Dragon Age Origins is something of a paradox. On the surface, it seems straightforward enough: a high fantasy RPG developed by the legendary Bioware. Bioware has plenty of experience in this area, having made the popular Baldur’s Gate RPG series as well as other successful titles such as Knights of the Old Republic. Bioware definitely knows what they’re doing when it comes to making great RPGs.
But something just doesn’t seem right about Dragon Age Origins. The game was originally advertised as a return to the classic RPG days for fans of statistic based, dungeons and dragons style RPG combat that defined games like Baldur’s Gate. This approach might have been popular with the old school isometric RPG set, but it wasn’t garnering much hype in the general market, unlike Bioware’s other modern RPG, Mass Effect.
Recently, Bioware decided to try a new marketing approach, one that surprised quite a few in the industry. New trailers for the game are set to Marilyn Manson music, filled with plenty of combat and carnage. You can see the CG trailer released at E3 2009 below, as an example of this.
Screamo music isn’t normally the soundtrack of choice for high fantasy games, and I think this trailer does a great job of showing why it really isn’t a good idea. Not only is the choice of music odd, the contents of the trailers themselves are even more confusing. So far it is mostly cutscenes involving copious amounts of blood and killing in combat, which you might expect if this game was some real time combat focused game, but it isn’t. It’s a statistics based RPG, and so far nobody seems to understand why Bioware is marketing it as if its a button mashing action game when its about as far from that as it can get.
Compare this gameplay video below with the E3 2009 CG trailer. The gameplay seems a lot more slow paced and metholodical than one would normally expect from a action heavy trailer like the one shown at E3. Before the player even reaches an enemy, he pauses the game to assign attacks to his party.
Perplexing marketing aside, Dragon Age Origins does look like a solid RPG, and one that fans of Baldur’s Gate or Neverwinter Nights should enjoy. However, the marketing campaign that advertises the game as some kind of fast paced, God of War style action game might mislead many, and lead to some problems when people who were looking for an action game instead find a heavily statistics based RPG.
As you might expect from a game called Dragon Age, there are indeed dragons. There are also mages, and presumably elves and dwarves, if genre conventions are anything to go by. Dragon Age Origins, like most modern Bioware games, has a focus on moral choices and branching paths for the player to take. The player will be able to influence the story to a degree by choosing certain objectives over others, and also influencing the protagonist’s relationship with other characters in the game.
Combat in Dragon Age Origins is similar to that of classic RPGs such as Baldur’s Gate. The amount of damage done with attacks is determined by dice rolls and other random statistical calculations, rather than the player’s own skill or maneuvers. Rather than aim a bow yourself, the bow will automatically be aimed and hit an enemy for a certain amount of damage. In this way, the game is very different from other recent Western RPGs such as the hugely popular fantasy RPG Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. In Oblivion, you could manually aim for a character’s head with arrows, and do much more damage in that way, something that isn’t possible in Dragon Age. Dragon Age Origins harks back to an earlier style of RPG, as the title “Origins” hints.
Dragon Age Origins is scheduled to release on October 20th, 2009 for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC platforms.
Article from Gamersyndrome.com