Dragon Age Origins (Ultimate Edition) ⚡Review

Dragon Age Origins Review 1

Platform Played On: PC
Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: November 3, 2009

This is the re-posting of the Dragon Age Origins Review I wrote on my old website. This article was originally posted on December 29, 2017. Enjoy past me’s unedited ramblings!

O Dragon Age Origins, why have I waited so long to play thee? I picked up the Ultimate Edition of this glorious RPG early this year. An edition that includes all the DLC plus the Awakening expansion for just $7 CDN?! Yass, please!! I got around to actually playing it in July, and then finally finishing it in November. My only previous BioWare experience had been with Dragon Age II, a game I enjoyed a lot. So why did it take me so long to play the original? I guess I just got distracted by the mountain of other games I want to play, and this series sort of fell off my radar. Then the wise Athena over at AmbiGaming appeared, as if sent by the elven Creators themselves. By constantly reminding me just how awesome this game series is, I guess she wore me down. I’m making my BioWare backlog a priority now, so a huge THANK YOU to my good friend Athena!

How Far I got

This game would have easily been my personal Game of the Year, if Hellblade hadn’t of brought the light to my dark soul (it’s hard for any other game to top that, huh?). For the good of my fragile sanity, I was forced to suppress my inner obsessive lil achievement hunter. This is the PC version so, thankfully, there’s no Platinum Trophy to taunt me. I downed the archdemon, helped a brutally betrayed bard, found a wisecracking witch, stopped the Mother, helped the archdemon win (I’m a monster), got harassed by the horrible Harvester, and guided every possible Grey Warden to Ostagar. My inner voice of reason keeps saying I DO NOT need every achievement, so I am trying really hard to ignore the ones I missed. Backlog problems… sigh.

Dragon Age Origins Review 2
I got a cool one called Lightning Reflexes though!

Lightning Review

Gameplay: Taking place on Thedas in the land of Ferelden, you have six options on how you want the story to begin. Do you want to be ruthless Dwarven royalty, a nimble Dalish nomad, or a boring Human noblewoman like me? You’ve got a lot of options for customizing your main character, including class (Mage, Rogue, Warrior), specialization, race, background story, and gender selection. The origin of your character may differ, but everyone ends up with the same dire mission: destroy the archdemon to stop the Fifth Blight, before it destroys Ferelden. You are one of the last few Grey Wardens who can help, and the fate of the land rests on your shoulders.

Dragon Age Origins Review 3
You’ll learn early on that swooping is bad.

The main objective is to recruit various factions to help your cause (in any order you want), but you’ll have a tough time doing so. Everything from cutthroat politics to cranky werewolves will stand in your way. You have various options to get around those obstacles, but be warned that every decision will have a consequence. The save anywhere feature is your friend! I highly recommend keeping multiple save files, and saving as often as possible in this game. If you screw up with the talking, or if something unexpected destroys you, reload and try something different. Also be aware that some optional things are permanently missable (especially an issue in the Awakening expansion). You can even miss out on one of the best companions in the game – a Chantry sister named Leliana.

Dragon Age Origins Review 4
Explore everything! Trust me, you DO NOT want to miss Leliana. Your camp just won’t be the same without her.

Like most other RPGs, killing stuff to get shiny loot and XP points is a huge part of the game. You can level up your characters, distribute skill points, and pick talents. Mages are super-squishy, but powerful damage dealers and needed healers. Warriors are tough and can crush things, but all that heavy armor will tax their stamina. A Rouge can deal deadly damage by bow or by dagger, but they often need to be placed in the right position on the battlefield. The 4-party combat system (your Grey Warden plus 3 companions) happens in real time, but the action can be paused at any time by pressing the spacebar. You can also jump around to different party members and issue commands manually, even with things paused (very helpful for tough boss encounters). There is a tactics feature where you can fine-tune how the AI controls party members not in your direct control. I had no desire to tinker with this, but it’s great for people who want a more complex gaming experience.

Dragon Age Origins Review 5
Watch out for traps too. A Rogue can detect and disarm them. Since I was a Warrior, Leliana played a huge role in me earning the Lightning Reflexes achievement. You really don’t want to miss her.

