E3 2008: A Quick Look At Dragon Age Origins

BioWare showed off just a small portion of its upcoming RPG Dragon Age Origins at this year’s E3, but it was enough to rekindle our interest in this long-awaited game.

BioWare showcased the game in style, projecting it onto an entire wall of a hotel meeting room. It says much about Dragon Age‘s that the characters still looked good when they were seven feet tall; I think I might have to get a setup like that in my house.

The demo we saw was hands-off (boo, hiss), but gave us a fair amount of insight into the game’s storyline. You play as a new recruit in the Gray Wardens, an elite group of fighters, and the origin you choose for yourself will ultimately determine the role you play in the game’s events. Your decisions might put you on a path to lead a charge during a fight, or simply send you up a tower to light a signal fire. Each path is wrought with danger, of course, so no matter what direction your story takes, you’re sure to run into plenty of action.

As is the usual with BioWare games, dialog plays a huge part in developing both the story and your character, choosing responses that make you a Hero, Martyr or Tyrant. One example we saw dealt with a prisoner being kept in a cage who asked for food and water. In exchange for your kindness, he would trade you the key to a chest full of valuable loot – the very key he was locked up for stealing. Options included giving him some water in exchange for the key, or simply stabbing him and taking it, which is the option the BioWare rep chose.

Combat has a “pause and play” mechanic that stops the game during a fight, allowing you to take your time formulating your plan of attack. Spells can interact to either cancel each other out or magnify each other’s effects. Blizzard will put out a fire, for example, while following up a grease spell with a fireball will set an enormous area ablaze. Watch the video below to see what I mean.

We only got to sample a relatively small portion of the game’s dialog, story, and combat, but it was more than enough to leave me hungry for more. It’s a huge, beautiful, sprawling epic of an RPG, the intersection of Mass Effect and Neverwinter Nights. Now they just have to hurry up and release the damn thing already.

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