Review – Dragon Age: Origins

Steam sales bring out a terrible, terrible beast in me. A Doctor Jeckyll/Gamer Hyde, if you will. Games that have never piqued my interest become objects of adoration and unbridled lust if you slap a 75% off sticker on them. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a cheap bastard? Maybe it’s because I missed five years of gaming by going to school and being poor. But whatever it is, I ravenously consume game purchases and, more often than not, I have games that I never play.

I don’t know why I never played Dragon Age: Origins before. I’ve been trying to think of a reason why but I can’t summon one up. It came out in 2009, when I was in college and was busy, so that’s a possibility. It might have been that the intro price was too high for a game that I generally don’t automatically go for (3rd person RPG). It might have just been that my computer couldn’t run it when it came out. But, during the last Steam sale, when the Discount Diety laid it’s head to the bosom of Dragon Age: Origins…I picked it up. And I’m very glad I did.

The overarching story is simple: evil is rising once again and you have to stop it. You run away from your past life (because of a series of circumstances) and become a Warden, a superhero  group that is kinda like the Avengers Initiative only with more blood drinking. You do the intro, you’re given a few grand tasks to be completed, and you’re sent on your way. The rest is up to you.

Now, if you stop there and analyze the story…it’s pretty goddamn boring. And cliche. But that “the rest is up to you” part is what makes this game so much fun. To start, you have a choice of elf, dwarf, or human. I chose dwarf because dwarves are bad-ass. Then you have a choice of birth: high-born or low-born.  I chose low-born because I’m a low-brow man. Then you can choose your class: warrior, mage, or rogue. Elves can’t be warriors and dwarves can’t be mages, so I chose rogue (which is what I choose in everything ever that gives me the option). To better illustrate my point, here is my rogue. Stabbers. Yes, I’m not good at names.

Rollin deep!

So you think you’re done there, right? Nope.  You can pick your skills for each class, such as Persuasion, Trapmaking, Lockpicking, Herbalism, Poison-Making, etc. Each class has a few ways to handle combat, as well, based on how you allot ability points. Rogues can dual wield weapons or use bows. Warriors can go sword and shield, dual weapon, archery, or two-handed weapons, mages can unlock spell tracks such as Arcane, Primal, Creation, Spirit, and Entropy. AND, as you level up through combat, questing, stealing everything not bolted down, etc., you can choose Specifications once you get the points to allot to which give FURTHER ability tracks. Each class has at least three specifications (six with the  DLCs), that you have to either buy books on (i.e. A Bard’s Guide To Shootery and Vocalization) or have someone train you in…

…which brings me to my next point. You are given a few tasks and kicked in the proverbial ass out into the world of Ferelden. You can do whatever you want first. They teach you the basics and kick you out there. Which I love. And the choices you make along the way affect everything. Not like “you saved this guy and now you get more gold to buy things” affect. More like “this is what you said to this lady and it got back to this other lady and now you’re kinda in deep shit.” Everything you do, or say, or DON’T do or say, is a rock thrown into the lake of Dragon Age: Origins. The ripples emanate out and touch every shore, no matter how small the rock you throw is.  You can pick up companions to fill out your party based on these choices. Or not. And, let’s be honest, if a game gives you a few tasks (I think it was three), there’s gonna be complications.  And quests within quests. And quests within quests within quests. Questception.

At this point I’ve spent about 700 words talking about what I love about it. And I can keep going. But there was one bugbear of mine that hamstrung the game for me and it was the AI. You can have up to four people in your group at any one time but you can only control one of them at a time. You can freely switch between them during combat and use the Space bar to pause combat in order to issue orders. But by default, you had to choose how you wanted each class to act in combat (i.e. Warriors could be a Defender and Mages could be Healing). You could also customize their actions as well by changing parameters in their Tactics slots, which were basically slots that issued if/ then statements to the AI. But the problem was was that it just wasn’t good enough. In order to get more Tactics slots, you had to put points into a skill called Combat Tactics, which allowed you to stack more and more options to each character. It presented a problem, though. You got a skill point every two or three levels (depending on what class) and a free Tactics slot every 4~ish levels (3, 6, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30). So you could sink skill points, at the expense of more useful skills, just to customize what your friends do in combat, or you could just grin and bear it and try to micro-manage everything. And even then the AI was pretty dumb, due to the limits of the if/then statements given. It made combat feel clunky when you came up on things of difficulty and lead me to just tank everything on my rogue because everyone else was bad at their job (which, surprisingly, was effective).

