RPG Tangents - Dragon Age: Origin - Hopes

Author: Andrew /

In D&D we look for a lot of things. We expect many things that a video game can't deliver, at the moment and in that, it gives video games a lot to aspire to and try to emulate. I would wager that it will be some time before a computer can create a compelling story and allow as well as adapt to any player's choices; BUT, that said, there are a lot they can do. In the upcoming Dragon Age: Origins created by the folks over at Bioware (makers of Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, etc) it appears that they will take yet another stab at a great fantasy epic that will raise the bar for all role playing games to come. I have it pre-ordered and plan to give it a run and these are some of the things I'm hoping to see:

Story: In a game like this, story is always paramount. It's just something you can't get away from. A shooter usually doesn't need much story to be great (look at Borderlands), but with an RPG (or any good one, if you ask me), everything is centered around it. I've talked with lots of friends and colleagues and most, if not all, agree that an RPG is different in that it's one of those kinds of games that really isn't about winning. In fact, with an RPG, "winning" is usually the worst part, because that means (sadly) that it's over. It's about the journey, the character development and the events and interactions you have along the way. So, my first hope is that the framework in which the game takes place and the events that unfold, are memorable. I hope that real care has gone into crafting a story that will draw in the players time and time again and that this be one of the new classics that any fan of RPGs or even just good story, should own.

Character Development: Variety. I hope that the variety of the game is huge and that it's possible to really make your character stand out. To a point, that's not really the aim of this game. There is obviously a story to be played through and they make it plain that you're set on a path, at least by some point in the game. That said, I hope that everything is done in such a way where you feel your character is unique and original and has impact on the setting.

I hope there is excellent character interaction as well. Bioware has done a good job of making their characters interesting and I hope things get kicked up a notch.

Gameplay: I just hope that things are crisp. It would be good to see an RPG that handles tightly as a game, espescially with combat, as it does with physical interaction. From what I've read, it's very strategic and that watching a fight play out is really great to watch. I hope the animations are smooth, the combat options are robust and that the interface works smoothly so that it's painless to direct the action in front of you.

Replay Value: I'm already confident in this one but I want to make a note of it all the same. From what's reached my ears and eyes via previews and interviews, there are three races to choose from as well as 6 different backgrounds. You're talking 18 possible combinations just with race and class. Throw in gender (if they really make that matter, which I hope they do), that doubles it to 36.

On top of that, I've heard they have a passive alignment system. Some of you might be asking "What the heck do you mean?" Well, in games such as Knights of the Old Republic (also made by Bioware), you had a meter that told you how "light side" or "dark side" you were. This allowed you to make decisions to lean yourself one way or another for whatever reason you had. Dragon Age takes what sounds like a much more subtle and intriguing go at this. The system is completely background. You never see it. On top of that, you're given choices that tend to be much more morally grey than "Kill him or don't kill him?" This gives some time for anxiety and some beard-stroking as you contemplate your actions and the impact they will have on the world and try to pick the dicision that will have the smallest likelyhood to turn around and bite you in the rear.

Overall: I hope that Dragon Age does role playing games proud. I think we need more great RPGs and if this succeeds it could have a distinct influence on future RPGs to come. It can be a shining example of what to do or a glaring example of what not to do. I have a feeling it will be the former and I hope it won't be the latter.

What this means, in relation to D&D is that they will keep making video games based on D&D and this is also a dark fantasy epic. This will most likely have some impact on how developers go about the next video adaptation of our beloved pen-and-paper game. So, in a way, I hope it does fantasy role playing games justice and points us in the right direction.

As a final thought, beyond all that stuff up there, I just hope that it's fun!

Dragon Age: Origins releases Nov 3rd and is available from your local game stores. It is available for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.

Dragon Age: Origins is rated M for Mature. The game will contain a healthy dose of combat related mess and much more mature themes. Parents, if your kids are small, do them a favor and look into it before buying it for them.

Happy Gaming!



silent stone said...

(What is the mathematical term for a tangent to a tangent? I think some non-Euclidean geometry is necessary there, but nevermind that...)

Variety is good and all, but I'm just waiting for a game with, I dunno, like only a half-dozen characters, counting minor characters and bit players, in the entire game, where you use the weapons you start off with for the entire rest of the game, where you don't have to be on the cutting edge of logistics techniques to keep track of what your character carries with them, where you don't have to juggle a score of convoluted plots all at once, where you don't have to grind your way through an infinity of pointless minor battles in between the dozen or so awesome ones scattered throughout the game, but still, despite lacking all those things, the game still has a gripping story, compelling characters, awesome battles, stunning visuals, and all the oft-overlooked little things that make a great game great without all the unnecessary gloop that just dilutes the game experience.

Oh, wait. Shadow of the Colossus. Nevermind.

A point...must make a point...hmmm...

I think, both in computer RPGs and traditional pen-and-paper ones, the desire to pack into the game more and more and more and MOAR isn't always a sure-fire ticket to a memorable experience. While having options is good, having too many options all too often makes choices meaningless. A difference without a difference is no difference.

I'd like to see more 'minimalist' scenarios in traditional RPGs, where only an absolute minimum of gameplay elements exist, each one finely crafted. Just one serving of an exquisite dish, rather than yet another all-you-can-eat buffet of mediocre fare.

I'm hungry now.

Andrew said...

Ok, I gotta say (and this isn't my review yet, by a long shot) Dragon Age is freakin awesome. It's so far from mediocre. The in game cinematics are great, the voice acting is fantastic, the story is great, the character development is awesome. Things seem a little linear right now but that's also because I've only played a few hours out of a 70+ hour game. It's really awesome =] deffinately worth a look, in case you didn't want to wait for the whole review.

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