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on September 8, 2011
Game Summary

Dragon Age Origins (DAO), is a single-player game of incredible depth. I wouldn't consider the game old, but it did come out about two years ago and has already spawned a sequel (more on that later). Though DAO was released on several platforms, it was primarily designed for the PC, which is what I played it on.

Without a exposing too much of the plot, you play a central protagonist who becomes a member of a unique fighting force known as the Grey Wardens. Your mission is straight-forward enough: to defend the land of Ferelden from an invasion of demonic darkspawn. That two-sentence synopsis is a gross oversimplification, but trust me, the less you know going into this game, the better. If you must know more spoilers, you know how to find them.

Presentation - 4 out of 5 stars

While the gist of the story may not seem like anything revolutionary, it is in its execution which makes DAO special. As soon as you jump in, you're going to realize that some serious world-building has taken place. These aren't just massive environments for the sake of being massive, these are areas chalk-full of goodies to explore, people to converse with, and baddies to slay.

The game's sound is one of its greatest strengths. Every person/creature you come across is excellently voiced and the musical score is nothing short of breathtaking. The graphics are the only deduction I give here. Not because they aren't good; they're just not great compared to everything else. At times there is some awkward NPC movement and minor choppiness can occur during spells or huge battles. They're good enough to appreciate from time to time though. With the right hardware, textures are sharp. You'll find yourself pausing from time to time in the midst of a battle just so you can rotate the camera and admire the snapshot.

Gameplay - 5 out of 5 stars

Many will agree that gameplay is the most important criteria, but in some ways it is the most subjective. Like some other roleplaying games, in DAO there are three main aspects to gameplay: 1) character building, 2)dialogue, and 3) combat.

Character building begins with your origin. Who are you? An elf, human, or dwarf? A warrior, mage, or rogue? That is only the beginning. You can decide how you look, what your background is, and in what skills you will specialize as the game progresses. This is achieved with a very easy-to-understand interface where players can put as much (or little) time into their protagonist as they wish. Default options are available for folks who prefer to skip that kind of thing.

Dialogue is a pivotal part of the game. If you're annoyed by cut-scenes and talking, this game is probably not for you. Again, you can press the Esc key if you wish to skip scenes, but this isn't supposed to be Diablo. Aside from the interesting stories each character brings, there are a variety of choices you can make. These choices aren't classified as good or bad, but characters will have varying reactions depending on what you choose and ultimately shape the game's story. This is a very rich part of the game. There can be humor, anger, lying, embarrassment, and even romance. It all depends on what you do and say. Relatively small choices may come back to help or hurt you down the road. This creates a very enjoyable experience where you'll actually come to care for characters perhaps as much as you would in a different medium - such as in books or TV.

The combat is fairly straightforward, but it is a unique system and not everyone is accustomed to it. It's a hybrid between real-time and turn-based strategy where you control a group of up to four adventurers. At any time in the thick of the combat, you can pause the game and issue commands to party members to engage in particular skills or abilities. While you can attempt to run through and do this without the pause function, you'll probably die a lot (at least on the PC version). Even at higher levels you're not supposed to just waltz in and mow down your foes. In many cases your foes will be just as (or more) powerful than you, so you'll need to use tactics and strategy throughout. If you've played any of the Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale offerings, you'll feel right at home. The combat here is more fluid and friendly than those earlier games and if you want to customize how party members automatically engage, there's a very intuitive system where you can do that. Personally I prefer to manually pause and direct each party member on my own.

Replay Value - 5 out of 5 stars

In case you missed it, the recurring theme here is choice. You choose your origin, your specialties, how you talk to other characters, and what strategies to employ when engaging the enemy. All of those factors will affect what sorts of quests/tasks are available to you. Which means some paths will be closed off based on decisions you make. Granted there are some standard objectives which will remain the same no matter how you're playing, but the manner in which you accomplish those can vary during each playthrough.

Upon completing this game I immediately felt the desire to jump back in and try it again. With the Ultimate Edition, there's even more to do outside the core game. After the original game, Bioware subsequently sold a lot of downloadable content, which includes new areas, items, and characters. The Ultimate Edition includes all of this - the original game, an expansion pack, and all nine additional content packs. Frankly put, there is a whole lot of value in this offering. If you find that you enjoy it, there's enough here to keep you interested for quite a while.

Rating - M for Mature

This is supposed to be an adult title. The genre encompasses what is known as "gritty fantasy" - where the storylines are often dark and somewhat Shakespearian. The blood will fly during fights, and at times speckle your party members. There's a setting which allows you to turn that off if you wish. Blood itself plays an important role in the game, so I tend to think some of this is meant to be symbolic. Sex can also happen, but it is more of the PG-13 variety where all you're going to see is some cleavage and underwear.

