Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
The Good: Amazingly deep lore, tons of items, skills, and party members, simple yet fun combat
The Bad: Ugly, some frame rate issues, long load times, it ends
JRPGs that were the standard are now being taken over by western RPGs and one of the main developers responsible for this is Bioware. Dragon Age: Origins is a very deep game mainly in politics, religion, and mythology that is reminiscent of Tolkien lore. Not only is the dialog witty and humorous, but everything piece of dialog is spoken with great acting. Each character is memorable and Bioware really does it with their morality game play because it takes ten minutes to decide a choice since they change game play so much; more so than in any other Bioware game.
The game has different factions you can play as (dwarf, human, elf, then different classes in those races) and each takes about 50+ hours to play (my first play through was 41 hours). You start by customizing your character, but that isn’t the deepest part of the game. When you start out with any race you learn the combat basics, and they are pretty deep yet also very simple.
The actually combat itself is the standard hit the attack button and watch the characters hack away. You earn experience by killing enemies and level up accordingly. The game has a radial menu that lets you access your potion and trap making, skills and techniques as well as combat tactics. You can create traps and potions by learning the skills over time, and by using ingredients found throughout the game world (I found both of these useless). Skills range differently from mages and warriors, but warriors can learn different fighting styles such as two-handed, dual weapons, sword and shield, and even archery. Each class can learn other classes techniques and that’s the beauty about Origins. There are dozens of different skills to learn and you won’t learn them all before beating the game.
The sheer depth of the game is mind boggling, but I know one thing that people are concerned about an that is side quests. There are dozens upon dozens of them to keep you sastified, but of course you don’t have to complete them all. There are also tons of codex pages to pick up and read on this deep and wonderful lore that Bioware has created. There is enough stuff to read to fill a history book, but if you’re not the reading type you can just skip over this. There are hundreds of different items to obtain from armor and weapons to ingredients and gifts to make characters like you better.
After playing for about 5-10 hours you will realize how much the game relies on your actions to tell out the story. Unlike other Bioware games you will notice these changes right away and sometimes a decision in the beginning can progressively make things worse or better for you throughout the game, and it will make you regret what you did and that is brilliant.
The deepest part of the game is the menu itself in which you equip your gear, check quests, codex pages, and your map, but there isn’t much to explain other than your normal inventory menu. Thankfully the game strays away from unnecessary stats that boggle your mind and make you want t quite playing.
Playing the game is fairly simple and the controls are easy. You can control all four party members which gives you a nice tactical advantage, but most of the time I just played as my created character. Just remember when a character dies during a battle you have to wait for all enemies in the area to be killed for them to be resurrected (unless you have a mage with that skill). I found the game very very difficult on the normal setting (almost impossible) so the easy setting had to be used and that was challenging enough. Traveling between areas is easy enough since you use a world map, but you can encounter battles in-between the areas.
One of my biggest gripes about the game is that is it pretty ugly. The Xbox 360 version is the ugliest with flat muddy textures that looks like you’re playing on the lowest settings. Why this is I have no idea, but there is also frame rate issues and long load times every time you enter a new area. There is also some sort of collision detection issue because when you press A to attack an enemy party members will sometimes dance around the enemy before attacking and this can kill you in tight situations. This seems to be a huge issue when many characters are on one enemy.
In other words if you love deep stories that deal with Blights, an Archdemon, and a deceitful king then buy this game, but try to get the PS3 or PC versions since they look better. Dragon Age is probably one of the best western made RPGs in decades, and with so many items, skills, party members, techniques, and side quests you are in for hundreds of hours of addictive RPG game play.