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Dragon Age: Origins Ultimate Edition 6-Years Later Review

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Gameplay:

There are several components to Dragon Age: Origins gameplay, including combat, quests, equipment, companions, and exploration. I feel like starting with the last on that list.

Exploration is fairly straightforward as you just run around, looking for anything interesting. It helps to press the Tab key, as it highlights and labels every object you can interact with, and sadly there is no way to toggle this view. I spent a lot of time with a finger stretched over to the Tab key. It also helps to have a character with you that can pick locks. You will come across doors and chests that have to be picked to be opened, and some that require keys. One thing that would have been nice, but is not the case, is if all it took was having a lock-picker in your party, but alas, you must actually have that character be the one to open the locked object. Admittedly, this is a minor annoyance.

Companions are tremendously important for their abilities and just being additional targets for enemies. Personally I find the mages to be key to success, as they can have some devastating attacks, but also because of their healing potential and battle-manipulation capabilities. For example, they can be used to paralyze enemies and prevent healing. If you spec them right, you can also use them to one-hit, or near to it, enemy mages. Mana Clash is an ability that will drain enemy mages of their mana and do damage to them based on how much is drained. It is especially lethal against these enemies, and given how lethal those enemies are, I definitely recommend getting this spell. You are able to level up your companions yourself, selecting what powers they get and what stats points are invested in. You definitely want to take advantage of this control.

Ironically, I have yet to actually play the game as a mage. This is mostly because I like being able to run in and fight as needed, and mages are not meant for that. They have less health and armor than other classes, so you will need to protect them.

 

 

  

 

As I mentioned in the Story section, companions can be given gifts in order to increase their approval of you. At high enough approval levels, they will receive stat bonuses, such as increased constitution. It is definitely worth taking the time to raise your approval, as those bonuses will make them more effective. To know which gifts should be given to who, you will need to talk to the companions and listen to what they say, or belch in the case of the companion that wants alcohol.

Equipment may not seem very deep at first, but give it time and you may be overwhelmed by it all. First there are various types of each item, such as armor being made of leather, or steel, or red steel, or silverite, etc. Weapons similarly also come in different materials, but have the added complexity of rune slots. As you play, you will find runes you can have installed into your weapons. This is not a one-time-use mechanic, so you will be able to shuffle around runes as needed, such as when you find better runes or better weapons.

The inventory works on a slot system as opposed to weight, so as long as you have a slot or stack, you can pick items up. Once full you need to equip items, sell them, or destroy them. There is no drop capability, but the Warden's Keep DLC, which I believe is included with all copies of the game now, does give you access to a storage chest. Any items you do not need at the time, but do not want to sell, can be thrown in there. You will also find backpack upgrades at some vendors, allowing you to carry more.

 

Quests can vary quite a bit, with some being fairly simple and straightforward, requiring you to find someone to talk to or purge enemies from an area. Other quests have multiple parts that will have you travelling between map sections, but rarely will these have you backtracking, unless you just missed what you had to do. Personally I always collect all of the available missions I can, so when I head out I can complete them as I go. That strategy is not as simple as it sounds, as you can only have one quest active at a time, so not every marker will be shown on the map at the same time. That is if the quest even has a marker. Sometimes all you will get is the name of the map section you need to be in.

The combat system is like a hybrid between real-time and turn-based strategy combat. You issue orders to your characters, though they can act on their own, and can zoom the camera out for tactical purposes. You are also able to pause the combat at any time to issue new commands and change your strategy. This is very useful, especially as new enemies enter the field or change their positions.

The AI of your companions obey certain rules, and it is possible to alter these rules, but I have never done so, and I have two reasons for this. One is that normally, the default AI works fine. The other is that the process is somewhat overwhelming with the wealth of options you have. You can have great control over your characters, but it will probably take a while to master that control.

 

Enemy AI is a lot easier to mess with. You can exploit doorways to protect some of your characters and take advantage of enemy placement, so only one or two come at you at a time. This can be very useful early on when your characters are less powerful and lack abilities that could achieve similar results.

Normally when I review a game with its DLC, I will talk about the DLC in a separate section, but this time I am going to keep it all in this section, except for the Awakening expansion. Partly this is because many of the DLC are actually incorporated into the base game, such as the Stone Prisoner and Warden's Keep DLC I have previously mentioned. These and others add new quests, areas, and items to the base game, so you can play them at any time during the main campaign.

 

According to the game saves, I spent 51 hours and 53 minutes playing the main campaign, and that includes the time spent in the DLC content that is integrated into it.

Five DLC add on separate campaigns and all but two take place after the events of the base game. Those are The Darkspawn Chronicles and Leliana's Song. The former lets you play the final battle of the main campaign as the darkspawn. It offers an interesting twist on the events, as it looks at what would have happened if the Grey Warden you play as had died, leaving Alistair as the only Ferelden Grey Warden. As you can guess, things would not go so well for the kingdom. Completing this DLC, and some of the others, will award you with special items in the base game, even if it does not make sense why these items would become available.

I spent one hour and 17 minutes in this DLC before stopping at the last fight. It was just such a hard fight that I was going nowhere with that I decided to move on to the next DLC. I did find it to be a lot of fun and interesting, but man, that last fight is hard, at least for the group of darkspawn I had.

 

Leliana's Song is actually set before the events of the main campaign and is meant to flesh out Leliana's backstory and character. She makes references to the events of this DLC in the main campaign, but by playing it, you get to experience all of it. It is fun and has some interesting features to it, such as the ability to pick up and plant dead bodies for nefarious purposes. It took me about one hour and 32 minutes to complete this campaign.

 

The Golems of Amgarrak takes place after the events of the main campaign, with a Grey Warden assisting a dwarf in the Deep Roads. These are roads the dwarves had built to connect their great cities, before the darkspawn came to overwhelm them. Now the dwarves are fighting to reclaim some of what they lost in the hopes of uncovering the secrets to making golems. Unfortunately I only got about twenty minutes into this DLC before I abandoned it for two reasons that alone would not have been so bad, but together, were just too frustrating. I had come to a fairly difficult fight against four heavy enemies and had no mage healer. It appears the only way to have one would require being one yourself. On its own, the fight would not have been so bad, even without a healer, but the companion AI was really bad here. I would tell my companions to attack and they would not even move. When they were being attacked, they still would not move. This was just too much to deal with for a DLC.

By the way, that AI issue also occurred in other DLC, but only in this campaign was it a real issue.

Witch Hunt is the last DLC for Dragon Age: Origins as it even takes place after Awakening. After the final battle at the end of the base campaign, Morrigan, one of your companions, disappears, and now you are going after her. To say more would risk spoiling key story elements. For now, just accept that while it does give something of a conclusion, it also leaves some questions unanswered. I completed this in just one hour and 25 minutes.

 

Even though Awakening has its own section, I want to mention its playtime here with the others. It took me 14 hours and 40 minutes to complete the entire expansion. (That would be why I am giving it a section to itself.) So, altogether Dragon Age: Origins, with all of the DLC, added up to 70 hours and 47 minutes for me. I am not counting the twenty minutes in The Golems of Amgarrak as I did not finish that DLC, so that total is still less than the full package offers.

Overall, the gameplay of Dragon Age: Origins is a lot of fun, and really is a lot, but the gameplay itself never felt overwhelming to me. Certain elements, like the AI management, can overwhelm, but if you are just playing the game nothing is out of reach. However much time you spend on one playthrough though, you can double and triple it easily by starting new characters and making different decisions. That is something I would recommend doing, but be sure to have the time to dedicate to it.




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