I must praise the beautiful and slick UI. It reminded me a lot of World of Warcraft, what with the key mapping for abilities and all. Navigation is all point and click with the mouse. There is also the nifty ability to zoom out to an overhead view with the mouse wheel. This is very useful for gaining an eagle-eyed advantage over your enemies. Things were mostly smooth, but I did hit a few snags. Your 3 party members are always behind you, and they often boxed me into tight spaces. Also, my character got stuck in a running animation on the summit of staircases, a lot (come on… Thedas has no escalators). Minor, but these were still annoyances. You enter the different areas of Ferelden by clicking on a world map. Sometimes you’ll be taken to random encounter areas along the path, but it mostly operates in a fast travel-like fashion from one zone to the next. The game’s constant combat does get tedious sometimes. After slugging your way through some of the longer linear tunnel areas, you’ll just want to move things along already. Luckily, there are more than a few tricky environment puzzles to keep you thinking.

Dragon Age Origins Review 6
Look at that pretty UI! Damn, I miss World of Warcraft… still.

Where the game truly shines is in NPC interactions, story development, and companion relationships. It’s hard to get bored in those linear areas when you’re constantly listening to amusing banter between your badass friends. Various decisions you make during your adventure can impact your approval rating with your travel buddies (you can also bribe them with gifts). Every companion has their own personality, and the best way to know what they like is to talk to them in camp. Friendships are capable of evolving into that sweet love thing, and even the most inept romantic, like me, can land an awkward hunk like Alistair. On that note, all love between consenting adults is a beautiful thing. Props to BioWare for including fun things for all orientations to enjoy!

Dragon Age Origins Review 7
C’mere, my big dorky knight man!

When you’re not killing darkspawn, or kissing Alistair in camp (ahem), you’re talking to NPCs. Your Warden never actually speaks to them, but you are given varied dialog response options. This gives you, the player, the feeling that you are the one saying the line you just chose, making you feel all the more connected to this virtual world. You can also talk your way out of some situations, meaning combat isn’t always the answer (I found it was more fun bashing bad people with swords rather than reasoning with them though).

Dragon Age Origins Review 8
Who needs persuasion skillz when yer good at swingin’ a giant axe around? RAWR!

There are a few more annoying gameplay bugs I feel I should bring up. My game crashed a few times in the big dwarven city of Orzammar, and also a few time in camp during dialog scenes. Also in the Awakening expansion, I encountered a glitch where I couldn’t interact with items needed for a side quest, preventing me from finishing it. These issues shouldn’t turn you away from the game, just some things to watch out for, and more reasons to save often in multiple places.

Graphics: This game came out in 2009 so don’t expect anything “super-ultra HD, now in ultra-real 3D” here. That being said, and judged based on its time period, the graphics are great. Sure, weapons sometimes clip through armor, and Leliana is known to lose her hair if Alistair kisses your Warden too hard in camp, but those are minor faults in the grand scheme of this world. There’s a nice variety of town, house, cave, and outdoor area designs, and no area feels like a carbon copy of anywhere else (unlike a certain successor game I won’t name… *cough* Dragon Age II *cough*).

Dragon Age Origins Review 9
Ignore those wannabe fashion police, my wisecracking witch friend.

I really loved the detailed plate armor designs in this game. Grey Warden Ellen was a female warrior, and she didn’t have to endure the humiliation of wearing plate-bikinis some of other RPGs ladies have to. All of her armor was very practical and imposing, just the way I likes it! The leather and cloth gear was a bit more bland in my opinion, but there are a couple unique pieces in the game that are stunning (For example, Morrigan’s special robes were, um, revealing, but cool overall). Dialog scenes include very neat camera angles that show off the characters and action beautifully. My Warden was a bit expressionless during these, but she is a stone cold warrior goddess so she rocked the look.

Sound: Music is another high point in this game. Inon Zur, a highly respected video game music composer dude, is responsible for one hell of a soundtrack in the dark fantasy adventure! I’m no music expert, but the soundtrack was recorded twice in performances by a 44 piece orchestra, and then merged to make it seem like an 88 piece one. That process sounds really cool! The music overall has depressing, adventurous, and heroic vibes to it, and goes well with the Blight ravaged land. My favourite track was probably the marketplace background music in the Leliana’s Song DLC. That track is easily on a “Top 13 Best Video Game Songs Ever” list for me.

Dragon Age Origins Review 10
Never a dull voiced dialog moment in camp!

