Made To Wait A Dragon’s Age

Will feature dragons, and ages

We don’t know much about Bioware’s next RPG, reportedly in development for five years now. But we probably think we know a lot about it as, well, their last three games were a liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitle bit similar.

Reassuringly, it’s the Edmonton lot closing the circle. They’ve already shed their Star Wars handcuffs by following up KOTOR with Mass Effect, set in their own Roddenberryesque sci-fi universe, and Dragon Age will see ’em finally step out of Dungeons & Dragons’ shadow and into their own medieval fantasy world. And about time too – a developer with that much clout shouldn’t have to suckle from another man’s elf.

So will it be KOTOR with dwarves, or Baldur’s Gate IIIish? Bioware say the latter, even claiming this is very much Doing It For The Fans – which would be quite the contrast from the canny populism of KOTOR and Mass Effect.

On Wednesday we’ll hopefully get our first clear look at what manner of beast Dragon Age really is, according to Ye Olde Cryptic Website Teaser. If all the talk of dark, gritty storytelling and lasting effects on the world based on player choices rings true, it strikes me this could be 2009’s perfect companion/antidote to Diablo III’s merry meatheadedness.

So long as they’ve not used the Mass Effect combat system, anyway. [Shudder].

Edit – some interesting details on the game, carefully scavenged from dev posts over the months, are collected here. Thanks, MasterBoo!

53 Comments

  1. MasterBoo says:

    Been waiting for this since the announcement on 2002. Hopefully it can walk inside the Baldur’s Gate shoes.

    Anyway, someone at the BW’s forums summed up all the information ever released on the game (spilled by the Devs in the forums): link to forums.bioware.com

  2. cullnean says:

    have to wait and see how they dress/present women in the world :)

    only joking should hopefully be ace woot

  3. Zed says:

    I’ve played way too much BG2. I read:

    So will it be KOTOR with dwarves, or Baldur’s Gate IIIish?

    as: “So will it be KOTOR with dwarves, or Baldur’s Gate Ilyich?” (Ilyich was the dwarf enemy with dialogue lines in Irenicus’ dungeon at the start)

    I played it a lot.

    Edit: Great link, Masterboo. TnxMch.

  4. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    The EDGE preview (from early last year iirc) got me rather interested in this. If they deliver on the promise it could be rather special, but yeah there is always the chance it’ll just slot into the current Bioware RPG template. Which would be a mite disappointing.

    Also, cheers for that link MasterBoo.

  5. The Hammer says:

    Been looking forward to this since it was announced. It’ll finally let me play a Bioware fantasy RPG and not be put off by the blockiness and poor interface.

  6. Jaxtrasi says:

    The last thing I remember reading about Dragon Age before NWVault stopped posting DA dev posts was something like: “No, dragons are not a significant part of the game. Dragon Age is just what that period is called, like Iron Age.”

    Presumably they don’t get *why* the Iron Age was called the Iron Age, nor what non-Bioware fanboys coming to a game called Dragon Age are going to be expecting from it.

  7. The Hammer says:

    Or the appeal of dragons.

  8. Klaus says:

    Ah, I thought there’d be Dragons. :(

    I skip Irenicus’ dungeon every time, I think I’ve only been through it 4 times in total, despite beating the game over a dozen times.

  9. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    There are dragons during this age, as one would fairly expect. The game is not about dragons, however, and the main character has no special relation to them. Nor are they some dominant feature of the world or the story.

    From the Bioware thread MasterBoo linked to, which has increased my confidence in the game turning out to be rather good.

  10. The Hammer says:

    If the hero is not part of a prophecy or is not a sufferer of amnesia, than I shall be HAPPY.

  11. Tak says:

    No kidding, Hammer. It’s amazing to me the amount of fantasy worlds that involve no-name yokels saving the world.

    I’m reminded of GTAIV’s Dragon Brain (or whatever it is) whenever I see the cliche fantasy story now.

  12. Alec Meer says:

    That reminds me – I keep meaning to do a feature interviewing a load of RPGs devs about why they resort to amnesia/how they feel about doing so. /me pitches editors.

  13. Tak says:

    To be fair, sometimes it works. Planescape: Torment being the obvious example.

  14. The Hammer says:

    Blah! Just corrected my wording. Don’t know if anyone took it as me begging for another RPG with an amnesia plotline, but I certainly wasn’t!

  15. Alec Meer says:

    Planescape did, I suspect, very deliberately embrace the stereotype in order to then make something worthwhile out of it. It’s good like that.

  16. Kieron Gillen says:

    I dunno, man. I suspect it’s there’s an easy answer they’ll all say.

    KG

  17. AndrewC says:

    Having the character encounter the world the same way as the player?

