Over the past 15 years, I have spent countless hours immersing myself in fictional game worlds. Blasting through hordes of covenant to rescue the universe in Halo, robbing banks and collecting bounties in Red Dead Redemption 2, slaying dragons in Skyrim- the amount of variety in gaming is limitless. However, I am not a fan of a particular genre. I appreciate a well-designed game with good gameplay features and an engaging story. Sure, I have my favorites. Like the RPG and RTS genres.
Just recently, I completed my 5th (or was it 7th?) playthrough of the original Mass Effect. It’s an exceptionally good science-fiction roleplaying game that was released by Bioware and Electronic Arts back in 2007. When the game came out, it got plenty of attention from both the gaming press as well as gamers in general. Not to mention the positive reviews by critics. And it is indeed a very well-crafted experience with a compelling narrative, lots of branching dialogue options, different story outcomes, vast worlds to explore, etc. Bioware are masters of creating rich, detailed fantasy worlds with excellent stories and memorable characters.
Mass Effect’s success lead Bioware to develop another very popular RPG, this time set in a medieval fantasy world instead of outer space. It is called Dragon Age: Origins and was released in 2009- just 2 years after the first Mass Effect game. Dragon Age is one of those games that fans claim got worse with each subsequent release, just like Mass Effect. But is that true? Because everyone has their personal biases and preferences when it comes to gameplay features/ storytelling.
In this ranking list, I will try to keep things as objective as I can. Hey, I’m not saying I don’t have ANY biases. There are elements from each Dragon Age game that I like. The rankings are derived from my personal opinions on each Dragon Age installment so it might differ from your own list. Plus, I have limited experience with the spinoff games (Dragon Age Journeys, Heroes of Dragon Age, etc.) so I will try to keep them separate from the mainline games. Anyways, let’s get this show started.
Ranking Dragon Age Games From Worst To Best
Coming in at number 3 is a game whose merit is hotly debated among the Dragon Age fandom- some claim it’s better than the 3rd installment, others believe it’s an affront to the legacy of this great RPG.
3. Dragon Age II
|Release Date||March 8, 2011|
|Platforms||Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Mac OS X|
I think this might actually be the worst BioWare RPG right after Mass Effect: Andromeda. Yeah, there’s that colossal disappointment called Anthem, but it isn’t an RPG and you most probably forgot about it 5 hours after the game released in 2019. Anyways, back to Dragon Age II- why is it so bad? No really, this game isn’t just disappointing. It is a bad RPG, not something you would expect out of BioWare studios.
The gameplay is so linear compared to Origins it makes you feel claustrophobic as you shamble from one scripted cutscene to another in between sparse sections of nauseatingly shallow combat sequences. The introductory sequence is a snooze fest, while the story crawls forward at the pace of a drunk snail. The combat system that BioWare completely overhauled feels sluggish and unintuitive. Even the art design is uninspired, which somehow makes the sequel look worse than the original. Video game graphics advanced significantly between 2007 and 2009 which at least theoretically should result in a better-looking game, but the art department definitely missed the mark on this one.
Verdict: Undoubtedly the worst Dragon Age game there is. It feels more like “Mass Effect with swords” than a proper Dragon Age game. The series started off as a modern piece of art by paying homage to Baldur’s Gate. But with Dragon Age: II, it lost all its soul and became a shallow commercial product pumped out of an assembly line. Why does my main character have a fixed family name? Why is it a generic, uninspired name like “Hawke”? Why is the game limiting me to just one playable race (human)? At what point does a game become so restrictive and linear it no longer classifies as an RPG? All these questions demand answers. Either way, it won’t change my opinion on Dragon Age 2 which gets a disappointing 5/10.
2. Dragon Age Inquisition
|Release Date||November 18, 2014|
|Platforms||Windows, Mac OS X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360|
After the failure of the second Dragon Age game, BioWare decided they needed to go back to what made gamers love this series. They had made a mistake with II, and it showed in the sales figures. Inquisition is a sandbox-style open-world fantasy RPG that goes back to the deep and exciting combat system of Origins, along with a far more non-linear narrative compared to II.
The difficult moral choices from Origins are back, and dialogue options feel more fleshed out compared to the last Dragon Age Game. Graphics have also received a massive overhaul since this game was the first Dragon Age to be released on 8th generation consoles. BioWare brings back the races from the first game and adds some new ones. While Inquisition’s over-the-shoulder camera feels more “modern” you can easily switch to the top-down view during battles to get a tactical advantage. Crafting has also been overhauled in Inquisition, and it’s leagues better than what we got in the 2nd Dragon Age.
Verdict: Inquisition builds on what made the first one so great. And while it still contains elements from the 2nd game that are not very desirable (like the dreaded dialogue wheel), it balances those shortcomings with some exciting new gameplay features. Once again, you can strike up conversations with party members which lets you actually believe that you’re in a fantasy world.
The game world has so much content you could play for weeks and still not hit 100% completion. There are tons of alliances to forge or break, entirely new nations and clans to discover, plus actually interesting characters whose stories are masterfully intertwined with your own. I shall accept Bioware’s apology for messing up with II, and give this game a solid 8/10.
