Dragon Age: Origins Exclusive Impressions - Combat, Dialogue, and a New Character Revealed

We take an exclusive look at this intriguing role-playing successor, and we also take the wraps off of a new character.

Canadian developer BioWare made waves last year with its futuristic role-playing game Mass Effect, but the studio made a name for itself with its more-traditional fantasy-themed RPGs for the PC, including 1998's Baldur's Gate, 2000's Baldur's Gate II, and 2002's Neverwinter Nights. The studio is apparently going back to its roots with Dragon Age, an all-new fantasy-themed game intended to revive the spirit of its classic fantasy games in a brand-new world with new characters and a brand-new story. Most of the details of this story remain under wraps, but we had a chance to take an updated look at the PC version of the game as well as to share the details of a brand-new, as-yet-unannounced character.

BioWare's approach to Dragon Age seems to be taking the game's story and wrapping it around your character. Like in Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights, you'll start your game by creating a single character from what appears to be a predefined list, including such career paths as "human noble warrior" and "elf mage." After you've chosen which sort of character you'll play, you'll then go through an "origins" prelude section that should take two to three hours to complete. This prelude will naturally familiarize you with the game and its controls, and also with your character's abilities and his or her place in the world. The world of Dragon Age is currently being torn apart by war against an invading horde of monsters, and though your character has, by virtue of completing his or her origin storyline, become a "Gray Warden" enlisted by the nation's king himself to help fight the good fight, you won't always be given preferred treatment. For instance, elves are essentially treated as second-class citizens, so if you opt to play an elf character, you can expect to receive shabby treatment from humans.

Developer BioWare is making sure you have fun stormin' the castle.

Our updated demonstration time with the game included watching several dialogue scenes and two different battles. As we've discussed in our earlier coverage, Dragon Age's dialogue takes place by way of Neverwinter Nights-style numbered responses that may be insulting, polite, or humorous--or give you the opportunity to use your characters' speech-related abilities, such as persuasion or intimidation. You may also find yourself connecting more closely with certain characters depending on both your character's conversation skills and your character's origin. For instance, the human noble warrior might get a better reaction and receive some additional reconnaissance info from the Ash Warriors, an elite canine corps that fights alongside the Gray Wardens, whereas the elf wizard may be dismissed out-of-hand by the brusque warriors. By the same token, the elf wizard may connect more closely to characters such as Wynn, a mysterious sorceress in service of the king, who confides more closely in the elf because of the common bond of sorcery.

We also had a chance to watch a few different battles in action. Battles will be action-packed and seem reminiscent of the melees of BioWare's Knights of the Old Republic: small-scale, heated skirmishes between your party members and small squadrons of enemies. Like in Knights of the Old Republic (and BioWare's previous fantasy RPGs), you'll be able to pause the game at any time to give orders to your characters. Each character will have various skills and abilities that can, in the PC version of the game, be assigned to various hotkeys that also appear along the bottom of the screen, as with many massively multiplayer games such as World of Warcraft. These abilities can include combat skills, such as melee stun attacks and shield-bash attacks that knock opponents down, as well as magic spells. Like with those games, different attacks will have different properties, and some will have cooldown times that must expire before you can use them again.

Dragon Age's battles are tactical, and often, brutal.

Both battles took place in the Korcari Wilds region, which is an enormous open area that includes forests and grasslands peppered with settlements and encampments. Both took place against small squadrons of darkspawn, the monstrous humanoids that have invaded the land. The darkspawn that we saw seemed to come in two varieties: a shorter, squatter version that occasionally carries bows and arrows, and a taller, beefier version that comes running at your party with broadswords. However, neither version of these critters is immune to the hacking of a good, sturdy sword, and if you finish one of these foes with a critical hit, you'll often be treated to a zoomed-in, slow-motion killing blow, such as a beheading. Other enemies may go down in similarly spectacular fashion in death scenes that recall the Sony PlayStation 2 God of War series.

The first Dragon Age battle that we witnessed took place at night on the walls of a tower with a party of five characters who all carried melee weapons into battle. This first one clearly required some thought going into, given that we took some casualties in our first time through. Our second time through the battle saw us approach the fight more carefully in terms of choosing priority targets and hammering on them one at a time, similar to the way tough enemies in the Baldur's Gate series sometimes needed all the attention of your sword swingers just to bring down.

