It seems like Dragon Age: Origins has been hovering around in the background for some time now ... that’s because it has. Announced as far back as E3 2004, Dragon Age: Origins, the “spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate,” has been in production now for well over 6 years. For BioWare fans and those eagerly anticipating the game, the wait is nearly over as Dragon Age: Origins will be with us by the end of October. The fantasy RPG was one of three BioWare titles on show at this year’s E3 and we got the chance to see it in action, better still ... we actually saw a dragon! Seriously! It only took 6 years.

Dragon Age: Origins casts you into the role of a Grey Warden plagued with the formidable task of stopping the Blight from raining down death and destruction on the fantasy world. The Wardens are an ancient order that have been around for a long time, longer than Oprah apparently, and have long stood to defend the world from the Blight. The Blight are ravenous dark spawn who are unified by an arch demon (you know, that big dragon we keep seeing) by bringing them to the surface where they spoil the lands and poison the water. Seeing as the Wardens are the only ones able to defeat an arch demon, the fate of the world rests in their hands.
Your story begins from one of six different origins which not only affects your introduction into the game, but so much more. Like many other BioWare games, Dragon Age: Origins has deep seated roots in choice and consequence which will intertwine with the main themes of the game; violence, lust and betrayal. The demonstration at E3 allowed us to see a softer side of the game as Lead Designer, Mike Laidlaw focussed on the relationship and lust aspect, and what sort of implications and bonuses it can carry.

Dragon Age: Origins allows you, the player, to fuse meaningful relationships with various characters in your party. Your decisions effectively dictate how they act as part of your party, with some decisions improving their combat efficiency as they gain faith in your leadership, and other decisions having an opposite effect. We pick up our Warden about 30-40 hours into the game in the party camp – a moving location that allows you to interact with your allies in a peaceful locale. Our Warden’s current love interest is Leliana, a master archer who has shared many an intimate moment with our hero (or villain). To stir the boat a little here and demonstrate the party reaction and interaction aspects of the title, Laidlaw navigates across the encampment to Morrigan, the parties’ sorceress.
Morrigan has a hunger for collecting lore and rituals, and just as chance would have it, our Grey Warden has a book of secrets that she may be interested in. After handing over the book to the busty wench, Morrigan acquires a new skill meaning she will peform better in combat. This is all down to her being much more assured of your leadership. Up until now, Morrigan has been rather flirty with you, and this new act has opened up the chance for our Warden to bed this fair maiden. At this point, you can choose which way to pursue it. Being a live demonstration, Laidlaw decided to pursue the Morrigan love interest but of course skipped the “love scene” (let’s see Fox blow this one out of proportion). “Love isn’t free guys,” Laidlaw jokes.

Each of your party members in Dragon Age: Origins will have their own characteristics – all members will have needs, motives and desires. As a result of your womanising, Leliana is quite pissed off to say the least and demands you make a choice between her and Morrigan, and show them both a little respect. Laidlaw went with the crowd on this one choosing Morrigan as the Warden’s true holder of his heart. As a result, Leliana now becomes disapproving of our main character which will negatively affect her in combat. Laidlaw comments that you can actually disgruntle them enough to make them leave your party, and on some instances if things escalate fast enough, force them into attacking you. The whole interaction with your party seems like a complex and intuitive system but only reading what your character says rather than hearing dialogue seems a bit of a faux pas to us and a little 1990. Don’t expect anything as advanced as Mass Effect’s dialogue because you’ll be sorely disappointed.

The second part of the presentation/walkthrough was more combat orientated as the Warden and co. head out to visit Flemeth, the source of the book of the secrets you gave Morrigan, and her mother. Flemeth was not only expecting your confrontation but heavily infers that Morrigan is just using you, and using sex as a weapon – something that Laidlaw commented was entirely possible. This puts you in a bind giving you the option to abandon Morrigan to her fate, work with Flemeth to cast her over to the old witch or kill Flemeth. As usual, the almighty power of sex presides and so the Warden chooses to kill Flemeth ... or at least try. Did we mention that Flemeth was a shapeshifting mage who could turn into a dragon? Ah ha ... course we didn’t.

So our band of merry men face off against the huge dragon and its multi dimensional stomps, tail sweeps and kicks. There is at this moment in time an awful lot of blood spillage going on, and the Warden and his allies seem to be struggling. It’ll be up to Morrigan to heal the wounded and shapeshift into a spider to poison the dragon before the Warden can gain the upper hand. Whilst Morrigan’s trickery had the dragon distracted, it gave the Grey Warden enough time to mount Flemeth the dragon and drive a sword through her skull ... as you do, pretty much wrapping up the demonstration.
Dragon Age: Origins looks to be shaping up to be a fantasy RPG of many different dimensions but nothing on show struck me in the face as being outstanding. The interactivity of the party does seem pretty complex and in-depth, and combined with the choice and consequence aspects of the title; it could really bring the game into its own. However, I’m still pretty astounded that in the 21st century, with a renowned developer like BioWare, we still have to read text from the bottom of a screen for our main character’s dialogue outside of the cut scenes. You’ve also got to question why for such a huge trade show like E3, BioWare decided that a 15 minute presentation on the birds and the bees in Dragon Age, finishing off with 5 minutes of combat was a good balance. Of course, it’s a BioWare title, so you’ve got to expect a powerful story and delivery, but everything from the presentation just screamed Carry On Lord of The Rings. Sure there was blood and gore, but after seeing the trailers released in the build up to E3, I had to question whether I was looking at the same game. Let’s hope for a better showing in Cologne in August.

Dragon Age: Origins will be available on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC this coming October 20th in North America and what we can only assume is October 23rd in Europe.


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