All of the characters, except your Warden, are voiced during dialog scenes. The acting was pretty good especially considering how many lines there are in the whole game. Each of the regions have their own local accent, and the voice actors portrayed those well. It’s easy to tell if a character is from Orlais, Antiva, or a native Ferelden just by listening to them talk. There is one specific sound effect that bugged me a tad. Seemingly making up for not being able to talk during dialog scenes, your Warden won’t shut up when you tell them to do stuff. There’s a very short list of one liners your Warden will spout, and Ellen was constantly telling me to “get a ladder” so I could “get off her back”. At least this made her seem as cranky and forgetful as I am!

My Overall Biased Opinion

Dragon Age Origins was the perfect comfort game for my miserable old soul this year. It gave me a powerful warrior goddess I could pretend to be, monsters and evil forces to destroy, the first video game character I ever truly had a thing for, and a group of amazing virtual friends I’ll never forget. The inclusive nature of Ferelden society was refreshing as well. Yeah, the Templars are brutalizing poor mages, and horrible shemlen are murdering innocent elves, but at least gender doesn’t seem to matter. Men and women are treated based on the content of their character, and not judged for loving who they want to. Heck, two of the most twisted villains in this game are women too. Diversity is a good thing! Both genders are equally capable of being noble heroes and deplorable scumbags.

Dragon Age Origins Review 11
I’ll say it again – you really don’t want to miss out on having the badass Leliana as a companion.

Overall, if you haven’t experienced this game yet and are a fan of action RPGs, what are you waiting for? It’s held up strong against the test of time, and definitely still worthy of being played in this advanced gaming age. Many playstyles are accommodated, and the story options feel endless, encouraging multiple playthroughs. You can turn your Warden a great hero or a total asshat, it’s your call! If you can score the Ultimate Edition for cheap, the DLC packs and its expansion offer amazing value to the game. There are some annoying bugs to deal with, but that’s the mark of a true masterpiece – awesome despite its flaws! Just stay away from Alistair… he’s mine.

Memory Lane
SPOILERS AHEAD!!! You have been warned.

This section of my video game reviews is a way for me to remember my journey through a game. Major spoilers will be present here so please avoid this unless you’ve already played the game, or don’t have any plans to. Feel free to share any experiences you’ve had with this game in the comments area thingy below.

Game Summary

Uh, I think I’ve more than covered everything I want to remember in this game during my progress babbling series of posts: Becoming the Grey Warden > Order to Orzammar > Ah! Broodmother?! KILL IT!!! > It Should’ve Been Me… > The Brutally Betrayed Bard > Where’s the Wisecracking Witch? > Awakened > Defeated by Darkspawn > Gruesome Golems > Originated

Favourite Story Moment

In the main campaign and right before the final battle for Denerim goes down, I love the little one on one chats everyone had with my Grey Warden. It added tension and sadness to the final moments. I really love these characters… sniffs.

Favourite Ability/Item/Weapon

The Berserker specialization that Oghren taught Grey Warden Ellen. Channeling all that pent up rage into raw power seems so stress relieving!

Favourite “Oh S@#%” Moment

Encountering a creepy-freaking Broodmother for the first time. Honorable mention goes to meeting the horrible Harvester in the Golems of Amgarrak DLC.

Favourite Zone/Level/Area

Vigil’s Keep in the Awakening expansion. It was cool to be in command of a place, and it was nice to see it visibly improve after working on its defenses.

Favourite Character

Can’t choose… too many… amazing characters… Alistair my dorky knight man, Leliana my badass bard BFF, Morrigan the wisecracking witch, Zevran the charming would-be assassin, Wynne the wise healer, Max the Mabari war hound, Sten the strong Qunari warrior, Shale the pigeon-squishing Golem, Oghren the drunken disorderly dwarf, all the DLC people (especially Nathaniel and Velanna from Awakening)… I love you all!!

Most Tedious Gameplay Moment

Slugging my way through some of the longer tunnel areas. The path to the crime lady Jarvia in Orzammar felt especially long.

Most Amusing Banter Conversation

Alistair: So… you’re female, Leliana, right?
Leliana: I am? That’s news. When did that happen?
Alistair: I just wanted some advice. What should I do if… if I think a woman is special and–
Leliana: You want to woo her? Here’s a good tip: you shouldn’t question her about her female-ness.
Alistair: All right, yes. Good point.
Leliana: Why do you ask? Are you afraid things will not proceed naturally?
Alistair: Why would they? Especially when I do things like ask women if they’re female.
Leliana: It adds to your charm, Alistair. You are a little awkward. It is endearing.
Alistair: So I should be awkward? Didn’t you just say not to do things like that?
Leliana: Just be yourself. You do know how to do that, don’t you?
Alistair: All right, forget I asked.

