Tag Archives: Dragon Age: Origins

Two videogames beaten, but not over with yet

Over the past couple of days, I beat two videogames. Namely, Dragon Age: Origins and Pokemon HeartGold. Both will be getting full reviews from me in the near future, one most likely here and one most likely over at The First Hour, but I still want to talk a little bit about them at the moment…since their deaths are so fresh in my mind.

Both of these games are now beaten. I have seen the end credits roll. And yet, against my power, both of these games demand I continue playing them. In different manners, of course.

For Pokemon HeartGold, they are asking me to play the same game again. The only difference is a new skin to it with new Pokemon to collect, but the fundamentals are all the same: explore the land, collect pocket monsters, defeat gym leaders, and rise to the top of another league for ultimate bragging rights. I’m going to do it, but considering that I just did exactly that for 49 hours…well, I’m not terribly excited for déjà vu to set in.

For Dragon Age: Origins, it’s all about playing the game as drastically different as possible. Because what’s done is done. My Grey Warden character defeated the darkspawn (I don’t consider this a spoiler as, duh, you knew it was going to happen) and now there’s nothing else to do. Can’t reload and venture about Ferelden to do sidequests until the cows come home. Instead, thanks to the numerous origins and different classes and varied dialogue choices, one can play BioWare’s fantasy RPG a second time and experience the complete opposite of what they did before. That’s nice. And also, I didn’t do that Achievement boosting trick where you save before you make a big decision, unlock the Achievement, reload, and then unlock the other one. So I’ll be heading back in to side with the werewolves and help the mages in the Circle Tower and so on. To be honest, I’m looking forward to experiencing it all over again.

Now…about these games’ endings. They were totally lame, especially considering the hours spent to get there.

Pokemon HeartGold tossed an extremely tough battle in your face unlike anything your Trainer ever fought against, and I suspect a lot of players were in the same boat as me. Meaning…lots of grinding to catch up and be halfway formidable. And once that’s said and done, you’re treated to a short scene stating your awesomeness and then credits with little animated Pokesprites running around and being silly. Fade to black. Reload to discover you basically only “beat” 50% of the actual game. Laaame.

Talking about the ending in Dragon Age: Origins is a bit more challenging. I don’t want to spoil specifics, but I really felt like there was a lack of imagination in the final battle. Honestly, your team just moves from zone to zone, fighting wave after wave of darkspawn until you make it to the archdemon, and then you fight it and it releases wave after wave of support enemies and then you kill it and then you’re done. And treated to–and I’m not kidding here–static paintings with some tiny text boxes telling you about what happened to people and places in the years to come. BioWare couldn’t even shell out for some voice actor here after all the speaking that when down during my 41 hours of gameplay. Sigh. There may or may not be more to the game’s ending though depending on some choices you previously made. Time will tell in that department. Either way, it felt kind of lame. Like, that boss battle with that giant tentacle-wielding woman-thing was much more exciting (and original) than this. Oh well. Maybe my second playthrough will reveal something else.

But yeah, despite the fact I’m still going to be playing these for some time, they’re definitely getting crossed off the backlog list as completed.

Picking the best origins in Dragon Age: Origins

Having now played through all six opening origin stories in Dragon Age: Origins, I can confidently tell you that some are better than others. In fact, there’s really only two that stand out as great, and the others are more or less perfunctory, a means to an end to learn the ropes and then get your character traipsing along next to Duncan and the path to Grey Wardendom. But first, let me tell you a bit about each…

City Elf

Being a City Elf is no fun at all. Your race has been rendered second class citizens, basically amounting to generations of slavery. However, things aren’t all bad. You’re about to wed some unknown Elf. Hooray! Marriage and bliss! Oh wait. An encounter with a human lord totally rains on your parade.

Dalish Elf

Dalish Elves are the complete opposite of City Elves, in that they are totally free. And they live in the woods. Stereotypically awesome. After you ambush a group of humans trespassing, your character learns of some ruins containing Elven treasure. Ooh shiny.

Dwarf Commoner

You are a Dwarven commoner and also part of the mafia. That is, if Dwarves can have mafias. But yeah, you’ll be going after a guy that tried to swindle your boss. You also don’t want your sister being taken advantage of. Just another typical day under the mountains…

Dwarf Noble

You are second in line to the throne. Not too shabby. However, there’s some darkspawn in the Deep Roads, and you’re put to the task of clearing them out thanks to having  just received a military commission. However, Dwarven politics are the very definition of dangerous, and things do not go as planned.

