Dragon Age: Origins Hands-On Impressions - Hands-On With Combat

BioWare gives us a peek into the medieval world of Dragon Age: Origins, and it looks like there will be a rich, new universe to discover.

EA is showcasing a number of games at its winter event, hosted at its UK office in Guildford, Surrey. The lineup includes The Godfather II, Red Alert: Uprising (the new expansion pack to the just-born strategy sequel), and BioWare's latest project, Dragon Age: Origins, which is heading to the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 in 2009. The PC version, which is the lead version, was shown off by BioWare's CEO, Dr. Ray Muzyka. Though the game is based in an all-new fantasy setting, Muzyka is touting Dragon Age as a "spiritual successor" to the company's classic Baldur's Gate series, and it looks like fans of fantasy are in for yet another treat.

Muzyka describes Dragon Age as a dark, heroic approach to high fantasy with a "mature, gritty" setting. Throughout the game you'll have to make choices with lasting consequences. From what we were told, the game is also full of racial hostilities between the various factions, including humans, elves, and cursed werewolves, and although there will be romantic relationships, there has been no word yet on whether there will be intimate interracial relationships (such as the now-infamous alien liaisons of Mass Effect).

The variety of characters you'll meet should please even the most ardent fantasy buffs.

The mission we looked at, Tower of Ishal Dungeon, takes places early on in the game, after the "origins" section of the game. In addition to potentially branching storylines and multiple endings, Muzyka explained that there will be six distinct origin stories at the beginning of the game, depending on the character you pick. The Tower of Ishal Dungeon mission takes place in the tower of the same name and had us leading a four-character party through several levels of the tower, battling through hordes of orcs before squaring off against a huge and unsavoury ogre--the level's end boss.

Our party consisted of four characters: the circle mage, a female level 5 mage; the tower guard, a male level 6 warrior; Alistair, a male level 5 warrior; and Winter, a female level 5 warrior (who was also the game's origin-related protagonist, of elf descent). We didn't get a chance to thoroughly test all of their strengths and abilities, but each seemed to be equipped with specific unique powers. We were told you can augment non-playable character AI in the game, although this wasn't elaborated on. You'll also be able to customise some of your party members' options, and depending on your preference of play, you can have quite granular control over specific party member settings or sit back and let the AI kick in and command your unselected companions. If you poorly manage your party and subject them to a gruesome death, fear not: Party members slain in battle can be resurrected once your immediate threat has passed; however, they'll suffer a hit to their health and won't be as much help to you as those still in fighting condition.

We were told by a member of BioWare's development team that the familiar "pause and play" mechanic, which appeared in Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights, will give you the choice of playing Dragon Age in real time or queuing up tactical orders for your party members while the game is paused. The camera can also be viewed either behind your character in a cinematic behind-the-shoulder style or high up above your whole party, giving a more strategic overview.

The heads-up display in Dragon Age should be familiar to anyone who has played a role-playing game. There's a map in the top-right corner, party member stats in the top-left corner, and a customisable action bar along the bottom, which you can assign special attacks to. Menus and settings can be accessed at the top middle of the screen. A ring around each character's avatar will show you their HP and stamina/mana levels (for warriors and mages, respectively) as you engage in battle.

As it turns out, our American counterparts also had an opportunity to try out a different battle in the game, with a slightly different party consisting of Alistair, Winter, Morrigan (the shape-changing sorceress), and an elf scout with a mean backstab attack that kicks in any time he can get behind an enemy. They fared decently in a forest battle, taking on a handful of ferocious monsters by engaging them from the front with fighters, while circling to the rear with the rogue for backstabs and constantly pausing the game to use Morrigan's spectacular sorceries, such as cone-shaped frost spells, debuff spells that weaken foes in combat, and healing spells that kept the party in the fight. Baldur's Gate-style careful combat management seems to work quite well in Dragon Age, but as our American colleagues quickly discovered, combat isn't a cakewalk, especially when you have to fight trees that walk. While the standard humanoid foes were easy to polish off, the weakened party eventually fell to the assault of a small group of sneaky moving tree monsters, which were initially disguised as, of all things, a group of trees--though they immediately uprooted themselves as the party approached and pummelled them into oblivion.

