Mark Plays ‘Dragon Age: Origins’: Hour 1

In the first hour of Dragon Age: Origins, my wedding day is interrupted by BIGOTRY. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to begin Dragon Age.

Oh my god, this is going to be awesome. And hard. REALLY, REALLY HARD.

As is customary in the Mark Does Stuff world, I like to be upfront about whatever spoilers I do know regarding a new project that I’m starting just so we’re all on the same page.

  • Dragons?
  • Elves?
  • My good friend does an awesome cosplay of a character named Merrill. (HI, GABS.)
  • My editor Shiyiya has been begging me to play this game for a while now.
  • ??????

Yeah, I don’t know what I’m getting into. At all. That’s kind of frightening? And I’m pretty sure I’ve not once played a game like this in my entire life, so this should be agonizing to watch unfold.

If this is your first time on Mark Plays (as I imagine there will be lots of new people around), please make sure to read the Site Rules and Spoiler Policy page, as well as the FAQ before you make your first comment. I have a rigid anti-spoiler policy in place. We used to cypher any and all spoilers. Please never post any sort of spoiler, whether it’s your expectations for a certain part, a plot twist, telling me I missed something, etc. You can discuss all of these using rot13. (I suggest installing a rot13 plugin for your browser.) On top of that, the community rules might seem a little more strict here than other places, so please read and follow those as well.

Since this is a very new thing for me, I had to figure out exactly how I was going to split up these posts. There are no chapters, and it’s entirely possible that if I tried to split this up by experience level, sometimes I’d have to play for like ten hours just to get one review. In the spirit of being creative and in an attempt to purposely cliffhanger myself for added drama, I’m going to split up posts for Dragon Age: Origins by the hour. I generally refrain from ever Googling anything I’m doing, but I was curious as to how long the average playthrough of this game took. That thought led me to the absurd and entertaining idea that I should track my gameplay as if this were a diary. So, in essence, I will play for an hour, purposely stop wherever I am, and write about my experience. It’s kind of awesome because then you’ll have an idea how long it took me to play this game.

Additionally, since I’m playing this on my PS3 (add me, I’m xpanasonicyouthx), I have lost the ability to take screenshots or video, at least until I can afford one of those nifty devices that can record my gameplay. (Note: If any of you have any advice on what product I should get if I’ve got a PS3, a Samsung HDTV, and a MacBook Pro, I am all ears!) I will largely be using my lovely Bioware social profile to visually keep track of my progress. I wish there were an easier solution, but gaming is hella expensive, and I am not rich.

Generally, as I work my way through a television show or a book, there are always folks who are following along for the first time. I would like to accommodate these people! You are welcome to play Dragon Age: Origins and log your own progress in the comments. (Oh god, I love this aspect of the community.) (EnigmaticAgentScully, please play along so all your comments can upstage my reviews like you are currently doing with Angel/Buffy.)

Here are the rules!

  • Please begin all of your comments with “First Time Gameplay” in bold. This will notify people that your comment is about your progress through the game. This way, if people don’t want to be possibly spoiled, they can skip your comment.
  • List what race, class, and origin story you are playing next. As I understand it, each specification allows for a different story. This is so people who might want to play that specific origin story can skip your comment if they don’t want to be spoiled for that story.
  • rot13 any portion of the story pertaining to the main Grey Wardens plot that goes further in the story than where I have been. Oh god, I realize how arrogant it is to say HEY YOU SHOULD ACCOMMODATE ME FIRST, but I’d like to still be able to read the story.
  • If a moderator rot13’s a part of your comment, please do not fight them on it. It is most likely for a good reason.
  • Do. Not. Pretend. To. Play. This. For. The. First. Time. This happens more than you might imagine. Don’t do this. If my mods suspect you’re masking your ignorance in order to troll others or amuse yourself, I have given them permission to ban you. Don’t. Do. It.

Okay, so, let’s DO THIS.

Hour One

So that opening monologue is FUCKING GREAT. During my first readthrough of The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit, I admitted that I’m not much of a fantasy guy. I was turned off by the genre at an early age by really annoying fans, and I’m only now discovering how much fun it can be. (Thanks for ruining this shit for me, you goddamn nerds in junior high. If I could even remember your names, I would put you on blast right now for how awful you were to me.) Plus, this game starts out with the legend of how these assholes DESTROYED HEAVEN. Okay, that is how you drag me into a story immediately. EVIL, IN THE FORM OF DARKSPAWN, CAME FROM THE DESTRUCTION OF HEAVEN. Yes, please. I’m introduced to the concept of the Grey Wardens, some sort of do-gooder band of FIERCE WARRIORS who VIOLENTLY GUT AND SLASH BAD GUYS. Oh my god, there’s so much blood. In the 400 years since the darkspawn last attacked the world, the Grey Warden have become the Men on the Wall. Sorry, I can’t ignore the lovely similarities to A Song of Ice and Fire, and I’ll probably make a billion references to that series.

But it is a fantasy world, and there are a lot of fantasy mainstays in this game. Clearly, Dragon Age is setting me up to either join the Grey Wardens or… wait, what if I’m the darkspawn??? I would totally play the hell out of a game as the villain. Anyway, the first real element of gameplay that shows up is CHARACTER MAKING. And this isn’t just picking what your character looks like. YOU PICK THEIR BACKSTORY AND THEIR ORIGIN AND I LOVE WHEN GAMES ALLOW ME TO DO THIS. So I decided to be a female city elf from the rogue class. Seriously, one of my favorite things to do in the Fallout games is sneak around, so I’m way into being a ~secretive~ character. Basically, as soon as I read the description of that class, I thought, “THIS WAS MADE FOR ME. I WANT TO BASICALLY REVERSE ROLES AND ALWAYS BE PREPARED FOR ONCE.”