Human Noble

Your big brother is about to head off to join King Cailan at Ostagar to help fight the darkspawn. After saying goodbye, you tuck yourself in for a good night’s sleep in Castle Cousland, hoping to dream about apple pies and playing in a field with your violent doggy. Then, without warning, you’re awoken in the middle of the night. The castle is under attack. Eep!


You’ve studied long and hard (hey now!) at the Circle Tower to become a kick-ass mage, learning all the strict laws about governing magic. And you’re now ready to perform the ritual called the Harrowing that will determine whether you are ready to become a full mage. Not all is as it seems in the Fade though.

Right. So those are the six origins you can pick from. Of them, the two I’d most recommend to beginning players are the Mage origin and the Dwarf Noble origin. The other four are extremely bland and linear; in fact, I was downright surprised at just how bare bones the Human Noble story was. In that one, you basically talk to your family, go to sleep, kill some assassins, and escape with Duncan. Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom. Nothing to it.

However, the Mage origin really offers up a unique setting with the Fade and some tough choices that will directly impact a quest later on in Redcliffe. And the Dwarven noble origin was just full of betrayal and sick politics a la George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. It really pulled the chair out from under me, and gave me a lot of motivation to see how things turned out. Plus, the layout of the Dwarven setting is pretty fascinating, and their culture is rich with lore about Paragons and such. Fortuitously, these two origins also seemed to take a little longer to complete than others, give or take half an hour.

But really, all the origins kind of follow the same idea–live your life as normal until shit hits the fan–and it’s sort of fun to see how Duncan factors into each story. He mostly just acts like the boss of Ferelden and gives crazy orders in a very calm manner, even if they go against everyone else’s wishes. Oh well. That’s how the Grey Wardens roll, I guess.

So that’s the origins for…Dragon Age: Origins. I have no idea if there are new additional ones in Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening though. Not even sure if I’m going to be interested in more darkspawn-slaying after getting through all of the above. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Slaying dragons and taking names

Let’s talk about this Achievement I unlocked last night from Dragon Age: Origins, with some light spoilers:

Dragonslayer (30G): Defeated the dragon guarding the Urn of Sacred Ashes

So, the Urn of Sacred Ashes quest is one of the major story-driven quests you can take on whenever you want once you’ve completed the shitstorm at Ostagar. I ended up doing it as my second quest after handling things at Redcliffe, and various forum posters frequently mentioned TO NOT RING THE GONG ON THE MOUNTAIN TOP UNLESS YOU ARE READY FOR A CRAZY BATTLE. I’m paraphrasing there, but the all caps aspect is 100% true. Hmm okay. So I didn’t ring said gong, as I was just a very low level at the time (and playing on Normal difficulty), and then completely forgot about that cutscene where the dragon flew overhead and roared. However, I still got the Urn of Sacred Ashes so…uh, the dragon kind of failed that “guarding” part. Oh well.

But after the Landsmeet, you’re basically told to do anything else you want to do because once you head to Redcliffe again, you’ll be entering the point of no return. Eep. So, last night, I instead ran around to do some more sidequests sitting idle in my questlog, and then remembered the gong. Seeing as my mage was a level 18, and Shale, Alistair, and Morrigan were level 17s, I figured we had a decent shot of taking down a dragon.

And we did, obviously, but it was still a pretty grueling battle. I can only imagine that frustration and heartbreak one might feel taking this dragon on too early in the game. There’s some really great animation work here though, which I hadn’t seen a lot of before because it’s mostly been fights with small-time enemies like bandits, darkspawn, and wolves. The coolest part of the battle happened at the end when Alistair (who I was not controlling) leaped atop the dragon’s head and swung deep with his electrified axe, striking the killing blow. Not sure if that’s scripted or not, but either way, it made the win all the more awesome.

Got some killer loot, too.

With this done, there’s nothing else so major that I want to do before heading for No Return City. Lots of sidequests are still incomplete, but none of them interest me currently, and a couple are based in Redcliffe, meaning…they are impossible to finish at this stage. Woo. So I’m gonna gather my army, try and smooch Leliana one last time, and make a final stand against the darkspawn. For Ferelden!

Well met, Landsmeet

After finishing up my latest review for The First Hour last night, I switched on the ol’ Xbox 360 and to my better judgment…did not play Grand Theft Auto IV. C-c-c-combo breaker!

Instead, I loaded up Dragon Age: Origins, which I had previously taken a break from because the game itself seemed to be at a perfect spot for break-taking. That is, moments before the Landsmeet was to gather and discuss what Ferelden should do about the darkspawn threat, who should be king/queen, and whether or not Loghain is guilty of his purported crimes. Reviews said this was a crucial moment in Dragon Age: Origins, with the potential of game-changing results, meaning party members might up and leave (or worse) depending on what actions you, the Grey Warden, take. Not something you walk into lightly.