With that small hiccup said and done, I really…really…REALLY loved this game. Immensely. I put in 80 hours in a week and a half. Yes, I lead a sad life but that should tell you how much I liked it. Despite it’s combat difficulties and its tendency to crash during combat (which may have been a dual-core hardware issue, Google it), it pulled me in to the narrative like no game has done since…like…Windwaker. And given how many choices you could make during the narrative, how many ways you could kit out your character, and how vastly different combat is with each class, it’s replay value is incredibly deep. I paid $7.50 for this game (yeah, 75% off) and, honestly, I feel bad for paying that little. I should have picked it up much, much earlier when the hype was real and I could talk to people about it without them wondering why I’m obsessing over a six year old game. To further entice you, here are some pictures of the story of Stabbers, the dust-town rogue and his good buddy Snuggles, the war mabari. Go buy it. And say “hi” to Morrigan again for me.



Oghren on point.
Stabbers and Snuggles. Best friends for life.
Somewhere on the edge of The Deep Roads the combat began to take hold.

Correlation Does Not Imply Casualation

Correlation does not imply causation is a…for lack of a better phrase…self-check mantra in the scientific community. It simply means that because two variables have a link together does NOT mean that they are intrinsically linked. The ever famous, widely bandied about graph of the “pirates vs. global temperature” is a perfect example of this. In short, it says that, as the number of pirates has gone down, the global temperature has gone up. This is directly inferring that a lack of pirates is responsible for global warming. Correlation does not imply causation, in this context, says that while they may be correlated together…it doesn’t mean that that’s WHY it’s happening. Unfortunately, I say the “scientific community”. It hasn’t branched out of there and it should. Especially into the gaming community.

As I’m hope you’re aware at this point…I like games. I like games a LOT. One could even consider me fairly hardcore about video games. I would not disagree. I put in about 600 DAYS (14400 hours) of play-time in the ten (eleven?) years of Final Fantasy XI I played before I left. I have about 1000 hours in Team Fortress 2 (before I reset my stats due to a score glitch that bugged me). I recently put in 73 hours on Dragon Age: Origins in the span of 10 days. I feel like I’m pretty hardcore about it. But if you were to ask what difficulty I play these games on, you would immediately disregard a lot of that and call me…a casual. And that bothers me.

In the gaming community now, there seems to be a weight, a gravitas placed on being a “hardcore gamer”. From doing endless endgame runs in World of Warcraft to playing games on Extreme Ludicrous Gibs Nightmare Insanity Permadeath mode…difficulty and struggle is giving a priority, a badge of courage if you will. And, frankly, as well it should. If you’re getting Platinum God on Binding of Isaac, bully to you. But on the flip side of the coin, there is a growing trend of “scrub” and “noob” being associated with doing things the “easy” way. Easy difficulty, the perceived dumbing down of MMOs and other games to appeal to wider audiences. This is wrong.

I play my games on easy or “casual” mode if I am given the chance. Almost always. The only time I don’t do it is if I want to unlock an achievement because I love achievements as much as I love pork buns and scotch and sodas. I play on easy mode for a variety of reasons. First off is my anxiety. Easy mode allows me to relax and play video games, instead of constantly being tense and worried about upcoming battles or what-have-you. It allows me a degree of freedom from my ever present anxiety which is part of the reason I play video games in the first place. But more importantly, I play on Easy because I want to enjoy the story. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good challenge. But I have to be in the MOOD for a challenge. And it has to be in small bursts. Some may say that playing on easy mode (with “e-z mode” being borderline derogatory now) is a proverbial walk in the park and that no hardcore gamer would do this.

Have you ever taken a walk in the park? I don’t quite understand why this is a bad thing because walks in the park are AMAZING. Sure, it’s not a grueling race to the finish but you get to stop, see the sights, explore, take in the ambiance, get to know the park. I could choose hard mode which, I suppose, would be like a marathon over hot coals through the park. There is the sense of accomplishment of finishing the marathon, true…but do you really notice anything of your surroundings when you’re bolting through in a desperate attempt not to sear the flesh off your feet? Probably not.