Final Stats

Main Campaign
Gameplay time: 55 hours 50 minutes
Grey Warden Ellen’s level: 21
Kills: 2678
Most powerful foe slain: Archdemon
Damage Dealt: 655,841
Stealing successes: 0
Stealing failures: 0
Items crafted: 87
Money spent: 221 Sovereigns 23 Silvers 80 Bits
Most money at once: 345 Sovereigns 89 Silvers 20 Bits
Conversations initiated: 1667
Codex entries discovered: 183
World explored: 94%

Leliana’s Song DLC
Gameplay time: 1 hour 28 minutes
Leliana’s level: 13
Kills: 90
Damage dealt: 5,908
Stealing successes: 1
Stealing failures: 0
Items crafted: 0
Money spent: 0
Most money at once: 23 Sovereigns 61 Silvers 12 Bits
Conversations initiated: 105
Codex entries discovered: 11

Witch Hunt DLC (stats carried over from Main Campaign)
Gameplay time: 1 hour 38 minutes
Grey Warden Ellen’s level: 22
Kills: 2774
Damage dealt: 668,827
Stealing successes: 0
Stealing failures: 0
Items crafted: 87
Money spent: 221 Sovereigns 23 Silvers 60 Bits
Most money at once: 360 Sovereigns 44 Silvers 40 Bits
Conversations initiated: 1777
Codex entries discovered: 185

Awakening Expansion (stats carried over from Witch Hunt)
Gameplay time: 13 hours 18 minutes
Grey Warden Ellen’s level: 32
Kills: 3594
Damage dealt: 1,121,870
Stealing successes: 0
Stealing failures: 0
Items crafted: 87
Money spent: 552 Sovereigns 49 Silvers 90 Bits
Most money at once: 603 Sovereigns 39 Silvers 0 Bits
Conversations initiated: 2091
Codex entries discovered: 222

Darkspawn Chronicles DLC
Gameplay time: 59 minutes
Hurlock Vanguard’s level: 12
Kills: 193
Damage dealt: 10,067
Stealing successes: 0
Stealing failures: 0
Items crafted: 0
Money spent: 0
Most money at once: 0
Conversations initiated: 9
Codex entries discovered: 12

Golems of Amgarrak DLC (stats carried over from Awakening)
Gameplay time: 1 hour 16 minutes
Grey Warden Ellen’s level: 33
Kills: 3672
Damage dealt: 1,148,160
Stealing successes: 0
Stealing failures: 0
Items crafted: 87
Money spent: 552 Sovereigns 49 Silvers 90 Bits
Most money at once: 603 Sovereigns 39 Silvers 0 Bits
Conversations initiated: 2152
Codex entries discovered: 228

Grand Total Gameplay Time: 74 hours 30 minutes (-ish… my maths might be horrible)

Glorious Achievements
Total points: 1400/2250
Total achievements: 71/109

10 pointers:

Dragon Age Origins Achievement 1 - 10pts - CorruptedDragon Age Origins Achievement 2 - 10pts - CastelessDragon Age Origins Achievement 3 - 10pts - ConscriptedDragon Age Origins Achievement 4 - 10pts - HarrowedDragon Age Origins Achievement 5 - 10pts - Last of Your LineDragon Age Origins Achievement 6 - 10pts - KingslayerDragon Age Origins Achievement 7 - 10pts - First KnightDragon Age Origins Achievement 8 - 10pts - PersuasiveDragon Age Origins Achievement 9 - 10pts - BullyDragon Age Origins Achievement 10 - 10pts - TinkererDragon Age Origins Achievement 11 - 10pts - CleverDragon Age Origins Achievement 12 - 10pts - NimbleDragon Age Origins Achievement 13 - 10pts - LockpickerDragon Age Origins Achievement 14 - 10pts - PickpocketDragon Age Origins Achievement 15 - 10pts - Heavy HitterDragon Age Origins Achievement 16 - 10pts - CrusherDragon Age Origins Achievement 17 - 10pts - Battery

