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Best of 2009 - Dragon Age: Origins

As one year transitions into the next, I find it a healthy and refreshing endeavor to look back upon the past year and reflect upon those experiences which touched me the most; to discover which games stood tall above the rest and, for one reason or another, made a lasting impression.

Over the next few days, I will be sharing my own personal list of the ten best games of 2009, followed by those that didn't quite make the top ten and even a few of my greatest disappointments of the year. These are in no particular order, but they are the games I found most worthy of praise. Reflecting upon them makes one thing clear: it was a great year for gaming.

Dragon Age: Origins is a dangerous game. It’s right up there with those nasty, soul-sucking titles like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion that can completely consume you if you aren’t careful. 

It’s wonderful.

Few games indeed manage to hook me as thoroughly as Dragon Age and those that do receive a special place in my heart. There’s something about diving headfirst into a game world and becoming obsessed with it, relishing every detail and every minute, never wanting to leave, and spending hundreds of hours there that’s just so much fun. Few games have the chops to do it. Most are over with far too quickly or get boring and repetitive a short way into their lengthy play time.

Not Dragon Age.

Dragon Age is epic. It’s huge, long, packed with detail and strategy and awesome around every corner. Coupled with a brilliant, gripping story and staggering variety, it makes for a game like no other. This has the length and replay value of five other games combined.

An even greater feat is that Dragon Age manages to present such a perfectly balanced difficulty with such great options for strategy that it lets me actually enjoy the steep challenge of the title rather than becoming frustrated.

Quite simply, that’s amazing. My number one enemy when gaming is frustration and I will do almost anything to avoid it. Dragon Age presents the player with such a terrific battle system, with so many options and strategic possibilities, not to mention the ability to stop time to give yourself a moment to actually think about how to implement them, that despite its immense challenge, I always end up feeling that failure is my fault, that with a little rethinking I could overcome the obstacle and move forward.

The best part is I can. It’s immensely satisfying.

Everything about this game is spectacular, save perhaps for its graphics and animation which will have to make do with simply “good”. The character creation system is deep. The titular origin stories provide your individual character a unique way of entering the story that affects the way the rest of the tale plays out, not to mention the replay value they add. The characters are memorable. The story is grandiose and gripping. The battle system is complex, yet manageable, and oh-so-addicting. It’s perfectly paced so there’s enough variety and gameplay changes that you don’t get bored of doing the same old thing.

I’ll admit that the game is intense enough that I’m unlikely to clock in as many total hours with it as with Oblivion, my current gameplay hours king. Dragon Age is just too draining to rack up quite that many hours for a player like me. There’s something to be said for quality over quantity though, and in that department Dragon Age blows Oblivion out of the water.

For being astoundingly epic and well-built on just about every level possible, Dragon Age: Origins is one of my Best Games of 2009.

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