So it might have taken roughly fifteen hours, but I have finally reached the real start to the game and the story.
After Morrigan the mage–a witch from the wilds, an apostate–joins your party, you set off to try to get help to defeat the archdemon and the darkspawn. Alistair has the treaties stating loyalties to the Grey Wardens from different parts of Ferelden. Finally the game opens up, the near-apocalyptic world is your oyster but first–go through a town.
Your first real stop after your main heroes’ call to action is a small village called Lothering. Plenty of refugees have found their way here with little more safety than a bridge and some cobbled-together walls. Even the bandits have leaked through to the outskirts of town not to mention giant spiders. Weirdly this town feels like a self-contained tutorial. The significance of the Origins subtitle is pretty clear from the start. When I play RPGs, I tend to go for in medias res–no prologues, all confusion. Throw me in the deep end and let me spend fifteen hours working out what happened instead of spending just as much time playing out some of the more mundane parts of my character’s life. I can definitely appreciate the depth it gives and making the choices that land me where I am, but now that I am onto the main quest, it feels a little cheap in retrospect. No matter what move I made, Duncan would have still recruited me to the Grey Wardens, and Alistair and I would still be the only surviving members. Here I am still mourning the death of my cousin back in my alienage and no one alive knows the hand I played in his execution. Hell, it doesn’t even come up in personal party conversations. Whenever I’m asked about home, I only am ever prompted to mention my parents and whether or not I’m an orphan–nothing more.
And since this first choice, I have yet to feel like anything is life or death–merely a popularity contest. My plot decisions affect my present members’ opinions of me and the likelihood of me getting into bed with them. But then, since this game with an incredibly shallow romance mechanic forces me to value love and be faithful, I guess I only ever need to be concerned about one person’s opinion. I do like that there are other benefits to positive relationships because after spending a couple of hours at camp experimenting with this system, it isn’t too enthralling. If you do get a high enough relationship with a character, they receive passive stat bonuses. I love this because so far when it comes to the character I control, I only ever use myself or Morrigan (I can’t resist the spells, damn it). So since I typically let the rest of my party members roam free, giving them the ranged tactic to try to keep them safe–hey, they can’t say I don’t care.
Also, do you want to know the only other main way to increase someone’s love, friendship, or approval–whichever you prefer? Gifts. Not special, thoughtful gifts. Just random shit you find on the ground and or steal from locked chests. Each character does have their preferences, meaning there is a whole strategy on who to give what, but honestly, I overload one character with riches until they love me enough to become stronger and move on.
None of these things bother me though bccause I have a dog in the game who loves me no matter what and all is right with the world. I can pet him, love him, and even be him if I need to explore my animal instincts. If you brought a wildflower back from the wilds for the kennel master before you took part in the Joining, this nameless Mabari war hound comes and finds you. You can choose to keep him and name him and walk him and feed him and change his newspaper and…let him die in battle?
Eh, no perma-death, no problem.
I named him after my dog, Cooper, and spent a good hour frolicking him while the real Cooper poked his nose and my elbows and toes, wishing I was playing a point-and-click so I had a free hand. You can even make him wear a cone of shame.
So here I am playing a game where you can spam pretty girls and handsome men with trinkets and statues until they will shed their armor with you in your tent, and I can’t stop dressing up my dog. Priorities, my friends, priorities.
Now I have a question for you readers out there. Last year I finally won my first year of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, if you didn’t know) after trying for over five years. I was considering going for a second win but had a thought. What if instead of writing a novel that I will print out and immediately hide from the world I make content for my blog? Instead of only doing these weird written let’s play/first impressions/critiques, I would do small op-ed pieces and even research posts. For example, I would look into gaming terms that I have always made assumptions about before realizing that I never knew what they meant, e.g. horde mode.
Are you interested in this kind of content? They would be daily updates of varying length. I probably won’t aim for a word count as much creating variety.
Let me know in the comments! If there is something you would love to see me write about, go ahead and suggest it. You do not want to leave me with all of the power, or I might spend a month posting photos of Cooper the war hound. Choose wisely and stay tuned.