The good news: GameSpot is proud to reveal the character of Morrigan. The bad news: She doesn't like you.

Our second battle took place in a forested area of the Wilds, and this time, we took our elf mage into battle. As we saw, wizards can keep their distance while the warriors keep your foes at bay, and in such cases, wizards may even have the opportunity to use "spell combos," wherein one magic spell heightens the effect of the next one. The example we watched started off with was perennial Baldur's Gate favorite spell grease, which creates an oily, sticky mass on the ground that slows the movement of anyone walking through it. This was followed by another perennial favorite, fireball, which, when hurled at the grease patch, exploded and dealt additional damage to everyone in range (including our party members).

However, the game will apparently offer many other types of magic spells that have powerful tactical uses for players who are bold enough to get a bit closer in battle. Aside from area-effect spells such as grease and fireball, Dragon Age will also have spells that affect only an individual enemy that you must target, as well as spells that affect enemies along a forward line extending from your character, and even spells that will affect enemies within a cone extending outward from your character. If you don't mind doing a little stick-and-move, your wizards will be able to weave in and out and serve up some freshly seared monster carcass, though if they're not careful, your foes will draw a bead on them and pummel them silly. Fortunately, given that Dragon Age will have many different schools of magic (which have not yet been announced), you'll actually be able to customize and specialize a magic-using character along a specific path, and even recruit multiple wizards in your party for the specific purpose of setting up spell-combo chains.

Once we hacked through our enemies, we advanced on a clearing and met a new potential companion in Morrigan, the new character we're exclusively revealing on GameSpot. You may recognize her lithe, tattooed, and barely clothed self from some of the earlier Dragon Age promotional art that BioWare has released previously, but we have the first details on who she is. The short version: She's a sorceress as well as a shape-changer, and yes, you can recruit her to join your party.

And Morrigan has a very simple way of dealing with people she doesn't like.

Here's the long version: Morrigan is a Witch of the Wilds--a clan of sorceresses who, at one time, terrorized the Korcari Wilds. Her own mother was a witch who had taken the name "Flemeth," which apparently belonged to a legendary and fearsome personage that walked the wilds centuries ago, but Morrigan herself is dismissive of these tales. She's also not very keen on the race of men, either, and has observed them from her distant forest home and found them lacking, yet she also finds them strangely intriguing. With the outbreak of the war, Morrigan's curiosity finally gets the best of her, and she emerges from her forest home to make her services available to your party.

Dragon Age: Origins looks like it could be the role-playing sequel that serious RPG fans have been looking for ever since Neverwinter Nights. The game will clearly build on everything the studio has created, tweaked, and learned from its previous games, including the expressive "digital actor" character models from its most recent project, Mass Effect. We'll keep you posted on the game's progress as we continue to approach its release date early next year.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Did you enjoy this article?

Sign In to Upvote

116 comments
Strigidae
Strigidae

PC guys sure got it good ;). With fallout 3, they got the G.E.C.K., and now with Dragons Age: Origins... there seems to be a pipeline of really impressive goodies, in store for them. I'm startin' to feel like gettin' my console could be the worst thing I've done so far *crying*.

raptor400k
raptor400k

Hmm Bioware, never played from them(not the biggest rpg fan) but I hope they truly do wat people say they can do. Will be looking out for good plot and rpg elements, though graphs do look last gen

weirjf
weirjf

"if the combat is anything like Kotor then i call fail. most boring combat ever" ... wow

TylerDurden___
TylerDurden___

if the combat is anything like Kotor then i call fail. most boring combat ever

jmartinez1983
jmartinez1983

Mr. Versipellis, you say that now, but we'll see how you feel in November. A good game is a good game, no matter who publishes it.

DbAssassin
DbAssassin

yay, I cant wait for the release date of this game. It looks great.

Mr_Versipellis
Mr_Versipellis

Would be amazing if EA hadn't bought out BioWare... For that reason, I won't be buying.

