Dragon Age: Origins Preview
Dragon Age: Origins, dubbed as the spiritual heir to the highly esteemed Baldurs Gate franchise, is one of those titles that ought to appeal to role-playing fans worldwide. According to IGN, it has just been announced that EA has opted to delay the PC version so it coincides with the launch of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions. This should come as no surprise to those who know about EA’s standard operating procedure (they don’t do exclusives and they don’t typically do timed exclusives, either), and it allows the publisher to produce one large marketing push for the game. We still don’t have an estimated release date, but we do know it’s going to release some time this year and we also know that plenty of readers out there have been craving some details and information. Well, we hope you’re big fans of Bioware’s recent projects where the player is forced to make a moral choice during the game, because that philosophy is going to take center-stage in Dragon Age: Origins. The combat won’t prove to be alien, though, despite a few upgrades and enhancements for the benefit of this new generation.
First, let’s deal with the gameplay. You will have the option of the standard top-down, isometric view that should make the experience feel similar to Baldurs, or you can zoom in and move the camera about manually, as you could in Neverwinter Nights 2. As for the mechanic itself, it will be a blend of real-time and turn-based, which shouldn’t come as a huge shock: the characters and foes move in real-time until you opt to halt the action, when everything pauses and you can issue commands. However, if you prefer, you can simply switch off the turn-based option and set the action to full-on real-time, which means you’ll have to issue your commands while the battle is taking place. For our part, we’re gonna pause just like we could in our favorite Forgotten Realms titles in the past; we need time to select our next course of action, you know? Besides, there are guaranteed to be tons of options in terms of special attacks and magic, so why rush things?
Now, unlike the Baldurs Gate games, this one is going to be more freedom-oriented at its core. In fact, part of the concept here reminds us of the Suikoden franchise, which had you recruiting as many characters as you can (remember the 108 Stars of Destiny) for use in both small and large, war-like battles. In Origins, you will assume the role of a Gray Warder who will fight the evil Blight to the death, but he needs help. Therefore, you will travel to surrounding territories and attempt to recruit assistance from different races and cultures. Of course, securing their help won’t always rely on the simple task of asking; you will often have to prove your worth before scoring the faith and loyalty of new friends. This will require playing one side against the other at times, so you had best decide the best course of action for your army: would you rather have the help of the Dalish Elves or the Werewolves that continually plague the Elves? Each race will offer a certain advantage, so your adventure will require a whole lot in the way of assessing strengths and weaknesses of potential allies.
The good news for all you controlling, micromanagement freaks? It doesn’t end there. Your decisions will have a direct impact on any current allies you have in your party, which means you also have to consider how a new recruit will affect those you already have in tow. Now, if a particular character really agrees with the idea, his/her approval rating will rise, which will in turn allow you to unlock more of that specific character’s story and side-quests. On the flip side, if you continually upset a particular character with your decisions, they may not perform so well in battle. Push it too far, and that character may leave the party for good, leaving you in the lurch. Obviously, as is always the case in real life, you can’t possibly make everyone happy all the time, so sacrifices will have to be made. All that really matters in the end is, are you happy with your choice? The battles you encounter and the enemies that want to saw your head off won’t care if you’ve screwed up, but your quest will still end prematurely. And let’s not forget about the blood; this game is gonna be rated “M” for a darn good reason.
A decade ago, Dragon Age: Origins is a game that would’ve only arrived on PC but thankfully, things have changed. Now, a very large audience will get the chance to play it, and anyone who enjoyed the Baldurs Gate games should certainly be intrigued. After all, we don’t get many games like this anymore, and the addition of a recruitment/moral decision process should definitely spruce things up. The RPGs are slow in coming in every generation, but they’re starting to show up at a decent clip, and more are scheduled for this year. Good news, we say.
2/10/2009 Ben Dutka
|07/20/09||Dragon Age: Origins||Arnold Katayev|