Dragon Age: Origins

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Dragon Age: Origins

Preview

If you like RPGs, you're gonna love this!

BG, all grown up (cntd.)


In most CRPGs, even in 3-D mode, the characters are most often 2-D in their personalities. That is, a Hero is _always_ a hero; the Evil Bad Guy is simply _always_ evil. There is very little nuance to how they behave throughout your gameplay. Like the classic character of Minsc from Baldur's Gate: Every situation has one simple solution - CHARGE! You used to spend most of your interaction with Minsc in BG just trying to keep a leash on him. But here, in Dragons Age, you'll find that rarely are any of the characters that "flat". Just like in the Real World, people populate a full spectrum of gray behavior. Idiosyncrasies, prejudices, preferences, eccentricities, etc., will be the norm as opposed to being the exception. In short, you will be better suited to treating your NPCs like real people than you would be to relate to them just like any old game NPC.

In Real Life, when you classify people into different categories, you still easily can see that the population of any category has a wide variety of types and personalities. Here too you will find that "a Wizard is a Wizard is a Wizard" is NOT the case. You will quickly discover that when it comes to abilities, characters will "blur" somewhat as they pick up "a little bit of this and a little bit of that."

More akin to BG than to NWN, this game focuses on the single player approach, where the player can control up to four NPCs as well as his own character. Multi-player capability must wait for a sequel or an expansion (of which I would say the probability is near 100%).

One particularly intriguing new feature is that you will be able to "tag" more than one spellcaster in your party to work together in combat situations. The result is that when they cast in conjunction with one another, the results are often singular, possibly spectacular, and frequently unpredictable. It's definitely not like ordering from a restaurant menu.

Of course, so many years later, the graphics have substantially improved. From the clips that I've seen of game action, the spell effects are simply awesome. Like, a Fireball isn't just an exploding ball of flame and then it's over. Rather, the aftereffects will show singed and flaming grass and shrubs that slowly burn out. A Magic Missile isn't just an arrow or streak of light; it's an actual arrow streaming pixie dust. A Flame Lance bores through the air, but tends to singe the grass on the way, as well as brush branches out of the way. (I have to admit that I'm guessing at the spell names involved.)

"It was a dark and stormy night..."


Most fantasy RPGs have one thing in common: a need for a Hero to arise. Dark times have descended upon the empire/kingdom/city/village/whatever. Everywhere you look, it looks like Chaos is on the rise, threatening to overwhelm everything and everyone. Enter the Hero-wannabe, you. This recurring aspect is actually okay, in that it gives the player a direction to follow towards a palpable goal. Unfortunately, that ominous cloud overhead also often colours the game landscape, literally. Dark settings are usually underscored with a dark palette. In theory, fine.

In practice, however, it means that the player has to pick out the details of what would otherwise be fantastic artwork. I find that I must counteract the graphic artist's penchant by cranking up the Brightness and Gamma settings. Ain't never going to find the One ring in the shadows of Gollum's tunnels unless you provide a light source. I'm afraid that from the video footage I've seen, the artists at BioWare have surrendered to their Dark sides and I will once again have to fiddle with the Video settings.

That said, I've pretty much exhausted my list of reservations about this coming release. BioWare is saying that we can expect to see the game's PC version in "early 2009" (which translates to "before April"). The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions are to be released by the end of 2009. If I were to grasp around for any other complaint, the only one I could find would be, "I want it NOW!"