Gabez_R
Gabez_R

Is This a point and click or turn based sort of thing? (hope not) looks great anyway

R41N_M4K3R
R41N_M4K3R

game looks great im really excited for a new game from bioware

Sweetwater94
Sweetwater94

i dont get why everbody thinks consoles are a downgrade, they are actually an upgrade almost all respects

reo-117
reo-117

I love bioware games so i have a good feeling about it and NWN2 wasnt made by bioware.

grennterror
grennterror

DO WE KNOW IF IT AS THE SAME BUG AS MASS EFFECT????? IM WORIED ABOUT THEM THIS COMPANY IS SOMEWHAT FREAK NOW. AND THEY LOST MY TRUST SINCE THEN....

Phaje
Phaje

looks good. the only thing that has me worried is the fact that it's also on consoles. i hope that doesn't mean they will dumb it down, though for console gamers such a thing is inevitable.

Marder-I
Marder-I

And lets hope multiple endings as well with the diferent main characters you cn choose to run in this !! Cheers Tom

Malec3
Malec3

Baldur´s Gate 2 is a tough act to follow for any game developer but BioWare has put 4 years of development into this game & that has me confident I´ll get a good solid 40 hour game out of them.

FistandantilusX
FistandantilusX

@ bakerdanny - NWN2 was not made by BioWare, it was made by Obsidian So don't assume anything about DA based off of NWN2

bankerdanny
bankerdanny

I will wait until I read a review of the actual game to decide if I will spend my hard earned cash on it. I loved BG and BGII but really don't like NWN2. The whole process of pausing, right clicking and issuing commands simply to get my party to follow me is stupid. "Follow Me" "stand Your ground" and "attack nearest" are the most basic of commands and should be standard F-keys. The 10 year old BG2 command system is far superior. Stop trying to reinvent the wheel and come up with genuine improvements in the player interface.

mlp071
mlp071

As long PC version doesn't have anything to do with console one,i will take a look at it. If it's same for both, i ain't gonna even touch it.I prefer quality game over shiny stuff with no substance.

furryfrump
furryfrump

i was very disappointed by NWN2. But from what I've seen this should more than make up for it

Ekkoe
Ekkoe

I was a little disappointed by NWN2, so I hope this'll make up for it. Either way I'll buy it to check it out.

Aminal_basic
Aminal_basic

Now this is what serious RPG fans have been waiting for. A Down to earth must play Game! I am looking forward to this one. I'm even gonna pre-order it as soon as I'm allowed!

scruffyd
scruffyd

This sounds so awesome. I hope it really is more like Baldurs Gate than any other game. With them throwing around the phrase "for core gamers" my hopes are up. It will be interesting to see how they handle level-ups. Also fascinated that they created their own system outside of D&D. I didnt like the comparision to KOTOR though.. :|

Emilyek_1
Emilyek_1

I can't wait to play Dragon Age, but the stuff about it being the 'successor to Baldur's Gate' is hogwash. Successor to Mass Effect with outdated tech left over from the Aurora engine and crappy combat animations is what it will be, despite its phony c.1998 high fantasy fonts. Did I mention I am looking forward to it? But, damnit CDProjekt, get that Witcher sequel done already.

Vrygar777
Vrygar777

sounds like a good game. Hopefully it'll have co-op at release or afterwards, but even if it doesnt it'll still be a great game in my opinion.

Exedino2
Exedino2

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Exedino2
Exedino2

It depends most stand alone games fall down when it comes to co-op very much restricting the game you'd hope to play.

brownba3
brownba3

I for one am happy that this is coming out single player. With the plethora of MMRPG and multi player/online gaming being the only option on a lot of RPGs out there, this is a def buy and play. As pointed out, a lot of RPGs only selling point is that they are Multiplayer - poor copies of previous giants. Most of your great RPGs (Diablo, Baldurs gates, Fallouts, The Elder Scrolls were designed first as stand alone single players - Multiplayer LAN options were included and I bet will be an option in these or will come soon after release.) Fallout3 isn't multi or co-op... But if this goes well, Bioware will enhance/add more options. $ talks! - Mass Effect was originally released as XBox360 only and is now on PC. As Baldur's gates various titles afterwards, there is always a sequel... the good king dies is corrupted or evile breaches its gates/containment and raises its head to threaten the world of do gooders and slashing heros again....