Bugs & Crashes

I downloaded this on Amazon. I know there's some horror stories on here, but the process seemed straightforward enough for me. The game ran well 98% of the time. There were a few instances where I would log on and it wouldn't recognize the additional content packs. These should only have to be downloaded one initial time. If they don't appear when you come back to play again, restarting the game should bring them up. There were a few times when the game would crash as well (usually during multiple spell-casting). Hopefully EA Games will address these issues, but I didn't feel that these were frequent enough to be that distracting. A simple restart of the game is all I had to ever do.

Final Thoughts

As a side note, Dragon Age 2 did come out earlier this year. However, I've been disappointed to discover that it was made for a different audience of gamers. Choice and variety took a backseat in order to favor a more action-centered, simplified game. That type of gameplay is appealing to some, but there are many fans who still cling to DAO. Perhaps in time a more faithful sequel will be made.

For better or worse, the face of gaming is changing. The focus is undoubtedly becoming more online-centered and fast-paced. Since the World of Warcraft phenomena, MMO games have quickly become the norm. Combining this with the surge of free-to-play online games, it is easy to see the growth of social gaming shows no signs of slowing. Various developers have already predicted the impending death of the single-player experience. DAO is pure example of why that should never be.

DAO is hands down one of the more enjoyable gaming experiences out there. You can feel the love that was put into this product, evidenced by all the little details which are impossible to catch with just one playthough. In closing, if you're interested in spending some time in a well-crafted world with interesting characters, buckle up your sword and come to Ferelden.
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on May 3, 2011
DO NOT BUY THIS DOWNLOAD VERSION

As others mentioned: nothing wrong with Amazon; the problems are all EA/Bioware's fault.

EA's forums are filled, two years later, with customers who still can't get the downloadable content to work. There is no - zero, no none, nada - support from EA. Two years later, EA's official response is still, "Other people can get it to work." THE SIMPLEST user-generated fixes consist of text-editing XML files, command-line path edits, and/or using developer console tools.

DO NOT pay extra for the Ultimate Edition download. There is a significant chance that you will never be able to play any of the DLC, or that your DLC will at some point become "corrupted" or "unauthorized" after partial play. If you want the DLC, perhaps you should consider obtaining an alternate version and burning it to a CD so you can access it without connecting to EA. Note that I have not done this, but I'm sure a reasonably savvy gamer can figure out how to obtain an "alternate version". Online forums contain a number of reports that those playing "alternate versions" experience far fewer problems than those of us who paid for the downloadable version.

The main game (ex-DLC) works reasonably well. Load times can be significant but crashes are infrequent. Game design itself is decent. A reasonably good compromise between an adventure-focused RPG and an micromanagement tactical slugfest. Personally, in terms of design/playability I would rate Elder Scrolls:Oblivion a 4 and DA:O a 3.
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on December 2, 2010
After spending nearly a day downloading this game, the installation failed at 70 percent. I looked it up and all sorts of people have been having this issue for over a year now and it's never been resolved. Apparently, it's due to corrupted RAR files in the download. I was finally able to circumvent the issue by downloading the game again, substituting good RAR files from the new download for the corrupted ones in the old download, and installing it from there. All in all, the process was way more work than I would have liked. Had I known about it beforehand, I would have just bought a physical copy of the game.

The game itself, however, is great! It runs perfectly. The story and structure are brilliant, the controls intuitive, the classic RPG feeling genuine, etc. I truly recommend this game if you're willing to suffer through some hassle downloading it.

I would have given this game five stars if not for the download process.
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on January 7, 2012
Bought this game on the packaged bundle with DA2 for $12.50 because the bargain was too good to be true. Turns our you really get what you pay for. It was my first (and last) game download purchase from Amazon. They had a chance to pull me away from Steam and failed. Your experience may vary as one can see from reading all the reviews on this game (for some people it works flawlessly, others encounter issues too numerous to list). I hope Amazon will not edit my review and at least 1 or 2 poor souls looking to get the game they paid good money for to work can make use of my experience described below.

The game file is big and aware of that, I downloaded it from work. Download speed there is faster and instead of taking days (meaning pauses to download etc...) I could get it done in a couple of hours while leaving the PC (docked and wired connection) behind for meetings. So I did try to take precautions given the numerous reviews mentioning file corruption.

