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Dragon Age Origins 360 Review

20/01/2010 Thinking Scared Gamer Review
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Dragon Age Origins 360

Dragon Age Origins




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Dragon Age Origins roundly impressed with genuine relationships and perplexing moral choices. While everyone will play this game for different reasons, I fell in love with the characters and their stories.

Bioware are famed for their application of morality systems in games. This is a mechanic that requires their audience to make choices that will effect both the world around them and their avatar. These decisions have always tended towards the black or white, and while areas of grey did exist players were rewarded for committing to a single ethical path. Dragon Age Origins has taken this polarised system and created something subtler, and altogether more engrossing.

At its heart Dragon Age is similar to the Bioware?s previous title Mass Effect, with players being continually forced to make choices based on ethical scenarios. Dragon Age Origins however constantly gave the impression that I was in the dark on significant and important information. Being aware I was uninformed or mislead about what was going on around me, created an uncertainty in everything I did and made me leave conversations hanging for extended periods as I deliberated on my decisions.

Initially my musings were directed on the effect I would have on the world, concerned that at some point my actions would hinder my progress. Soon after forming my party however, my anxieties shifted towards my comrades.

I quickly found myself forming attachments - and this is where things get a little scarey.

Every character in the game has a distinct personality. Okay, what they really have is a list of programmed reactions to specific actions, but when I am playing the illusion is real enough. Every character realised with strong voice work and seeming endless possible interactions. I quickly found myself forming attachments - and this is where things get a little scarey. The difficulty is that each responds differently to your decisions and leadership. A wrong answer here will see a close ally lose confidence in your leadership, but at the same time may bring you closer to another.

I found this balancing act nerve racking. One companion may start to actively dislike me as I embarked on a particular side quest, while another would commend me. I have pagans with religious zealots and numerous other pairings that make it near impossible to take part in any interaction without risking of alienating of at least one party member.

In Dragon Age Origins I instead found myself measuring which of my party would approve of each action.

This all led to my aforementioned quandries with my choices. Trying to carefully judge every response to keep as many people as possible happy was some task. The tightrope walk of maintaining a constant sense of indifference towards me from all of my party members, fuelled by an inane desire to ensure nobody left my group, was nerve jangling . Panic would descend on me, and I would sit with the responses in front for minutes at a time as I measured my options. Frequently this exercise proved futile, as my long reasoned deliberations were proved wrong, and a party members approval would fall.

On one such occasion I was met with a captive wizard. Usually when presented with a choice like freeing a repentant dark mage I would weigh the effect his release could have on my abilities to complete my quest. In Dragon Age Origins I instead found myself measuring which of my party would approve of each action.

Would releasing him score me points with my religious rouge, my witch or my warrior? I didn't care if the wizard was to help of hinder me; all I was concerned about was preventing my warrior from leaving my party while not jeopardising my blossoming relationship with the witch. With some trepidation I made my selection and discovered my assumptions were all wrong. My witch sneered nd sarcastically, as did the warrior. The rouge on the other hand seemed quite impressed so like a fickle teenager I considered moving my amorous intentions towards her.

For me it took the form of an awkward dinner party with a new girlfriend.

Dragon Age Origins will be entirely different for every player, not just in the events they experience but also their emotional reactions and attachments. For me it took the form of an awkward dinner party with a new girlfriend. I found a constant near crippling desire to please everyone in the hope that it would ingratiate me with my partner. The nerves, the uncertainty and indecision were all a constant presence. I was consumed by the minutia, swept up by the interaction and rapid forgetting the big picture. The terror of the 'blight' that threatened the land paled in importance to the simple task of trying to please those around me and desperately seeking their approval.

Written by Alex Beech

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Alex Beech writes the Scared Gamer column.

"Games connect us to exhilaration in various ways. I love mine to scare me. Although the shock, horror and gore are all pretty unnerving, nothing comes close to the sweaty palms of playing games that take you to ridiculously high places - InFamous, Mirror's Edge and Uncharted to name a few."

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