WADE MANNS – The Corsair
By Bioware and Electronic Arts
The high-fantasy world of Ferelden is just about to get darker…
As has happened many times in its past, a Blight sweeps the land, carrying with it evil, twisted creatures known as Darkspawn. Every land they touch becomes tainted and unlivable, as they strive to make it passable, if not comfortable, for their master, an archdemon. These are mages of old who performed forbidden magics and were cursed by the Maker for their arrogance and aberration. Now, they slumber beneath the fertile ground of Ferelden, waiting for that moment when they can finally take what is theirs.
As a Grey Warden, one in a long line of conscripted protectors, once a noble’s son forced to flee his home when one of his father’s friends betrays him (other backgrounds are available depending on your choice of race, from elf to dwarf; even a ‘What If’ campaign exists in which you’re cast as a Darkspawn!), you join the big initial push against the Blight at Ostagar. Unfortunately, the backup force promised by a corrupt noble never arrives, and the king’s men (and the king himself) are brutally slain. After a horrific initiation in which you and one other drink the blood of darkspawn, you become able to see the life-force of darkspawn and truly become a Grey Warden.
From there you journey to many different places in the very diverse lands, solving all sorts of problems before laying down the contract which binds each race to the Grey Wardens’ service. Your companions are just as diverse, ranging from a Mabari war hound (a dog which you name and is unquestioningly loyal to you), Alistair (a former member of the Chantry, basically witch-hunters), Morrigan (a witch herself, who helps you get out of the Korcari Wilds surrounding besieged Ostagar; nonetheless, she and Alistair don’t get along well), and many others you may choose to enlist along the way.
Game play proceeds similarly to previous Bioware games like Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect (though of course the dark fantasy world doesn’t have firearms). In general, it’s not too complex but not totally simple either. You won’t be bored moving your characters around, healing strategically (as you must do many times in battle), attacking and casting spells. You can pause at any time to issue new orders, survey the battlefield from a low bird’s eye view or behind the controlled character’s back, and assign advanced Tactics to those whom you don’t control.
As with many games these days, Downloadable Content (or DLC) serves to expand greatly on the gaming experience. From built-in quests such as Stone Prisoner, in which you awaken a Golem to serve by your side with powerful elemental and physical attacks, to entire mini-campaigns such as the aforementioned Darkspawn Chronicles, in which you lead a darkspawn general to spread the blight over Ferelden, you’ll never want for things to do in this sprawling land.
A sequel was recently released, but I have heard that the combat system and storyline have been greatly weakened compared to the superior prequel. So, I will give five stars to this first game.