Dragon Age: Origins Updated Impressions - Living Your Origin Story

Whether you're a noble-born elf or a dwarf from the slums of Orzammar, you'll always remember your roots in Dragon Age: Origins.

Many video game heroes have memorable origin stories, but in Dragon Age: Origins, you get to live yours. You won’t be thrown into the main quest straightaway after creating your character. Rather, you’ll spend some time living the life you’ve chosen for your hero. Born into a life of privilege and high-level political machinations? You’ll have to maneuver your way among the elite to find your grander purpose. As you play through the early chapters of the game, you’ll not only get a feel for combat, conversation, and the various in-game menus, but you’ll also be forging your character’s identity. In our recent demo, we took to the mean streets of the underground dwarven city of Orzammar to see what it’s like to grow up a poor duster from the wrong side of the cavern. We’ll tell you one thing right now: It ain’t pretty.

The first challenge you’ll face in Dragon Age: Origins is choosing a character you can live with throughout hours and hours of epic adventure. You have to choose a gender (male or female), a race (human, elf, or dwarf), and a class (warrior, mage, or rogue). Then you choose an origin story. As a female dwarf warrior, our choice was between noble and commoner. The dwarfs have a rigid caste system in their society, so a noble dwarf was sure to start out with advantages like expensive armor and three hot meals a day. We went the other route, interested to see how the other half lives. After customizing our dwarf with suitably rugged features, we took a brief glimpse at the character attributes and skill tree. Adding a few points to strength and constitution seemed warrior-appropriate, and we invested our skill points in some dual-weapon skills that would allow us to hack enemies up twice as fast (or so we hoped).

An introductory cutscene then set the stage for our life so far. The city of Orzammar was once a powerful dwarven capital, but it waned into decay after being cut off from the outside world by the darkspawn. In the caste-based dwarven society, different neighborhoods house different castes of citizens. Our dwarf was casteless, born into the slums where thievery and murder are common and beggars line the streets. The cutscene launched us into a conversation with our sister, who was dressed up quite prettily, something we didn’t expect in our rough-and-tumble neighborhood. It all became clear when a swarthy goon wandered into the room and starting talking her up. Apparently this anything-but-charming fellow was a local crime boss who, over the course of our childhood, had become something of a patron to our family. Our sister was dressed up prettily because he was hoping to set her up with a rich nobleman. Gaining a noble’s favor would not only ensure her prosperity, but ours and the boss’s as well. Our role in the deal was to act as his strongman, robbing and murdering to suit his whims. Apparently there aren’t many ways out of poverty in Dragon Age: Origins.

As tempting as the offer of a sharp blade and new armor seemed, it was hard to warm up to the idea that this guy was basically trying to sell our sister off. We spoke a few sharp words in hopes of getting him to ease up, but were chastened by our sister who, according to the boss, “knew the slope of the land.” A little more cheek earned us the warning that we were “on loose sand.” Like most dwarves, those in Dragon Age: Origins appear to be deeply connected to the earth and the stone from which they carve their cities. It was great to hear this connection permeating the gameworld in the dwarf’s geologically themed vernacular, and it added another facet to our rapidly crystallizing world.

Eventually, our levelheaded sister convinced us to calm down and behave for both our sakes, so we headed out into the street to collect from someone who owed our boss money. On the way out we passed a familiar-looking woman sitting at the table who turned out to be our mother. Our very drunk mother. Face pinched from years of hard-living, dear old mom came to long enough to sling some abuse our way, break down into tears, and then pass out. Dragon Age: Origins is definitely a mature game, and the unflinching look at poverty and desperation that we got in the first few minutes of the game certainly shows that it's grim on many levels.

A BioWare employee then explained to us that the simple task of collecting money from our boss’s debtor proved to be not so simple and gave us a look at the myriad ways you’ll be able to solve problems and manipulate situations to your benefit in Dragon Age: Origins. The debtor isn’t eager to pay up, obviously, but some strong-arming (and possibly murder) would certainly get results. Talking a more subtle route, we were told we could accept a costly item as payment, though that probably wouldn’t please the boss. We could have brought it to him and faced his wrath, or we could take the item and sell it to an accommodating buyer. Of course, it seems a shame to do all that work and not benefit, so rather than fork over the money, we hid the cash and returned to the boss empty-handed. Though we might suffer some harsh words or some other unspecified scolding, we were told the boss would eventually stomp away, leaving us that much richer.

