No matter which origin story you get based on your seemingly innocuous choices when creating a character, you’ll soon learn that the land is beset by a Blight. It’s a rare occurrence where vicious creatures, known as darkspawn, gather in large numbers and make every castle in the world look like the battle for Helm’s Deep.
Enter the Grey Wardens, a group of hardened darkspawn slayers who helped stop the last Blight ages ago. You’ll soon find yourself initiated as a member of these elite warriors before the task of reuniting the humans, dwarves, elves, and mages under the same banner to drive back this new Blight, is thrust upon you.
Above: The bad guys
The story feels a bit generic and overly predictable at times. But only the most coldhearted fantasy expert will fault Dragon Age when it dips into the well of familiar fantasy scenes and tropes. As you explore new lands, recruit new characters, and complete quests, Dragon Age keeps giving you more lore, more drama, more loot, and more reasons to keep on playing. There’s a good 60 to 80 hours of gameplay to be enjoyed here.
Like Baldur’s Gate and other BioWare RPGs, combat takes place in real-time, but can (and should) be paused often so you can switch between your party’s characters, assigning new targets and queuing up actions. Real control freaks can (and should) take advantage of the ability to fill each of your characters’ Combat Tactics slots, which automatically assigns specific reactions to certain situations. These automated commands can be simple, fixing it so that your archer always targets the enemy your main character is attacking. Or they can be more complex, making your warrior switch his stance whenever his stamina drops below a certain value.
Above: There are no easy fights in Dragon Age, and that’s how it should be
You have an incredible amount of control over what your party does each second they navigate the battlefield. And you’ll need this control. You’ll want to position heavily armored characters carefully so they can bear the brunt of enemy attacks. You’ll want to maneuver rogues so they can flank and backstab. Archers should be placed out of harms way so they can cripple targets, and you’ll want to watch your spell caster’s mana so you can keep the group buffed and healed. There are no easy fights in Dragon Age. Each battle demands your full attention but never feels like a repetitive grind.