Sometimes we have to make the hard choices

Review: Dragon Age: Origins

Dragon Age: Origins is the spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate.”

I have no idea what that sentence means.  I never played Baldur’s Gate.  And if I didn’t get sick (I don’t know if it was swine flu, but it knocked me on my butt for a week) in early December, 2009, I wouldn’t have played Dragon Age: Origins. But there I was, looking for something more creative to do than watch television, and I didn’t have any new books on hand to read.  My son, Galen, suggested, “Why don’t you download Dragon Age? It has logic puzzles and is driven by characters and story-line.  It isn’t just a ‘shoot and loot’ game.  I have it on my old laptop.  You can borrow it.”

That’s how I got hooked on the game.  Even more so when I found out that Estel, one of my archery/SCA friends, was also playing the game.

The aspect which hooked me is that, during game play, one must make a series of ethical decisions that are not always cut and dried. In spite of my best intentions, people still suffered because of the choices I made.  There are all these unintended consequences that are not apparent at the time.  What does this remind you of?  Real life, perhaps?

The game is a reminder that we live in an ethically grey universe, that not all evil comes from external daemons. Even the arch-badguy really did have the best interests of the kingdom in mind when he betrayed the king.   There is a scenario in the game where you have to decide what to do with a human who is dealing in elven child slavery.  You don’t have the resources to eradicate his organization.  And you know that if you simply put a stop to his current operation, he’ll be back as soon as you leave the city.  And the local gendarmes don’t care about elven children.  But there may be a way to profit politically from the situation.  How do you deal with it? Indeed, the world of featherless bipeds in this game-universe is rife with racial tension between humans, elves and dwarves, and your character must successfully navigate this social minefield.

Your character will accomplish this through a series of dialogue vignettes, where you must choose a response from a list.  The response that you REALLY want to give isn’t always listed, but that’s part of the storyline, and the responses will vary from cowardly to insane, with a few reasonable ones in the middle.  You learn quickly that picking a single style of response is not always situationally correct.  Sometimes you have to be deferential, sometimes a badass.  Diplomacy comes in all flavors.

Then there is the possibility of romance with some of the AI characters, including same-sex romances.  There isn’t any total nudity (although, one would think they could have found nicer under-things) and the sex acts are implied.  Regardless, the game strongly deserves its Mature rating.  There is some foreplay dialogue that caused me to flush.  (Something about licking poles in winter.  You had to be there.)

I am loathe to call this product a game.  It’s more like an interactive epic movie, with voice acting done by huge names in science fiction and fantasy:  Kate Mulgrew, Tim Russ, Tim Curry, Claudia Black and Steve Valentine.   It’s certainly far more engaging than television, and can be more interesting than a book as the plot can go in many different directions, depending on your choices.  You may even have to make the Ultimate Sacrifice in order to win the game.

3 Responses

  1. You have definitely peeked my curiosity, and I am not what you could call an avid gamer of any measure. Thank you for your review. (O:

  2. Intriguing. We were/are big fans of Oblivion. We found ourselves having feelings for the characters we interacted with regularly and developed in-game rapport. Refusing to take some quests (on the grounds they were morally offensive) also had an effect on how characters reacted to you. But this sounds like they’ve gone to a new level. I was already curious, but now I think I’ll trot my Christmas money down to Game Stop and pick up a copy — like I need something extra to compete for my time!

  3. I am looking forward to hearing about what you think of the game, Gangar.

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