Origins Pushed Western Role-Playing Games Into The Limelight

Before Dragon Age: Origins, western RPGs were a mixed bag and definitely not the cultural juggernaut that it is now. Final Fantasy broke role-playing conventions with their seventh entry and, for a while, Japanese role-playing games reigned supreme.

That was until Bioware made a firm and clear distinction between Western and Japanese RPGs with their stints on the Dungeons and Dragons franchise, and their two Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games, which the stage for a major renaissance of Western RPGs, beginning with their very own IP, Dragon Age.

Awakening

Dragon Age: Origins took the game mechanic and fantasy elements of Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights and fused it with the epic stories and character interactions of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Set in the dark fantasy world of Thedas, players start the game by making their own character, besides being able to choose the look, race, and background of their character. This in turn will also change the way NPCs interact with the players, with some uncovering their more racist side if players are of a certain race.

 

Japanese RPGs mainly took the fun character classes and settings of Dungeons and Dragons, while Bioware’s range of games focused on the stats your main character has and how it truly impacted your character’s story and the world around them. This was especially evident in the first Dragon Age game, which even allowed you to transfer save data from this game all the way to the latest entry of Dragon Age just to keep the story consistent.

Redemption

The player character starts the game off by being initiated into the Grey Wardens, a paladin-like taskforce that is tasked with cleansing the world of the evil Darkspawn. Soon, the player, now known as the Warden, will face civil wars, the worsening threat of the Darkspawn, before finally facing off against the Archdemon.

Along the way, the Warden is joined by allies of all races and classes, and a good team composition is definitely the way to overcome some of the game’s battles. Players are able to take a party of four into battle, controlling one character directly and can either switch to the rest of the party or issue commands on the fly. Dragon Age: Origins toes a fine line between tactical and action battle systems, and does it masterfully. Beyond that, the signature Bioware dialogue tree is also in full force, especially outside of combat, and allows for players to receive extra dialogue and sidequests.

The Descent

Dragon Age: Origins then received more content with the release of numerous DLCs, including the highly popular Awakening expansion. Further sequels were also released, although Dragon Age 2 disappointed fans with its smaller scope despite telling a more streamlined story. The third entry, Dragon Age: Inquisition, did a lot to bring back the magic of the first game while introducing a more open world.

The popularity of Dragon Age: Origins in 2009 paved the way for modern Western RPGs to make a splash in the gaming world. The Elder Scrolls franchise finally got their due with their fifth entry, Skyrim, which was released in 2011 and is still seeing new ports today. The Witcher 2 was also released in 2011, taking certain cues from Dragon Age and set the stage for the groundbreaking sequel, The Witcher 3.

Even Japanese game developers took note of Dragon Age’s grimdark fantasy world and tried their hand at it. This gave birth to Dragon’s Dogma by Capcom and FromSoftware’s ever-popular Dark Souls franchise.

For now, fans have to wait patiently for the fourth Dragon Age game, despite Bioware’s recent shortcomings with games like Anthem and Mass Effect Andromeda. Hopefully, Dragon Age 4 will bring back that grimdark magic we’ve all been craving for.

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