Back at home I try to install the game and it fails with the least informative error message ever "DA:O failed to install" and some generic "Why don't you try again?" kind of suggestion for a fix. So I make sure I go to task manager and kill every possible task I can and try again, this time keeping an eye on the boring install window to try to catch the issue. At around 70% of the install it hangs up and I was quick enough to capture a screenshot. So I found my corrupt file. In my case it was "addins\dao_prc_ep_1\core\env\vgk200d\vgk200d_1216.gpu.rim", yours may be different. Shortly after the hang up the failed install message showed again.

Wondering if anything went wrong with the download I decide to try again. Deleted all files from the PC and downloaded even a fresh Amazon installer, 2 days later I have a new file to try again. Did not work. The install failed again and *on the exact same file*. This is important because I would think a file corruption from the download process would be random. The fact it failed at the exact same file makes me wonder if Amazon is not just selling a corrupted game.

I then proceeded to try fix it myself, since I read enough about the lack of helpfulness from EA and Bioware in technical issues from both Amazon and other forums. And I wanted to avoid getting on EA's bad side since there are instances where even bans from forums locked people out of their games.

Forums did not help much. A lot of people mentioned "fixing the corrupted files with good ones" and I kept wondering "Where did they get these so called good files"? Others suggested using Origin. I refuse to install it on my PC on principle (you could say I'm a Steam fanboi) so not an option (I must point out I would have broken down and installed it if I had not been able to fix it any other way).

How I actually fixed my issue: using Google and WinRAR (which has just converted a free trial into a purchase). I googled the file name of my corrupted file. Needless to say, the results are less than savory sites. I was not worried about breaking any law since I legitimately purchased the game, but virus/spyware are always an issue. Given I have firewall, anti-spyware and anti-virus installed I took the jump. And in the process I found out that I did not only have a corrupt file. There were at least 3 dozen files missing from my install folder (the unsavory site I used placed the files neatly into the correct paths so it was easy to see things were missing). I had to download these missing files one by one and make sure I got the folder path correct for each fie. I then used WinRAR to patch the downloaded files into the main corrupted RAR file (if you are wondering about free alternatives, 7-Zip at least will NOT work, I tried). I scanned all files for virus before doing the patch, for precaution.

Crossing my fingers I tried the install again and it worked! So now I'm able to play the game and hopefully it is good and makes me not regret going through so much trouble to get it working. By the way, EA's activation methods for both the game and the DLC are a pain in the backside. Not streamlined at all. I don't mind DRM, but if you want to do it, make it easier on the people who paid for your product.

A few last comments, mostly to Amazon:
1. You have the money to develop a download manager that checks for file integrity before jumping into the installation and can try to patch any issues if there is a problem. So do it! Games are only getting bigger and file corruption issues can only get worse.
2. Do check the file you are selling. Maybe it was EA/Bioware that gave you a junk file to upload, but either way, you are the one selling it so make sure it's in good condition.
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on December 21, 2011
Don't buy this: at least not without knowing what you're getting into.

The download, as-is, will *NOT* function, and requires between 20-40 hours of extra effort, tracking down, figuring out and applying solutions, and with some of those may require up to $50.00 of additional software depending on the solution you need to apply.

First you have to figure out and somehow resolve the notorious file unpack-CRC error problems, and then master the art of installing it in the sideways fashion you'll have to after that provided you have enough drive space to pull it off.

Then you must somehow figure out a way to force the nighmarishly broken DRM to function properly, particularly resolving the known AWC.DLL problem is exceptionally difficult.

EA knows all this, and has yet seen to foist off a broken game with ridiculous and malfunctioning DRM, and Amazon neither admits to the broken download, nor the DRM, which is ludicrous even when you do finally get it functioning properly.

Then there's video driver and configuration issues on top of that for dessert.

Alas, I cannot tell you much about the game, since all of this chewed up the time I had set aside to PLAY it, but it looks nice...

Seriously, stay away from this one, far, far away - the installation nightmare alone just flat isn't worth it.
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on April 3, 2011
I purchased this game with the hopes of being able to play everything that was included in the price, sadly I was mistaken. I purchased the game and downloaded this 26 gigabyte product and was unable to access the DLC, even after I had typed in the product code. I thought, "No problem, I will just go talk to a customer service representative and hammer this all out", boy was I wrong. After 1 hour of the representative giving me useless tips he told me to uninstall and reinstall the game. This ment I would have to redownload this 26 gigabyte game from EA. I did as they told and still was unable to access my DLC. I went and spent another 2 hours talking to another representative, who after making me jump through all these ridiculous hoops, told me he would just unregister my copy of DAO and register a new one, this process required me to uninstall and reinstall the game. So for the third time I had to Install this game, taking several hours to download and guess what, I am still unable to acces any of the DLC that came with this game.

EA has hit a new low with all this rediculous DRM crap that I have to do just to not play my game. If your wondering about the game however its actually pretty fun and quite a unique style to the RPG genre.

