I’ve been making may way through DAO, and despite my complaints about how silly the blood effects are, I’ve really taken a liking to the combat system used by the game. Every encounter combines the positioning and enemy management of a strategy RPG with the specializations and skill systems used in MMOs, or for my purposes, like those found in World of Warcraft. I enjoyed my time in WoW, but played it more as a single player game, opting to ignore group instances and raids simply because of the hassle that comes along with them.

Group quests in WoW take work. Raiding has become a meta-game onto itself, with enumerable guilds formed to facilitate the activity. Guilds have rules, calendars and, much like any other organization, a social hierarchy that makes an outsider feel woefully unwelcome. Towards the end of my WoW experience it became necessary for me to join with a number of strangers I had never met, making it far more a job then a game. Expectations were levied through the guild schedule, and it never seemed like I was able to reap the benefits that should come with a membership. I was an outsider with no respect, I became the Rodney Dangerfield of MMOs. This is probably one of the reasons I ended my subscription as after the grind to the level cap there is little left besides the zero-sum game of raiding and gear acquisition.

Dragon Age Origins solves every problem I had with WoW in an incredibly compelling way – namely that there is no reliance on any other third-party to play the damn game. The single player elements and conversation system that DAO uses is a compelling extra, but being able to essentially run a five-man raid (I realize you only have four in DAO, but the comparison remains valid) by yourself changes the repetitive problems of having to run through the motions with your character hour after hour in games like WoW. Everytime I get bored of a character, I simply switch them out which changes the tactics and strategies I can use in each encounter. DAO becomes a puzzle game without ever meaning to, an aspect that I think makes for compelling game play.

I realize this may all change when i finish up DAO and make the jump to Dragon Age 2, but as it stands, DAO is proving to be one of the games I am hitting myself for not playing up until now.