Dragon Age Origins is a somewhat older game (november 2009) by BioWare that I recently went out and bought again. Why? You’ll know right after…
Let’s start this off with a simple statement: If you love point-and-click adventure games then you’ll love this game, and even if you don’t, this game could still very well change your opinion on them. This particular one was created by Double Fine, a development company known for making games packed with charm and creativity, and the first act of Broken Age is by no means an exception. Point-and-click adventure games definitely have their place in the spectrum of video games, but by definition they’re niche and not very profitable. Knowing this, Double Fine kick-started this game; their target audience responded; and what they produced stands as a fine testament to the age-old sub-genre. A win-win for the production staff and crowd-funders alike.
The entirety of act 1 is split between two main protagonists – A young girl named Vella, and a young boy named Shay. Vella hails from a small village named Sugar Bunting. Like most villages in this world, Sugar Bunting is beholden to a Cthulu-inspired monster named Mog Chothra, and appeases it with virgin sacrifices, who are spruced up gourmet-style in an event known as the Maiden Feast. Unfortunately for Vella, her family seems all most too eager to offer her up in an effort to win brownie points with Mog. But Vella, thanks to the idea planted by her ex-warrior grandfather, questions why they just can’t kill the damn thing. However, upon hearing that, her father says something to the extent “Silly girl, you don’t kill Mog Chothra, Mog Chothra kills you.” And what do you know, it turns out that response doesn’t bode too well with her, and she fights back against what could easily be interpreted as an allegory against chastity *shrugs*. And thus begins her adventure to kill Mog Chothra, and save her village from its wrath.
Now, on the flipside you have Shay, a man-child in the strictest sense, who’s being cuddled by the Martha Stewart version of GlaDOS. He’s confined to a spaceship, and lives a very repetitive lifestyle that follows a strict schedule – breakfast, one of four child-like missions, and a dinner capsule followed by being tucked in with a Tron bed sheet. Shay’s being treated with kid gloves despite his age, but eventually he grows tired of his endless supply of knockoff cereal brands, and with the help of a wolf-costumed man named Marek, he seeks to break free of his monotonous life. The stories of both protagonists take you through very imaginative and whimsical worlds, in which you meet an eclectic cast of interesting supporting characters. The dialogue is clever beyond clever, and no two characters are the same (unless intentional).
The appeal of point-and-click adventure games is twofold: a fascinating story, and puzzles that are never too difficult, but still illicit thoughtfulness; and Broken Age delivers in both regards. From the onset you have the ability to switch between both characters at will. So, whenever one world has you stumped, you can easily switch to the next to keep the pace going. It also helps that the voice acting keeps you interested while you’re sifting through dialogue trees for a correct response. Voice actors like Elijah Wood and Jack Black bring life to their characters, while the other voice actors (including perennial voice actress Jennifer Hale) are no slouch themselves. The dialogue, combined with the delivery, make for a smart and humorous experience.
If you’re at all familiar with this genre, then its gameplay should come as no surprise. You talk your way to or stumble across an item, click on that item, and drag it to the person/object that could most use it. Really, it’s that simple, but Broken Age manages to use items in such clever ways that you might actually find yourself clueless as to their application. That is, until you have that “ah ha!” moment, and scold yourself for not knowing earlier. Furthermore, there are some interesting mechanics that add a bit of flavor to the proceedings. In one world, you’ll fall through clouds if your character stays stationary for too long; in another, you save extraterrestrial yarn creatures with a claw-like mechanical arm; and near the end, you engage in a nice point-and-click battle. Also, you can combine items, which yields some funny dialogue (especially between animate objects) if they’re misappropriated. The only time playing becomes burdensome is when the camera angle obscures where you have to go, or when the item menu literally gets in the way of you leaving a particular area.
Depending on how adept you are at solving the puzzles, the game could last between 4-5 hours. While playing, you’re graced with inspired backgrounds and character designs that give the game an overall picture book aesthetic. Only occasionally does the game look unpolished, such is the case with disappearing items, characters being covered by the objects they’re climbing on, and pixilated, zoomed-in objects. Other than that, the game is a treat to look at, and the understated soundtrack sets the tone without getting in the way of the performances.
Broken Age is brimming with personality, and it utilizes fun, humor-injected puzzle-solving gameplay that never becomes frustrating or remotely boring. But unless you somehow hit the puzzles point for point the first time around, with little to no deviation, a second playthrough doesn’t offer much. However, alternating between two seemingly different, but delightfully engrossing storylines is enough to justify playing it at least once. And that’s exactly what you should do, because the cliffhanger, as well as the way the game unexpectedly brings the two protagonists together, produces some interesting implications for Act 2. And as they say in life, you get what you pay for, and I can’t imagine those who contributed to this game being disappointed with their investment.
Voice Acting 10
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