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10 Sep, 2009

Dragon Age: Origins Preview

PC Preview | One for the ages or dragon the chain?
If there's one thing that we know BioWare is good at, it's role-playing games. Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire and of course Mass Effect have all emerged from their Canadian womb. A track record like that definitely instills some confidence that their upcoming title Dragon Age: Origins will be worthy of adding to that list of quality titles.

So what do we know about Dragon Age: Origins? Firstly, it's a fantasy RPG, and a spiritual sequel to Baldur's Gate. It's set in a new universe that BioWare are pushing as mature, dark and sophisticated, while still retaining traditional fantasy archetypes. Perhaps with Dragon Age, Bioware can do for fantasy what they did for sci-fi with Mass Effect; create a universe that's understandable and familiar, but also builds up a new mythos all of its own. You take on the role of a Grey Warden, a guardian of sorts tasked with defending the world and ultimately defeating a nasty inconvenience called the Archdemon. Grey Wardens are few and far between, making your role an important one in the context of the game's world.


Oh he NASTY.

Oh he NASTY.
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You're able to select from six character backgrounds: Human Noble, Human Mage, Dalish Elf, City Elf, Dwarf Commoner, and Dwarf Noble. Which of these you select will determine your Origin story, a prologue/tutorial that takes place prior to the game's main story, with a runtime of two to three hours. Selecting the City Elf story, for example, sets your starting point as your wedding day, which is disrupted by some rowdy human guards. That sort of rudeness can only be responded to by cutting them down, and that's exactly what you may end up doing. The Dwarf Noble story has you as a member of the royal family, but a Dwarf Commoner would entrench you in the poverty-stricken Dwarf underworld. The gender of your character can also alter the course of events. While each Origin story lands your character at the same starting point to the main plot, what takes place in that story will affect your game in unique ways down the track. Actions taken in the Origin story may have significant ramifications when you return to the area it took place in. The tendrils of cause and effect may reach even further than that.


Teamwork! Yay!

Teamwork! Yay!
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In addition to your character background, you'll also be picking a class. The three base classes are Wizard, Fighter and Rogue, but these will branch out significantly as you make your way through the game, pushing you to upgrade your abilities and stats and explore more advanced, specialised classes like Templar or Berserker. There appears to be plenty of room to move in terms of customising and perfecting your character to suit your playing style. Combat runs in real-time, but can be paused at any moment for the player to queue up commands. What abilities and attacks you'll be able to use depend, of course, on your character's development and the NPCs in your party. Spells can interact with the effects of other spells. Casting a fireball spell upon a grease spell can cause an explosion, with numerous other spell combinations likely to be uncovered through experimentation. Remaining consistent with BioWare's promise that this game will feature a grittier brand of fantasy, the violence of combat looks bloodier and more confronting than your typical fantasy title.


Undead henchmen. You'll probably be fighting a lot of these.

Undead henchmen. You'll probably be fighting a lot of these.
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Backing you up will be up to three NPC's, who BioWare are trying to push as something more than just 'three meat popsicles'. Each will have their own agenda and their own moral compass, meaning you can draw their ire if you do something they disapprove of, and they may refuse to assist you full-stop. You'll also be able to develop relationships with other characters, some of whom are open to something a little snugglier than fighting monsters. The dialogue system is somewhat reminiscent of Mass Effect, though you'll tend to be choosing ideas and emotions to convey rather than specific phrases. Of course, you can't have an RPG nowadays without some kind of morality monitor, and while it doesn't seem you can fundamentally alter the course of the game's story (though there will be multiple endings) the emphasis will be on what the exact shape of the world will be by the time you're done with it. You'll have the influence to determine which kings rule, which nations form and dissolve, and which races survive, which promises some pretty hefty beard-stroking (or thoughtful hair twirling for the ladies) as you weigh up your options.

Finally, you should know that the legendary Tim Curry voices the game's main villain, Arl Rendon Howe. Awesome!
Overall:
Dragon Age: Origins is shaping up pretty nicely at this stage. If it can get the balance right in the combat and character customisation, and convince us that Dragon Age's universe is one worth sticking around in, this is every chance of being a successful title.

Related Dragon Age: Origins Content

New Dragon Age DLC coming this month
08 May, 2010 From the perspective of evil.
A new character joins the Dragon Age cast
12 Feb, 2010 Move over Morrigan!
New creatures in Dragon Age Origins expansion
07 Feb, 2010 And they are... children!?
7 Comments
4 years ago
Looks good but I'll be most interested in how the camera handles though. Does it give a good view of the action while still keeping far enough out to allow easy commands? Does it need manual adjustments often?
4 years ago
PALGN wrote
You take on the role of a Grey Warden, a guardian of sorts tasked with defending the world and ultimately defeating a nasty inconvenience called the Archdemon. Grey Wardens are few and far between, making your role an important one in the context of the game's world.
This sounds strangely similar to Mass Effect.

Anyways, I'll be giving this one a miss. Now that they've got this fantasy thing out of their system they can keep working on Mass Effect 2.
4 years ago
Quote
One for the ages or dragon the chain?
Worst.Subtitle.Ever.

Good preview though, looks interesting.
4 years ago
I'm surprised this game has so little interest around it. No one seems to know about it.

I'm pretty keen for it and think Bioware are an awesome company, so am definately picking this game up on day one.
4 years ago
ANDYBALLINA wrote
I'm surprised this game has so little interest around it. No one seems to know about it.

I'm pretty keen for it and think Bioware are an awesome company, so am definately picking this game up on day one.
I guess they haven't showed anything worth getting excited about, correct me if I'm wrong. Or maybe Bioware just isn't good at the hype. Personally, I've played a bit of Neverwinter nights, Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale and it all seems kinda boring to me. I know some love these games but it might be more for a niche crowd.
4 years ago
admeister wrote
Quote
One for the ages or dragon the chain?
Worst.Subtitle.Ever.
Yes, I hope it elicited an almighty groan of disdain from all who read it. icon_lol.gif
4 years ago
i stood and applauded.

despite puns being their own reword, they don't get enough respect around here.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  5/11/2009 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Electronic Arts
Genre:
  RPG
Year Made:
  2008
Players:
  1

Read more...
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