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Gaming: Dragon Age: Origins – Bloodbeard

I’ve been sitting on Dragon Age: Origins Ultimate Edition since Christmas (insert ‘not literally!’ joke here). It’s a game I’ve been really looking forward to playing but haven’t simply because it’s so long, by most counts clocking in at well over one hundred hours if you want to do everything (which I do), and I think that might not even include all the extra content that comes with the Ultimate Edition, including the Awakening expansion… thing. That’s longer than I sunk into both Mass Effect games when I played them last year and they took up two months of play time, and while I’ve slightly rejigged the time I spend playing games since then it still means Dragon Age: Origins could consume months, which I’m reluctant to do.

The obvious solution to that though is simply to not focus solely on the one game, giving this a day or two out of every four and playing other things on the other days. That does mean I could spend most of the year working through the game but I think that could make for an interesting experience, like when I jumped into the chunky Wheel of Time books by reading ten in a row and was immersed in that world for months. That’s assuming Dragon Age: Origins has a world I want to spend that much time in, of course.

 

Even if dwarves have some kind of great tolerance for heat it still can't be that pleasant to live beside a river of molten lava.

I might be racist against elves. I don’t what it is about them, but as they’re presented in the works of Tolkien and everybody who has been influenced by him (ie. most fantasy authors) I’ve never liked them. Immortal, aloof, usually quick to bandy about condescending phrases like ‘lesser races’, while also considered wise and fair and generally the best people in the world. Something about all that just rubs me the wrong way and I’ve always had an affinity for dwarves, who are generally the coarse, violent brawlers who usually also happen to be racist against elves (the same applies to orcs, who I also have a lot of fondness for but who often aren’t playable characters in RPGs).

When it came to making my first Dragon Age character there wasn’t really any choice for race (again not literally) as it had to be a dwarf. In fact I have a dwarf character who has been through several RPGs in the past, including a few of Bioware’s. Meet Benny Bloodbeard:

 

Though in this game he's Benny Brosca because apparently surnames are off-limits. Until the game says otherwise I'm assuming it's dwarven for 'Bloodbeard'.

In his various incarnations he’s always a fairly no-nonsense warrior, which is generally my default choice of class in these games (which also ties into my preference for dwarves over elves, as the former are more commonly pidgeonholed as tough fighters while the latter are graceful rogues or wise mages). Dwarves only have two class choices, warrior and rogue, as the mage option is locked out for what must be lore reasons, and there are only two background choices, either a noble or the somewhat less noble casteless. Benny Bloodbeard isn’t particularly noble, so casteless it was.

Here’s Benny’s adventures then, presented in screenshot form at the quality the game chose for me, which is most things turned off/low and running at 800×600 resolution. It actually runs smoothly enough at that level that I could maybe bump up a few settings, but I don’t think the game is ever going to be a graphical powerhouse and I don’t mind it looking like it does:

 

Benny's Diary Entry #1: I don't like my boss, Beraht. He treats my family like the no good, casteless bottom-dwellers that... well, that we are, actually. He has a big stupid nose and a big stupid beard though, so there!

Benny's Diary Entry #2: I don't intend for us to stay casteless for ever. One day we'll be respected and successful, living in a house that actually has enough beds for the three of us. Beraht's plan is for Nila, my sister, to be impregnated by a desperate noble, who will then elevate us to noble status for the child's sake. My plan is to... my plan... My plan will be much better!

Benny's Diary Entry #3: On the way to meet my friend Liske a beggar woman asked me if I wanted to 'try a little of this. Any way you want it.' I politely declined as I had no interest in trying begging, no matter how many different ways there were to do it.

Benny's Diary Entry #4: Beraht wanted Liske and I to investigate a merchant who worked from him and who might be keeping some stock for himself. Nobody can cheat Beraht for long. I used some of my best interrogation skills on the merchant to extract the truth. 'We know you're stealing from Beraht,' I growled. 'We have to kill you now.' He confessed but asked us to spare his life, ensuring he'll go somewhere Beraht will never find him. In other words, this man who cheated Beraht and was found out was asking us to cheat Beraht and hope he never finds out. For some reason I wasn't persuaded by his logic, so instead we persuaded his life to leave his body. With my swords. (I mean we killed him)

Benny's Diary Entry #5: Beraht's next plan was to rig a major fighting tournament that was to be witnessed by the most important people in the city, including a visiting Grey Warden. He wanted a fighter named Elvred to win, but when we visited him we discovered Elvred was very, very, drunk. Liske suggested I wear Elvred's armour and fight in his stead. The armour fit me perfectly, probably because all us dwarves seem to have the exact same body shape. It seemed like a perfect plan.

Benny's Diary Entry #6: It was not a perfect plan.

Benny's Diary Entry #7: Dear diary, a lot has happened since my last entry. In short though: I didn't die, several other people did, and I was recruited into the Grey Wardens to help fight the darkspawn threat. Considering my fighting prowess I'm fairly confident this whole conflict will be over in a couple of days. A week at the outside.

That the casteless dwarf origin story then. I’m going to play through at least some of the other origin stories before continuing in case another character grabs me more that Bloodbeard, as each origin only seems to be a couple of hours long at most. The next few posts about the game will likely all be origin stories then.

Interestingly, despite all the Ultimate Edition content being installed on the disc you still have to use a code on the website to tie it to your account and activate it, no doubt part of Electronic Arts’ attempts to eke money out of people who buy pre-owned copies of the game (sales which give money to the retailer but not the game’s publisher). After installing all the content, making sure it was activated in game, registering the code to my EA account and signing into my account through the game itself I was still presented with a message similar to this one upon starting a new game:

 

I forgot to get a screenshot of my exact error message and now can't get it to come back (which is a good thing). It was the same as this one though, just talking about a new game instead of loading a save.

It turns out that Dragon Age: Origins runs a separate service in the background, the Dragon Age: Origins – Content Updater, that separately verifies you are indeed allowed to run the DLC you’ve bought, installed and registered. For whatever reason this service isn’t activating on its own so I had to run services.msc, find the verifier in the list of services and manually start it up.

It’s not something that bothers me overly (though I would much prefer it if such systems weren’t there and that publishers didn’t treat their customers with such apparent loathing and mistrust), but it’s easy to see why some people see such methods as deal-breakers. After all, this isn’t a pirated version of the game or pre-owned, this is a game I bought new (well it was a Christmas gift) and I’m still being made to jump through hoops to prove that I’m allowed to play it, which is rather ridiculous.

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