Spoilers to follow, readers.

So, with some trepidation, I started the Landsmeet. This was set up like a town hall meeting, with all the different delegates standing around, shouting their claims and strategies. Loghain very quickly enters to try to sway support his way, but the Grey Warden proves to be a thorn in his side. Your goal is to get more votes of support than Loghain. Depending on what sidequests you’ve done, different options come up. I first decided to rat out Loghain’s misuse of elves in the Alienage, upsetting the nobles tremendously. But then I mentioned Alistair and how, seeing that he’s Maric’s kid, should be the rightful king. This didn’t work out well. Eventually, support swayed my way, and Loghain rebeled. I fought him myself in a one-on-one duel, allowing Alistair to lop the turncoat’s head off. Alas, this moment was ruined by the fact that the sound effects of a sword swinging, blood gushing, and viewers gasping were off by three to five seconds. Way to go, beta testers.

But then I had to pick who should be Ferelden’s new ruler, and since Alistair would not stop whining about how he didn’t want it–despite getting both Anora and Alistair to agree to wed and rule in unison–I passed the torch along to her alone. It’s not like she’d want to marry her father’s murderer now. This isn’t the Lifetime channel after all.

So, other than Loghain’s demise, which was not a super shock considering his villainy persistance, the Landsmeet did not surprise me like I thought it would. Nothing terribly dramatic or party-shattering happened. I guess I just made the best decisions and did enough vote-swaying sidequests to make it easier to get Loghain tossed aside. Oh well. It’s done now, and the final battle approaches. Too bad I still have some sidequests to do before heading back to Redcliffe…

Also, I simply love the name and artwork for the Achievement unlocked after the Landsmeet is over:

Rabble-Rouser (20G): Completed “The Landsmeet”

BioWare obviously cares about Achievements. And not just having them, but giving them attention and detail. The Mass Effect series has Achievement artwork that looks like medals or badges earned from military service, and the ones for Dragon Age: Origins so far are like ancient relics forged by the Maker himself. Simply astounding. I don’t think there’s any other company out there currently that puts this much effort into e-peen things that ping. Kudos to them!

In-game relationships need to get out

Unless I’m playing The Sims, I don’t really want to do buddy-buddy things like playing darts and going for a walk and having a beer with someone in-game. Especially when we’re talking about Grand Theft Auto IV, where the majority of the focus is on…well, shooting drug dealers in the mouth and running over hot dog stands. Nor do I want to go on dates, but that mostly has to do with Niko Bellic not being the suave gentlemen your dates might think he is. Seriously, how can anyone be charmed by this masochistic, hollow shell of a goon? His response to every demonic task put on him is: how much will I get paid? Right.

I wish there was a way you could lose your cell phone in GTA IV and then have to go to a local Sprint store (I bet those Rockstar devs would be hilarious and call it, I dunno, Splint) to get a new one. After losing it, I would never get another. I don’t even care if that meant no more missions; I just want to walk and drive around in peace, listen to the radio, take in the sights. No, I don’t want to get shit-faced with you, Roman; you’re a horrible human being, possibly less horrible when drunk, but horrible nonetheless, and to have some drinky drinks with you would take up the following:

1. Time
2. Money

Plus, these in-game friends always call at the worst time ever. Like, you’re sneaking around a building, getting ready for a shootout, and then you have Little Jacob mumbling something about hanging out in your ear. Sorry, can’t. Why didn’t you call me during the 15 minutes it took me to get to this location? Chump.

Another example of bad cell phone usage in videogames: Pokemon HeartGold. During your course across the many regions, you will meet a bunch of trainers and strangers all eager to give you their phone number. In return, you must offer them yours–and your very soul. Seriously, if I could turn back time, I’d give my phone number to NO ONE. Not even my mother, that money-tossing fiend. Stand still for a minute or so, and ring ring ring, it’s Joey to tell you all about his RATTATA. Great. Just about every phone call I’ve gotten has been pointless; there’s no reward, no missions, just a bunch of BS and wasted time tapping through. I’m guessing this is the game’s way of making you feel connected to more than just pocket monsters, but it is an empty mechanic, beyond annoying, and a waste of precious time.

Dragon Age: Origins handles in-game relationships better…but not great. For one, thanks to Ferelden’s serious lack of technogadgetry, the Grey Warden does not have a cell phone. Instead, he/she has a mouth and two ears, and using them they can affect how other characters feel. Some might grow to hate the Grey Warden, others will fall in love, and a couple will remain indifferent no matter what you do. You can give gifts and listen to their stories to maybe pick up an important sidequest. Also, depending on who you are traveling with, certain key events will lead them to voicing their opinions, and it’s up to the Grey Warden to decide how to react. At least there’s rewards here: useful skills are unlocked as companions grow in friendship.

