Well, that’s about it, again, for Dragon Age Origins.  It’s frustrating; I’ve tried the final boss battle half a dozen times, and can’t get past the huge wave of darkspawn that show up.  And it doesn’t help that the battle is so laggy on my computer that it’s a complete chore to do anything.  Or that you can’t save partway through. 

Edit: but see this.

Damned dirty dragon

I have mixed feelings about the game.  It was compelling enough to put up with the lag and endless sloggy dungeons.   I think the combat system completely sucked for a warrior, but it’s not bad when you have two mages; you just get into a rhythm of pausing every couple of seconds to select spells.  There was even one really difficult battle where I lost everyone but Morrigan, and she managed to wrap up the remaining baddies… very satisfying. 

The voice acting and character interaction are the best part of the game; unfortunately you get less and less of it as the game goes on.  They’ve made a real effort to suggest a complicated world with realistic power struggles, fallible leaders, and rampant prejudice… and then made every problem something to be solved with a brawl.  It seems like a cheat sometimes… you’re presented with some moral choice, or a tasty bit of intrigue (e.g. which dwarven king to support, or how to defeat the evil usurper without alienating his powerful daughter), but whatever you decide, the real result comes from one more battle.  (The dwarven kings don’t matter, and the only real concern with the usurper plot is to not lose one of your companions.)  All this is one reason I appreciate a good stealth game: if well done, it’s an alternative to constant combat.

4. Anyone ever tell you that you look hot covered in blood?

The romance options are interesting, though mine got screwed up… I was going for Leliana, and simply never got any options to do anything interesting, despite having her at 100%.  Probably just as well; I’ve seen the Leliana lovemaking session online, and it’s, well, less than erotic.  The DAO character models are way too clunky; it looks like robots grappling.  Mass Effect 1 did this a lot better.

I appreciate what they were trying to do… this world feels under threat in a way that Oblivion didn’t manage (with its people complaining about mud crabs even as Hell is invading).  But I can’t get past a few basic problems:

  • It’s a very conventional fantasy world… there’s really nothing amazing about the art and architecture, the weapons, the fantasy races, or the gameplay.  It’s a nice touch that the elves are the underclass, but they really have no character besides the pointy ears.  Jade Empire was way better in terms of interesting combat mechanics and a gameworld that seemed novel and lively.
  • The combat system seems to combine the worst aspects of real-time and turn-based systems.   A fully turn-based mechanic as in King’s Bounty actually works better: you fully focus on the different capabilities of each warrior in turn and never lose track of anyone.
  • The quests are just so damn long.  I have zero desire to replay any of them, they were just slogs.  And that in turn means that there are huge chunks of companion interaction I’m missing out on, or alternative character builds that I’m not going to try. 

Another gruntle: the inventory system.  I felt like I never found enough good stuff, and inventory management becomes a chore rather than a challenge.  You had to worry about full inventories in Oblivion too, but you had Feather spells there, and the dungeons weren’t so long.  The crafting system seems half-done… I could never find enough lyrium dust or elfroot to make much.

All this sounds rather negative, which is a little misleading.  There really are a lot of nice little touches.  I like when the companions tease or annoy each other; I like the dynamic where your choices may please one companion and offend another; the war dogs are a great touch; and the really weird bits (mostly the Fade sections) are quite good.  The multiple origins are also quite clever.