre), a Dalish Elf Warrior with a penchant for Archery. I finally finished the game on Sunday evening after well over 20 hours of play. I may or not disclose spoilers in the following prose so you have been warned.
Firstly, let’s start with my impressions after having finished the game; Mass Effect is a better game! There, I know there is a lot of love for Dragon Age and it may be that I am kind of jaded by the traditional format of Bioware games – start character, 4 areas for starting missions that expand later, but this is my honest impression of the game. Bioware are simply the best in the business at building worlds and Ferelden is no exception. The world of Dragon Age is as real and deep as any other I’ve played through and the attention to detail is brilliant as always. There is nothing wrong with the back story at all it’s well crafted and as you go through you come across interesting people and places and carve out your path through them. I like the removal of the Paragon/Renegade display so you don’t necessarily know what effect your conversation choices are going to have on your party members until you’ve picked them and you definitely can’t please all of the people all of the time.
You also encounter some pretty challenging combats and getting through an event despite being hugely outnumbered is very gratifying if you pull it off but you will also die a lot in this game. The scope of character creation lets you know just what kind of game you are getting into where leaving your mark in the communities you live in and pass through is all part and parcel of the game. You can have a pretty dramatic impact on the land and its peoples. This is one of the things I love about Bioware games as you do impact the land in true heroic fashion and this is obviously traditional RPG territory of you being the hero. You get prompts on what you’re doing, you go do it and pick up side-quests along the way and depending on your actions and who you take in your party you can improve your relations with those characters. These relationships can have unexpected outcomes that play out in the game too with consequences on the main storyline.
However, I don’t really want to discuss the story as that if what the gameplay itself should do, tell you the story. What I want to do is tell you of my experiences with the game. I thought that Mass Effect as better because the story was more solid, this is purely a personal opinion (I’ve prepared my anti-flame blanket already) though. I felt engaged by ME1 and 2 on a level that I didn’t in DA. The game pace felt incredibly long-winded, the maps are pretty on rails as they are in ME and the environments can be truly breathtaking but my goodness me things take an age. Whether I just had the wrong party combination or the wrong skill sets I don’t know but every combat takes a long time and all you have to do is make one mistake and you’ll be loading your save and trying again (I took to saving my game after every single combat).
By the time I had finished the main four quests I’d taken to pretty much ignoring the side quests, I wanted to see the story play out and after spending hours in the Deep Roads of Orzammar I was getting a little bored. Some of the boss fights are more like raid encounters in terms or the length they take to complete but the deathblow animations of the more elite monsters are amazing and do add a wow factor. The story itself twists and turns and there is a simply amazing number of ways in which certain situations can go depending on the actions of you and your party, there are moral ambiguities as well as more black and white choices to be had, you can even change the behaviour of some of your party depending on your conversations with them.
In this regard Dragon Age is on a par if not ahead of Mass Effect, you do feel a lot closer to your party members and you can see events evolving around you rather than you going through things choosing the simple good/evil option. You can be a lot more involved in shaping the future of Ferelden. However, as the bulk of the game revolves around combat missions the quality doesn’t carry over. It is more like a single player MMO, fighting through continuous hordes of the same kinds of bad guys to reach one a bit tougher than the others before getting towards a final boss. I liked the stories tied to the main quest lines, they were varied and you have a large range of choices for how things go even within that questline, there are choices within choices to make and these will influence the final outcome of the game. It’s not as simple as pick a love interest to go for, pick good or evil and go for it.
It is worth a play through though, the hardest part is the huge number of starting character options that you think you’ll want to play it through again and again, especially when you consider how things can go dependant on your choices. However, I was kind of glad when it did end. I’d finished and was glad to have done it but do not have much inclination to do it again, that might have something to do with the various false starts I’d had. It’s not a bad game by any means but I think the brilliant storytelling and character interaction is let down by the combat sections and I know that there are many people who rave about the combat in DA. For me though, loved the story, not so much fun with the combat and I loved the combat in Mass Effect and both KOTOR games.
It is a huge game, far too much to be explored by just one play through, I have in fact started a Human Noble (female this time rather than my male) and am using the cheats to alter my image, I am therefore playing through at the moment looking like a Desire Demon, much more entertaining watching the conversation options with a Succubus standing there. However, similar to how I am with WoW, knowing the starting zones and their length really means I am not inclined to spend the time doing it all over again.
I did reload one of my saves before the final mission and replayed the Morrigan “romance” as the Desire Demon too, I have screenshots too lol.
Overall I’d give it a 4 out of 5. I’m not sure about getting the next one to be honest but I know that once Mass Effect 3 drops I will pick it up without delay. I’ve got 2 more characters to run through that game with before the next episode hits so, while I love me some fantasy, when it comes to Bioware I’m strictly in the sci-fi camp.