Publisher:Electronic Arts Platform:PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 Expected Release Date: Q4 2009
It’s almost impossible to get an honest impression of how good a game is at even the best of preview events, but for epic role-playing games the problem is a whole lot worse.
Even in the best situations you have to somehow reconcile the fact that the developer is only showing you a carefully controlled slice of the game with the fact that the game isn’t finished yet. When you’re seeing a game like Dragon Age: Origins though you also have to consider the fact that even if you played the game for a good few hours then you still might not make any defensible amount of progress.
BioWare though is obviously wise to this problem and was therefore keen not to focus on the wider issues at the hands-on event we were privy to. There was no talk of how epic the plot is, how long the campaign will be or how many love triangles your characters will be able to get embroiled in this time.
The focus was instead put on the moment-to-moment gameplay of the combat and spells system rather than the gradual evolution of the storyline. Short of releasing the game, these are the only things that BioWare can really show to players. Conveniently, these are also the things that Dragon Age: Origins seems to handle really well.
To offer a brief recap on the story though, Dragon Age: Origins is the story of your attempts to build an army. Players are cast as part of a secret society that exists to defend the high-fantasy world from demons – specifically a demon army called The Blight. Once a proud and well-respected group of warriors and paladins, your society of Grey Wardens has fallen into decadence and decay by the time you join up and all those kingdoms that once pledged allegiance to your cause have forgotten all about you.
Thus, you begin a recruitment drive and, taking a tip from the American military Dragon Age chronicles your attempts to make a sword and sorcery version of America’s Army to help woo young fodder to your cause.
Run! More Skellingtons!
Ok, that last bit isn’t strictly true. Instead, you have to run around to the various factions and remind them of their pledge and persuade/bully them into signing up, or find a suitable replacement for your warforce. Still, America’s Medieval Army sounds like a neat idea, doesn’t it?
In our previous hands-on with Dragon Age: Origins we got a chance to look at a faction of elves who were warring with a clan of werewolves and faced the choice of which side we wanted to recruit (wolves, obviously). This time we found our team of heroes dumped in amidst a load of mages who were being held hostage by a former member who had sold his soul.
As part of his revenge scheme/attempt to soften enemy forces, he’d pulled all the wizards under his control or into his grasp. It was up to us to end his thrall and decide the fate of the wizards and whether or not they could be trusted with the power they wield. Would it be better to take a handful of easily demonised wizards into battle with us, or a legion of anti-magic knights?
Hm. Not an easy decision to make, nor one that would be of any importance unless we could best the soulless mages first...