Dragon Age: Origins Updated Q&A - Dragons, Character Development, and Adventuring Parties

BioWare executive producer Dan Tudge answers some, but not all, questions about dragons, character development, adventuring parties, and side quests.

The upcoming role-playing game Dragon Age: Origins will be an all-new adventure, but a spiritual follow-up to developer BioWare's classic Baldur's Gate fantasy role-playing series. Like in those games, you'll create an individual character, then venture into a dark fantasy world and recruit additional companions to your side while fighting your battles with the real-time-with-pause system used in games like Baldur's Gate and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. However, the new game will offer in-depth "origin" stories for your character and will take place in an all-new fantasy world crafted by BioWare. This time around, executive producer Dan Tudge offers some tantalizing hints on character development, side quests, and dragons.

GameSpot: For a game named "Dragon Age," we sure haven't seen too many dragons...until now. Tell us about the dragons in the game. Who and what are they? What part will they play in the story?

Dan Tudge: There are different kinds of dragons in the game, ranging in size from large to "I can't believe I'm actually fighting something this huge!" One of the cool features in Dragon Age: Origins is large creature combat, so players can expect some pretty epic battles if a dragon is involved. As for their role in the story, dragons were once worshipped as deities, but "the maker" shackled them under the earth to sleep for all time. The darkspawn, who dwell underground, search for these "old gods," and when they find one, they corrupt the dragon with their taint, transforming it into an archdemon that commands the darkspawn to the surface, unleashing a devastating "blight" on the world. It will be up to you, as one of the last remaining Grey Wardens, to stop it.

Dragon Age: Origins will feature fire-chucking wizards, werewolves, and yes, even dragons.

GS: We recall from our previous jaunts in BioWare games that fighting dragons wasn't exactly a walk in the park--they were extremely powerful foes that ignored the attacks of simple magic spells and required a great deal of preparation, strategy, and even a bit of luck to overcome. How powerful will the dragons of Dragon Age: Origins be, and if they end up at odds with your character, what kind of prep and strategy will players need to take them on?

DT: I won't lie to you: bringing down a dragon is pretty tough, but if you can do it, the payoff is worth it. Combat is party-based, so you can choose to have some very powerful allies in your party, each with their own unique abilities that you can combine to give yourself some tactical advantages. Some strategies that work well are things like buffing your party at the start of combat (especially your warriors) to make them tougher in battle and also keeping your mages at a safe distance. You'll have to experiment to see what kind of strategy works best for you, but one thing I find useful is the "pause and play" system. The ability to freeze the game and examine the situation from different angles can give you some great ideas on how to shift the odds in your favor.

GS: Now that we've been introduced to some of the characters we'll meet in the game, let's talk about the character classes. For instance, if players are interested in picking up a sword, walking right up to their foes, and beating them senseless, what professions will be available, and how will they differ?

DT: You start the game by picking from one of three base classes: fighter, mage, or rogue. If you're into the melee-focused "beat them senseless" style of play, you'll love playing as a fighter. As you progress, you'll be able to further customize your fighter by choosing which talents to develop (and there are a lot to choose from, many unique to each class). Eventually you'll be able to specialize, and each specialization unlocks new sets of skills. It's a very robust system, allowing you to truly develop your hero the way you want.

GS: For players who prefer to be stealthy and operate from the shadows, what career paths will be available? How will they differ?

Depending on which origin you choose, you can create a highly customized character.

DT: You can do some pretty amazing things as a rogue. One tactic I like to use is the rogue's ability to go into a stealth mode that makes him/her pretty much invisible to enemies. Once in stealth mode, I can use another rogue talent of setting traps near some unsuspecting enemies. When I exit stealth mode, the enemies see me and come charging...right into the trap and back to the main party for an ambush. But the rogue has some pretty deadly combat moves too. For example, if you can position your rogue right behind an enemy in combat, you can have him backstab for some devastating damage.

GS: For players who prefer to wiggle their fingers and have sparkly magic thingies come off of their fingers, what career options will be available?

DT: It's not quite time to reveal the different paths a mage can take, but trust me when I say that there are some very unique ways to develop your mage. Don't forget that Dragon Age: Origins is a dark, heroic fantasy, and there are some pretty twisted things you can choose to do with the magic you wield. Magic is one of the deadliest and most powerful elements in the world of Dragon Age, and there are reasons why the templars keep a close watch on mages, but more about that later.

Different characters will round out your group, regardless of which profession you choose for your own character.

GS: One of the hallmarks of BioWare's party-based games is that no matter what sort of character we create to start the game with, we usually meet complementary "follower" characters to build out our party--for instance, in previous games, if we decided to play a weak, robe-wearing wizard, there was usually a big, strong warrior or two for hire to help us out. How is the cast of Dragon Age kitted out to complement the player's choice of origin story?

