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BioWare doesn’t release a ton of games, but when one is ready to roll, the developer throws everything it has at it--including a native version for the Mac. The company’s latest epic single-player role-playing game Dragon Age: Origins was all that our Xbox-, PS3-, and PC-gaming friends could talk about when it was released in November 2009, and now we get to join the party.
As in every RPG, you start by creating a character, choosing their race (human, elf, or dwarf) and class (warrior, mage, or rogue). What’s novel is your character’s origin story. Each of the nine possible combinations of race and class unspool with a different opening story and conclude by sending you off to start training with the Grey Wardens, an elite band of fighters battling the demonic Darkspawn armies.
Even with its slight wrinkles and frustrations, Dragon Age remains one of the finest role-playing games available today. Packed with an interesting story, an astounding level of character customization, workable party-management tools, good downloadable content, and beautiful graphics, it's just about everything a role-playing fan could want on their Mac.
There's really no negotiating with evil, demonically possessed trees.
BioWare has never made a casual RPG, and the robust Dragon Age is no exception. You’ll customize your character and their specialization, leading to variations like a berserker fighting style for your warrior, shape-shifting or healing abilities for your mage, and improved lock picking for your rogue. Since you can add more characters for your party and switch between them as needed, you end up with broad yet specific control over every encounter.
Managing your party effectively requires you to directly control one character and assign behaviors to the other members of your party. For example, if you want your archer and mage to provide covering fire while the others attack with swords, just open the Tactics menu and assign a behavior, and the character will follow it as needed.
But when in doubt? Go bananas. Dragon Age’s graphics and sound are as good as anything else currently available, so even if you get trounced, you’ll look good doing it. The lighting and models create a perfect fantasy/adventure feel, while the world itself is massive without being overwhelming. Top this off with easily 50-plus hours of gameplay, downloadable game expansions, and tons of weapons, items, and armor, and you wind up with a gaming experience that’s truly great.
There are some wrinkles to smooth out, but not many. The game ran almost perfectly under Mac OS 10.6.2--only one solitary crash and the occasional graphical flicker kept it from technical perfection. More problematic is the game’s overall challenge level, which is steep even at the easiest setting. We quickly became grateful for the quick-save option after finally killing a group of monsters that kept slaying our party.