So unless in-game relationships do more than just annoy and waste time, they need to get out…and get out fast.

Sex and videogames, oh la la

Last night, I had sex…twice. First with a forest witch, and then immediately afterward with a bisexual assassin.

Before you start spreading crazy rumors around the Interwebz, let me be more specific: I wiggled my way into Morrigan’s arms after giving her 943 gifts and then easily (almost shockingly easy) convinced Zevran to have his way with me in Dragon Age: Origins. Yes, this game offers the chance to have sex with women, men, and even multiple partners at once if you plot enough. That’s great and all. Too bad the actual sex is silly and uncomfortable to sit through.

However, I like that sex is there and that BioWare is willing to make it a part of the game, whether vital or not. So far, it’s all been optional. Getting someone in bed naturally raises their liking of you, but you also have to be careful because your camp is open to all eyes, and certain someones might be disappointed in seeing the Grey Warden put the moves on somebody else.

But back to the uncomfortableness. In Mass Effect, you could woo some of your female/male companions (depending on your gender) and have an intimate moment before things really hit the fan at the Citadel. This made the sex emotional and important, and it was a short scene, with quick glimpses of positions and fingers running here and there and a sense that bodies were in motion. Nothing too crazy, and certainly not worthy of major news channels freaking out. The same could almost be said of Dragon Age: Origins except this time it’s not emotional and important, and with the already weak Xbox 360 graphics…it’s laughable.

I don’t have so much a problem with undressed Morrigan…though her breasts seem to remain magically motionless throughout all the turning and bouncing. Heck, even Zevran was fine. It’s the Grey Warden. He/she is always ugly no matter how hard you try to design them during the character creation phase, and they never look like they are enjoying anything. At one point, with Zevran, my mage grimaced in pain (I’ll let you speculate why). Add to this cheesy “romantic” music and campfire, and well, you’ve got silly sex. Which is a shame because the dialogue leading up to and after the penultimate act is superb, full of life and wit and shy flirting. I’d almost wish they’d faded to black à la Fable II and just let our imaginations run wild.

Well, that’s two out of four:

Witch Gone Wild (10G): Experienced the thrill of romance with Morrigan

Easy Lover (10G): Experienced the thrill of romance with Zevran

All that’s left now is to woo Alistair and Leliana. Poor Shale gets no action…

What it is to burn

While trying to get out of the Fade during the mission to recruit the Circle of the Magi to the Grey Warden’s cause, I blindly opened a door and charged straight into a wall of fire…and died instantly. Game over. Your journey has come to an end. Et cetera.

And you can bet your buttocks that I hadn’t saved recently either.

It’s moments like this that make Dragon Age: Origins frustrating. Why is it instant, fall over death? Why not some minor damage to hit points to tell you to stay back…or even just an invisible wall to block your path? Instead, the developers placed fire behind a door, a door you can open just like any other door, and the millisecond you touch it, that’s it. Curtains for you, Grey Warden. Lacy, gently wafting curtains. Don’t you know you can’t cross walls of fire…even though you occasionally set yourself on fire and stay that way throughout cutscenes? Silly elvish mage. Consistency is for kids!

The in-game directions tell me I need to find a way to get past the fire. Gee, how about this magic spell called Winter’s Grasp that I’ve been using on and off for the last 15 hours? It only freezes things.

This is difficult to write about, or Dragon Age: Origins is hard

Recently, with Dragon Age: Origins, I found myself doing something I can’t recall ever doing with another videogame. I changed the difficulty…from Normal to Casual.

This decision stemmed from playing the same scenario over and over again to no success; it was not the first Ogre fight as depicted above, but rather a small fight while on the quest for the urn of Andraste’s ashes, where two mages and a group of soldiers slaughtered my team each and every time. I even tried switching up combat tactics, but to no avail. I found myself unable to move forward in the game, and I couldn’t pinpoint why. Did I lack the skills? Is Dragon Age: Origins grossly unbalanced? Is it a mix of both questions?

It was not something I wanted to do, trust me. I want to play games as they are intended to be played. In my mind, this is how it works: Casual is a setting for those that can’t cut it, Normal is how the developers expect you to experience their creation, and Hard is for masochists. Rarely do I go up or down, always comfortable in the middle. I even maintained the same difficulty setting through Mass Effect and BioShock, eventually learning to save often and get better.

