How a video game like Dragon Age: Origins left a lasting impression on me

I guess you can call this post a review/opinion piece, but I think it’s more opinion than anything. I won’t be going into too much detail about the game mechanics. You can pretty much find more traditional reviews about the game on the Internet. Believe me, there is a lot of it if you Google the game in the search box. People have already played this game to death since its 2009 release. I only just discovered this game this year and it was the only game to convince me to get an Xbox 360. A pretty huge feat to do, no? The post is largely going to reflect my experience playing this game and how I felt.

If anyone follows my blog on a regular basis you may notice what I seem to be fangirling about a lot when I post or mention something: Sailor Moon and now Dragon Age: Origins. You can tell I love something a lot when I can hardly shut up about it or can’t resist sticking a mention about the thing I love somewhere in my blog posts. Obviously if you are annoyed about seeing me write about these things nonstop you wouldn’t be sitting at your computer reading my blog then. In any case, the love I feel for DA:O is enormous and I can’t tell you how deep the feeling runs for me.

DA:O is an RPG game by Bioware where you get to choose the race and class of your character before starting the game. Like a lot of games these days, you can choose to play as a male or female and you get to customize how your character looks. This is fairly typical of a lot of RPGs out there, or so I am told. I don’t consider myself an expert at video games and I have certainly not been playing them since coming out of the womb like my other friends have. I’m just a girl who enjoys playing video games in my spare time. I’m a late bloomer in the gaming world and I’m just discovering how great RPGs like DA:O can be.

The race choices are human, elf, or dwarf. The classes you get to pick are rogue, warrior, or mage. For my very first playthrough, I played as a human noble female rogue. I called her Aurora since you can change the name of your personally created character if you wanted to. I customized my human noble to my satisfaction and liking and immediately started on her origin story. I think what makes DA:O a great game and one of the highly rated RPGs out there is the complexity of the story written, the phenomenal voice acting in the game, the massive open world Bioware created, the uniqueness of the origins story for each race and class, and how the choices you make in the game effect everything else you do in the story and how the characters see you.

I haven’t played any other RPG games like DA:O so I can’t really compare it to others. I just know I got seduced and pulled into the world of Ferelden, its detailed history, and how my character Aurora fits into this world.

I’ve watched as Aurora’s life got torn into shambles, her parents killed, desperate for revenge against the man who betrayed her family, and how she gets saved and recruited into the Grey Wardens by a character named Duncan. Once she takes part in a Joining ritual to become a Grey Warden, her life takes on a point of no return. Aside from going on a personal quest to find Arl Howe who betrayed her family in her home at Highever, Aurora is now tasked with an even bigger quest since accepting the job as a Grey Warden. She has to save the world from evil creatures called darkspawn and kill the ultimate threat, an Archdemon in the form of a dragon, from swallowing the world with its destruction and darkness.

A slew of other things happen in the game, like more betrayal and backstabbing involving a battle going terribly wrong in a place called Ostagar. King Cailan of Ferelden, Duncan, and the entire order of Grey Wardens are left for dead there. Somehow your character along with another Grey Warden named Alistair gets saved at the last second before the darkspawn army overtake and slaughter you both. Once you awaken in the hut belonging to a Witch of the Wilds named Flemeth and her daughter Morrigan, you find out that your character and Alistair are the only two surviving Grey Wardens left from the battle in Ostagar.

Faced with this new problem, both your character and Alistair are tasked with using the Grey Warden treaties to assemble a new army to fight what is known as the Blight. There’s a lot of hopping all around the country of Ferelden to enlist everyone from mages to elves to help you fight this ominous threat. But assembling an army is easier said than done. Usually the places you go to have people with their own set of problems to fix before they can agree to help the Grey Wardens. And as the main character of the game, it’s your duty to fix the problem so you can get the necessary army you need to give you a fighting chance against the Blight.

As you travel across the country, you also add more supporting characters to your party to use on the quests you go on. You already start off with Alistair, a formerly would-be Templar warrior you meet at Ostagar before your own Joining ritual, Morrigan, the sexy and fairly bitchy apostate mage at Flemeth’s hut, Leliana, an Orlesian bard rogue you meet in Lothering, and many others in the game. A lot of the companions you get in the game are very rich and deep characters. Combined with the very convincing voice acting for each character and the wealth of dialogue options to choose from when you speak to each character individually, you almost feel as if you are on an epic journey with real living, breathing people. They no longer feel like video game characters, but people you care about and get maybe too attached to.

The choices you make in the game is definitely the best part of DA:O. With every action comes an equal or opposite reaction, as the saying goes. This is definitely true for this game. DA:O is very much a thinking game aside from strategizing how to fight each monster or foe in the game. You can’t choose this action over the other without having some sort of consequence later for you or for another character. The game is also big on gray areas so there really is no right or wrong choice. I think this game resonates with so many players who have played it because the game is kind of like how we live life in general. You have to make a choice and you have to be prepared to live with those choices. The big surprise about the choice system in the game is what kind of ending you get.

The epilogue of the game is a text slideshow, which tells you what happens to you, a few of the supporting characters that journey with you, and the people you meet and help briefly in the game. You really get to see if what you did earlier in the game was a wise decision to do. Sometimes the outcome isn’t always good, but it’s interesting to see once you reach the end.

I’ve also said it before in a previous post about how I enjoy romancing Alistair and how he responds to Aurora. The romances in the game are pretty interesting. Romancing Alistair is my favorite romance so far and I got to have a happy ending by the time the game credits rolled around. There are other romance options to explore and I look forward to replaying DA:O again to get a different experience. That’s another thing about this game, there is a very high replay value overall. So many more origin stories to discover, new romance options to try, and a different experience each time you play.

A lot of the reviews and personal opinions about the game I have read online all agree that their experience and emotional reaction to the game is different for everyone. Plenty of women get attached to the sexiness and adorableness of Alistair. Men are left heartbroken by Morrigan if they romance her in the game. The game never fails in eliciting an emotional response from the player. I never thought it was really possible. I’ve played games before, enjoyed them, but never quite got emotionally attached to the characters before.

I was happy for Aurora when she saved the world, got to keep her man, and got to celebrate with her friends and companions after the big battle was done and over with. As the credits rolled on the screen, I already missed journeying with Aurora as she laughed, cried, fell in love with Alistair amidst the war going on, got mad, and relished in hacking away at darkspawn (all emotional reactions of Aurora imagined in my head of course). I really couldn’t believe the journey was over. It’s as if it was me who did this journey and not Aurora. The power of great storytelling I tell you. Even after I finished my first run with this game, it still lingers with me after I reached the end. Once the game took me back to the main screen, I wanted to play it all over again. I refrained though. I want to play the downloadable content that came with my Dragon Age: Origins Ultimate Edition for the 360 as well as Awakening.

I actually have Dragon Age 2 sitting in my room to be played next. From what I’ve read, the reviews on DA2 is mixed. I’m not looking forward to the fact that a lot of the reviewers said the story got sacrificed a huge deal at the expense of improving combat in the game. A huge step back from Origins is what I heard. I’ll judge for myself though. I can only hope that when Bioware starts developing Dragon Age 3, it will be a huge improvement on the DA2 disappointment.

There is a lot more I want to say about this game, but I’ll return to this game and comment further in the future. After all, I still have how many other origins stories to uncover in DA:O.

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