Dragon Age: Origins – Blighted Civil War

Ah, I’m still hooked onto the world of Thedas, so I’m definitely excited to writing another Dragon Age review. I wish I did start with this game in this universe, but since I wasn’t the greatest at that particular gameplay, I probably wouldn’t have pursued the franchise even further.

So, this is Origins, which isn’t as long as Inquisition and in an older form of BioWare’s RPG style. Some say, that this is the classic type of RPG gaming. Again, this review is based off of my first playthrough and it won’t match everyone’s experience or future playthroughs I do of this game.

Our story begins and takes place only in Ferelden this time. There are things that I had heard about in Inquisition that I didn’t understand, but this game simplifies them. Your character gets their own origin story depending on which class you choose. In this case, I decided to do things a little differently and made my character an elven mage. After passing a rite called the Harrowing and exposing an old friend as a blood mage, we are accepted as a new recruit for the Grey Wardens.

The first time I heard of this faction was from Blackwall. The Grey Wardens are like what you could consider the Night’s Watch. (dwarves also have a similar organization called the Legion of the Dead). The Wardens devote their lives to fighting darkspawn, and anyone can join, even if you have a criminal background. I didn’t see much of the darkspawn in Inquisition, so this game reveals a lot more about the demonic corrupt creatures. They mainly live underground, and can spread a disease called a taint that can either make you sick, drive you mad, or worse… turn you into a darkspawn and the kind you become varies by sex, race, and possibly how you were exposed to the taint. Sometimes, the darkspawn will locate one of the Old Gods and corrupt it with the taint, it is then remade as a powerful dragon known as an Archdemon. This eventually leads the darkspawn to attack the surface of Thedas which is called a Blight. Considering the infectious things darkspawn can do, it’s no wonder they can call it a Blight!

So, once we are in the Grey Wardens, we have our first battle against the darkspawn only to be overwhelmed and the king of Ferelden is slain. As survivors, we set out with ancient treaties to gain allies across Ferelden in hopes of forming a new army to stop the Fifth Blight. Simultaneously, civil war breaks out in Ferelden when Loghain Mac Tir goes mad with power seizing control of the kingdom. Even though his daughter is queen, he still declares himself her regent and many of the other nobles rebel against him.

This story is a lot like Game of Thrones: we have a civil war initiating a power struggle as to who should rule the kingdom, while at the same time there is a threat of a horde of monstrous humanoid creatures invading, and it is a time where loyalty to noble houses must be put aside to stop the real threat. The only difference is that there are only two candidates for the throne and the inhuman threat comes from underground and not North.

The gameplay is not new to me, due to having briefly played KOTOR, but this was the first game that I completed that had this type of gameplay. Some things have changed for me and some have not:

  • The approval system is still there, but this time it’s easier to keep track of how much your companions like you due to the meter at the bottom of their profile. You can also boost approval by giving them gifts which comes in handy if you’re having trouble gaining approval. For instance, I felt like Sten disapproved of everything I did, until I started giving him gifts and then he began to like me enough to talk more and ask for my help.
  • The combat is much more strategical and usage of pausing to plan out your attack is pretty much mandatory as you select enemies to target. If there was more than three enemies in the room, I would often pause the game every few seconds to direct everyone who to attack, or who should heal themselves. Because of the fact that I was not used to this, there were a lot of parts in this game that I got stuck and frustrated with!
  • You can also have more than one specialization which is sweet.
Putting in Morrigan because I know how much you all like her
This game also has some great characters, including returning (well, to me!) faces as well. During my mage story, I saw Cullen who told me that if I failed my Harrowing, he would be the Templar to execute me (as the Harrowing is done under the supervision of the Templars because of lyrium involvement). Then eventually came along Morrigan and Leliana and I was happy to see them both. After playing this game, I like them both more than I did when I played Inquisition, due to learning more about them in this game. Leliana was once with the Chantry and now has become a bard, long before her days as spymaster and left hand of the Divine. Of course, Morrigan has not changed for me, she’s still our beloved Witch of the Wilds! There’s also Alistair a fellow Grey Warden and bastard son of King Maric which makes him an heir to Ferelden’s throne. But he doesn’t seem to be interested in being king and likes his life as a Warden and Templar. He’s also pretty humorous. I didn’t know who I wanted to romance because there weren’t many options so it’s like I chose Alistair by default. 
However, along came the charming elven assassin Zevran who I liked almost instantly after sparing his life. He seduced my Warden and had sex with her, but as I progressed in the game and got Alistair’s personal quest, he began to fall in love with my Warden and I couldn’t bring myself to turn him away when he gave me a rose. Hence, I broke things off with Zevran even though we weren’t serious, and committed to Alistair. This is like, the first time I done romance in these games, but I don’t end up falling for the character myself! Next time I do plan to fully romance Zevran.
We also get our own dog and I named it Wilbur. It was hilarious when he and Sten were having a growl competition. Sten the Beresaad warrior, like I said, I initially disliked because he didn’t talk much and was so stoic. But I warmed up to him when I gave him gifts and discovered his soft spot for art and cookies! From my instant love for the Qunari due to romancing the Iron Bull, part of me was upset that I couldn’t romance Sten! I could only imagine what a relationship with him would be like, probably not as fun as Bull! He might just become a new fictional crush, especially after those couple of dreams I’ve had about him. Oghren I’m not fond of, but that’s likely due to his drinking habits. Wynne, the elder mage of the Circle has been an irreplaceable party member to me due to her healing abilities. Finally, there’s the stone golem Shale from the Stone Prisoner DLC, who was once a female dwarf that volunteered to become a golem as part of Caridin’s research. She has a great personality and it pleased me when she stopped calling me “it” at the end of the game and revealed she and Wynne were going to Tevinter to see if she could regain her original form.
Speaking of which, I might as well mention it now before I move onto my favourite moments. So far I’ve played three of the game’s DLC’s: Stone Prisoner as mentioned, Warden’s Keep, and Return to Ostagar. They’re all pretty straightforward and not as long, so if I am to write about them and the others I have yet to play, I might as well do it in one article with mini reviews. Awakening will get its own article however, since it is likely longer and the length of it will determine how I will write it. Anyway, moving on.

I had quite the unfortunate encounter when helping the Circle of Magi. That was the part of the game that I felt dragged on forever when the sloth demon trapped me and my party in the Fade. I had to shapeshift and defeat other demons to eventually reach the sloth demon. This marked the first battle in this game that really frustrated me. It was Uthkiel the Crusher that had me rage until Spirit form and Crushing Prison saved me. I realized that mages were being turned into abominations upon returning back to the tower, defeated the culprit, and sided with the survivors.

The Dalish elf alliance quest also proved itself to be stressful. I was all ready to kill Witherfang, up until the Lady of the Forest revealed the true story about the werewolves, I immediately changed my mind feeling sorry for the victims and had Zathrian lift the curse. But hey, werewolves in Thedas, and they talk to! This just keeps getting better! I’m not sure why they weren’t as tough but I had trouble with all those flanking skeletons! I’m happy the curse was lifted though and I was still able to get an alliance from the elves. I needed all the help I could get.

I’m not going to go into much regarding healing Arl Eamon because to me, that part wasn’t as exciting but I did manage to kill the demon possessing his son Connor and retrieved the Urn. I didn’t go back to fight the high dragon guarding it until much later in the game though.

Orzammar was definitely the longest part of this game before the final battle. It’s like a mini-version of the main story: They need a king before they can aid us in the Blight. After choosing who to support, I struggled to decide what was harder to me in the aftermath: the Proving or killing Jarvia and her thugs. After that, the real adventure began into the Deep Roads to find the missing Paragon Branka. It was a long and grueling journey, but I still enjoyed it because of the depth and lore it introduced, just like the Descent DLC. I couldn’t turn away from the game when I was in the Dead Trenches listening to Hespith’s chant. This is the part of this game that makes it darker and disturbing than everything else in it when you find out what the darkspawn do to those they capture, especially the women. Just listening to her chant made me realize that something big was coming and I was right.

