Before pairing up alien lesbians in Mass Effect and wielding oversized lightsabers in Star Wars: The Old Republic, BioWare was known as the master of storytelling in a somewhat different genre. Now the developer swaps blasters for broadswords in a return to the market that made it famous: The fantasy RPG.
Dragon Age: Origins is a proudly traditional medieval dungeon crawler, in which players are given command over a party of heroes and pitted against monsters of varying size and ferocity on an epic journey to save the world. Billed as the spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate, the game is aimed at appeasing fans of BioWare’s earlier masterpieces and spins a tale of lust, violence and betrayal.
Gamers take on the role of the newest recruit in the Grey Wardens, an ancient order of guardians charged with defending the lands of the game’s world. When the Wardens are betrayed by a trusted general during a critical battle, the player is sent to hunt down the traitor and bring him to justice.
As with BioWare’s greatest games, the outcome of this journey is far from pre-determined. Crucial choices they make along the way will dictate the course of the game. So, while certain characters and quests may be the key to achieving their goal, they may turn out to be diversions from the correct path – if that’s the path players want to take.
Such choices are rife throughout the game, with adventurers given control over the fates of many. At key points they will have to make decisions on complex issues such as murder, genocide and the possession or sacrifice of innocent children.
KNOW YOUR ROOTS
Interestingly, one of the very first choices they make not only alters the player’s experience, but also their character. Origins focuses on the Warden recruit’s background, which will affect how he or she approaches her quest. There are six origin stories to choose from and each one offers a different storyline to follow.
The origin story they choose will also affect the development of their character. Like almost any RPG, players are given free reign with how their character develop, customising their skills and abilities as they level up.
However in Dragon Age, it is easier for gamers to create heroes completely unique to them. Few Dragon Age players will have the same character, since the decisions they make affect their Warden’s morality and personality, with different upgrades and options becoming available depending on which routes they take.
With their character established, gamers travel through dozens of diverse environments, from ancient ruins and dank caves to quaint villages and rolling plains. BioWare confidently claims that Dragon Age boasts over 80 hours of gameplay – double the size and scope of its previous big hit Mass Effect.
Along their journey they interact with a multitude of complex characters, some of whom can join their party and offer support in battle. Each potential companion has their own backstory that can be explored, potentially making this one of the deepest RPG adventures released to date. Some characters have even been voiced by familiar stars such as Tim Curry and Star Trek: Voyager’s Kathryn Mulgrew.
A Collector’s Edition will also be available. Within the special steel case, Dragon Age: Origins will be accompanied by a cloth map of the game’s world, a Making of DVD, a digital version of the soundtrack, game trailers, wallpapers, strategy tips, concept art and more.