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Alice’s Advice For Playing Dragon Age: Origins

Alice’s Advice For Playing Dragon Age: Origins


I got Dragon Age: Origins as a Christmas gift in 2009 (the year it was released) and though it would have been a long time before I actually completed it but it was an engrossing game none the less.

It’s a third person, squad based, tactical RPG set in Ferelden, a nation in the continent of Thedas during the fifth Blight. Essentially a war with twisted, subterranean abominations known as darkspawn led by a nigh unstoppable Archdemon. The presence of an Archdemon is what differentiates a blight from just a darkspawn incursion.

You play through one of eight origin stories as a human, elf or dwarf with your chosen class of warrior, rogue or mage (though dwarven mages aren’t possible). After which you join the Grey Wardens, a prestigious group famed for their darkspawn slaying prowess, it is their purpose to stop the blight. Pretty early in the game, after one of my favourite game openings (seriously, one of the cutscenes gives me goosebumps every time) you set off in search of allies to help you fight the encroaching threat, enlisting armies and companions along the way.

You move in a party of four, though you will have a choice of much than that, giving way to a diversity of party compositions. Some companions include the swamp witch Morrigan, the circle mage healer Wynne, the ol’ drunken dwarf Oghren and the Mabari warhound you may save the life of in the game’s opening.

Squad composition is important, given the difficulty of the game and since your character is set in the party it’s another part of what will be your character’s role. If you want a team comprised solely of warriors you’re not going to be making things easy on yourself. The same can be said of a team comprised solely of any one class. You need balance. One of my latest characters was a mage based on spells which constricted movement of enemies who then went on to become an Arcane Warrior, a more melee-based mage subclass.

Speaking of subclasses, there are twelve subclasses in the game, four for each class. You can choose up to two subclasses for your character as they get to higher levels, allowing you to specialize your character with new thematic spells or abilities. Most companions come with a subclass chosen. It’s worth noting that you have to unlock them in-game, you can’t just become a shapeshifter for example, you need to learn it first. Subclasses can be found in tomes, sidequests or sometimes by convincing your companions to teach you about theirs.

Preparation is important, I already mentioned party composition but when going out to fight you should have an idea of what and where you’ll be fighting. You may be swarmed by giant spiders or baby dragons, or you could be ambushed by by a group of mages standing on a ridge. If you know you’ll be fighting the undead, you should enchant your weapons to deal more damage to the undead etc.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, spells and abilities come in two forms (not including passive bonuses here) – active and sustained. Active abilities are used and your magic/stamina pool is simply decreased by its cost but sustained abilities have an activation cost and then so long as the effect is active, a portion of your pool is capped off. You could enchant yourself with magic armour and weapons but it just means you won’t be able to cast as many spells.

Another thing that affects ability costs is the weight of your armour; the heavier it is, the more tiring it is to pull off manoeuvres, with different thresholds for each class, meaning a warrior can wear platemail without the same disadvantages as a mage wearing the same thing.

I don’t want to get into spoilers for the game too much (I feel as though I’m on a fine line with just referring to the opening in that earlier paragraph!) but I could discuss the story and lore of the games to no end!

What are your thoughts on Dragon Age: Origins or the series as a whole? Let me know in the comments below.