The graphics are shaping up well, with impressive cinematic cutscenes filled with interesting characters and polished voice acting helping to set the scene for an epic adventure. The game engine seems pretty robust too, even through the environment we played, which was a mostly dark, atmospheric dungeon with the occasional lit torch. The characters were quite detailed and had some detailed animations when performing special attacks or magic. We cast a few special attacks during play, including the warrior's formidable shield bash move, which is a charging attack that takes a sizable chunk off an enemy's health. In addition to the cinematic visuals, Dragon Age's enchanting, classical score helps to further immerse you in the timeless action and heightens the medieval warfare.

You can experience six unique origin stories at the beginning of the game.

Dragon Age: Origins should appeal to anyone who's a fan of Baldur's Gate, BioWare's previous games, or the fantasy role-playing genre as a whole, and it will be shipping for the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 in 2009. For more on Dragon Age, check out our previous coverage and check back later as we uncover more of the game, and the Dragon Age universe, over the coming months.

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

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Luke Anderson

Former staff writer for GameSpot.co.uk, now marketing guy for a certain major online retailer....
Dragon Age: Origins

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106 comments
Ike55
Ike55

I am thrilled. longtime fan of baldurs gate...

JKnaperek
JKnaperek

I'm pretty sure it's "meant" to be on all 3 systems.

Temtamperu
Temtamperu

Im really looking forward to see how the controls work on the Control Pad, I may even just get a pc to play this on a PC as its meant to be.

osama99
osama99

There better be AUTO-pause options as promised, not just a manual pause button, or everything will be ruined.

Jerian
Jerian

game is looking good

martianrobot
martianrobot

More sci-fi, less 'high' fantasy please Bioware. KoTOR & Mass Effect are the bee's knees as far as I'm concerned. If I see another pointy-eared elf, gnome or hobgoblin I swear I'll do time. Mind you, I'm just this minute installing The Witcher Enhanced Edition. So I'll shut up and leave you to your dungeons and dragons shenanigans ;)

TurambarGS
TurambarGS

Yeah, the role playing elements in Bethesda games aren't all there. Great games, don't get me wrong, but they're missing story related RPG choices. Levelling up your character to be a spell user or a blade/block/whatever user is cool for character customisation... but you don't have any real control over the story. What do you call that then? First person actioner with RPG elements? Bioware are the studio that makes quality, true RPGs where your choices actually do result in different outcomes: KOTOR and Mass Effect are great examples of these. I don't doubt that this game will follow suit and be a top notch RPG.

Excelsior69
Excelsior69

How can you even begin to place Bethesda. And RPG's in the same sentence? They might look like RPG's (and they are great games) but there's absolutely not a single penny's worth of role-playing in their games. At least not the ones I've played. DA:O does indeed look a lot more like NwN than BG... Which is a bit sad, but unless they do a Blizzard and use an isometric perspective for a modern game, a "real" successor to the Infinity Engine games will most likely never appear. Delaying Dragon Age most certainly means delaying Mass Effect 2 further... /cry :(

GetsugaTenshou
GetsugaTenshou

Look a lot more like nwn than bg... so sad nwn was far from bg in epic story and godly battle. Wish this game gonna be far more better than nwn.

Diernes
Diernes

Bioware, yes. Bethesda however, are extremely overated imo.... their last good game was daggerfall...

bennae66
bennae66

ive said it before and i will say it again: bioware and bethesda for world domination

Hesam_Titan
Hesam_Titan

hi to all my good friend you all know RPGs game how good game and you all know all RPGs game like oblivion,witcher,gothic,fallout,... but we all know Star war knight the old republic (KOTOR),Jede empire and mass effect all this big game creator by BIO WARE and now Dragon age:Origins god know how this game be goooooood but i know this game very very very good and i sure you know that, i just want to play this game very soon, i can't wait. I CAN'T Thank you all my good friend, Hesam

mastriania
mastriania

Desolator666789: I totally agree with what you said. I just really couldn't imagine them releasing a total flop. There's too much at stake. They have a giant fanbase, a history of quality, amazing story arcs. The whole bit.

