Day two here at E3 has revealed some further information on the most anticipated games of 2009, as Valve opened up the day with a “behind closed doors” playable demo of Left 4 Dead 2. Not to be outdone, EA and Bioware continued to show off their new IP and latest venture into the fantasy realm, Dragon Age: Origins. Oh, and there will be dragons in the game, in case you weren’t aware. Hit the jump for outstanding gameplay footage.
As lead designer Mike Laidlaw ushered Gamer Limit into a dark and scary hole in a far off corner of the show floor, we were greeted by a very impressive trailer that showcased the sheer gruesomeness and violence that DA:O will offer. Massive armies preparing for full-scale war stretched across vast landscapes and as they converged, blood began splattering combatants in a way that can simply be described as realistic. This blood did not just disappear after the fighting ended; the character sported blood from his enemies across his face and body, keeping true to the mature themes of the game that Bioware has advertised from the its announcement back in 2004.
As the video played, Laidlaw relayed some fresh details about the game, specifically pertaining more to how the plot will unfold. The overall arching story revolves around ancient defenders of the known world, the Grey Wardens, and their struggle to control the inevitable and impending return of The Blight, an event that corrupts one of the Old Gods (dragons) into an Archdemon and brings ruin to the world above. The blight, not to be confused with “The Blight,” is the disease spread by the darkspawn that corrupts all living organisms and changes them into deformed versions of the original selves. The Grey Wardens take it upon themselves to prevent the The Blight from occurring, and have protected the the realm for over centuries by doing, as Laidlaw stated, “whatever it takes.”
When the trailer ended, Laidlaw began a demo of a playable build from the PC that instantly impressed the room. A familiar MMO HUD graced the screen, complete with minimap in the top right corner, hotkeys stretched across the bottom, and menu options centered at the top of the screen. Laidlaw dove right into some character development among party members the player will meet across his or her adventure, specifically the romance options a male character will encounter.
By conversing with party members, the characters will build a certain level of trust with the player and can become inspired by him or her, increasing the combat values of said character as player inspiration reaches new heights. The PC demo displayed a romance with the shapeshifting sorceress Morrigan (after numerous flirtation attempts) after appealing to her magical side and giving her a magical artifact as a gift. After finding out that Morrigan’s tent is just a wee bit on the cold side and she could use some company to “keep her warm,” a Mass Effect style sex scene began, accompanied by some classy piano music, which was abruptly ended by Laidlaw, stating that some things are “best left as a teaser.”
What I found most interesting, though, was how certain characters acted after your horizontal shuffle with Morrigan. One of the other love interests, Leliana, was found to be completely crushed by your sexcapades down in the cold tent, presumably because Laidlaw had fleshed out a romance with both female characters. She gives the player an ultimatum: her or me, in which Laidlaw left up to his audience. Realizing that a shapeshifting sorceress held infinite possibilities in the sack, I was first to blurt out to stay with Morrigan. However, in choosing Morrigan, Leliana will lose trust in the player, and if her or any characters disapproval level drops to a certain level, they may leave the player’s party or to the most extreme level, attempt to stop your path by taking up arms against you.
Laidlaw continued the demo and showed some plot points that revolve around Morrigan and her mother, Flemeth, the ancient witch of the woods. She has artificially lengthened her life and has been living for centuries. Morrigan has asked the player to confront her mother and finally put an end to her long, drawn out life. Yet, Flemeth has a trick or two up her sleeve, as she turns into one of the most impressive looking dragons I’ve ever seen in a video game. Word do no justice to this battle, take a look at the video from the E3 show floor.
After Laidlaw finished showcasing the PC demo, I had a chance to get my hands on a playable demo for the Xbox 360. If you’re familiar with the Diablo clone Sacred II: Fallen Angel, you’ll find a very familiar interface. Abilities are set to the X, Y, and B buttons, while the general action button is mapped to A. You can have up to six abilities mapped, changing sets on the fly with the use of the right trigger.
As I progressed through the dungeon that the demo showcased, I found that combat isn’t exactly as smooth as it seems on the PC version. As you close in on the enemy, you’ll find yourself repeatedly tapping the A button to continue your attack, which didn’t seem very efficient and wasn’t exactly the funnest part of the demo. Yet, I did find myself satisfied enough with the combat, as blood splattered across my face and chest, and appeared “as is” throughout the ensuing cutscene. My demo experience quickly came to an end, but I left the corner room thoroughly impressed.
Look for a simultaneous release of Dragon Age: Origins this October 20th.
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