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35 Reviews

Dragon Age: Origins

Mythical

Page 4 of 5

Whether you play male or female, there are various characters with whom you can fall in love. However, this isn't a genderless universe, and a gay relationship will be recognised as such. When one male teammate approached my male character with romantic interest, my conversation options included responding with confusion or horror, politely declining, or indeed welcoming his advances. Getting to the point where another character will declare their feelings, however, is no small matter.

Rather than the good/evil systems of most BioWare games, in Dragon Age you're judged by what your companions think of you. And this depends upon their own personalities. Choose paths that are bad news for others, or act in your own self-interest, and you'll win favour with enjoyably wicked characters like Morrigan. Take the righteous, selfless path and others like Leliana will highly approve. The more they like you, the more intimate your relationship. This can be boosted through the giving of gifts: special items discovered or bought and given to your colleagues.

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Nothing in this game comes without an involved background or moral ambiguity. For example, at any point your party can camp, which allows you to heal up, talk to your companions and trade with a couple of dwarves who apparently follow you around. But even these dwarves come with a history. The younger of the two is the only mentally handicapped character I can remember encountering in a game. He's looked after by his father, and has a savant gift for enchanting weapons. Treat them as more than a shop, talk to them, and the details of their past emerge, along with a surprising ethical quandary.

Nothing is just thrown in. Even the damage you take is specific: when you fall in battle, rather than simply recovering unharmed once the fray is over, you are given an 'injury' which will impede one key statistic until you either use an injury kit to heal it, or camp.

Dwarven culture, incidentally, is fascinating. It has a caste system, where dwarves are born into the same role in life as their same-sex parent. Your family will be nobles, warriors, smith, artisans, miner, merchants or servants, and this will not change. Should a servant marry a noble woman, his son would remain a servant while his daughter would live in the upper echelons. And then, as mentioned earlier, there are the casteless. Either because of ancestral disgrace, or because they went above ground for too long, these dwarves are stripped of their identities, their ancestry removed from dwarven history. They are unrecognised by all society. It's abhorrent. Exploring the city's slums is distressing. But you're an outsider (unless you're playing a dwarf, of course) so how much is it your place to object?

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This is a question the game asks. At one point you're challenged over whether to help set up a Chantry in the city of Orzammar - among a race who believe in a completely different, completely incompatible religion. But what if the Chantry might offer help to the casteless? What then? At the same time you're drawn into the dirty politics of which of two deadlocked candidates should be the new king, alongside exploring the Darkspawn-infested abandoned mines and townships deeper into the mountain. And that's less than half of what happens here. The ending, which is different depending upon how you've played, manages to deliver on the anticipation built up, surprising you with new twists, and creating an appropriate sense of scale.

Were the difficulty levels not so enormously silly, it would require sheer pickiness to find a major fault with this game. Importantly, overly difficult sequences can be powered through on Easy, but this doesn't excuse it being necessary. Despite the time and investment required to cultivate relationships with party members, these still feel a little clumsy, and despite my best efforts to have a gay relationship with one party member, I found myself surprised and somewhat confused to have inadvertently accepted the advances of another. Oh, and if we're listing faults, one appalling gaff is the failure to change family members' skin colour if you roleplay a non-caucasian. My main protagonist, a black man, lived as a sort of reverse 'The Jerk', where no one mentioned that his mother, father and brothers were all white. Embarrassing.

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