Desolator666789
Desolator666789

Bioware is one of if not my favorite developer and if this is anywhere near as good as any of their other games then I'm getting it.

neventhade
neventhade

too bad they said 4th Q release instead of next month :/

mastriania
mastriania

BioWare just never lets up, do they? I am 1000% hyped for this with one exception: can a fantasy/rpg game be released in 09 that does not feature a walking tree as an enemy?

bjohnson003
bjohnson003

As long as the team from the last IceWindale and Final Bauldur's Gate are not involved. That beat up the final boss who runs away and then gets all healed while your broken and busted, really worked my last nerve!

orcsblade
orcsblade

sounds like another great game from BioWare

pakhair
pakhair

Although I am no big fan of RPG's or Strategy Games but I loved Mass Effect especially

Scientist8
Scientist8

Yeah I agree, I love Bethesda and Oblivion but Bioware knows how to make great RPGs I loved KoTOR and Mass Effect so I'm sure this will be equally as awesome, if not better.

FallenAngelXBL
FallenAngelXBL

zzza Posted Feb 11, 2009 6:25 pm GMT I'm looking forward to Dragon Age and I'm definitely gonna get it, but nuffin beats Bethesda and Oblivion. Bethesda are the kings of RPG and Oblivion is the best game ever created. Your entitled to your opinion but Bethesda are not the kings of RPG. They have yet to really grasp the Story side of the genre. All PC rpg lovers no for a fact that Bioware are THE kings of RPGs with Baldurs gate + baldurs gate 2, Never winter knights, KotOR (which had the greatest story twist of all time) and Mass Effect (though mass effect wasnt there best work). Bethesda are good, but not Bioware good.

Rizer
Rizer

I really want to play this game, but I'm still kind of annoyed that my only racial choices are the typical human, elf, and dwarf. I'm the type of guy who likes playing the more brutal races like ogres, lizardmen, trolls...simply because stories never seem to have them as main characters, but I guess there is no chance of that happening, since the game is already too far along for that hope, so I'll probably end up being a hulking human warrior first chance I get to play this game.

Ozzza
Ozzza

I'm looking forward to Dragon Age and I'm definitely gonna get it, but nuffin beats Bethesda and Oblivion. Bethesda are the kings of RPG and Oblivion is the best game ever created.

Alex_09
Alex_09

I just don't think this game can capture the intense feel I want. It seems every bioware game has the same bland design, and not enough focus on creating an immersive world. Seriously Mass Effect was the most surprising one for me, that game was not ready for release. I couldn't believe that I waited a year for it.

BR4D_B4K3R
BR4D_B4K3R

NOt a marketing major, huh? 1st go take a marketing class, then you can start posting more educated drivel instead ofthe whiney "it's not coming out when I want it" My four year old has more resolve than that. I personally have all three major platforms, PC, PS3, XBOX 360 Elite, (waiting for 2nd gen Wii) I still only get games as do MOST people for one system. And whether that is due to sensibility, of due to economic strife, or just 'cause they don't want to waste money, I won't hazard an erronious assumption. So habe some patience, and be pleased that the corporation is doing a broad spectrum release. It makes the company look thoughtful, not alienating ANY of its markets, so odds are that alone will boost sales even a little more. This means if the game is as kick ass I I hope it to be, they'll have more capital for online/expansion matterial. Thanks and peace.

Superman_legend
Superman_legend

Crap looks like they pushed the release date back just to finish the console versions which I feel is total crap. I mean consoles get games first too look at Mass Effect and GTAIV and its ok. PC also get games first and it be ok. If its a good game its going to be bought regardless of if one version come out before the other. Especially if the PC version comes out first that shouldnt have any effect consoles at all because most people who have both will buy it on pc anyway and those who dont have a gaming rig will definetly get it on console. I mean look at KOTOR. Console players are usually just happy there getting it. I mean I know I was when I didnt have a gaming rig plus it was tested and ready.

