Dragon Age: Origins

Since we last saw Dragon Age its name has gained extra weight. According to Bioware the Origins reference is twofold: both a nod to the company setting aside recent projects such as Mass Effect and returning instead to its Baldur’s Gate roots, and also a hint at the game’s opening hours. The first is exciting for all RPG fans, but especially for console players. Much to our chagrin, consoles have never been home to traditional Baldur’s Gate-style RPGs, something which the Diablo-style spin-offs such as Dark Alliance proved. Between this and Sacred 2 this trend has met its timely end.

Expect isometric cameras (with an optional over-the-shoulder zoom), the ability to pause combat to stack spells and attacks, and a custom developer toolset so you can tinker with the game. Spells are even interactive; if you find yourself in a fiery situation, a quick blast of Blizzard and the like should be enough to counter any elemental effects. Bioware describes Dragon Age as a darker fantasy than normal, and one that isn’t based on the Dungeons & Dragons world. It means that the usual staple of goblins, orcs and company will not feature. In their place? Genlocks, ogres and werewolves. Not too far removed, then. Another example of its distance from family-friendly fantasy: If blood flies in your direction it’ll stick and stay there, up to a point. You’ll be carrying around your enemies’ fluids after the battle has ended, so the more melee scraps you’re involved in, the bloodier you’ll be.

Unlike other titles, first time adventurers need to play through their character’s youth. Their – wait for it – origins, if you will… It will not only shape the leading character but the world itself. Many of your early interactions will play a part years down the line, from striking up friendships and making enemies to influencing who’s ruling over a particular domain. In many ways it’s the natural extension of Fable II’s model, only rather than seeing towns prosper or fail according to what shops you’ve bought, the entire world and its governments can be altered by your meddling hand.

Let’s say this straight away, though: we’re gutted Dragon Age is just a single-player game. As the spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate we expected to see a similar multiplayer system incorporated – especially as your character can issue orders to a party of four. Sadly Bioware decided to focus solely on your personal story and therefore didn’t pursue any multiplayer modes, ruling out any dreams of recreating Baldur’s Gate 2 (that’s the true Baldur’s Gate, not the Xbox spin-off Dark Alliance) LAN parties. Well, they needed to save something for the sequel.

Dec 3, 2008