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Looking Back to 2009 and Kinky Elves in Dragon Age: Origins

In the not-too-distant past of 2009, before we were treated to political intrigue and some “bow chicka wow wow” moments in the first season of Game of Thrones. Before we embarked on an epic quest to slay humongous dragons across the snow-laden lands of Skyrim. And before BioWare fell from grace because of Anthem, the studio was well-renowned for the Mass Effect series and Dragon Age: Origins.

Set within the landscape of Ferelden, Origins masterfully mixed exploration and epic battles with politics, romancing and betrayal; it felt like Mass Effect in many regards. To put it simply, Dragon Age is to Mass Effect what The Elder Scrolls is to Fallout. Two series that take place within different timelines, yet are united by similar mechanics.

However, a decade on the market hasn’t been kind to the game’s visuals. Dragon Age: Origins looks fairly dated compared to other games of that generation. Quite frankly, it didn’t look that impressive upon release, either. But despite its dated visuals, I managed to replay the game a couple of years ago. And once I got past the rudimentary graphics, Origins became quite enjoyable. So today, we take a look at what made Dragon Age: Origins deliver such an amazing adventure despite its subpar visuals.

Let Me Tell You a Story

One big difference to Mass Effect was the ability to choose from one of the six Origin stories. An Origin determined the perspective from which your journey began. And choosing either a human, an elf or a dwarf altered the first few hours of the game. All stories culminated in Ostagar for a grand battle against the Darkspawn.

Led by the terrifying Archdemon, these semi-intelligent beings slaughtered village after village, much like the Night King and his army. Only an elite group of warriors known as the Grey Wardens stood against them. And summoned by a man named Duncan, you were offered an opportunity to become one of them: a Grey Warden. But following a resounding defeat in Ostagar, the remaining Wardens – namely you and Alistair – were left to venture across Ferelden to unite its tribes against a common threat.

Its story was told in such a way that made you care about the characters, a story all too familiar to fans of Game of Thrones. But it was also a rare game in which your choices actually made a difference. Based on your actions and the ability to converse, alliances were formed and enemies were made. Characters lived and died because of your decisions. Certain paths and abilities became locked for the remainder of the campaign. And even the game’s final hours were impacted in unpredictable ways.

Wandering Wardens

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Though progression occasionally felt linear, Ferelden featured numerous points of interest: towns, cities and dungeons. Each locale had a potential for optional side-quests and even battles which tested your party to its limits. Exploring dungeons – discovering new loot, accumulating experience and levelling up – was immensely enjoyable.

I particularly enjoyed many of the optional battles within the game. Combat encounters against the likes of Flemeth, Ser Cauthrien and the High Dragon were nigh impossible for the unprepared. These battles required exceptional equipment, party composition and tactical prowess. But overcoming the odds not only awarded your party with additional loot and glory. They often changed the flow of the story and felt highly rewarding.

Actually, He’s the One Who’s Been Taking It

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Between the exhilarating battles and story-progression, you could visit the camp to take a respite and organize the party. But more importantly, you could learn more about the past of your comrades and even romance them. Each character had an Approval ranking, raising which led to a closer relationship with said character. And you could even give them gifts, like jewellery and wine, with the potential of gaining a friend with benefits.

Seriously, it’s like grooming a character in The Sims: “Is that for me? Really? Oh, you shouldn’t have!”. Mere moments later… cue “Careless Whisper” by George Michael. And you could romance many of them regardless of your own character’s gender. How do I know? Well… I read it up, okay?! As you might already understand, particularly close relationships often culminated in the tent.

These scenes of intimacy were not exceptionally pleasing to the eye and were just as awkward as their Mass Effect counterparts. Character movements were cringe-worthy and they remained fully clothed during the act. But high approval bestowed other benefits. Raising anyone’s Approval also increased their stats and with how difficult some of the battles were, even minor upgrades played an important part.

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And that just about covers my highlights with the game. Dragon Age: Origins didn’t exactly reach the heights of its sci-fi counterpart or the epic scale of Shepard’s story. But it did provide an intriguing narrative, where most decisions led to consequences. Its world was jam-packed with optional side-quests, dungeons and boss battles.

And seven DLC packs, along with the Awakenings expansion, added even more to the already impressive amount of activities. Even 10 years later, Dragon Age: Origins serves as a prime example of “graphics aren’t everything” and deserves the attention of every RPG fan. Now excuse me, I feel like replaying it all over again as a lustful female elf.

You can pick up Dragon Age: Origins from the Xbox Store right now. It’s playable on both Xbox 360 and Xbox One via Backwards Compatibility, and back in June 2017 went free via Games With Gold. Alternatively, a physical copy can be grabbed from Amazon.


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