My big addiction for the past few days has been a wonderful little Xbox 360 game called “Dragon Age: Origins.” There is a good chance that if you are a gamer in any way shape or form that you’ve either played it or at least know someone who has. This game amazes me. I finally beat it the other day after about 40 hours of gameplay. To sum it up, it’s a game where you play a strapping young hero who gets pulled into an elite army of “Grey Wardens.” These guys are responsible for taking down an army of “Darkspawn.” These evil beasts descend from mages who tried to break into heaven and “The Maker” was all like, “heck no! Get out o’ my house!” So he cursed them and sent them back to earth distorted and monstrous, just like they were inside. Every so often there is a “Blight” where these Darkspawn come back and attempt to kill EVERYONE. In true RPG tradition, you are the only one who can save the world.
The real interesting thing about this game is the morality engine they use to gauge the choices you make as you interact with the team mates you find, and the world around you. Every one of your team mates has a different idea of what kind of hero you should be. Some think you should stand for all that is right, other’s want you to go for money, and some just want you to shrug off everyone and be as ruthless as possible. I played through my first time being as good as I could be. I helped out everyone who needed it and did it all with honor. I never asked for a thing in return. The fun thing about this is that it didn’t turn out as awesome as one would think. Believe it or not, sometimes making the right choice can really cause some poor consequences. By the end of the game, I’d lost two people I care about, and I’m pretty sure an entire nation of dwarves hates my guts. Keep in mind this all seemed well and fine while I was making these choices throughout the game.
What makes this game different is that there is no “black and white” morality. You make the best decisions you know how to, but you still have to deal with some great or sometimes really gnarly consequences. After beating the game trying to play the upright enforcer of law and order, I decided that I wanted to give it a go at being as utterly ruthless as I could possibly be. One of the first opportunities I had to be evil, and I mean REALLY evil, was when my bride to be, cousin, and her friend were all kidnapped by human diplomats who wanted to do HORRIBLE things to them. This is a very dark game by the way. So I wander into the castle to save them, because, hey, even evil heroes have standards. I was given the opportunity to walk away from the whole situation for 40 gold (very hard to come by at early levels), but I couldn’t save the women. The intense part of this is that my cousin was on the floor crying for help. How can you walk away from that?! What the heck kind of person do you have to be to leave a family member crying on the floor of some horny diplomat’s palace!? I realized then and there, that I could NOT be evil in this game. This game puts you in too many extreme situations to lean completely to the dark side. I found myself caring for these characters even though I know good and well that they aren’t real.
Bioware, the game’s developer, has done an amazing job at making you feel the weight of each and every decision you make. Sometimes no choice seems right, or you just don’t know which choice is the best. There are very few clear cut scenarios in this game where you can say this is right, or that is wrong. I LOVE IT! I’m going to attempt to be an evil dude, but thus far I’m failing pretty bad. I may have to settle for snarky A-hole with a tender, caring soul. Kind of like Dr. House.