DT: There are many interesting people you will meet as you travel through Ferelden, and many will join your party. No matter who you choose to join your party, you can be sure that they will each have their own unique personalities and agendas which will influence how they behave towards you, depending on your choices throughout the game. It's totally up to you who you want to have in your party, and different combinations of certain party members can lead to some very interesting banter, dialogue options, side quests, and even romances.

GS: We know that Dragon Age will continue the BioWare tradition of focusing strongly on an immersive story, and we understand Dragon Age will include many emotionally charged moments. How will the game create these moments? We know, for instance, that BioWare has been using cinematic camera cuts since KOTOR, and strongly emphasizing facial animations on the character models (or "digital actors," as BioWare has referred to them) in Mass Effect. Without spoiling things, tell us about some of the elements that will facilitate storytelling.

DT: There are lots of ways we create those emotionally charged moments; in fact, you get one of those moments right out of the gate with your choice of origin story. Each origin story builds to that one unique moment that defines your personal motivation for becoming a Grey Warden, and it's different in each origin story. Throughout the game, you'll also be faced with lots of tough, moral decisions that are not morally clear (I often call them the "20-minute decisions," because that's how long you end up staring at the computer trying to decide what to do). And of course, there are the characters you'll meet and form some pretty deep relationships with. It's easy to get emotionally attached to these characters, and that's one of the best ways Dragon Age immerses you into the story.

GS: We understand that the idea behind the origin stories is to give different players (who choose different characters) completely different experiences. Given that the origin stories will provide a different starting experience, how does the structure of the rest of the game hold up to replays? How different will the full game be the second time around? How much of the story branches off in different ways to provide a newer experience each time?

DT: I couldn't tell you the exact number of times the story branches in the game, but I can tell you that your experience is going to change from replay to replay depending on so many different factors, including your choice of origin story, race, class, gender, dialogue choices, and even party dynamics, to name just a few. One single play-through alone [will be] a long game, and even then you won't have seen everything in the game, so there is a lot of replay [value] in Dragon Age: Origins. The fans are paying good money for this game, so we want to pack as much bang for their buck into this game as possible.

GS: BioWare games also traditionally have plenty of optional content that players aren't required to complete in order to finish the game but that gives completists lots of things to do, such as side quests and assemble-able objects. About how many hours' worth of side content will Dragon Age offer players? Give us a sense of some of the fun side stuff we'll be able to do.

DT: We're not [revealing] total hours of gameplay...yet. However, there is a lot to see and do in Dragon Age: Origins. It would take me forever to talk about all the side content there is, but one of my favorite things are the things that are revealed depending on how you've developed your relationship with certain party members. If you gain a high enough approval with someone, they could tell you something more personal, and elements of their past may appear in the form of side quests, which in turn may even unlock new abilities for that character.

Getting in good with your companions may unlock new abilities, and even some bonus quests.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Dragon Age's dragons, characters, story, or side content?

DT: Fans who want to get an early insight into the world of Dragon Age should keep their eyes out for the prequel novel, Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, which will be available March 3. It's written by David Gaider, who is also the lead writer of the game, and it gives a great introduction to the lore and history of Dragon Age, as well as some amazing insight into some of the characters you'll eventually meet in the game.

GS: OK. Thanks, Dan.

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137 comments
Pagani_ZondaF
Pagani_ZondaF

"Some strategies that work well are things like buffing your party at the start of combat (especially your warriors) to make them tougher in battle and also keeping your mages at a safe distance." Wow, that's like RPG 101. I love how they always give the most benign advice on how to play well.

Rinoa_Bunansa
Rinoa_Bunansa

Mmmmm... why is it always when there is a decent Dragon-type game to come out, you're always killing them and not riding them? Lair was just another Epic Fail... Drakengard seemed to be a waste of time, and so on and so forth. Can't wait to see what this one is like. Bioware usually makes pretty pleasing games If I do say so.

xXFr34k_0uTXx
xXFr34k_0uTXx

I am very anxious to see what BioWare has in store for us. O.o

mathiasX
mathiasX

Still, standing on the shoulders of giants...

orcsblade
orcsblade

waiting for this one so much

brownba3
brownba3

Well it's waiting time.... Nov is a long ways off - but will allow me to get a computer rebuild in. Hope they give us a playable demo, ... soon... Dan Tudge doesn't seem much of an old school player his hints on fighting a dragon and the rogue info - stealth - which makes him pretty much invisible, traps and backstab...- some pretty deadly combat moves?....Um, any of us who have ever played an RPG kind of already know that...Not a font of knowledge - is he... anyway - making do with drakensang - not bad

jedinelson
jedinelson

Bioware has yet to dissappoint me. not a single one of their games sucked: NWN, KOTOR, Jade Empire, Mass Effect. If all of those games are the best examples of an RPG out there, and Bioware says that this is their crowning achievement, then my only worry is that they might over-work it.

