Dragon Age: Origins

A dark fantasy from the makers of Baldur's Gate
John Fox - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

Violence: Blood is a theme. Enemies spurt red blood when hit in melee and a pool of blood forms when they die. Blood covers character when in combat (can be turned off). Some gore can be seem like decapitations in melee combat.

Language: Mild to moderate language is used throughout.

Sexual Content: Suggestive and sexual references skittered throughout. Optional romances end in a "sex scene". Characters can visit a brothel and buy services there. One ending requires a male character to sleep with a female one. A couple female characters are topless or nearly topless and one has her buttocks exposed.

Spiritual Content: Magic is used and gods are mentioned. Demons posses or trick mortals.

Other:Characters act drunk and some crude dialog.

*Special thanks to Phazon for help in the content section*

Legends tell that long ago, the mages in their arrogance invaded the Golden City of the Maker. The Maker cast them out and, for their crime, turned them into horrible creatures known as darkspawn. Later as an act of vengeance, the Darkspawn invaded the world of Ferelden, headed by the Archdemon: a Dragon of immense power once worshiped as a god. They ravaged the land, destroying everything in their path. Hope was almost lost until they were defeated by the Grey Wardens, an elite band of people from all walks of life. With the Archdemon dead, the darkspawn fled back into hiding. This was to be known as the first Blight. Years passed bringing new blights, each time defeated by the Grey Wardens at great personal cost. Now there are whispers of a new Blight on the horizon and a new Archdemon ready to invade the land once again.

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Dragon Age: Origins stars a newly made player character who, after a brief introduction, joins the Grey Wardens and than sets off to gather allies and armies to help stop the current Blight. The player creates a character choosing from three races, human, elf and dwarf; three classes, warrior, rogue and mage and customizing the character’s looks. Finally the character chooses an origin, which determines the first couple hours of the game as well as having a small effect on the game as a whole.

Dragon Age plays similar to other 3rd person Bioware games such as Knights of the Old Republic. The player explores the land of Ferelden, going on quests, gathering allies, acquiring treasure and gaining experience. The game is also fairly non-linear. There are a handful of regions the player must visit to gather armies to defeat the darkspawn. Most areas can be visited at any time. As the player gains in experience, you can unlock new skills, abilities, or spells. At level 7 and 14, you may choose from a specialization which can be unlocked during the game. These further specialize the character’s role and give the player new abilities.

Each region is masterfully made. From a mage tower under attack to elves with a werewolf problem, each area is interesting and intriguing in itself. Like many Bioware games, the player has to make many choices throughout the game. These choices sometimes have a small to moderate effect on the story. Individual party members gathered during the game each have a variety of personalities and colored back stories as well. From a bird-hating golem, a dog, a sarcastic fellow Grey Warden, to an elderly mage; through well written dialog and excellent voice acting these characters, including the generic NPCs, bring a lot of flavor to the game.

Sadly the overall story never gets past “Stop the darkspawn” and the player never really feels the impending doom of a darkspawn invasion. The ending, while epic, feels shoehorned in; like the darkspawn waited for the player to be ready to start their attack. The last boss is also disappointingly predicable and on the easy side as well.

Music and sound are pretty good, though none really stick out besides the haunting vocals of the title screen music. The graphics are a bit dated, but not enough to distract from the game as a whole.

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Violence:


Blood seems to be a theme in the game. A dragon made out of blood is the logo, blood pools on a parchment on the loading screen and a trail of blood mark the party’s progress on the world map.

Characters fight a variety of enemies, from humans, demons, darkspawn, to giant spiders and the undead. When hit in melee combat they generally spurt a sizable amount of red blood. Upon death, a large pool of blood forms underneath them, and when their corpse is looted they generally turn into bones. Sometimes in melee combat a character will pull off a more violent finishing move, such as a decapitation in which the head is lobbed off and disappears when hitting the ground. A sizable spurt of blood comes from the neck and some red muscle where the head once was is shown. Another example is when killing ogres in melee, the character will jump on the ogre and stab it in vital areas in slow motion, accompanied by the usual spurt of red blood. Some magic, such as blood magic or the walking bomb spell is very bloody as well. Unless persistent gore is turned off, the player will be covered with blood when fighting enemies. A couple times during the game, the player will encounter blood in the environment, such as blood covering the floor of the orphanage, as well as mutilated corpses or heads on spikes in torture chambers.

