Dragon Age: Origins – Final Thoughts: Picking Up the Pieces

I was surprised at how many of those old emotions that I hold towards this game came rushing back with this VGJ. At least I understand them a bit better now. Maybe.

On the whole, DA:O may seem a bit clichéd, but sometimes, it’s more about the ideas than execution. Dragon Age is uncompromising in its portrayal of a brutal and dark fantasy world. But it has heart, too. There are a lot of sympathetic characters and even antagonists, like Zatharian. Also, there are a lot of choices and branching paths that make each player’s experience unique.

I forgot to mention that one of the customizations that you can choose for your character is to design of their portrait. You can position their headshot and give it a unique background, which is pretty cool. Dragon Age II lacks such an option. 😦

All of the companions have their own portrait, as well.

The Characters, AKA Re: Alistair

Alistair is a character that I liked pretty much immediately, pretty much because he’s funny and handsome. His humor is clearly some sort of defense mechanism for his lonely and unsure life.

What I didn’t realize about this game and some of its characters is that they can be “hardened” at certain points in the story. These choices will change their characterization. I failed to “harden” Alistair after he met Goldanna, which led to the fallout with him at the Landsmeet. On the other hand, I did “harden” Leliana’s personality without even knowing what the “right” choices were. It was the result of an encounter with her ex-lover, Marjolaine, who was an unrepentantly evil assassin, unlike Leliana who left that life. I did not even originally write about the encounter with Marjolaine in my VGJ.

Alistair’s exit from the story is the main reason my ending for the game is a tornado of emotions. There was a shift in the tone of the LP when I got to that point after having a more snarky and breezy tone for the 2011 entries.

But is it fair to criticize Alistair as immature and bratty? Doesn’t that make me sound entitled to his cooperation? He certainly had a point about the attempts on his and Etheria’s lives by Loghain.

It’s just a sour note to go on. Forget having him in a romance; Etheria didn’t even keep him as a friend. I had no idea he would react that badly to sparing Loghain’s life. I guess I didn’t know him that well after all.

I don’t do a lot of shipping in games, and I don’t always identify with the main character in games that simulate relationships, but I did for DA:O. It was grand, but also bittersweet.

I originally thought that Alistair could not marry an elven Warden, but it depends on whether or not he’s “hardened”. I would later learn that Alistair’s own mother… was an elf.

I don’t regret having Leliana for a love interest. She’s a lovable character, and it was a chance for me to confront my same-sex attraction, which I’d never done before. It just sucks that Alistair and Etheria couldn’t even stay friends.

Morrigan: I’ve made my thoughts clear on her. Morrigan and I never got on. I guess Etheria kept her nose too squeaky-clean for her.

Morrigan has been criticized as falling under “stupid evil” by some, but is she actually evil? I’m not so sure, but it’s hard to say since I never got to experience the sidequest where you learn more about her and her relationship with her mother, Flemeth. That’s what happens when her approval of you is low. (Kind of funny how one of the earliest points of approval that I gained were from her, unlike with Alistair and Leliana. Things reversed over time.)

Despite all this, I am curious to see her role in Dragon Age: Inquisition. I wonder if the choice of her baby daddy has any influence on the game.

Leliana: She is a rather sweet and artistic character. It’s true that she does not have the cleanest backstory with being an assassin, but that was Marjolaine’s influence. In terms of combat, I made her more of an archer kind of rogue than an up-close, stabby kind of rogue, unlike Zevran.

Some Leliana trivia: her character model was based off of an adult film actress. Her character design looks a little different in DA:I.

Wynne: AKA, “Made of”. She’s a pretty cool and sweet old lady, and a healer, to boot.

It should be noted that Wynne always has a conversation with you about your love interest, no matter who said love interest is. She’s got your back.

I don’t remember experiencing her backstory in my playthrough. In her youth, she had affairs with her fellow mages in the Circle and even aTemplar. She became pregnant with a son, Rhys. Before he became First Enchanter, the old First Enchanter, Wenselus, confronted him as to the paternity of the baby. Irving identified the boy’s father as a Templar, but did not reveal which Templar it was.

Rhys was taken from Wynne by the Chantry, and she was too weak from giving birth to stop them.

In the Dragon Age novel, Asunder, Wynne reunites with Rhys as an adult.

