Dragon Age: Origins



Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: 11.03.2009

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GamesCom Demo Impression

Warning!! This impression contains spoilers for a questline in Dragon Age: Origins.

With Dragon Age: Origins, BioWare seeks to change everything we know about choice in games. Dubbing player decisions in the game "Choice 2.0," good and evil may be things of the past. In Dragon Age, morally ambiguous decisions will be the name of the game.

To demonstrate "Choice 2.0" BioWare showed off one of Dragon Age's questlines where players seek out a very powerful ancient religous artifact. The King of Redcliffe, also leader of one of the last standing human armies in Ferelden, has been badly poisoned and is on his deathbed. Attempts to cure him have failed miserably, with demons and such involved, making this anything but a normal poisoning. The last hope seems to be the sought after artifact, an urn lost for centuries that holds the ashes of the most holy prophet of the Chantry.

"In Dragon Age, morally ambiguous decisions will be the name of the game."

BioWare told us that getting to the urn is not easy because of a corrupted cult that formed to protect it. A series of trials must also be completed, called "The Gauntlet," of which one was shown. This trial required the player to remove all of his equipment to walk through a wall of fire. Upon making it to the urn, two party members exclaim what an honor it is to discover something so sacred, and these party members are key to the effects of making choices in Dragon Age.

Now, these ashes are extremely powerful. They can cure anything, and could possibly create an immortal. If they were to land into the wrong hands, it would be very, very bad. Without question, end of the world bad. Once players have a pinch of the ashes to cure the King, the question remains: what to do with the rest of the urn? Leaving such a powerful artifact intact could be dangerous, but destroying it would be considered sacrilidge.

BioWare demonstrated the effects of wanting to ensure that these ashes never fall into the wrong hands, and had the party destroy the ashes. The two party members that exclaimed such honor earlier, are enraged. They, along with the urn chamber's guardian, attack the main character and his remaining party members. At the end of the battle, the offended party members are dead (assuming the player wins the battle), for good.

Characters in Dragon Age are not necessarily good or evil. They have their own motives, moral compasses, emotions, etc. It was very cool to see how the two party members objected so much that they would sacrifice their lives to avenge the act of destroying the ashes, and it drove home how choice truly matters in Dragon Age.

But, it doesn't end here. Part of the reason that the player's party was able to find the urn was thanks to the help of a scholar waiting just outside the chamber. When he hears that the urn was inside, he exclaims his happiness and plans to spread the word of the urn's location across the land. Again, for the greater good, to avoid more cults and who knows what else forming around the discovery of such a holy place, it may be best to convince the scholar to keep it a secret. The scholar declines, so once again the player must decide to kill him for the "greater good" or not. Again, this could be considered an evil choice, but the purpose of this one man's death (an interesting death involving a knife and his head, by the way) is to save many lives in the process.

So, what would happen if the player does not destroy the ashes? BioWare showed us. The previously slain party members remain alive, of course, but players can also take it upon themselves to truly clear a path to the urn's spot of holy ground, helping the aforementioned scholar in his ultimate goal. Just outside sits a High Dragon in his natural environment, not an easy fight, but one that must be mounted to make the urn's resting place safe. The dragon attacks with its tail, back feet, buffets with its wings, etc, and has quite a bit of health. After some developer magic, the party's rogue takes down the dragon in bloody fashion. The effects of leaving the ashes be will be made known later in the game.

This demo overall showed how Dragon Age: Origins could really change what we think about choices in games, taking a more realistic view of good and evil and in-between. People in real life have personalities, not alignments, as do the characters in Dragon Age: Origins. Decisions will apparently no longer be one of two, and will not affect party characters in definitive ways. Pay attention to your team's personalities, or you might end up in a fight to the death.

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