5 things I learned about Dragon Age

edited to add a link to the review: Read it here — it’s now up on the web.

PC Gamer this month features a glossy and rather glowing full review of Dragon Age — this one is notable partly because of the writing but also because the reviewer played the whole thing through to the end (he comments that it took him about 80 hours for his first epic playthrough). Even the editor notes:

The last two months have been excrutiating. We’ve had Dragon Age in the office for what feels like an epoch, and John’s been raving about how sensational it is almost daily.

There’s also a pre-review in Eurogamer. And as a sign of EA’s confidence in the game, they note:

It’s an important game, then; we got an indication how important (and how big) when publisher EA started distributing a complete PC review version to press months before its release. That never happens.

OK, enough of the behind the scenes stuff, what have we learned about the game itself.

  1. There will be two modes of play. Easy which is similar to MMO style play, and Normal where you can pause to set up actions for each party member repeatedly during the fight.
  2. In addition, you will be able to set up combat tactics for members of your party, similar to the way you could program behaviour into your party in FFXII. So you can set them to heal when they get low on health, switch from range to melee weapons, and so on. It sounds as though it can get quite complex if that’s what you want.
  3. Similarly, if you are interested in picking out a complex talent and skill spec for your character and party you can do it. If not, they can be set to skill up automatically along preset paths.
  4. Dwarvish culture — we’ve heard a bit about the elves, humans and mages. Dwarves have a complex caste system by which young dwarves take the same caste as their same-sex parent (ie. dwarf girls get their caste from their mother, dwarf boys from their father.) Then there are casteless dwarfs, unrecognised as members of society and with their ancestry removed from dwarven history (so presumably their children are fated to follow in their footsteps.)
  5. How your fellow party members feel about you will affect some romance options (apparently there are gay romance options too, my money is on the naughty tattooed witch for the female one because only ‘naughty’ girls are ever allowed to be bi in games, but I’d be happy to be proved wrong) but also give them gameplay buffs, unlock personal quests, and determine whether they leave or not.

If there was one comment in the PC Gamer review that really intrigued me, it was discussing  NPC vendors who follows you around:

Treat them as more than a shop, talk to them, and the details of their past emerge along with a surprising ethical quandary.

What I’d give for an NPC merchant in a MMO who rewarded you for treating them as more than a shop! In any case, the reviews sound as though the game is everything it has been described as and more. Reviewers praise the immersiveness of the setting and the sense of detail and having experienced a world, not just a game.¬† Phrases like ‘the RPG of the decade’ and ‘it feels like the consummate, traditional PC RPG’ are not bandied around lightly.

How will I survive the countdown to release date now, dammit?! I already decided that my first character will be the city elf fighter — the city elf beginning involves a wedding, an abduction, and possibly a rape, so I’ll try to model her on The Bride from Kill Bill. Anyone else got any ideas for characters?

[rhetorical question: I’ll survive by playing Torchlight, clearly. And maybe playing Dragon Age Journeys, the free flash game that goes live tonight.]

RT @all Apparently social networking is big with the kids these days

Tipa@West Karana and Pete@Dragonchasers have both written about the new Dragon Age: Origins character creator that was released yesterday. Dragon Age: Origins, for those who don’t follow upcoming games, is due to be released in November by Bioware and is a single player RPG, along a similar style to the Baldur’s Gate series. It’s going to be a large game and Bioware have been churning out loads and loads of trailers for it —¬† for example, each different character origin has its own video.

I love these kinds of games, even though I have a really poor track record for actually completing them. This one is going to involve lots of downloadable content (the first DLC module that you can pay for is going to be available on the same day that the game is released, which is possibly being just a little over-eager), and … err … vast amounts of blood spraying all over the place if the website is anything to go by.

What’s more interesting is that Bioware are launching a new social website based around Dragon Age. You can upload character portraits from the character creator already to your account and share them with friends, and will be able to upload achievements, information about where it is in the story, and talent/skill choices. Naturally you can also message other people through the site, use it to host dragon age blogs, and organise project teams to create new dragon age modules and addons with the toolset that’s coming with the game.

It’s a different take from Blizzard’s battle.net which seems to be more about being able to message people while they are in game and organise good matches for SC2 battles.

I do wonder how many social networking sites most players really want to keep up with — one for every different manufacturer is already starting to feel like a hassle. But I applaud Bioware for letting me create a pretty female dwarf (whilst cursing them for putting together a city elf background that actually tempts me to play an elf) and if anyone wants to friend me there, my username is Spinksville.