Ugh, so ugly and gross!

This is how darkspawn are….. spawned. This is what happens to women who get too much of the taint and become cannibalistic until they transform into this: a Broodmother and it’s horrifying to learn that this one was one of Branka’s comrades. She was so obsessed with finding the Anvil of the Void that she gave up her friends to the darkspawn and let them become tainted so one could birth tons of darkspawn to get rid of Caridin’s traps for her. Now I see why some people say that women shouldn’t fight darkspawn, it isn’t misogyny, it’s you don’t want a Broodmother made to keep a darkspawn nest growing. Fighting this ugly mofo had me panicking from beginning to end, but I still managed to beat her the first try. After that, the traps were not too much trouble, except for the last one.

I had already made my choice to side with Caridin as he looked badass and plus Branka was clearly insane past the point of redemption, and it was unforgivable what she sacrificed to me. Fighting her was no fun but it was satisfying when I beat her. It also pleased me to have Caridin remind Shale of who she once was, but it was a shame he committed suicide after forging the crown after the Anvil was destroyed. I ended up choosing Harrowment as king because I just didn’t like Bhelen’s personality. But now that I look back at it when I read the epilogue, I kind of wish I picked Bhelen instead.
Finally at the Landsmeet, I managed to gather evidence that Loghain was not to be trusted, and I’d say fighting that large group of guards after killing Howe was the last most difficult battle for me in this game before I beat it. Sometimes I look back and wonder how I won the Landsmeet. Was it because of the treaties and everyone I helped? Only one party of nobles supported Loghain. I really wanted to make Alistair king, but I also realized that my Warden couldn’t rule by his side because she was not a human noble. Again, Alistair didn’t want the throne and Anora clearly saw how insane her father had become. She meant well but he locked her away! So, I fought Loghain, executed him, and Anora was made queen. Alistair seemed pretty happy, he was like “Ha, I never wanted the throne anyway!”

So, let’s talk about Loghain since he seems like our real antagonist:
Of course, for some of you, Loghain may not be seen as evil because you may have chosen to spare him and he joins the Grey Wardens. Hence, you will see him in Inquisition. After I beat him in the duel, he clearly showed signs of change that he admitted all of his huge wrongdoings. It all started when he left King Cailin to die and made himself Anora’s regent. He became such a tyrannical leader than an uprising began against him that started the civil war. He also puts a bounty on my Warden and her companions, which is also evidence of his insanity. I think he just wants to be king and that could also be why he locked up his daughter when he believed she was a traitor for helping the Wardens. Now I remember she didn’t want me to kill Loghain but eventually came to accept my choice. 
Nevertheless, I liked Loghain as a villain and maybe next time I’ll let him live. Alistair won’t like it, but oh well, I’m not crazy in love with him!
Regarding the final battle, I chose to persuade Alistair to impregnate Morrigan with an Old God baby, and when I killed the Archdemon, I survived thanks to that ritual. So now, my Warden and Alistair can remain together as Grey Wardens.
And that’s my spiel on DAO, I can’t believe I finished writing this in one night. Normally these articles take a couple of days! No matter, this game was pretty great and I really enjoyed the story so it gets an A-. If the combat wasn’t as frustrating I would bump my rating to an A, but then again if the game was too easy, it wouldn’t be as enjoyable. I have to remind myself that every time I get stuck at a difficult part.
I hope you enjoyed this article as I branch further in this universe that is pretty much my favourite video game fantasy universe now. I will play the DLC’s that I haven’t done yet next. I don’t think I’ll write about all of them but we shall see.

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