All-in-all great game, terrible DRM.
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on January 5, 2013
It downloaded just fine but the installation failed without any explanation. When I tried again it did the same thing. Amazon is not at fault for this. Like I said the download was perfectly fine. I tried to get in touch with EA (which their customer service department is horrible) and had no help there either. I didn't try for a refund from Amazon (as stated in the policy for digital downloads) and EA was non responsive. Apparently, this isn't a isolated incident. I did a little (a lot) of research and found that this problem is on EA's side and they did not do anything to fix it, but still sell the game, broken the way it is. I wish I would've done my research first and I would have never downloaded the game. I would've bought the disk set for it instead.

Good news, though. I owned a copy of Dragon Age Origins so I was able to get the rights to the DLC on Bioware's website (value of the DLC alone was worth the cost). So I got to play all the DLC, but still I don't have the ability to play Awakenings. I gave the game three stars due to the fact that it is an awesome game, but DON'T DOWNLOAD IT. I suggest you buy DA:O Ultimate and get the disk for it.
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on March 5, 2011
I am very late coming to this game, but at 20 bucks I couldn't pass it up any longer. I read a lot of reviews about how hard the download process was. I took that to heart and just downloaded directly from the EA downloader. Once you buy the game from Amazon, just take the product activation code from the "My Games" section in Amazon and register it with the EA downloader. You can then download it straight from there. I had no problems what-so-ever. It only took about about 1.5 hrs to download (YMMV) and I was up and playing it shortly after that.

As for the game, so far I am very impressed. I should have picked this game up a long time ago.
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on October 19, 2014
First of all, I have played this game multiple times and found it so entertaining I decided to replay it again. I found out that there was an Ultimate Edition and decided to get it so I could enjoy all the expansions for one low price and easy download. That's when I entered the 7 levels of hell.

After waiting 3 hours for the download to complete (twice as a matter of fact), installing it, configuring it, it wouldn't start. Stated there was an error, and it needed to be reinstalled. I did. No luck. Being a computer nerd, and downloading again to the same effect, restarting, adjusting admin settings, compatibility, etc. (I already keep drivers current), I cursed all things EA and Amazon. I did an internet search for options I had not thought of, and finding much shade cast upon EA and the progeny, I decided to go to Origin/EA website. After logging in, I was able to locate the game I downloaded on their site. The following is the fix if you have the same issue. After locating the game icon on their site:

Choose to Repair (Fix) file. After it analyzes, it will download additional content to the game to allow it to play. When this is complete, choose it again and Update. It will patch it to the latest and greatest. After it completes, choose the game icon on Origin to select Play. That's it, game on. You will need to adjust your settings in Options after it starts for best viewing.

I cannot blame Amazon for this error as the link is to content provided by EA. EA needs to fix their installer so that it is consistent for all customers. I rate the game at 4 for playability/enjoyment, but I have to give Amazon 5 as it is not their fault, they are just selling another company's game. Hopefully this will assist anyone getting the "hey, it don't work dummy" message.

Enjoy the game.
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on February 28, 2014
The game itself is amazing, classic bioware. I won't say more on it.

The DRM issues however...is classic EA. And they are plentiful if you buy the PC digital download. I have finally got everything to work after a lot of research/struggle.

First off, 12.4 GB is NOT how big the game is...it is 27 GB for those who need to calculate bandwidth caps. Second, do NOT download the 12.4 GB file from Amazon, it is a outdated, does not include expansion and DLC and will not install correctly and will point you to the Origin version anyways.

Instead, redeem the CD-key on Origin directly and download the 27 GB game file, let it install/update. Don't buy the expasion again even though it shows on Origin. Now you need to install 1.05 game patch manually from bioware -this patch fixes DLC issues but won't show up on Origin no natter what. [...]

Once in game, follow on screen prompts to redeem your 2nd dlc code using the SAME origin account (redeem promo code on bioware social site) While you're at the bioware social site, register the cd key again (not dlc code) at bioware using the registerg game option.

If your DLC still aren't authorized after that, go to your game directory (program files/origin games/da/installer) find the origin installer and run as admin the installers you find in there again. Somehow Origin did not install those services correctly but told you it did anyways. Make sure there is an dragon age updater service running in services.msc.

Overall, what a ridiculous hassle to get pass the DRM and get content that you paid for.

UPDATE: Looks like EA finally fixed the DLC problems on the Origin version but Ultimate. The new version sadly gets a set list of authorized DLC integrated into it instead of connecting to the DLC server, which means you will miss a bunch of DLC like the Blood Dragon Armor that you're supposed to get with ultimate.
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