Superman_legend
Superman_legend

Definetly PC easy choice for me. Do you want to wait to have a ported version. Most importantly I heard it maybe very possible they going to release the toolkits for users to make there on adventures pc plus of course mods and litte dlc. DLC is the only upgrades your going to be getting if you get 360 version and then youll have to go through microsoft for everything even for updates which rarely happen on 360 cause it wants a fee for all the good stuff. I mean pontentially unlimited gameplay options or some status points. Plus you dont have to wait and getting the main version. Playing potentially the successor to baldur gate on a console when you dont have to. Also bioware said they're was putting their all in this game to make it the best game they ever made. Atleast till KOTOR online comes which is different as whole because its an mmo. I really dont know if it would feel the same on a console to play a game like BG and NWN. PC interfaces usely have much more choices. I wish they let you display your 360 and window live achievements on your gamer tag whether your on the 360 or PC so you wont feel you losing anything by playing either or.

evanx
evanx

I keep asking myself, PC or Xbox 360? I want the achievements points but I can't wait.

delateur
delateur

Words can't describe how much I'm looking forward to this game... :)

buzzguy
buzzguy

I didn't have time to read much of this, but it doesn't matter. I want this game no matter what, preview or no preview. Bioware...wow.

downloadthefile
downloadthefile

i would get if it had an appropriate level of freedom given, which for me is basically a lot. getsugatenshou, i agree with you but i think that the witcher enhanced edition is def one of the better rpgs to come to pc in a while.

Melies
Melies

I wanna savour this game so much that I'm actually not going to read these near-final peeks inside the game so I won't spoil the experience one iota :-\

Djdiddles77
Djdiddles77

Man Bioware knows how to make games!!! This looks pretty awesome!!! Can't wait to here more!

Melies
Melies

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

Fists1
Fists1

I hope the freedom makes it like a properly made Oblivion (i.e. one that doesnt require mods to actually be engaging) and doesnt have the linearity and fixed paths of mass effect. Also good spell system making you feel like you using mystical magicks rather than just throwing flaming rocks at people

kambion313
kambion313

BRING IT ON! unofficial BG 3 baby!

Derek1177
Derek1177

Glad im a PC gamer. Hope its still comin early to PC

Intrakitt
Intrakitt

Sounds awesome although I still find it hard to believe that this game is coming to consoles at all and I can't help but wonder how it is going to be executed.

CTBradums
CTBradums

Well worth the wait. It looks amazing. Hopefully they don't follow the recent trend of rushing promising games through development and screwing it up.

Folleyrules
Folleyrules

"spiritual successor" Baldur's Gate? No local coop? Sacred 2 is the real successor to Baldur's Gate.3/24/09

splendormk7
splendormk7

they have time i hope it'll will be worth it.

henrik02
henrik02

I think this game will impact the gaming industry and set a new par for other RPGs to reach for. This is a game that I will definitely get, *sigh* too bad I have to wait until Novemeber...

zeekx
zeekx

@Fisheagle: yer dum. In what way is this even close to Oblivion? Both Bethesda and BioWare are experienced in the realm of rpgs, each unique in their own way of crafting classics. That's akin to comparing Baldur's Gate to Morrowind, which is just inane.

Fisheagle
Fisheagle

Mmmm another try to emulate Oblivion

Uzriz
Uzriz

To all the ppl saying this will be a dumbed down console conversion. The game was developed for the PC first. So basically the master version is on PC. PC --> Console, that's how Bioware have approached this. PC gamers win this time ^^ DRM sucks ass, unless they work out a system to allow unlimited installs. Pirates are totally screwing the rest of us over. =(

demi_veritaz
demi_veritaz

Even if they DRM it, it's still going to be hacked. Just like steam games are hacked. Go for it EA, piss off more honest customers in an attempt to stop people you can't stop.

Foustus
Foustus

This game is the future of RPGs and will set the bar for a lot of other games to come later

picklesrocks
picklesrocks

Why the hell did people block my comment i just asked if this was an online game sheesh

cdx00
cdx00

@LordInvernus, F1 and F2 were point-and-click traditional RPGs on a fixed plane; what are you talking about?