1. Dragon Age: Origins
|Release Date||November 3, 2009|
|Platforms||Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Mac OS X|
This truly BioWare at their prime, and it shows in everything from the world-building to branching dialogue choices that actually influence how events play out in the game world. No seriously, in most RPGs these days it hardly matters which dialogue option you choose. It usually boils down to a variation of “exposition”, “stern reply”, and “No”. But in Dragon Age, your choice to spare or take a life can have ripple effects down the rest of the storyline. And it will change your experience as well as the way NPCs view you within the game.
For its time, the first Dragon Age game had some of the best visuals I had ever seen in a fantasy RPG. Not only that, but the combat system was actually pretty intuitive and deep even though it might look janky to someone who has only played later Dragon Age games. There are different races (or classes) to choose from when you create your character at the start of the game. Depending on which class you choose, the first 6 or so hours (introductory sequence) will be different. This provides the game with great replayability value since you can always come back and try out a different class just to play through their origin story.
Origins is BioWare’s attempt to create their own version of Dungeons and Dragons. It’s a truly immersive and highly complex RPG with well-written side characters and plenty of interesting side quests. The combat system is inspired by Baldur’s Gate, you get a top-down view of the battlefield and can pause at any time to give party members unique commands.
Verdict: Want a roleplaying game about dragons, dwarves, elves, and hobbits? Check out Dragon: Age Origins, it is undoubtedly the best in the entire series and scores an outstanding 9/10 in my book. The combat feels intuitive yet deep, while the choices you make have long-lasting effects throughout the world of the game. Plenty of customization from weapons and charms to armor, plus each class has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Don’t wait, play this game today!
After the success of the first Dragon Age game on console and PC, EA decided they wanted to make some extra cash by milking the fandom. This is precisely why they came up with browser and phone games based on the Dragon Age universe. Expect none of the gameplay or storytelling, but a lot of fanservice. I won’t rank these as I have yet to play them, but they are worth mentioning in an article about the Dragon Age series of games.
1. Dragon Age Journeys (2009, web browser)
A 2-D flash-based browser game set in the Dragon Age universe, its events take place between the timeline of Origins and II. There are 3 chapters, with some spells and characters from the original Dragon Age. Sound effects and music are also taken directly from Dragon Age: Origins.
2. Dragon Age Legends (2010, web browser)
A sequel to Dragon Age Journeys, this is also a browser-based 2D game. It was released for Facebook and Google+. Just like Journeys, you move characters between tiles on a board. Tactics are rudimentary (melee brawler in the front with archers/ mages in the rear) and combat is turn-based.
3. Heroes of Dragon Age (2013, Android and iOS)
Unlike the previous spinoffs, Heroes of Dragon Age has its own client and runs on Android or iOS. In this game, you get to see events based on hypothetical versions of canonical events with the mainline Dragon Age games. You collect characters, create squads, and pit these squads against AI or another human player’s squad. Yeah, unit progression exists but all the real power is locked behind paywalls. You need to pay actual money to purchase the good stuff. Guess that’s why these games are called “freemium” instead of truly free to play.
4. Dragon Age: The Last Court (2014, web browser)
A text-based browser game set between the timeline of Dragon Age II and Dragon Age: Inquisition. Combat is turn-based and the game itself is completely free to play. You draw cards and manage resources in The Last Court, although the official support for this game ended in 2020. However, some fans undertook a preservation project to restore the game.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Are the spinoff games worth playing?
A: Probably not unless you are the kind of fan who will literally consume anything with the name Dragon Age plastered on it. As for the mobile game Heroes of Dragon Age, maybe your 5-year old sister will enjoy it. Just don’t leave her unsupervised with mom’s credit card nearby while she plays this game.
Q: Will Dragon Age run on integrated graphics?
A: The first one will most certainly run on modern integrated graphics like Intel Xe or Vega 8. However, don’t expect to run Inquisition on a laptop from 2012 without dedicated graphics.
Q: Are BioWare working on a new Dragon Age game?
A: You probably won’t like hearing this- there was work going on for a new Dragon Age game, i.e. Dragon Age 4. It started in 2015, but employees and resources were shifted to create Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem. Since both of those games were colossal failures, we can only hope someone at BioWare still remembers what the fans actually want. Will there be a Dragon Age 4? At this point, it’s hard to tell but rest assured it isn’t completely out of the picture. Maybe in another 2 to 3 years?
Q: Will I enjoy the Mass Effect games if I liked Dragon Age?
A: Unlike Dragon Age, Mass Effect doesn’t have the same depth of role-playing. And while Dragon Age redeemed itself with Inquisition, Mass Effect only kept getting worse. However, the first two Mass Effect are a personal recommendation from me. Don’t bother with 3 or Andromeda unless you have a lot of free time on your hands.
Q: Are there mods for Dragon Age?
A: Of course. Like with any BioWare (or Bethesda for that matter) RPG, a small group of talented and passionate fans put in the effort to create a better experience for all through mods. There are mods that fix glitches, improve visuals, redo the UI, and introduce new content. Check out this article from PC Gamer if you want to learn about the best mods for Dragon Age: Origins, and how to get them.