Eight hours into a preview build of Dragon Age: Origins and we can’t get the blood off. The crimson evidence of our violence still stains our hands, our armor, and our entire party. It’s even in our hair. Whether you’ve slain a pack of wild beasts or put a gang of mercenaries to rest, in Dragon Age: Origins there will be blood - lots and lots of blood. And if you choose to leave the “Enable persistent gore” option in the menu checked, buckets of post-battle blood will remain as you navigate through what would otherwise be a series of typical dialogue trees and cutscenes.
At first, seeing major characters casually converse - while drenched to the bone in gore - is a little unsettling. But it’s also pretty awesome. That’s why we figured it’d be fun to introduce you to your blood spattered brethren in Dragon Age: Origins. Think of this as a primal primer to what may be one of the bloodiest RPGs of all time.
You as a Dwarf Warrior
Depending on the gender, race, and class you choose, you’ll begin the game by playing through one of six different origin stories. You’ll learn some background about your character as well as some basic lore of the land. But no matter which origin story you begin with, you’ll soon find out that the world is beset by a Blight, a once in a lifetime freak occurrence where hordes of demonic creatures known as darkspawn run wild through the land. Led by an arch demon, the growing darkspawn armies in this Blight pose a significant threat to all the races and factions in Dragon Age: Origin’s world.
Above: We rolled a dwarf warrior for racial bonuses to strength, constitution, and beards
Enter the Grey Wardens, a group of warriors dedicated to destroying darkspawn whenever a Blight occurs. You’ll find yourself inducted into this elite group before starting a journey to enlist aid from the humans, elves, dwarves, and mages to help end the Blight’s plague. You can select up to three other characters to join your party, and as you continue adventuring, you’ll meet many more allies that can be switched in and out of your group. Here are the first few to give you a taste of what’s to come in what appears to be a truly epic RPG.
Above: A heavily armored dwarf warrior with extra blood
Alistair the Templar/Warrior
Alistair is a Templar, a special kind of warrior who excels at defeating mages. He can learn skills that will help him resist magic and drain mana from hostile casters. But as a warrior, he can also improve his skills with a shield and giant two-handed weapons. Teaching him how to dual-wield blades is also an option. But we preferred to improve Alistair’s shield skills, which helped shape him into a formidable tank who could keep groups of enemies focused on him while our other party members dealt damage from a safe distance.
Above: Unfazed by the copious amount of blood on his face, Alistair calmly explains how Grey Wardens can sense the presence of darkspawn
Like you, Alistair is a relatively new Grey Warden, but prefers to let you lead and make the big decisions. Every day is sarcasm day when you bring Alistair with you. Expect lots of snide comments with deadpan delivery when he’s in your party.
Above: Alistair makes for a handy meat shield. Have him protect your weaker party members, like spell casters and rogues
Morrigan the Shapeshifter/Mage
Morrigan is the first spell caster to join your party. She is a Shapeshifter and can learn how to transform into various woodland beasts with special skills. For example, while in her spider shape, she can snare enemies with her webs and inflict poison damage. Investing points in her Shapeshifter skills will unlock other forms and make her more powerful. But since Morrigan also has access to all the general mage skills, we recommend teaching her Heal, so that you don’t have to depend so heavily on healing potions to survive long battles.
Above: Morrigan after slaying a dragon on its period
Morrigan generally frowns upon decisions that distract you from your main quest to unite the world’s factions against the incoming Blight. In addition to being a skilled spell caster, Morrigan is has a ton of zingers up her sleeve and is highly skilled at putting down your fellow party members during background dialogue moments. Be sure to bring her along if you’d like to hear some entertaining arguments between her and the rest of your group.
Above: Morrigan shows off Dragon Age: Origins’ new back blood engine