E3 2009: Dragon Age: Origins Hands-On Preview
Author: Mark Barley
published: 2009-06-05 12:26:37
Last week at E3, BioWare gave me and other members of the press a chance to experience Dragon Age: Origins. Out of all the games I saw or played at E3, Dragon Age: Origins was the one that I’m now looking forward to the most.
BioWare began their press event with a live demonstration. The demo started off with the protagonist Alistair, classified as a warrior, in a campsite. It should be known that there are six different origin stories the player can choose from and three different base classes (warrior, mage, rogue). The developers took us through the camp site which included several love interests (all female, in case you were wondering). One particular female in this camp is a mistress of sorts; she is someone your character can go to on the side to get some “booty.” Every character you interact with throughout the game has the ability to change your story’s outcome. This particular mistress in the game gave Alistair a side quest to complete (Alistair must retrieve a book from an old woman that she’s been having troubled dealings with). After Alistair accepted this request, he and this woman proceeded to have knight on maiden relations. The scene was pretty revealing but not that revealing (think Mass Effect). After the sex scene, Alistair walked to another woman in the camp who developers told us was his long-time girl friend. Can you say, awkward? Alistair proceeded to break up with this woman, who was obviously devastated to be dumped by such a bad-ass. I should mention that the dialog in this game plays out a lot like that of BioWare’s other RPG’s. There are many different story arcs to choose from and each one will lead you on a different path throughout the game. The path chosen in this demonstration was obviously taken to show us just how crazy the game can get.
After Alistair broke up with his girlfriend, the developers fast-forwarded to a spot in the game where Alistair and a group of three other party members are congregating outside of a house. The developers then mentioned that you can have a party of up to four people. In this demo, the party consists of Alistair, two other warriors, and a mage. The group then ventured around the house to find the old woman – the one with the book we were asked to retrieve. After some dialog with the woman we find out that she is actually the mother of our mistress. Alistair can retreat, join forces with this woman in her question for domination of the land, or fight her. The developers opted for the flashiest option and attacked her.
We quickly find out that the old woman is really a shape-shifting dragon, and the creature can only be killed by piercing its skull. The battle lasts almost ten minutes with the mage character slinging spells and magic like bullets, while the other warrior characters attack the dragon with their swords. The game play throughout this sequence looked amazing. The A.I. throughout seemed competent; not once did the developer playing the game have to stop to tell the other characters what to do. You can rotate playable characters so you’re not stuck playing with just Alistair, but the final kill shot has to be made with our protagonist. Once a member of your party is wounded beyond the ability to fight, you can revive them without having to change characters as well. You are also allowed the ability to queue up attacks, which frees up time so you can heal or switch weapons while your character is attacking. The battle ended when Alistair jumped up onto the dragon’s back and pierced the creature’s skull with a swift stab of his sword. As magnificent as watching this gameplay was, I wanted to play it for myself.
After the demo, we were told that we’d be able to play the actual Xbox 360 version of the game that was set up in the back of the room. After I got situated on my 360, I put my headset on, and confronted beauty. Playing the game was much more satisfying than just seeing it played on a screen, no matter how big said screen really was (it was big). My personal demo started off with my main character, Alistair, and another warrior trekking through a dungeon. The gameplay really made me think of Oblivion, another great medieval RPG. As I traveled through this dirty dungeon, I will admit I don’t know what my quest was; I just followed my map and took in the sights. Along the way I encountered a lot of giant spiders, as they were no match for my sword and my partner’s bow and arrow. I was completely taken aback at how smooth the fighting sequences really were, with just a simple push of the “A” button required to slash and hack. The other controls were fantastic; I used the left bumper to switch back and forth between my party member(s); the “X” button was to switch weapons; and the “Y” button was to draw back the bow and arrow. Every so often I would have to play a mini-game to open a door; these games consisted of consisted of placing a missing piece in a slot in the door and were the only repetitive part of the game I encountered. The voice acting was great and synced up very well with character expressions, even better than Mass Effect did. The graphics during actual gameplay was just about as good as you will see and the movie sequences looked brilliant as well.
Will there be flaws and glitches? Yes, no game is perfect, although you can rest assured that they will be minimal and BioWare will give us the best available product. Just think, DAO has been in development for almost 5 years now, first being announced at E3 back in 2004. That is the time it takes to create greatness, something I think this game will be associated with shortly.
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