Main illustration by Ti_Cacou using Bioware assets.
Playing Dragon Age: Origins in 2014
Here is some basic advice if you want to play DA:O nowadays, since this game is not exactly brand new.
- All this advice applies on PC, of course – can’t tweak none on a console.
- The Dragon Age: Origins Ultimate Edition is excellent value and is frequently on sale on Steam and elsewhere. Alas, it is region-locked for distribution (to the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, I think).
If you live elsewhere it is worth the effort to procure this edition, via IP spoofing/VPN or simply by having somebody in one of these countries gift you the game on Steam.
- If you’re both an Electronic Arts Origin user and a Steam user, prefer the Origins version (I’ll explain later).
Now that you have the proper version of the game, let’s get to work.
- DA:O is a prime candidate for downsampling if your current PC is more powerful than the standard 2009 rig. To do this, here’s Corky’s excellent guide to downsampling .
- DA:O is also a prime candidate for Nvidia Inspector driver hijacking. Just google “Nvidia Inspector” for plenty of information. Here is a suggested high-end series of settings – just remember to turn the anti-aliasing in the game off.
- DA:O significantly benefits from SweetFX enhancements (you can google “SweetFX” for more about the tool). The preset at the bottom of this page is IMO serviceable, though if you already do downsampling and forced driver anti-aliasing you can turn off SweetFX anti-aliasing – it’s overkill.
- You can see other SweetFX material here by searching for “lighting” in the title. One uses the mostly-aborted Dragon Age ENB though I’m not convinced it’s worth it (ENB not being compatible with driver-forced anti-aliasing).
There exist texture packs for DA:O. This is good because the DA:O textures are old ugly low-res console stuff, but there are significant limitations.
- The big pack is the JB3 , but these are not lovingly hand-crafted textures like in some games (say, Skyrim or Mass Effect) – the textures have simply been enlarged and bulk-processed. Still, I think this is a considerable improvement. However, as the mod description emphasises, it comes with problems.
- Namely, the DA:O .exe must be patched using software such as Large Address Aware (easily found on Google) so it can use enough RAM to support large textures. This is easy on Origin, but the Steam version of the Ultimate Edition has some inexplicable DRM preventing this (hence the preference for the Origin version above).
If you have the Steam version, there is fairly simple hack that requires installing and using the EA Origin client to turn your Steam version into an Origin one. This means you’ll have to download the game twice, though. On the other hand, with the LAA patch in place and a decent graphics card, the game practically never crashes even with full JB3 textures.
- I suggest dumping all of your textures in a single folder for ease of management. In DA:O, all mods are installed in an override folder, and you can simply create a “Textures” folder within it. Here is an example path :
so you can find the override folder in question (replace “user” by your Windows user name).
- You can grab additional textures from Theta and dump them into this folder over the JB3 ones – there are far fewer textures, but they are hand-made.
- The JB3 skin textures are IMO quite dirty and unhealthy. If that’s also your opinion, ViLiSSa has a mod that includes generic skin textures (“fema”, “kida”, etc.). So you could grab them and dump them into your Texture files to replace the JB3 ones, if you want. However, you’ll need to change the name from ViLiSSa’s naming scheme to the standard one first. Here is the full list of DA:O skin texture files with the standard name :
ViLiSSa’s mod doesn’t have a replacer for all of these, so depending on your preferences you can keep or delete the JB3 textures for the rest.
Mods – general notes
Now we can consider mods beyond simple — but important — textures. Generally, browsing the Dragon Age Nexus by category and in order of decreasing endorsements should give you a sense of what’s out there and you can see what you like. Still, 3 caveats if you wanna use mods :
- The Nexus Mod Manager is, IMO, quite unconvincing for DA:O. I haven’t experimented with other mods manager, since my needs were covered by simple manual installations, but the main DA:O mod managers are available on the Nexus. Using the Nexus MM will result in problems as it seems to just dump the files in your override folder.
- The DAZip files you will get in some mods need to be installed using an application called DAUpdater, which is part of your Dragon Age installation. Assuming a Steam version of DA:O, the path would be :
E:\Steam\steamapps\common\Dragon Age Ultimate Edition\bin_ship\daupdater.exe
- If you use multiple mods that modify the character morphs (for instance, multiple hairstyles mods) you need to understand how to use CharGenMorph Compiler (available on Nexus) to merge conflicting files.
There are a few mods that one should strongly consider :
- The 3 main dialogue fixes mods – Dialogue Tweaks , the Morrigan Restoration Patch and the ZDF Dialogue Fixes . Read the descriptions to prevent some minor conflicts between Tweaks and ZDF. As often with Bioware games, 6 more months of development really wouldn’t have hurt (well, except financially – that’s the problem), and these handy fixes address some of the issues.
- The Unobtainable Item Fix is also frequently recommended
- Improved Atmosphere includes sizeable resources and fixes even more issues – just don’t forget the patch, and that Improved Atmosphere and its patch are best installed *before* you start a game. Review it module by module to understand what it does rather than dump everything at once. For instance :
- the materials stuff have DAZip files, so you need to run those rather than simply put them in your override
- it boosts the quality of the equipment used by guards, which can make some origin sequences (such as the City Elf one) considerably harder. Just lower the difficulty for that part if that’s an issue.
- the modified items module boosts certain key pieces of equipment, and makes many bits of equipment cheaper. This can make even a Nightmare game too easy.
Lastly I’d suggest reading the Ideal Quests order on the wiki once before you begin. It can avoid significant frustration.