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Monday, April 15, 2024

Dragon Age: Origins

Mass Effect was just lame - an utterly boring slog that cribs elements of other, better science fiction works while adding no unique twists of its own.  But I had at least a little hope for Dragon Age.  While BioWare was never very good at making a "role-playing experience", surely they could at least recapture the challenging tactical gameplay, interesting characters and captivating narratives of their old Infinity Engine games, right?  Well, it was an RPG on a console in 2009 - a time period when people valued pretty cutscenes and online functionality gimmicks over gameplay or requiring any thought to complete - so you can guess how well it went.  Rather than having 60+ classes, numerous pieces of equipment, a vast array of potions, scrolls and spells and countless character builds to experiment with, you get... 3.  Yep, it's the old Fighter/Thief/Mage trifecta with boring, linear skill trees to determine what slightly different tactics you can employ, in theory at least. In practice combat mostly consists of big, slow, boring rounds of Rockem Sockem Robots, with everyone trading blows until one side falls and getting healed to full immediately after if you win.  No stakes, no tension, hardly any tactics and no fun.  Christ, even Diablo II, released nearly a decade prior, had far deeper combat and character building than this, and even Diablo 1 had more character choices if you factor in the Hellfire expansion pack. The plot is utterly predictable dark fantasy fare, pitting the humanoid races against whatever generic big threat is the current flavor of the month (darkspawn zombies, in this case).  The writing continues to suck major ass in the same way Mass Effect's did, just aping from other, better stories and cramming in everything you need to know via huge stretches of flat exposition that read more like a car manual than conversations between characters.  Don't expect any decent worldbuilding either because, of course, it's all relegated to utterly boring wiki articles you get to exit out of the gameplay completely to read; we wouldn't want to disrupt the constant action and risk losing that lucrative audience of thirteen-year-old boys who only care about mindless monster bashing and titties and cheevos!  Dragon Age also just screams "desperate moneymaking scam" because as you play there's constant popups about its dozens of DLC releases - nearly all of them being short, unsatisfying hour-long quests they're trying to milk $5 or more apiece out of.  Yeah... all the fanboys still whingeing on about Oblivion's horse armor can officially piss right off; at least Bethesda had the courtesy to not pester me about buying it every three minutes.

Dragon Age: Origins is shallow, unoriginal and ruthlessly boring, but that's the entire point of it existing.  There was never a thought spared by Electronic Arts for making a decent game, just for milking a few dollars out of the dozens of D&D-clone RPGs that came before it while investing as little development time and money as possible.  Alongside other overhyped and derivative '00s/early '10s turds like Bioshock, Dishonored, Dead Space, Witcher, Mass Effect, Dark Souls and especially Halo, it's just another example of companies cashing in on platform bias - shamelessly copycatting things PC and retro console games had already done brilliantly years prior, stripping out any trace of depth or complexity they had to make them 'broadly accessible', and selling it as the next big "cultural revolution" to early teenagers too young to know they're being served a cheap knockoff and fanboys too in love with their corporate gods to care.  It only becomes worse once you consider BioWare once worked on a few of those great games they're now making empty, soulless clones of; they've clearly got talent at their disposal and EA chooses not to use it because they can just buy positive reviews regardless.  An utterly disgraceful exploitation of a once prestigious name, Dragon Age marked the end of any hope I had of BioWare ever being good again.

Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Released: 2009
Platforms: XBox 360, PC, PlayStation 3