I have played, at this time of writing, 75 hours of Fallout: New Vegas and I haven’t earned one damn achievement in it. Why? Because I play with god mode on. Sometimes I’ll give myself stuff. And I’d be seen as a casual because of this. But, dammit, I’m not there to cram Stimpacks into every orifice I have. I’m not there to inhale so much Jet I turn into a A10 Warthog. I just want to shoot the baddies, discover the absolute fuckton of hidden secrets tucked into every nook and cranny, and not have to worry about nearly crapping myself when a surprise Glowing Ghoul pops out from behind a door and doses me with enough Rads to cook whatever food I have in my inventory.

Just because I play on easy mode or with cheats or whatever doesn’t make me a casual. Correlation does not imply casualation. So, go ahead, call me casual. On some small level, I guess I do care (I’m writing this, after all) but that may just be something instilled in me by the community I’ve been a part of for nigh on 19 years now. But the vast majority of me knows how long I sat around camping Leaping Lizzy and realizes that you’re full of it.

Crutch Time


You may know me as Bacchus, the proprietor and inebriated voice of In With Bacchus, that beverage and tobacco website that never updates. Whoops! I bet, right now, you’re wondering why I started ANOTHER website (technically, a second blog) when I can’t even update the first one. Good question! Allow me to elucidate.

The past few years have not been kind to me. With the loss of my job and continued health problems, both physical and mental, I have been struggling to both make ends meet and also not to turn into Gary Busey. My health problems are not something I talk about readily on the main website because…well…it doesn’t fit. Also, employment. People don’t like hiring crazy people even if it’s against a few laws and such. To be truthful, I’m not actually “crazy”. I am, although not officiated by the state government of NY, disabled. With what? Well..

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Severe clinical depression
  • Spinal impairment / implementation (carbon fiber cage, two titanium rods, fourteen screws resulting in nine fused vertebrae) resulting from severe kyphosis (74 degree kyphotic bend)
  • One necrotic kidney
  • Other things that I’m not comfortable describing just yet

That last one is a big one but I’m not in any place to share exactly the minutiae. Suffice to say, it is incurable, potentially terminal depending on advancement, and causes a great deal of pain. The harm mitigating  daily treatments for it are not pleasant and that is putting it lightly. I am on a massive list of medicines with an average of twelve to fourteen pills a day. I don’t have it the worst of everyone but it’s still taking its toll on me.

So what does this have to do with video games? Well, for me, video games are an ever important crutch. I have been playing video games, in earnest, since my spinal surgery eleven years ago. Video games allow me, perhaps unhealthily, to escape from my physical pain and severe anxiety. I am currently working on coping mechanisms, as one should, but gaming has always been there and always will be to support me and help me. In video games, my anxiety slips away and the focus allows me to ignore the pain. I get to do things that I can’t do in real life and be things I can’t be in real life. I have also met some of my best friends playing video games, especially Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV. I have cultivated deep friendships because of video games. But most importantly, and I think the most telling, video games allow me to be me, sight unseen. People can appreciate me for what I do, what I say, and how I act, rather than what I look like and what various medical equipment is attached to me at any point in time. It allows me freedom from the things that have slowed me down.

So what is the point of this website? Well, I’d like to share my experiences with whoever is willing to listen. To share my love of video games, my opinions, my humor, and maybe a bit of my pain (see above). In this point in time, being a “gamer” brings up many connotations; some positive, some negative. I hope that with my humor, my writing, my videos, and my streaming, I can offer insight into yet another facet of those playing video games. I will be as open as I can with you and I encourage you to be as open as you wish with me. If you need an ear, please feel free to get in contact on Twitter or via email. I plan, as equipment and budget allows, to do videos (Let’s Plays, non-graded reviews), some streaming on Twitch, and, most importantly of all, doing charity work with some charities that are near and dear to me (namely Able Gamers, Take This, and the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center). I can’t promise much at this point because of my equipment (haven’t bought a new computer in 8 years) and my funds (I am unemployed, not on disability, and broke) so it might take some time. But I will do the best I can.

Thanks for reading and welcome to Bacchus Plays.