|Genre: Adventure & RPG
|Min OS X: 10.4
|Dragon Age: Origins
May 5, 2010 | Ted Bade
The battle system in DA is somewhat complex, but relatively easy to learn. For the most part, when you are questing (and battling), you control a party that includes your avatar (as the leader) and a group of others that join your party during that part of the game. Avatars have different abilities and skills based on how they were set up, the added characters have abilities set by the game, but they are allowed to grow as you play. (Some of them are introduced early in the game and stay around for most of it).
Battle takes place in real time, and the characters will act based on their abilities and “history”. Luckily, you can pause the game, during battle, and give each character a specific target and attack command. One needs to keep track of what is going on pretty closely. Your characters will do what you tell them to, for the most part. Yet you might find a member doing something unexpected every now and then. Also, the game’s AI is smart enough to use tactics like drawing some of the party members away from the group, to try to get the tanks away from protecting the mages, or even into an ambush. I found that watching what everyone was doing, then pausing play and redirecting as needed, was the best strategy for me.
As the game, your avatar, and other characters progress, you gain tactics skill slots. These slots are used to set up rules on how that member should respond to specific situations. Using pull down menus, you choose from a number of different battle based events (like enemy is attacking leader, or enemy is in ranged weapon distance), then attach an action to this: (like, switch to melee weapon and attack, or use a shielding action). With a little study and some experience, you can learn to create efficient battle tactics, giving you more leisure to direct specifics. Additional tactic skill slots are available as the character progresses in levels.
Battles are important, as with most RPGs, your avatar and other characters gain experience as they succeed in a battle, and so move up in abilities. Death is inevitable. In this system, if everyone dies, you try again from the last automatic save point. You can also save the game at any point, and return to that point if things go badly. If one or more party member “dies” in battle, they recover when it is over. However, those characters are considered “injured” and take an ability hit until they are fully healed. There are kits and spells used to heal injuries.
In addition to and along with battles, you do quests. These are standard RPG fair and add to the avatar’s abilities and skills. Quests give you specific tasks, kill so many of these monsters, find this flower, collect this sample, and so forth. By following the quest lines, you are often moved into other areas which introduce more quests, new characters who add information about the story line, and subject you to more battles. You’ll also collect treasure and items as you move through the game.
As you play, loads of information related to the world and it’s inhabitants are related to the player. Keeping track of this information was always an issue for me. In DA, whenever you first learn about something the game needs you to remember you acquire a “Codex”. This is a paragraph or more describing the item, monster, character, place, or whatever. Inside your Journal, there is a Codex tab. If you need to revisit this information, you can open this tab and re-read it. The Codex section itself is organized into sub sections keeping related data together. The Journal also keeps track of conversations you have had with the many NPCs in the game, as well as the quests you are trying to do as well as those you completed. This information is useful as I keep finding myself reviewing notes, messages and conversations. A lot of hints are provided in the game through conversations and interactions. It behooves the player to search towns and areas for information.