Unfortunately, I would later learn that Wynne died in Asunder before the events of DA:I

Sten: One of the more interesting companions, but also one of the hardest to get any background info 0n in-game. I think that part of it is cultural, while the other part is just Sten being stoic and impersonal. His relationship with Etheria was interesting because they achieved some mutual respect for each other.

There was a point that I missed or skipped in my LP; one of Sten’s comments about a female Warden being a warrior. He says that, in qunari culture, being a woman and a warrior is mutually exclusive, which makes him wonder what the female Warden is.

Zevran: One of the characters that I talked about the least. I think it’s because I was turned off by his overt sexuality. He came on pretty strong with the flirting (at least by my standards in 2010). I was a little biphobic, or maybe a little jealous, of his bisexuality. I have to be a big girl and admit it. Now, I’m unfazed by a character being bi, though I am also armed with more experience about bisexuality tropes and clichés. I generally dislike it when characters come on strong with flirting, regardless of their sexuality.

At least I didn’t have as much complaints about his stats as the others, and I did get some of his backstory with the Antivan Crows assassins.

Oghren: Besides Zevran, probably the character that I referenced the least. Maybe it’s because I got to Orzammar late. Oghren is pretty much in the middle; on one hand, he is voiced by Steve Blum, which is awesome. But on the other, he’s a dirty old man who said he was going to creep on my girl! Not cool.

He could be hardly less like Varric in terms of contrasting dwarven companions.

Bodahn and Sandal: How could I not have mentioned these two until nearly the end? Bodahn is a dwarven merchant. Sandal is his son who is a bit “special” due to being addled with lyrium. He has a penchant for saying “Enchantment!” over and over. Sandal reveals some hidden depth when you find him standing amidst a pile of Darkspawn corpses in Fort Drakon. Was that the result of an enchantment?

Anora: As I’ve said before, she is difficult to hate, despite the events at the Landsmeet and her persistence at her father’s side. I think that another reason why she never remarried is because she loved Cailan.

The Quests

I can’t remember the logic behind my decisions to tackle the quests in the order that I did. Out of all the quests, I think that the Brecillian Forest one may actually be my favorite just because of the storyline. It may be the darkest and most brutal of them all, but that makes it provoke the most emotion. I remember being a little frustrated with the gameplay of it, but I didn’t mention that in my VGJ and I don’t remember any specifics as to why anymore.

As for my least favorite? Well… it would seem that Orzammar was the straw that broke the camel’s back, at least for a while. It was what made me take the longest break from the game, and ultimately start fiddling with the difficulty settings. I’m not proud of it; I just wanted to experience the story. Orzammar is also known as “Borzammar” to some. It is kind of a claustrophobic environment, and the storyline of the quest isn’t that great, although Branka is memorable for how screwed up she is.

The Presentation

I like the character models in DA better than those of Mass Effect; though ME does have a lot of good graphics, it also has infamously stiff-looking human characters. The characters in DA are more expressive and naturalistic, though even they can fall into the dreaded Uncanny Valley at times. Fear it!

Trivia

Jowan was originally going to be a companion, but BioWare couldn’t fit him in due to the already large team of party members.

Thedas stands for “The Dragon Age Setting”. It was originally a placeholder, but BioWare kept it as the official name for the game’s world.

It would seem that the majority of Qunari have horns, but Sten does not. In Qunari culture, it is believed that Qunair born without horns are destined for greatness. Also, some Qunari sever their horns when they reject the Qun.

None of the Qunari in DA:O have horns because BioWare didn’t have time to render alternate versions of helmets with holes for horns.

Some voice actor trivia:

Morrigan: Claudia Black

Flemeth: Kate Mulgrew

Sten: Mark Hildreth

Arl Howe: Tim Curry

Gamerankings.com Score

Dragon Age: Origins (Xbox 360): 86.98%

In Conclusion

I did not have the smoothest time playing DA:O, and if you look at just the surface of the game, it may seem clichéd, but it’s still one of my favorite BioWare games. It’s worth checking out, though you may have to fiddle with the difficulty settings sometimes. 

Did you play DA:O? Did you enjoy it? Did you romance anyone? What kind of Warden did you have? Did you buy any of the DLC? How does it compare to other BioWare games?

What’s Next?

An excellent question. DA:O is the last VGJ that I did before I started putting miscellaneous games into VGJ omnibuses. These were supposed to be for “the best of the rest”, but I eventually decided to just put all of my LPs into VGJOs anyway. Or should I just skip ahead in time and do my LP of Dragon Age II? 😉

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