But the combat tactics are hard to manage and mostly unreliable, with Alistair constantly charging straight to his death no matter what I try, and the difficulty spikes in Dragon Age: Origins are about as predictable as picking the next set of winning lottery numbers (4 8 15 16 23 42). I’d end up using every last healing potion on one fight, and then have to desperately crawl my way on a wing and a prayer through the remainder. It made for tough, frustrating times, and was all around just not a lot of fun.

And I wanted to have fun, see more Ferelden. Thanks to Casual, I have. But I wish it didn’t to have to come to such drastic measures.

Not a videogame-heavy weekend

As usual, my weekends are pretty booked up. I rarely spend them in my apartment, meaning I can only travel with my Nintendo DS if there is time to game it up. Alas, most often, there isn’t. Like this past weekend. The fiancée and I went out to visit some family, as well as register more for our wedding in October. Busy, busy, busy.

The most gaming we did together was played some more levels in Amazing Adventures: The Forgotten Ruins, a hidden items game borrowed from my mother’s collection:

It’s pretty straightforward. You have a list, you find the items hidden in the picture, you play a mini-game, you skip the superfluous plot-only text, and you search the new locale. But it’s not the worst thing in the world, and it’s a  fun way to kill thirty minutes.

Then, upon my return to my apartment, I popped in Dragon Age: Origins to…not play it. The server was down? Um, okay. That was odd. I’ve never been locked out of a videogame I purchased for a system I own on a TV I own and so on. Restarted the Xbox 360, and got in just fine the second time around. Weird.

Anyways, I wasn’t actually having much luck combat-wise with the mage so I tried out a new character, completing the Human Noble origin with a dual-wielding rogue. She was fiesty, but still not what I was looking for. So I decided to go for another origin opening, this time with a Dwarf Noble. He specializes in sword and shield attacks and has a cool beard. I’m liking him–and his intro story–very much.

However, I might go and do the origins for everyone else left (Dalish Elf, City Elf, and Dwarf Commoner) and then pick who’d I really like to play the full game with from there. I thought the mage would’ve been great, but all my other teammates rush to their deaths too quickly and he’s just then left in the corner casting Cone of Cold like a goof-head.

However, before any of that, I want to work on whatever my next review for The First Hour will be. XIII? SimCity DS? I really don’t know yet. Hmm…

March 2010’s interesting game releases

Well, not surprisingly, February 2010 flew by, and here we are in good ol’ March. The snow is melting, it’s raining a lot more in New Jersey, and warmer weather is just around the corner. As are some big, big videogame releases. Here’s the ones that interest me the most this month…

Sonic Classic Collection – March 2 (Nintendo DS)

The recent announcement about Sonic the Hedgehog 4 has caused a rift between fans. Or maybe that should be “fans.” I don’t know. These people really hate the project, despite knowing very little of it, and want to boycott the game the moment it comes out. Umm. To me, it looks like classic Sonic with shinier skin for current gen consoles. Not the worst thing in the world. But enough about that. I’m more curious to see how the original Sonic games in Sonic Classic Collection play on a Nintendo DS. Can the framerate keep up? And one would hope there isn’t too much touchscreen integration.

Final Fantasy XIII – March 9 (360, PS3)

I have some love/hate issues with many Final Fantasy games, and the ones I really enjoy are generally not the ones others felt were the best in the series. I’m talking about Final Fantasy IX and Final Fantasy XII. One was a throwback to olden days with mages and castles, and the other a mix of MMORPG aesthetics and unburdened freedom. This one, however, looks pretty, but is being touted as extremely linear. ActionButton totally ripped it a new one. Still, my curiousity has been itched, and I’m definitely pleased to see it as a multiplatform release.

Dragon Age: Origins: Awakening – March 16 (PC, PS3, 360)

Having only logged about 12 hours in Dragon Age: Origins at the moment, I’m both happy and nervous about more game content. I mean, the original is huge as is, and it’ll be a long time before I see all there is to see. I guess though, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not the worst thing in the world, going back to Ferelden for more slaughtering, more persuading, more sexy times. I just won’t be rushing out to pick this up until I’ve exhausted what I’ve got now.

God of War III – March 16 (PS3)

I don’t own a Playstation 3, but that can’t keep me away. If anything, God of War III‘s imminent release has only opened Pandora’s Box and reminded me that I’ve still not beaten God of War, stuck on that final battle against Ares. Sigh. He’s a tough god, I’ll give him that. But a bit cheap. I can only side-roll so many times before he takes me down.

Not sure if I’ll ultimately make a purchase this month though as I’ve still got a ton of other games to play, many that I only just started. Ahem, Dragon Age: Origins, ahem ahem, Grand Theft Auto IV ahem. We’ll see…