DarwinBC
DarwinBC

This game looks great. It's a pity anyone wouldn't play what's going to be a great game because of lac of Co-op. There hasn't been a game from BioWare that hasn't been a great experience for me. jaded so god damn jaded

haishido
haishido

Sad that there arent much co-op games. Kupo, you're right about that. I still might give this game a go though. On a side note: Bouldar's gate makers shouldn't make an ending suggesting a continual unless they plan to put another one out.

FF-Kupo
FF-Kupo

I've played boulders gate 1 and 2, very good games... My question is though, is it co-op? EDIT: doh :S, I should probably read some previous posts.. swordaxe said it all... I more then likely will not play this... because of the non co-op

sirboppel
sirboppel

mmmm bioware i love there games great story graphics and gameplay i do agree wit swordaxe though but i will buy this game or rent it

Folleyrules
Folleyrules

I will be getting Sacred 2 first since it has local co-op. But the game does look fun.

swordaxe
swordaxe

I was ready to buy this game when it came until I found out it was not even local multiplayer. I'm so sick of the good Gauntlet-style games being single player and the trash ones being multi. Why can't we get a good revival of the Baldur's Gate and Champions of Norrath type games? I hope Ultimate Alliance 2 is good and has better replay value then the first.

Peltz999
Peltz999

If this game sells well, it will probably be turned into some cheap bland and crappy mmo because mmos are the $£€ in devs eyes. Still there is hope that gamers get atleast one good game before the "woohoo monies" department rolls over the IP.

jasopan
jasopan

had my eye on this as soon as it was announced looking good now!

overd
overd

They need to make a game more like Baldur's Gate for the PC where graphics are not as important as character creation, storyline, items, and gameplay. I like the traditional top-down fixed camera for rpgs the games run much faster and smoother and more time is spent on content(weapons, items, npcs). How about being able to create an entire party as well as an antagonist?

joshzen
joshzen

No doubt, we need more Norrath / Baldurs gates games... at home multiplayer as well as online... I like to have a friend over, crack open some beer and hack and slash the night away... uh... that sounded strange.

bryanacross
bryanacross

PLEASE PLEASE make another Champions of Norrath or Baulders Gate : Dark Alliance ... honestly, bioware should have just teamed up with blizzard to bring a 360/ps3 port of World of Warcraft.

Twili
Twili

I love Bioware, but the combat system seems a little outdated for consoles.

aboghannam
aboghannam

Anything from Bioware, anything.

lucas182
lucas182

"Here's the tough call, PC or 360? You get the awesome user modules and content that rocked the Neverwinter Nights games, but my PC isn't decked out. Decisions decisions." if a game offers some kind of toolset for mod creations then there is nothing to decide. PC kills the console versions. Oblivion PC has hundreds of hours more playtime than the other versions because of the mods. However if a game doesnt offer a toolset, and you dont have the cash to upgrade your pc, then console. If you have a good PC though, then theres no point in buying games for consoles as PC performance is, nowadays, overkill.

lightwarrior179
lightwarrior179

Dragon Age really seems to be the new-age modification of the classic Baldur's Gate formula. I am excited about what BioWare is doing with this game and am glad that they decided to bring this on consoles as well. :)

Septim007
Septim007

Ubentonslaught, they are making a Mass Effect 2, and were even saying they were way before it's release. Anyway, thank you so much Bioware for putting this out on consoles. My PC's no good so I really look forward to playing Bioware's next epic on my 360.

bcfish
bcfish

Here's the tough call, PC or 360? You get the awesome user modules and content that rocked the Neverwinter Nights games, but my PC isn't decked out. Decisions decisions.

unbentonslaught
unbentonslaught

kirsbo: they didn't say that the dialogue was replaced by those words they said that each would have those topics.

unbentonslaught
unbentonslaught

deecrutch: where did you hear that they were making mass effect 2? I have never heard that and besides this game when it is released will probably kill the sequel.

thanatose
thanatose

I am really looking forward to this game's release. The idea of an old school Bioware RPG done with new school tech is great.