EA has been more than generous with the upcoming BioWare role-playing game Dragon Age: Origins. Since the game was announced late last year, we've been privy to numerous hands-on sessions, covering the game's combat, character development, adventure parties, and even a siege. So it was no surprise that EA has managed to pull a new rabbit out of the hat at this year's E3. In a behind-closed-doors session at EA's booth, Dragon Age: Origins lead designer Mike Laidlaw demoed previously unseen gameplay footage and a short hands-on session on the Xbox 360 that, far from the blood and gore that we've seen before, showed off the game's more romantic side and gave us a chance to test the game's console control scheme for the first time.
As we've learned before, Dragon Age: Origins is a fantasy-themed RPG that sees you take on the role of a Grey Warden to lead the fight on the humans' side against an invading horde of creatures called the Blight. The demo that we were shown was designed to let us in on a couple of secrets: firstly, it's not all about bloodshed; secondly, there are dragons in the game, and you do get to fight them (and ride them for a little bit). We started out at our Grey Warden's party camp, where we were introduced to Leliana, a red-haired, soft-hearted citizen of a lower class who is madly in love with us. It seems that each character that you are allowed to interact with has his or her own personality, which you must work with to build a particular kind of relationship. To tease her, we go over to Morrigan's tent, a young sorceress who likes to flirt. After giving her a gift and acquiring points for your leadership and magic skills, she invites you into her tent. Here you have the option to go in or return to Leliana, who is no doubt watching you with bated breath. This is just one of the many moral decisions that you'll have to make along the way; although these moral decisions are not marked in any way, they become obvious in the dialogue that you have with different characters in the game. If you happen upon a group of thieves, your party will leave the decision of their fate in your hands.
In this case, our Grey Warden decided that he wanted to see what's inside Morrigan's tent. Inside, a cutscene reveals us embracing a near-naked Morrigan, who is moaning and panting. As the two kissed, the game demo cut off, and we were told that we'd have to wait to see the full build to know what happens next (but we can guess). We're told that this scene occurs hours into the game, at a point in which our Grey Warden has put a lot of time and effort into building these relationships with those around him. No doubt it's harder than it looks, but we couldn't help but notice how easy it was to convince Morrigan to sleep with us. After this scene, our Grey Warden heads back out to the campsite, where Leliana has seen everything and demands an explanation. Again, you must make a moral choice: soothe Leliana and agree to be her man, or ditch her and go back to the fiery Morrigan. We chose Leliana, and score game points for relationships and love.
We were then shown a part of the game earlier in time than the first sequence, in which our Grey Warden encountered and fought a dragon. The battle took place in a field of grass where members of our traveling party joined us against the dragon. The dragon, as can be expected, breathed fire and was hard to take down, even with five people using swords, arrows, and magic against it. Given that you can switch to and between up to four members of your party at any one time, our Grey Warden used this opportunity to switch to a sorceress, who is able to shape-shift. Once playing as the sorceress, we turned into a giant spider that was small enough to get beneath the dragon and bite its legs. As this was happening, we switched to our Grey Warden again, who was able to use the sorceress's distraction to jump on the dragon's back and drive a sword through its eye, finally killing it.
After the demo, we had some hands-on time with an early stage of the game on the Xbox 360. This was the first time we've seen this game on a console, so we paid close attention to the control scheme. Our objective in this short session was to find a particular item with another member of our party. We walked through a forest, encountering and collecting items, before coming across a wolf and a cave containing giant spiders in a fight. You can assign six different weapons to your control scheme, pressing the X, Y and B buttons to access them, and A to use them. But the combat here proved very slow. Pressing A near an enemy seemed to do nothing. It was only when we were under heavy attack and standing almost under an enemy that our weapons finally worked. Holding down the left trigger let us switch between weapons, whereas the right trigger brought up the weapons menu, which shows you what weapons you have at your disposal. There is also a stealth mode that you can access if your skill set allows for it by pressing the X button. A is also for using items, and collecting and storing them in your inventory.
Dragon Age: Origins is shaping up to be an impressive and dynamic RPG with loads of combat and character development. We also received confirmation of its release date. It will be out October 20 on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC simultaneously.
Stay tuned to GameSpot for more coverage of Dragon Age: Origins during E3 2009.