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Dragon Age: Origins Preview

Chris_Hudak By:
PUBLISHER Electronic Arts 
M Contains Blood, Intense Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content

What do these ratings mean?

Have fun storming the castle.

Because the new, downsized, lamer-culled Electronic Entertainment Expo apparently wasn’t eerily depopulated enough, BioWare decided to have their Dragon Age demo away from the Los Angeles convention center, in the bowels of a Sheraton Hotel that was, itself, located inside a shopping mall. An odd choice, but the venue made up for it: Nothing like seeing an epic, high-fantasy, Lord of the Rings-scale battle projected on a wall twenty feet wide. Now, somehow, the three-foot-something-wide Toshiba flatscreen here at the GR offices just doesn’t seem, y’know, enough anymore. Damn you, BioWare!

click to enlargeIncorporating ‘origin’ stories for various races—hence the name—Dragon Age: Origins is a follow-cam, real-time game with play-and-pause tactical elements. The demo found its characters in a sprawling human city girding its loins for a massive assault by monstrous forces. When the attack finally came after a little bit of set-up - including the optimistic, yearning-for-glory orations of a somewhat poncey shining-armored Royal, whom I imagine was going to experience very bad things in the narrative future - it was Epic. Gladiator-worthy hails of arrows, waves of huge, nasty monsters bulking up on the horizon, and general strategic-scale badness. All of it derivative as hell—you could easily call out the movie-inspired bits, scene by scene, angle by angle—but impressive, nonetheless.

Origins offers three basic classes—Rogue, Wizard or Warrior—with party-based gameplay allowing up to three support characters in addition to the main player-character (taken at any given time from a large pool). Charged with the task of igniting a signal tower to call in a strategic-scale pincer movement from distant waiting allies, the main characters finally get to the ass-kicking, spell-casting meat of the game. One of the massive city’s towers had been infiltrated from below—bad news, that—and we found ourselves hip-deep in monsters.

click to enlargeOne of the neater aspects of the game is the ground-up, intentional interaction between different spells. When the enemy lit up our party with a massive, nasty fireball upon a greased floor, it was nicely extinguished (at the cost of some unavoidable, friendly-fire magic) with a Blizzard spell.

Dragon Age: Origins will be available for both PC and consoles in Q1 2009.

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