So right when you walk onto the exhibit hall at PAX, you come face to face with what looks to be a huge dungeon erected right in the middle of the hall. This ambitious construction belongs to none other than Bioware, makers of Baldur’s Gate, Mass Effect and one of my favorite games of all time, KOTOR. And inside, they were showing off their next PC game, Dragon Age: Origins.
It was pretty funny, I kind of got into the line for the dungeon on a whim right after playing some SOCOM 2 multiplayer, and right when I got into the back of it, it started moving because they were letting people inside. I felt genuinely lucky, as this was the first time this happened to me all weekend.
Once everyone was seated, a man in a suit of armor took the stage and explained to us the idea behind Dragon Age: Origins before starting the demo. This centered on a grey warden, a man of nobility in service to the king, who seems to be a bit of a pompous prat. As the demo goes on, you learn more about character interactions, class and race and how they all intertwine.
In the DA:O world, elves are second class citizens and lower than humans. Humans have elven slaves that do their bidding for them. So when Bioware loaded up an elf character, interactions with humans we had witnessed with the grey warden took a sudden turn. It was pretty awesome to see the shift, where characters suddenly were talking down to you instead of fawning over you with respect. All of the classic Bioware dialogue trees were intact, giving the player choices about what to say and what to do, some of these radically altering the storyline. We were even given a chance to kill a helpless man as an audience, and we gladly accepted this role.
After a preview of the dialogue and the world, we were then treated to some combat. Imagine a game like Diablo II, Baldur’s Gate or some other hack-n-slash, but pulling the camera down behind the party, and then you’ll have the look of DA:O. The graphics weren’t too shabby either, with lush environments and cool details on each character’s armor.
One thing I do have to say is that the magic system seems to work like no other in this game, where magic works with the environments you use them in, and build on each other in a way that spells can be chained together for massive damage (not the kind you do on giant crabs). We saw a mage use “grease”, which covered the floor, and then “fire” to set it all ablaze. To counter, the party’s elven mage used an area of effect “blizzard” spell, which then put out the fire, covered the floor in ice, and froze any party members within the area of effect. We were told that there would be all kinds of combinations of spells like this, and many of them wouldn’t be printed in the game’s manual.
We spent about half an hour watching DA:O, and it was half an hour well spent. The demo primarily centered around showing character interactions, combat, and then placing us in a large scale (and I do mean large) battle that gives the context for the recently released DA:O trailer.
Dragon Age: Origins is set for an early release on PC, and I for one can’t wait after seeing this demo. It’ll be nice to have a new PC game to look forward to again. On the slate for today: check out the DA:O toolset demo, which supposedly includes lots of machinima options.