Vargre666
Vargre666

I cannot believe that anyone into RP/ Fantasy oriented games would not be wetting themselves over this. Bioware for one, is an amazing game dev company. And it looks like they have gone all out on this one. From what ive read so far its like the game I wanted to play when I was playing the Bards Tale series. All the stuff i made up in my head to round out those games seems to be appearing in this one. The detail looks intense, the backstory well fleshed out. Im really, really excited about this game. Like FallOut 3 excited....well, ok...mebbe not that much. Yet. But its getting there. For all you nay-sayers, all i can tell you is just wait and see. Id be willing to bet my first born that this game sets the bar for future RP/ Fantasy games. And its really nice to see that theyre not going to dumb it down for consoles and we PC players end up getting the short end of the stick. Its been proven time and again that the PC is the best and most flexible platform for games and im really happy that Bioware are taking advantage of that and making the game FOR PC...

Surodhet
Surodhet

Gabriel: Err, no. You can play all BG titles that i know of in Multiplayer Coop, I'm definitely sure about BG2: Shadows of Amn, which I played just two months ago with a friend.

GabrielVan
GabrielVan

Partytimekegs - Obviously you're young and do not realize that the console Baldurs Gate games are not the originals. This game is a successor to the original PC games, which were party based, single-player RPGs.

brycex99
brycex99

Think of it like this Voqar, Metroid was a 2d side scrolling shooter, its spiritual successor on GameCube was Metroid Prime, but now it's 3D. Adding that 3rd dimension isn't going to destroy the game, what would potentially destroy the game is going to be the story. The game looks great and the battle mechanics are also looking pretty solid and fun, however the story is the only thing up in question. Let me guess, you're one of those guys that thinks that a game has to have 90s graphics in order for it to be good? Because right now that's the only thing you have to base your judgment on.

TehEliteElite
TehEliteElite

@tmhall & Voqar: This is NOTHING like Oblivion, and certainly not a ripoff of it! @ Voqar: "This game looks nothing like BG or IWD." What were you expecting? 2D? It is a spiritual sucessor in terms of having a great story, great characters & development, tactical gameplay. Oblivion was a great game, but it had none of those. It was good for its own reasons. @party & tmhal: It's confirmed not to have Multiplayer coop. :(

Voqar
Voqar

This game looks nothing like BG or IWD. Spiritual successor to what? Just what the gaming world needs. Another PC game that is like a console game. Or an Oblivion (dookie) ripoff. Is it really asking too much for one of these developers to make a game based on a classic that is actually LIKE the original, instead of pure crap like the Fallout3 joke or this dookie looking pile?

retroman77
retroman77

tmhal..u gonna "buy it" where tha "sex'' do u live

tmhal
tmhal

I sooo love Oblivion.. :) If this has Multiplayer Co-Op then i definitely buy and play :)

partytimekegs
partytimekegs

Its not a spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate if it doesn't have multiplayer Co-Op. Definitely not getting my money.

angelkadaj
angelkadaj

looks like fun. I will definitely try it when it gets out.

Aminal_basic
Aminal_basic

Sounds like SSI's D&D to me. I loved the old gold box games and seems to have the same flavor. I'm looking forward to it!

mav_destroyer
mav_destroyer

looks interesting. reminds me of elder scrolls: oblivion

simonsworld
simonsworld

the box link on the gamespot homepage for this game, i wonder to myself as i lay there naked on my bed,the mutated bear thing looks a tad perplexed, but still aggressive all the same, i then proceed to ponder if he talks? will it share its dreams and emotions?does it stay indoors during the winter..?or does it have a pre planned vacation? one cant hardly wait. zZzzZzZZzZz

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

Why have these articles when we know the game will now not come out until Xmas to match the release on consoles? All they do is remind me how we PC gamers are now third class citizens! GET TO THE BACK OF THE BUS - NOW!!! Sort of thing!!!

NoctisLucis
NoctisLucis

well it looks good , reminds me bg and neverwinter a lot games i really enjoy , until now rpg for consoles has ben quite lame Bethesda Softworks has been tryng to push the limits whit new conceps that can be fun but not of all my taste and they have some icredibly strange and stupid bugs for the ps3 sistem whit all theyr games that really can piss you off, im waiting for somthing like this to play along whit ¨the witcher¨ and ¨FFversus¨ i hope this year bring great rpg,s to play becouse for me these dam things are some sort of vacations, and i need some good dam vacations these year.

