Xbox One’s backwards compatibility initiative got a huge update today with three high profile EA games. Battlefield 3 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 might not hold up with the progress made through the series with Battlefield 1 since that is a series that always moves forward, but they still have their charms.
However, I would never scoff at the chance to play Dragon Age Origins again.
From what I remember, this was the last time I felt like I was playing a genuine BioWare title. The mainstream market had not yet slipped into its decision making, and the depth that the quest provided towered over its predecessors. For all purposes, this was a game for fans who grew up with the more complicated PC RPGs from the turn of the millennium.
A journey not for the faint of heart
Not one second of Dragon Age Origins held the player’s hand, and decisions affected far more than just whichever cutscene you saw. Skill trees provided deep customization and personalization for the character, and combat too had all the complexities that its more action oriented predecessors failed to provide. Holding down the R-button to attack in Inquisition was all it took to wrap up most fights, but here, one misstep, one false move, one slip up on your tactics could result in death.
More importantly though, it felt like a genuine RPG. Straying from Dragon Age Origins path required just as much wit and knowledge as they did fighting prowess. Conversations could go south, the player could be manipulated by his targets, and even the most minor of quests had a certain weight to them to the point where you actually wanted to see them all.
If I could give one compliment to Dragon Age Origins above all else, it’s that it doesn’t slip into the trap that most modern RPGs do, having played just through between waypoints. For the modern RPG formula, and many games are guilty of this, even my beloved Final Fantasy XV, you get a quest, run to the waypoint where the quest is on the map, complete the objectives, run back and get your next waypoint. You get your experience, and boom, the job is done.
We’ll call this the “Borderlands effect” because that was the series which started to emphasize grinding over storytelling.
Such trivial quests have no place in Dragon Age Origins. You’re going to earn those waypoints, and you’re going to feel invested in every quest you do. These are not simple fetch quests existing for the sole purpose of maxing and mining.
Dragon Age Inquisition fell into this trap in all the ways that Origins avoided. Every situation could be resolved with force and combat, and every side quest felt more like a chore for numbers rather than a dive deeper into the lore. There were few clever ways of avoiding combat, like Knights of the Old Republic’s traps and electrified floors, and even fewer ways to avoid confrontation altogether.
For a solid comparison, I saw the same situation just last year with the reaction to Fallout 4 and how it paled in comparison to the genuine RPG elements found in Fallout: New Vegas. Dragon Age Inquisition sure was pretty and it felt like the real thing on top, but come the adventure’s end, it was a shallow sandbox of an RPG, one that barely scraped across the depth of its predecessor.
Since Inquisition came out, nobody talks about Dragon Age anymore. The game scored some nice applause when it came out, but I never saw it as a milestone who’s reputation would last like Mass Effect or Knights of the Old Republic. Indeed, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt easily slipped in as the more memorable game, and Dragon Age seems somewhat forgotten at this point.
And that shouldn’t be because Dragon Age Origins is one of the deepest and more important RPGs of the last decade. It should have been strong enough to survive the second game’s critical lashing and the ho-hum’s reputation. If you want the most genuine modern take on BioWare’s classic formulas, then play this on your Xbox One. Dragon Age Origins is one for the ages, and just writing about it makes me want to fire up my old copy and take it for a spin. What a great game!
And yes, I wrote “Dragon Quest Origins” far too many times when writing this article, and I hope I corrected each and every one.