The varied environments – forests, plains, castles, caves, ruins, and dream-worlds – all look great. Texture resolution is above average, lighting and particle effects are all there and in good form, and depth of field is used primarily in cutscenes and conversations, but is not overpowering. Character models are very detailed, they even have eyelashes! It’s such a simple thing, but I saw that and thought, “Wait a minute… since when do characters in games have eyelashes!?” Armor and clothing is appropriately stylish; while nothing compares to a full suit of dragon-scale plate armor, even high-quality chainmail looks good. Certainly, you can expect visual upgrades and new items alike from the mod community.
Visual presentation is good, with scripted conversations and cutscenes advancing the story. Helmets are removed during these times to allow facial emotion to be seen, but bulky armor or glowy enchantment effects can obscure your view of things. Animations look somewhat robotic at times, but elaborate killing blows are brutal and awesome to watch, especially on larger foes. Overall, the game lives up to the gory hype, as blood splatters everywhere when physical blows are exchanged. Your characters end up covered in red after a battle, which remains for a time, even in cutscenes. Some spells can petrify or freeze enemies, leaving them vulnerable to being shattered by further damage.
Dragon Age features 100% spoken dialogue. Any time a character talks to you, it is heard, not read. Well, you can turn on subtitles, but you get the idea. With 144 actors total, each of the main characters can have their own, including your companions and other major players in the story. Some also do several voices for other smaller parts, but it was not noticeable except for the dwarves done by Steve Blum.
Giving a voice to every character in the game is a lot of work, but it was done very well. The result is an experience far more immersive than a game like Oblivion, where every NPC aside from Captain Picard and Alex Trevelyan sound the same as the rest of their race. Ambient conversations between party members can make exploration very entertaining, but there are a handful of phrases that are annoyingly repeated both in and out of combat.
The sound effects and orchestral score end up taking a backseat to the extensive voiceovers, but they aren’t lacking at all. Combat noises sound good, as they should, since they’re what you’ll hear the most. Sword clanging against sword, shield banging against armor, or my favorite, sword penetrating armor and slicing the poor bastard inside. Grunts, groans, and growls emanate throughout man and beast alike, interrupted by shouts, screams, and howls. Throughout it all, the larger-than-life battle music eggs you on to victory with war drums and booming crescendos.