We glimpsed a few other quests connected to the crime boss, like rigging a fight so the boss could collect on a bet (drug the opposition or steal the fighter’s armor so your boss is actually betting on you?). It’s clear that there will be plenty to do along the road to becoming a Grey Warden and that not all your quests will be black and white. You’ll get to feel out your own play style as you determine what sort of temperament you want for your character and how virtuous or corrupt you want to be. Living your own origin story looks to be a great way to dive into the world of Thedas headfirst, and we can’t wait to take the plunge when Dragon Age: Origins comes out on October 20 for the Xbox 360, PC, and PS3.

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

Did you enjoy this article?

Sign In to Upvote

Chris_Watters

Chris Watters

Chris enjoys aiming down virtual sights, traipsing through fantastical lands, and striving to be grossly incandescent.
Dragon Age: Origins

Dragon Age: Origins

Follow
133 comments
jbuckley15
jbuckley15

Bioware could even make a good wii game

8smokes
8smokes

This game is going to revolutionary! Bioware is going to do it again! I really cannot wait!

TheSoaringOne
TheSoaringOne

I cannot wait!! Just gotta hope that it runs great on my system. This is definitely an rpg must have on any hardware/console! I really hope that BioWare haven't shipped their first version with unnecessary bugs and such.

Kelteel
Kelteel

Looks interesting. I will be waiting for it to be released in October and watching the reviews until then. I hope they release a Demo on a free super fast server. Big downloads are a pain especially when I am able to download at up to 20MB per second if I time it right.

lhscouchmonster
lhscouchmonster

i agree with omega....replay value doesn't come from 2 hours of different content then 30 of the same content over again. I still think this game will kick ass though

austin7194
austin7194

I can't wait for this game! I loved Mass Effect and I can't wait for this and Mass Effect 2. Bioware makes such good games.

Omegakill0
Omegakill0

As much as im excited about the release of another baldurs gate style bio-ware RPG i just cant help thinking that all too much time is being spent on just the first few hours of the game. Once we've set up our origins and made some critical decesions wont it just be the same quests that we can get with any other character class? Im not knocking the game as its a bio-ware game so i know for a fact its gona make me neglect my other half, but im thinking twice about setting my standards so high. Or maybe im just worrying too much, as mass effect has the same quests no matter what class you are and I love that to bits. Either way i'll be getting this the day it comes out and playing as much of it i can.

detege
detege

and with Toolset right? I really can't wait, this game might just live through 2012, but the release is quite close to Mass Effect 2, I wonder how that will affect quality of either game.

TheFrostWolf
TheFrostWolf

The Trailer Of This Game Scared Me For Life.

johnjaha99
johnjaha99

Bioware has been working on this one for 5 years, you know its gonna kick ass

Bloodthirsty23
Bloodthirsty23

This game will be awesome (I hope).And it has many paths to follow so it may make the game worth playing a few times.

knight_killer7
knight_killer7

This time bioware has taken games to a hole new level if it is as they paint it

Razing-Hell
Razing-Hell

i think this game is going to be pretty sick and i think one of the best games this year

Zingoe1
Zingoe1

Im impressed, ive pretty much finished most of the RPGs on the Xbox and i thought id have to wait until Mass Effect 2, Glad a found what looks to be a good, solid RPG coming out this year :)

sun_rider95
sun_rider95

just a little more to wait for this game to be and this game will be the game of the year

s0l1dsnake
s0l1dsnake

Its gonna be a poor christmas for me the fall is gonna leave me broke with all these awesome games.

akorns
akorns

Looking forward to this one. Bioware hasn't disappointed me yet. Shame ther's no Half-Orc Barbarian (noble) :)

Solid_Devil
Solid_Devil

Yeah! i want this game as well! it looks really good so i cant wait to get hands on it.

