Your character’s journey through the world of Dragon Age: Origins is a bloody one. Battles and cutscenes are filled with spurting gore, and the trail your party takes along the world map is colored by sanguinary splatters. But the gratuitous pools of red your enemies leave on the battlefield helps paint the bigger picture: Whether you’re fighting ravening monsters or desperate refugees hoping to kill you for coin, everything bleeds, and everything dies.
Players must decide how to make their way through such a violent world. After completing one of six unique, multi-hour origin stories determined by your character’s race and class, you become a member of the Gray Wardens, a group of heroes dedicated to stopping the armies of monstrous darkspawn ravaging the world. The game’s creators were inspired by George R.R. Martin’s Song Of Ice And Fire novels, so political intrigue can prove just as deadly as swords and spells.
Every aspect of gameplay is packed with depth. Your party members love chatting as you walk through towns, opening up about their pasts, or just bickering with each other. As you build a stable of characters, swapping them out isn’t just important for combat strategy, it factors into how NPCs react to you. Dialogue trees determine what your party thinks of your character, and can allow you to approach a problem in a multitude of ways. Fear, violence, persuasion, and kindness are all tools at your disposal. Exploration is strongly rewarded, as the world is filled with hidden quests and treasures.
The combat system closely mirrors BioWare’s Baldur’s Gate, allowing players to pause the action to issue orders to their party. In more chaotic fights, the tactics menu provides an invaluable tool, letting players give standing orders like “use a healing item when at half health.” Mastering the combination of automated commands and micromanagement is the key to victory, as fights can be brutally hard. Luckily, death carries only light penalties, and failure always feels educational. Add in excellent voice acting, gorgeous graphics, highly customizable characters, and complex systems for how spells interact, and the result is a game destined to become a new RPG staple.