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Dragon Age: Origins Hands-On Preview

            Few video game developers have a track record like Bioware. The Canadian development house has quite a string of RPG masterpieces under its belt. Now their next original entry into the dungeon crawling, spell casting, sword swinging, stat tabulating genre is nearing completion. Dragon Age: Origins is set to continue the high production values and deep game play Bioware is famous for. I had a chance to play the XBOX360 and PC versions of the game at this year's Gencon in Indianapolis. I have to say that I'm so far impressed with the game.

            You play as a grey warden, the last of your kind. It is up to you and your comrades to bring balance back to the world of Ferelden and fight off the demonic armies who have returned to destroy the world. At the start you choose an Origin story. This is based around a certain character and class and has its own unique perspective of the events in the game. You’re every action and choice has far reaching consequences for the game world and each Origin you play will have a different feel and perspective within the story. This gives the nearly 60 hour game tons of replay value.

            On the 360 version I played with a party comprised of a human noble, his mother and a faithful, bloodthirsty hound. This being a pickup game starting in the middle of the action there was little context as to what exactly was going on other than a bunch of fools invading your castle, but the game play was my focus at the time. The controls are intuitive enough, select a target and select an action mapped to a button. Your primary attack if selected is executed over and over again until you tell your character otherwise, but you also have some more powerful skills to unleash. These actions have cool down rates like you would see in a MMO, but do more damage or even stun the enemy so you can get a couple of quick stabs in. You can take control of any character at anytime with the push of a trigger button, or pause the game entirely and select actions and targets for the whole party ala Baulder’s Gate 2. I have to say that the hectic action is impressive and engaging without the player feeling that things are out of control.

            This is a bloody game. More bloody than any other Bioware game. Graphically the game has its moments. Characters are highly detailed with blood splattered armor, unique faces and expressions and the environments are large and detailed. Granted it’s hard to judge graphics on an HD monitor when your face is eight inches away since any video image will break down at that close distance, but I think the console edition has some good graphical charm.

            I only spent a few minutes with the PC version, but I feel it may be the way to go for most gamers who enjoy this kind of game. Point and click targeting with a mouse is as intuitive as it gets. This version also features more quick slots for powers and spells that you can select with a keystroke. Graphically, the PC really shows off the game world and its characters. From mountain crags to the alternate reality of The Fade (with really cool light smearing effects) the PC version really takes advantage of added anti-aliasing and higher resolution textures. Don’t get me wrong though; being able to sit on the couch with a console controller in one hand and a bag of cheesy poofs in the other is not a bad way to spend the evening in RPG heaven.

            This is only a small preview and will be followed by a more comprehensive review after the game releases, but one thing that tells me this RPG has the deepness those fans of the genre clamor for is the menus. Tab after tab of stats, items, weapons, spell books and the like fill the screen in a way that most recent rpgs (or those games pretending to be rpgs) don’t offer. The console version doesn’t suffer from the “dumbed-downededness” since all versions have been developed together from the start. With very few offerings this year in the genre Bioware should really make fans of rpgs really giddy this holiday season. Look for this one November 3rd for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.

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Reader Comments (1)

Nice post..
I think this being a pickup game starting in the middle of the action there was little context as to what exactly was going on other than a bunch of fools invading your castle. Basically I play racing games on my xbox but I love to play dragon age also.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteralicia

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