By far the most violent parts of the games are the cut scenes of army battles, which happen several times during the game. In these battles blood flies all over the place. Thankfully, these are only a very small part of the game as a whole.

Players wishing for slightly less violent game should either play an archer or a mage, though some spells should be skipped like blood magic and walking bomb. Players cannot skip the blood and violence altogether, however.

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Language:

Mild to moderate language (d*mn, h*ll, a*se, a*s, b*stard, b*tch, w*ore, c*ap) is used every once in a while. The most common is b*stard. The ESRB mentions that s*it is used, but I never ran into it, except it almost being uttered by Shale “covered in bird sh—“. Dwarfs frequently use the word “sod” like the f-word “sod it” “sodding Darkspawn”. Overall the language is not more than a couple instances an hour maximum, and is not really any worse than some T-rated RPGs.

Sexual Content:

Suggestive and sexual references are peppered throughout the game. For example, rape is mentioned several times, such as an elf girl being raped by humans and than killing herself when she finds out she is pregnant. Another example is that a man’s wife runs off with her female lover. When the husband finds out he comments “if I would have known that was her thing I would have had adjustments made”. Later he mentions the fact that he does not like thinking of idea of them on the ground “entwined, kissing and licking each other”. One other time to escape from a prison (presumably both genders) have the option to seduce a guard into your cell and have him strip down to his underwear, the player can only attack him at this point. (though you can fake illness as well)

By far the most sexual content comes from the optional party member Zevran, an elf assassin whose mother was a “whore” and who was raised in a brothel. He can tell you some of his stories of his life, two of which involve sleeping with female targets he was supposed to assassinate. Much of his dialog and banter with party members is sexual in nature as well, as that is one of his main interests.

Another problematic party member Oghren, whose drunkenness often leads him to being crude. One time he mistook my male character for female and invited me to bed (you cannot accept), another time he called the dog a “nug humper” because he said the dog was stealing his pants which he was wearing  at the moment (nugs are small pig like creatures). Another example is him calling his wife a “firebrand under the sheets” and also mentions that some berserkers had to be “kicked in the stones” to get their berserker rage going.

Players wanting to minimize sexual content are recommended to not recruit Zevran (or at very least not use or talk to him) and minimize using or talking too Oghren (recruiting him is mandatory).

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The player can romance three party members, one unique to the gender and one of each gender that is shared between both male and female characters. The male character that both genders can romance, Zevran, is openly bisexual. The player can ask him about this (which basically boils down to where he grew up they were more open about those things). If he mentions he is interested in your male character you can tell him you are not interested in him and he apologizes, though he may call you handsome later on. The female character, Leliana, is less open and obvious (at least for my male character); the only possible hint is that she says how she loved her former female mentor. She is actually the sweetest and most pure of the romances available to male characters.

These romances vary from more pure to more lustful depending on what dialog choices you choose and who you romance. Some characters might invite you into their tent to sleep with them, though you can decline. Eventually the player can trigger a “sex scene” which is slightly different depending on the gender pairing (accepting the tent invite also triggers this). It shows the two characters in their underwear hugging, kissing and caressing each other, and in or getting into various sexual positions, sometimes partially obscured. Once it shows very briefly the player on top of their partner moving about with an elated look on the other’s face, presumably doing the deed; the player’s back is covering what is going on. The player will wake up near the other character fully clothed. Overall the scene lasts about 30 seconds, but is very “sexually charged”, even more so than the Mass Effects scene. Sadly to finish the romance (which basically nets you an item and an achievement/trophy) you have to sleep with them, though if you don’t want to the game will still recognize them as your romance partner story wise.

To get one of the four endings a male character has to sleep with a female character as part of a dark ritual in which the newly conceived child is corrupted. This shows the two in their underwear, the male in bed and the female character cantering over to him getting in bed over him, but she blows out the candle and the game skips to the next scene before any intimacy occurs. This is the only part of the ritual it shows.

An optional area in the game, the Perl, is a brothel. If the player wishes, they can take their pick from male or female prostitutes (or both in which they can choose a cross dressing elf), for a fee. The player then sees a scene with both the player and the prostitute in their underwear, with the latter in bed. The prostitute then says a suggestive or sexual remark. The screen fades away and you hear a sexual groan coming from the prostitute. The player than wakes up in their underwear standing next to the bed, the partner gone. The player can also choose “surprise me” in which the screen fades and comes back to a room in underwear with various implements in the room like a whip, a twohanded hammer or nugs. What actually happened is left up to the player’s imaginations. There is also another prostitute in a dwarf city, but you cannot purchase her services.