Sven-Ingvars
Sven-Ingvars

I hope this not becomes one of those oh-smack!-i-played-almost-the-entire-game-and-now-i-see-that-i-invested-in-the-wrong-character/attributes-why-didn't-i-read-the-faq-so-i-can-finish-the-game?

osama99
osama99

I'm crossing my fingers really hard for Bioware to keep true to some of the promises they made about this game all this time through, such as the return of a proper auto-pause system, real parties, tactical combat, a bestiary, and a detailed game universe. These are the main factors that make a good CRPG in my book, and the reason why I play them. There have been many first-person shooters and console action romps which have been wrongly marketed and labeled as "CRPGs" by the ignorant masses in the past few years (I won't name them since we all know which ones they are), so I hope I can finally have the chance to play a real, fully-blown CRPG once again (last one I remember before console franchises and mediocrity ruined the market is BG2). The return of the real CRPG ? I'll drink to that if it becomes true.

Zizou87
Zizou87

How can some compare Oblivion to Biowares RPG's? It's two totally different kind of games. I hope that Dragon Age can come near Baldur's Gate 2 in terms of greatness, if it does it's worth 100$ as stated in a previous comment. BG 2 Has to be the greatest game of all time, including Outcast and that is saying something. I hope the fact that Dragon Age is coming out on console won't spoil the game to much.

Redraven48
Redraven48

How many characters are you allowed to have in your party?

Saije
Saije

@GetsugaTenshou Odd, I hate games where you have to create your whole party.

maxtor
maxtor

This game will be fantastic! Dan Tudge is an awesome art director. I had a job interview with him a couple years back. Great guy. Dragonage looks really good so far. Its been awhile since a good rpg has been made. I believe its the Aurora engine that was used to create this one, but I could be wrong not sure.This will be a nice touch to the 2009 game lineup. And i'm sure it will be a great game among classic rpg fans. Of course the old school ones are great, but its always good to look towards something new. Kudos to Dragonage and Bioware who never disappoints.

rbop
rbop

If this game comes CLOSE to replicating the experience that was Baldur's Gate I'd pay $100 for it. RPG's have gone to hell with all the FF BS that's being force fed to us. We need more games like Baldur's Gate, Phantasy Star II, and Grandia... that's my opinion anyway. Game on!

GetsugaTenshou
GetsugaTenshou

Arf recruitable party nooooooooooooooo Nothing suck more than that , Why we cant create our party like in icewind dale. A first -1 for this game.

distepheno
distepheno

"Stop ACTION RPG, STOP THEM. I want play the old RPG game style. Make more Daggerfall, Oblivion, Gothic or 2worlds game! STOP THE DAMN ACTION RPG GAME!!!" Wtf? I take it you've never heard of Baldurs Gate? It was 7 disks of pure RP joy, that my friend is old-school RPG gameplay. The games that you name are most definatly firmly within the action RPG category. This is basically Baldrus Gate 3 without the DnD liscence and a revamped 3D engine. I know for certain im going to play this with the almost isometric view just to bring them nostalgic tears a flowing.

bashcash007
bashcash007

More Oblivion? Oblivion fails as an RPG. It got everything wrong, from story to combat to leveling and experience to... Need I really say more? And Two Worlds? Really?? If anything, DA:O is the old-school RPG type, and not the games you mentioned. It's definitely NOT an action RPG. I'm glad to see DA:O shaping up to be a seemingly awesome game, although the sudden delay of the PC version really saddens me. :(

FabioPizzini
FabioPizzini

Stop ACTION RPG, STOP THEM. I want play the old RPG game style. Make more Daggerfall, Oblivion, Gothic or 2worlds game! STOP THE DAMN ACTION RPG GAME!!!

Demon_Beaver
Demon_Beaver

"Would you like to add something?" "Yeah. Buy our merchandise" "OK. Thanks" Nice preview, but the ending made me really feel uncomfortable \:

BlazeEagle
BlazeEagle

In these fantasy games, It'd be nice if dragons where playable allies & not just massive enemies. This game sounds interesting,so I hope it truly lives up to it's potential...

thebanewolf
thebanewolf

"Don't forget that Dragon Age: Origins is a dark, heroic fantasy, and there are some pretty twisted things you can choose to do with the magic you wield. Magic is one of the deadliest and most powerful elements in the world of Dragon Age, and there are reasons why the templars keep a close watch on mages" oh yeah baby.. this gives me the feeling of an undead lich talent/path :D

Galinoth
Galinoth

This looks to be a pretty good year for gaming, and here is yet one more game for me to look forward to and unleash my new rig upon!

kayos539
kayos539

"The video look good but the game wont be as good as OBLIVION" Yeah, because unlike Oblivion DA:O actually looks like it has an interesting story...

starcutter20000
starcutter20000

good i hope it's not like oblivion i don't like to wander aimlessly around a world with no real ending to the story in sight.