Gairith
Gairith

Combat system is real time with the ability to pause and make choices for each of your party members.

n1kos77
n1kos77

i hope the combat system is not turn based.but if it is real time bad i hope it is:P

Sparkatus
Sparkatus

bioware never disappoint... at least not me.

luzer13
luzer13

cant wait to get my hand on this

Joesocwork
Joesocwork

Looks like a super challenge for the completists out there! :p

mook-the-man
mook-the-man

GOD ANOTHER AWESOME GAME THAT I HAVE TO BUY IN OCTOBER!!! EVERY AWESOME GAME IS COMING OUT IN OCTOBER......ITS GOING TO MAKE ME F%^&ING POOR THAT MONTH.

weezyfb
weezyfb

keep these games coming bioware

Hailfire704
Hailfire704

I've loved every game that Bioware has put out so far and it seems Dragon Age: Origins will be no different. Can't wait for this game.

Tronzo
Tronzo

@rht992 You have never played baldur's gate have you? The witcher was released 9 years after Baldur's gate, so no they are not taking the morality system from the witcher...

SavoyPrime
SavoyPrime

Looking good Bioware. Can't wait to get my hands on this in October.

rht992
rht992

but i still think the whole morality thing is taken from the witcher

rht992
rht992

There's another game added to the christmas list. . .

il0x0li
il0x0li

I'm too excited now, I need this game yesterday. :)

shak1r
shak1r

Spells looks weak,

nikclas
nikclas

@fairygirl116. You can't be elf noble. Only city elf, seen as second-class citizens, or dalish elf , who lives in the woods.

fairygirl116
fairygirl116

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

ZombieKingX
ZombieKingX

Hmmmm.. yeah, I'm interested. Bring it on.

SlochLin
SlochLin

I'm definitely sold on this... looks a bit like a mature version of Fable.

SmokinDankNugz
SmokinDankNugz

This game is looking truly awesome, plus I didn't even realize that it's being released on the PS3!

sun_rider95
sun_rider95

ldonyo it is not a candidate it is the game of the year for sure.......who knows maybe I 'll like EA for this game ....or not.....oo and BioWare rules!

ldonyo
ldonyo

Game of the Year candidate, for sure! FYI, if you haven't read "Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne", you're missing not only a very good story in its own right, but a lot of background on the world of Dragon Age.

honglong17
honglong17

so good, so good, ah men they only release it until October.I really love a game that have a rich , complex world

CamiKitten
CamiKitten

Wow, this is looking better and better as time goes on. I can't wait now!

Skyriderlink
Skyriderlink

this is going to be better than oblivion not that oblivion is bad but we wanted more aren't we all. This game may be the combination of Fallout 3,Oblivion and Mass Effect I mean the gameplay and sucks-you-in environment. I am definitely going to buy that game no matter how it score.

hassy94
hassy94

@electroban "My only problem with these kind of games is that im generally pretty neutral and most games kind of design themselves for the evil hardass, or the really good guy, and i always feel like im not getting the full kind of experience by playing neutral, and just doing the right thing, or sometimes doing the wrong thing depending on how i feel, i try and play them from my perspective, i wudnt be intentionally evil tbh" This doesn't have a morality system. It has a relationship system, you leave an impression on every character you encounter, and you decide what you'll do that will leave it's respective impression on that character. Bioware have specifically said you won't ever be "evil", "neutral" or a "really good guy", you'll just have connections to everyone in the world. There is no measurement of morality, just consequences to your actions.

hassy94
hassy94

I can't wait, it sounds so good.

twitchscb
twitchscb

@electroban I don't think this game is so heavily set on a morality system so to speak... I know what you mean sometimes it gets annoying having to pick the answer you know will sway the scale the way you're going... But I think (more hope I guess) that this is just a bit more focused on how would you live out your life in this world... I haven't heard any mention of a morality scale, or certain powers only opening up for one side or the other, so I hope it stays that way... Can't wait for this one