15 pointers:

Dragon Age Origins Achievement 18 - 15pts - BloodiedDragon Age Origins Achievement 19 - 15pts - EducatedDragon Age Origins Achievement 20 - 15pts - CraftyDragon Age Origins Achievement 21 - 15pts - Lightning ReflexesDragon Age Origins Achievement 22 - 15pts - Master LockpickerDragon Age Origins Achievement 23 - 15pts - Accomplished WarriorDragon Age Origins Achievement 24 - 15pts - Dual Weapon MasterDragon Age Origins Achievement 25 - 15pts - Archery MasterDragon Age Origins Achievement 26 - 15pts - Shield MasterDragon Age Origins Achievement 27 - 15pts - Two Handed Weapon Master

20 pointers:

Dragon Age Origins Achievement 28 - 20pts - Last of the WardensDragon Age Origins Achievement 29 - 20pts - Mage SympathizerDragon Age Origins Achievement 30 - 20pts - PoacherDragon Age Origins Achievement 31 - 20pts - CeremonialistDragon Age Origins Achievement 32 - 20pts - Hero of RedcliffeDragon Age Origins Achievement 33 - 20pts - LiberatorDragon Age Origins Achievement 34 - 20pts - Harrowmont's AllyDragon Age Origins Achievement 35 - 20pts - Rabble RouserDragon Age Origins Achievement 36 - 20pts - Standard BearerDragon Age Origins Achievement 37 - 20pts - VeteranDragon Age Origins Achievement 38 - 20pts - RecruiterDragon Age Origins Achievement 39 - 20pts - Grey WardenDragon Age Origins Achievement 40 - 20pts - DefenderDragon Age Origins Achievement 41 - 20pts - PilgrimDragon Age Origins Achievement 42 - 20pts - StreetwiseDragon Age Origins Achievement 43 - 20pts - Collective FriendDragon Age Origins Achievement 44 - 20pts - Blackstone AuxiliaryDragon Age Origins Achievement 45 - 20pts - MercenaryDragon Age Origins Achievement 46 - 20pts - Tactician

25 pointers:

Dragon Age Origins Achievement 47 - 25pts - Master of ArmsDragon Age Origins Achievement 48 - 25pts - Master WardenDragon Age Origins Achievement 49 - 25pts - Master of the PeakDragon Age Origins Achievement 50 - 25pts - DiabolistDragon Age Origins Achievement 50 - 25pts - Rock and a Hard PlaceDragon Age Origins Achievement 51 - 25pts - Stone's LamentDragon Age Origins Achievement 52 - 25pts - In War VictoryDragon Age Origins Achievement 53 - 25pts - Bane of ThedasDragon Age Origins Achievement 54 - 25pts - ReaperDragon Age Origins Achievement 55 - 25pts - A Secret Stiched TogetherDragon Age Origins Achievement 56 - 25pts - Turning PointDragon Age Origins Achievement 57 - 25pts - Witch HunterDragon Age Origins Achievement 58 - 25pts - Through the Looking GlassDragon Age Origins Achievement 59 - 25pts - Amaranthine's Last Hope

30 pointers:

Dragon Age Origins Achievement 60 - 30pts - Warden CommanderDragon Age Origins Achievement 61 - 30pts - EliteDragon Age Origins Achievement 62 - 30pts - TravelerDragon Age Origins Achievement 63 - 30pts - Easily SidetrackedDragon Age Origins Achievement 64 - 30pts - Blight QuellerDragon Age Origins Achievement 65 - 30pts - DragonslayerDragon Age Origins Achievement 66 - 30pts - Pride Before the FallDragon Age Origins Achievement 67 - 30pts - Savior of Kal'HirollDragon Age Origins Achievement 68 - 30pts - Blind VeneganceDragon Age Origins Achievement 69 - 30pts - Commander of the Grey

50 points:

Dragon Age Origins Achievement 70 - 50pts - Awakening.png

Thanks for reading!

If for some odd reason you want to read more of my posts, you can find a somewhat organized (and usually up to date) archive of my ramblings… I mean, articles here!

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"Lightning" Ellen

My name is Ellen, and I've been babbling on the interwebz about video games for over 15 years. Video games themselves have been a large part of my life since 5-year-old me first encountered a SNES in a children's hospital. Fun times... Video game escapism is still the #1 coping mechanism for adult me these days.

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