One of the seemingly inexhaustible supply of games I still haven’t played enough of – or played at all, in some instances – Dragon Age: Origins is where I’ve been spending a fair portion of my gaming time over the last couple of days. With the sequel due early
next this year I decided it was time to get stuck into the meat of the game, rather than the dabbling I had done previously.
The first time I started playing Dragon Age I chose the Dwarves as my starting race. Their introductory story and gameplay was interesting but I’d developed my character to be the “tank” of the group, unaware that three of the earliest companions you recruit can serve in that capacity, to greater or lesser degrees.
This time around I’ve been playing a Human Rogue. The introductory areas when starting as a Human noble are more satisfying than the Dwarven commoner. Whilst events do conspire against you to push things along, the human storyline left me wanting to save the world from the Darkspawn where the Dwarven story just left me wanting to get into the “game”.
From here on in, there be spoilers.
A Human Rogue can only have one background, that of a Noble man or woman. The game sees you introduced to your father, the lord of the castle in which you begin. He’s not planning on sticking around long as he and his men have been asked to support the King in holding back a relatively minor Darkspawn incursion. Your brother is going to lead the troops at the start of the march with your father catching up later.
None of that really concerns your character, who is going to be left behind to tend the castle and its inhabitants while the battle is fought and won. You can complain about this treatment but it won’t affect the outcome. Regardless of what happens Duncan, a Grey Warden, will subtly suggest you’d be a perfect candidate to join the ranks of his brethren. At this stage you don’t really know a lot about the Grey Wardens, only that they seem to be accorded a great deal of respect by your father and many of the other castle inhabitants. Some are even in awe of the Wardens.
But this is a story, not real life, so things don’t go according to plan. Your brother sets off with the bulk of the army and an opportunistic neighbour invades, slaughtering any who stand in their path, including your parents.
Since it’s not safe to stay behind in the castle any longer, Duncan naturally suggests you come with him to see the King. The King who happens to be leading the forces holding back the Darkspawn hordes.
The King has more pressing concerns than the treachery that lead to your family’s murder and I hear those Darkspawn are pretty nasty. Not sure heading in that direction is really the safest course… But you need to join the ranks of the Grey Wardens to progress into the meat of the story. So follow Duncan you must.
This is where the game starts to really open up to you. Prior to reaching Ostagar you’ve typically only had one or two companions at a time and they’re rarely by choice. Once you reach Ostagar you still don’t always have a choice of who accompanies you into battle but you do start meeting up with more characters, some of whom can join you in your quest to save the world.
Alistair’s one of the first companions who’ll stick around.
He used to be in training for a life as a Templar but was plucked from that relative obscurity, joining the ranks of the Grey Wardens an undisclosed period of time prior to your own recruitment. He’ll be the one you’ll go to with questions regarding anything Grey Warden and, unless you choose to be the tank for your party, he’ll be the one trying to put himself between you and the enemy whenever possible.
He’s also the guy you should listen to if you need a laugh. He’s got a good sense of humour by himself, though I think his interactions with Morrigan as you wander through towns are the best so far.
Morrigan’s another early recruit to your cause.
She is not especially enthusiastic about helping you, but her Mother is adamant that it’s time for her to go out and see the world, as she’s always wanted. And the Grey Wardens could certainly use the help of such an accomplished magic user, even if she’s technically an outlaw due to her lack of affiliation with an officially sanctioned group of magicians.
This makes ex-Templar-novice Alistair wary of her reliability.
Templars often being the ones tasked with hunting down apostate mages, he’s probably got the most to be worried about.
Once Morrigan joined my merry band things went a bit more smoothly in combat. Alistair did his best to keep enemies focused on him while my rogue got busy stabbing folks in the back. Morrigan would stand back a ways firing off damaging spells and hexes on our foes.
Outside of combat, it’s a different story. Morrigan and Alistair talk among themselves quite a lot with much of the content being fun to listen in on. Morrigan often teases Alistair for his supposed lack of intelligence while Alistair fires back with barbs about Morrigan’s status as the “Witch of the Wilds”, or her mother eating babies or other similar nonsense.
Someone should really get those two a room. I’m of half a mind to investigate whether it’s possible for characters other than your own to develop a romance in the game but I also kind of don’t want it spoiled.
In any case, the pair of them are infinitely more entertaining than the perpetually gloomy Sten.
He does have his moments. But those moments won’t be in my party, not so long as I have other options. He really brings the mood down.
As for the gameplay? I’m enjoying it. Though combat is often proving to be punishingly difficult for my rogue. I’m not sure if I need to be taking control of some of my characters more often or if I need to adjust their AI-guided tactics some more but some battles skirt much too close to disaster.
As a rogue I have access to stealthy sneaking, allowing for a degree of scouting ahead to see what we face, but once combat is joined it’s degenerating into a messy melee a little too often. The party comes through the minor skirmishes just fine, the more difficult fights are often where we run into trouble, much faster than we can deal with said trouble.
The battle to close the demonic portals in the Warden fortress at Soldier’s Peak is an example of the limits of my team being pushed beyond breaking. The only reason we avoided complete obliteration was the Desire Demon being relatively weak in melee combat, allowing my rogue to avoid taking too much damage, even toe-to-toe. It may still have been a close thing had Leliana not managed to remain standing. Alistair and Morrigan succumbed shortly before that screenshot was taken.
That’s about where I’ve left the game, for now. The Soldier’s Peak area is actually one of the “Downloadable Content” quests, I discovered, so when I return to the game I will have to set my sights back on the main storyline.
The world’s probably not going to save itself, after all.