Dragon Age is pretty much a contemporary Baldur’s Gate, complete with party-based combat, conversation trees, motley crew of companions, and imminent threat to the world that seems perfectly willing to postpone its grand plans while you run around performing menial tasks, stealing anything that isn’t nailed down, and trying to bed any lady (or gent, if so inclined) that obliges you with the appropriate conversation option.
This is all splendid old-school RPG fun, but I can’t help wishing that the setting was just slightly less generic. It’s feels like Forgotten Realms wearing a slightly-different-and-less-colourful hat, and the extent of the apparent George R. R. Martin influence seems to have been to go through the script and replace all occurrences of ‘Sir’ with ‘Ser’. The only advance in ‘maturity’ from the Baldur’s Gate days seems to be the persistent gore effect, which I had to promptly disable in order to salvage every conversation from comic absurdity. Indeed, the setting and story were the most disappointing aspects of Dragon Age for me, especially since they were so strong in Bioware’s last release, Mass Effect.
The gameplay itself is enjoyable enough. The combat is solid and challenging, if a little repetitive. The interface, graphics, dialogue and voice acting are all as good as you’d expect. I just couldn’t help but feel a little underwhelmed by it all. Perhaps the game’s protracted development cycle was simply too long. It felt like something that should have been released a couple of years before Mass Effect, and the quality of the gameplay footage from ME2 seems to leave no doubt as to which of the two is Bioware’s flagship franchise.
In summary, Dragon Age is an accomplished RPG with an almost painfully generic setting and a disappointing-by-Bioware-standards story. Saying all that, I did sink about 80 hours into it, so it must have been doing something right.