My character is named Roslin, and she is more fabulous than you.

A dark-skinned elf wearing silver and gold armor with a leather skirt thing around her waist. She is wearing high legged boots made out of iron.

YOU CAN HAVE FACE TATTOOS. As someone who is very visibly tattooed all over, THIS WAS A REALLY PLEASING THING TO SEE IN THE GAME. But honestly, there is so much to be pleased about in this game. Right from the start, the game is about my character. The class and origin I chose is explicitly addressed, and I imagine that what I’m doing now is entirely different than if I’d been a human or a dwarf.

I also didn’t expect the political and social system of this story to be addressed so expliclty, Within the first five minutes of the start of the game, I find out the elves live in an oppressed caste, they’re threatened with violence constantly, they support their own thriving and varied culture, and that misogyny exists. And is addressed. ALL OF THE TIME.

WHAT THE FUCK WHEN DID GAMES START DOING THIS. I mean, I realize that I am ridiculously behind on what video games are doing these days. You know, this is part of the reason I am: I have not had the most positive experience being a queer person of color and dealing with video game communities. I have almost never played online in any sense. The first time I ever did, when I played one of the Call of Duty games at a friend’s house, I was called at least five different slurs in the first hour of the game. It got so bad that my friend just apologized and turned the game off, as he had never really experienced that himself beyond a few unfortunate insults here and there. I got picked on for having a voice that didn’t sound terribly masculine, and then because I wasn’t very good at the game, got called… well, you know, WE DON’T NEED TO SHARE THOSE THINGS. It was pretty bad.

So that’s one of the reasons I stuck to what I knew when I first started gaming. No one picked on me during Guitar Hero or Rock Band. Katamari Damacy was to joyous and weird to make me feel bad. And I could choose to have DIRTY DIRTY GAY SEX in the Fallout games if I wanted, and I wasn’t demonized for doing so.

SO YES. I AM REALLY IMPRESSED WITH THIS SO FAR. The humans in Dragon Age are portrayed to be UTTER BIGOTS. With the exception of Duncan, they all outwardly despise elves. Oh gosh, does that mean if you choose to be a human, you play as a bigot??? These are things that I think of.

For the most part, you play through a defined story for the first half hour or so of the game. Roslin is stuck in an arranged marriage (with a butt ugly betrothed, I might add) that she’s rather distasteful of. Well, wait, I should say that I made her that way. Oh my god, it was so fun being able to choose to be obedient or sassy as fuck. Guess what I chose. I was a REVERSE RACIST right back to the humans every chance I got, but I was nice to my father, my cousin, and any random person I spoke to in the streets. Hell, this one couple GAVE ME MONEY just for knowing my dead but totally badass mother Adaia? What the fuck, my dad is dead, why don’t people in the streets pay me for the privilege of knowing him? I AM OPPRESSED.

The situation escalates until Roslin is capture WHILE SHE IS ABOUT TO BE MARRIED, and here comes my tiny complaint: wow, this game was really quick to make a story involving a female character be about the threat of rape. I mean, I get that it’s a part of the fictional world’s universe, but holy shit. That was so fast. I imagine that might be uncomfortable for a lot of people? Also, I bet none of the dude characters ever get a story like this?

Anyway, this story was also quick to get to a SHIT JUST GOT REAL MOMENT. When those soldiers come in to take the women elves to Vaughn’s party, THEY KILL AN ELF RIGHT IN FRONT OF EVERYONE. Oh, you are all going to die. And that is one of the true joys of this game: right from the beginning, you are murdering bigots. It’s immensely satisfying! I can’t lie!

Through this, the game teaches you how to play through pop ups that you are not allowed to ignore. (I think you can turn them off in the options menu?) I’ll admit straight up that I am unbelievably overwhelmed with how many options there are. I felt the same way about Fallout 3, though, and I learned how to navigate the menus. But my god, THERE’S SO MUCH. And after annihilating the guards in the cell, I leveled up to XP level 2 and THERE ARE EVEN MORE OPTIONS. Oh shit, my character class allows me to do so much! I will say that despite feeling bewildered by how much there is, I really love a leveling system that allows you to pick skills and build a character that way. I’m already planning on making Roslin a sneaky, cunning, and manipulative queen. I can’t wait.

And then I learned ENTIRELY BY ACCIDENT that you can switch party members. During that fight in the mess hall after Soris comes to get you, I mistakenly hit R1 and I WAS SUDDENLY SORIS. Oh shit, I can give him things I have picked up. I wonder if I’m allowed to build elements of his character, too? Probably not, but I got a sweet crossbow that I gave to him.

I was a bit frustrated with the attack gameplay; the only other skill I added was under the Rogue class, and Roslin can now do Dirty Fighting. That’s great (when I don’t Miss), but otherwise, I just have to repeatedly stab with the sword. I hope that I get more options that I can pre-program into the keys, as I imagine that things get more complicated down the line.

Oh, and right around the end of the first hour? I died. Twice. That’s when I figured out how to Quick Heal. I probably should have looked that up before I died twice. Those guards in that second room take a lot of damage, y’all. I have a Iron Broadsword that does more damage already, but I don’t have enough Strength to use it. Oh, well. Onwards to hour two!

My Character Stats

Strength: 11
Dexterity: 17
Willpower: 14
Magic: 13
Cunning: 16
Constitution: 11

Heroic Stats

Kills: 4
Damage Dealt: 429
Friendly-fire damage dealt: 0
Greatest damage dealt: 18
Contribution to party damage: 100
Hit rate: 89
Most powerful foe slain: Guard
Injuries: 0


07:45: Level up – 1
23:02: On Valendrian
24:13: On the Grey Warden, Duncan
33:29 Level Up – 2

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