In the Perl the player can learn the duelist specialization from a female ship captain who knew Zevran intimately. You can either beat her at a game of cards or sleep with her on her ship (and can even bring other party members with you). What happens on the ship is not shown however as the screen just fades out in the Perl.

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The party can takes their clothes off and run around in their underwear if the player wishes, but that would be a good way to get killed by monsters. A couple of times during the game, the player or the party will be seen in their underwear in a non-sexual manner, such as after being treated for injuries. Prisoners are shown in their underwear; the vast majority of them are male.

One party member, Morrigan, start out wearing robes with her back showing and only small strips covering her breasts. Putting her in different robes may still show a lot of cleavage, but wearing armor seems to cover her up. There is also a specific type of armor worn by some female characters that shows a little cleavage. Overall, the characters in the game are well dressed, however.

A couple times during the game the player will run across alluring desire demons that are very busty and nearly topless, except for a metal necklace that covers their nipples. Once, you see a female nature spirit covered similarly with hair, except her buttocks are shown as well. Finally, one hideous boss is completely topless and caresses her breasts; she also has large nipples on her fat folds underneath her torso.

Spiritual Content:

Various gods are mentioned. Humans worship the Maker, a Judeo-Christian inspired single god. Elves worship multiple gods, dwarfs have a form of ancestor worship; finally in the past people used to worship dragons. These gods are more subtle than that of Dungeons and Dragons. There are no clerics who call down miracles in their names and you never see them directly (besides the dragons), but they are nevertheless real to those who believe in them. Some characters and quests are spiritual in nature. One optional party member, Leliana, is a former lay sister of the Chantry and believes that the Maker sent her a vision to help the player. If this really happened or it is her imagination is up to the player to decide. Another part of the game sets the player out to find the Urn of Sacred Ashes, ashes belonging to the holy prophetess Andraste.

Magic is also used by some party members and monsters (as well as the player is you choose the mage class). Mages draw upon power from the fade, a realm where elves and humans go when they sleep. Mage’s spells include shooting fireballs from their fingertips, healing allies, and summoning skeletons. There is also a dark magic used by some mages called bloodmagic.

Evil creatures called demons also reside in the fade and sometimes come over to the world to tempt or trick mortals. Not only are they enemies that the player fights, but a couple times during the game the player will converse with them. Sometimes they are possessing, tricking, or controlling people, twice children. The player can sometimes choose to help or make deals with the demons if they wish, but it is never required. To get one specialization, the blood mage, the player has to help a demon controlling a child.

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Other:

The theme and setting for Dragon Age is very dark. Evil abounds and bad things happen very often. Two of the darkest places in the game is an underground area where a voice describes the destruction and corruption of a group of dwarfs, slowly turned into horrible creatures. Another takes place in a haunted orphanage with a violent past. In one part, a town is attacked by the undead, and the survivors are carried off and eaten. Thankfully, most things are not shown directly, but the game does have its share of dark and disturbing parts.

The player visits taverns during the game and some of the characters there are drunk. The player can purchase alcohol but not consume it and it can be given as a gift to Oghren, who is usually drunk himself.

A magical substance, Lyruim, is used by the mages. This has drug like properties; it is inhaled in its powdered form, increased exposure makes people crazy, also those who take it for its magical properties can experience withdrawal and go mad if they are without it.

During the game, the player makes a variety of choices. Some choices are clearly evil. You can sometimes kill unarmed prisoners and once you can slay elves. It is all up to you how you roleplay your character, and all these choices are, of course, optional. You cannot slay everyone in sight unlike some games like Neverwinter Nights.

One skill that can be learned is pick pocketing which can be used to steal from NPCs. Sometimes your faithful dog lifts his leg to relieve himself, though no visual effect is shown coming out. He can also mark areas this way to provide combat bonuses for him. There is also some crude dialog, like Shale mentioning that pigeons have pooped on him and a guy urinated on him in the past.

Conclusion:

Though not perfect, in my opinion Dragon Age: Origins is Bioware’s best game since Buldar’s Gate. It offers a fun traditional RPG adventure that can easily stand up to most modern competition. Sadly, it is also Bioware’s most content problematic game, and thus I can only recommend it to mature adults. Those seeking a dark adventure into Ferelden can expect an adventure easily spanning 50+ hours. Can your Grey Warden stop the Blight?




Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.

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