In anticipation for E3, Electronic Arts held an event at their Los Angeles office to showcase their upcoming games. Chief among these was the Tolkien-esque fantasy outing Dragon Age: Origins, the newest role-playing games from the masters of the form, BioWare.
Except that this newest game of theirs doesn’t actually look or play so new. During a hands-on session with the PC version of the game, which followed a brief developer demo, we were struck by how much the game recalled relatively older RPGs such as World Of WarCraft far more than such modern recent games as Fallout 3 or BioWare’s own Mass Effect. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it is something you should know.
For starters, the layout of the HUD was very classic PC adventure game style, with rows of small buttons along three of the four sides that let you switch between the four characters (left side) or pick your action (bottom). The viewpoint also had a classic feel, as you could use the mouse’s wheel to switch between a WarCraft-esque behind-the-character view to an aerial one that recalls Baldur’s Gate.
Dragon Age: Origins Violence Trailer
Even the game’s conversation system is a classic one, as it (at least in the version we saw, this might change) pulls up three or four dialog choices in a list, and has you pick the exact words you’ll say after the person you’re talking to is done speaking, as opposed to the Mass Effect’s wheel of general sayings you chose while the other person was talking, which made that game feel like it had more naturally-flowing conversations.
While Dragon Age looks to be an action RPG, it is not a hack & slash intensive one. Or rather, it doesn’t work as one. Like all actions, combat is done through the mouse. You point the cursor at an enemy and click the right mouse button, and your character does whatever attack you’ve chosen from the bottom buttons.
But while this works well if you’re shooting an arrow or casting a spell, it’s not as effective when you’re wielding a sword or other melee weapon. It still works the same, it’s just that if you’re close enough to hack someone, then they’re close enough to slash you, and in this game, these actions don’t come as fast and furious as in most action games; the swinging doesn’t keep up with your button mashing. As a result, sword fights typically play out as such: you smack a guy, he smacks you, you smack a guy, he smacks you, and whoever is stronger and/or has the better melee weapon wins.
Granted, it’s not as polite (read: dull) as a turn-based RPG, but for someone who likes to mash buttons as much as mash potatoes, its frustrating.
Still, for someone who usually picks the magic-wielder or arrow-shooter in these kinds of games, Dragon Age: Origins is shaping up nicely. It looks to have a deep story, is no slouch in the graphics department even when you play with the Baldur’s Gate-like view (though they did have it running on some nice PCs, and the depth in attack types bodes well for the rest of the game. I just wish you could whack people effectively. Still, we’re curious to see how it plays -- even more so on the 360 and PS3 than the PC -- when the game comes out this Fall.