Dragon Age: Origins

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- The "highlight usable items" button: cherish it. Bind it to whatever key is most convenient to you in terms of pressing the everliving hell out of it. Seriously, you'll want to be using it virtually constantly, because missing items/"interactable" objects sucks and pixel hunts aren't any fun at all.

- Mages kill everything. Arcane Warriors kill everything and are basically invincible.

- Get Mana Clash ASAP, and pick an element for your offensive spells to kill non-mage enemies. Fire works quite nicely and I think you start with Fireball anyway.

- If you do go Arcane Warrior, keep in mind that you want "sustained" spells that you keep up by giving up whatever amount it costs from your max mana for as long as you have it active, and not offensive spells (except Mana Clash).

- With enough spells active, you're pretty much death incarnate, and Arcane Warrior's special sustained spells let you wear armor and use swords without penalty.

- You will want to keep your eyes peeled for the following items: Love Letters (12), Scrolls of Banastor (5), Corpse Galls (9, OR 18 for a better reward) and Garnets (10). It's very easy to miss them early on if you don't know that you should be looking for them.

- The order the game expects you to go is Redcliff, Mages Tower (when it offers or when you finish Redcliff your choice), Brecilian Forest, and then Orgrimar.

- Go to the Mage Tower first. The stat boosts you gain there will make the other areas much easier, no matter what class you play.

- Do not go to the mage's tower until you have stocked up on health potions; it is an incredibly long quest that will not let you escape once you start. It does give you the other spell caster though.

- If you need health potions, the elves in the woods sell infinite flasks and material.

- Save the Dalish Elves quest branch for last. Quest there provides a great set of tank armor at high enough level.

- Redcliffe quest branch is not very difficult, suitable for the first choice.

- Specializations are unlocked for every game you start. You can buy a manual for specialization or unlock it from a quest, then reload and save your money or get a different reward.

- Check companion codex entries to see what types of gifts your companions prefer. They will reward you with sidequests and learn skills. Conversations with companions will help discern what items to look for to unlock sidequests.

- Buy backpacks. They will increase your inventory capacity and allow you to carry more loot. You can buy two of them right away at Ostagar.

- You will be very poor for a long time and then you will get very rich. This is fine because the only things worth buying are endgame-power artifacts that tend to be very expensive.

- If you do choose to have a caster in your group, keep in mind that a lot of spells couple with another for a combo. Just look up the combo list online.

- The elves area contains a few gravestones, activate them, but be prepared. The rewards are pretty good.

- Your mage should be one of the biggest damage dealers in your party (if not THE biggest), but you should also concentrate on crowd control. Spells like Winter's Grasp, Cone of Cold, Force Field, Crushing Prison, Sleep/Horror, and Mind Blast will all serve you well by completely disabling most enemies during combat.

- Cold spells have the added benefit of shattering enemies if you do enough damage to them while frozen. Crushing Prison is great because, unlike Force Field, you can still damage the target while the spell is active on them. Fireball has an excellent knockdown effect and the friendly fire damage is negligible if your tank is wearing Wade's armor.

- It's generally worth acquiring full sets of armor to get the bonus instead of wearing piecemeal items for their individual effects. One word of warning is that not all bonuses are the same. You might have two sets of armor that offer the exact same defensive stats, but that have different bonuses for wearing the full set. On the whole, I find that the stamina bonuses (where characters' skills cost less to activate) are more useful than the attribute bonuses.

Items

There are four types of items that you should always check to see if merchants have any in stock: Backpacks, Recipes, Gifts, Skill Tomes.

1. Backpacks. Each backpack increases your carry capacity by 10, to a maximum of 120. They start out fairly cheap (roughly 50 silver) and then skyrocket (to close to 10 gold). Still, they're rare and you want to buy the maximum sooner, rather than later. Remember, if you have to hold off on buying armor/weapons to buy a backpack, it'll even out in the long run as the increased carry capacity will let you sell more loot.

2. Recipes. If you have a character with any ranks in Herbalism, it's likely that they'll only know how to make three potions: Lesser Health Poultice, Lesser Lyrium Potion, and the Mabari Crunch. To make more and different potions, you need to buy potion recipes from merchants. Random potion recipes are fairly cheap and/or useless, but good recipes (Injury Kits, Health Poultices, and Lyrium Potions) will cost anywhere from 5 to 10 gold. They're worth every penny, too. Keep in mind that more potent versions of the same potion require the same ingredients, just larger quantities. Stronger versions will also require things like Distillation Agents, so hang on to those as well. Bodahn Feddic (the dwarf merchant in your camp) should have an unlimited supply of most potion agents, as well as flasks, and various merchants have unlimited supplies of the various ingredients (Circle Tower has unlimited lyrium dust, the Dalish elves have unlimited elfroot, etc.).

3. Gifts. Merchants are the best way of acquiring gifts. You'll find plenty in dungeons, but you'll find a lot more from merchants. Just buy every gift you see, unless you're short on cash in which case you should only buy the character-specific gifts (as opposed to generic gifts like jewelry). Of course, once you have the DLC gifts become pointless. The only ones you want to watch out for are ones that trigger conversations or quests like Morrigan's Golden Mirror or the Black Grimoire. Otherwise, you can just buy the unique gift for each companion from Feddic, and it'll boost their disposition by 50.

4. Skill tomes. These will all have different names, like Tome of Skill and Sundry or Tome of the Mortal Vessel. They may or may not have restrictions (like "Only usable by the PC" or "Only usable by mages"). Using them gives you one or more of: attribute points, skill points, talent points. They're finite and won't restock, but they're also pricey so you may have to note their location and return when you have the money. Don't miss out on them, though, as they'll substantially increase your characters' abilities.

DLC

Return to Ostagar and Soldier's Peak can be done at very low levels. In fact, you can do them as soon as you leave Lothering. Return to Ostagar is useful because it nets you Cailan's Armor, pretty much guaranteed to be better than anything else you have access to at the time. Soldier's Peak is essential because completing it provides you with access to a storage chest. Even better, if you leave weapons and armor in the chest, their tier will increase over time with your level. This is an easy way to make a lot of cash: just hang on to all those steel and iron items, leave them in your chest, and then in 5 or 10 levels you'll have a ton of tier 7 equipment that you can sell off for a fortune.

Completing Leliana's Quest will provide you with magical armor when you start new games, and doing Shale's will unlock Shale as a companion. Neither one is a terrible idea, since the magic armor remains useful for a while and Shale is a decent companion.