  18. born2expire says:

    looking forward to this, as Bioware hasn’t impressed me since BG2.

  19. Kieron Gillen says:

    AndrewC: Yeah. Exacytly. Pre-existing knowledge is an automatic immersion breaker.

    KG

  20. Alec Meer says:

    (Which is why I also said ‘how they feel about doing so’).

  21. cyrenic says:

    I’ve really been looking forward to this game since I read they were drawing a lot of inspiration from George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Fire and Ice” books.

  22. James G says:

    I’m looking forward to Dragon Age, especially as the scant information at the moment seems to suggest it will have a combat system more akin to Baldur’s gate than some of Bioware’s more recent efforts. (That said, Mass Effect’s system is proving better than I had suspected. By making judicious use of the spacebar, coaver, and by tweaking up target-assist, most of the combat feels like I can take a slower tactical approach, rather than one more based on reactions and co-ordination.)

    Also on Mass Effect, it satisfyingly avoided the amnesia/prophesy character origins.

  23. Ohle says:

    Seems like half a career ago that I announced this game behind closed doors at E3. Oh wait, it was! :)

  24. Pidesco says:

    I’m really ambivalent about Dragon Age, as I feel Bioware completely dropped the ball with their titles after BG2. They say that DA will be a return to their innovative ways, but in this case, I guess only seeing will be believing.

  25. Okami says:

    They drew inspiration from Song of Fire and Ice? So they’ll kill off everybody in the game, including the player character and introduce new characters all the time, have the main villain (who’s in love with his sister) become the hero halfway through and kill off major story npcs just before the climatic showdown by having them fall off a horse and drown in a river?

    I’m allready sold!

  26. dhex says:

    this seems…awesome?

    what’s the catch?

  27. cyrenic says:

    @Okami

    Ha, I think they’re going to be more influenced by the setting than the exact narrative :P. “Bad things happen to good people” and that sort of thing.

  28. Subject 706 says:

    @Okami
    Well, to be fair, a FEW of the protagonists of Martin’s books have actually survived all the way through. If Bioware have really drawn inspiration from his books, chances are the game will be ace.
    But since I’m a cynic, I will hope for the best and excpect the worst. That way, if it turns out to be a fantasy version of Mass Effect, I won’t do uncontrolled violence to my computer.

  29. Heartless_ says:

    My recent Baldur’s Gate II itch was thwarted by a funky windows manager issue with Fedora 8 and WINE 1.0 :(

    People hear about Diablo III and go play Diablo II. I hear Dragon Age and I go play Baldur’s Gate II :P

  30. Paul S says:

    @Pidesco: Dropped the ball after BG2? Wait, so you didn’t like KOTOR? What the hell’s wrong with you? Surely that’s the same thing as not liking pudding? Or cuddly pandas?

    My pc won’t play Diablo II. Stupid pc.

  31. EyeMessiah says:

    Meh.

    No boobs.

    Didn’t read.

  32. Pidesco says:

    @Paul S:With KOTOR, Bioware managed to pull off the Star Wars vibe pretty well. And that’s all the good things I can say about it.

    In pretty much every way, KOTOR was a step back from BG2. It was BG2 lite and not in a good way.

  33. Albides says:

    They need a better name. Dragon age just sounds mediocre.

    But after reading the features, it’s sounding somewhat better than your average European medieval fantasy world. Low magic setting sounds nice. No elves as perfect beings in decline. Ancients aren’t paragons, which is nice. An emphasis on worldbuilding culture and religion is good too, but I’d like to see how good.

  34. Devin says:

    Also, re: amnesia and Planescape:

    It’s another of those things that PS:T does only to subvert, like a lot of other CRPG tropes.* The whole game’s about recovering and dealing with your memories. Usually, amnesia means never having to say you’re sorry (and, less flippantly, seeing the world with the same fresh eyes as the player and having all your relationships re-explained to you). In PS:T, that’s the whole game.

    I liked how the Elder Scrolls games traditionally deal with this: No amnesia, just an uncertain origin. No one here knows where you’re from, who you are, or what you do or don’t know, so if you ask, they’ll explain it without thinking you’re anything stranger than a rube, but if you have a clear idea of who you are and where you’re from, there’s nothing to contradict that.

    *A partial list: Dumb, psychotic mage and thoughtful, philosophical warrior, lying angel and truthful devil (more generally, the good guys are dicks (Vhailor) and the bad guys are chill (Annah)), and FedEx quest sequence.

  35. Nallen says:

    Why do the awesome races have to be in decline? Elves, Jedi, Amarr, Jove, other stuff I’ll think of when it’s not an hour earlier than I usually get up.

    Where’s all the games where I’m getting my ass kicked by the super race?

  36. Albides says:

    Protoss, eldar, etc.. It’s a fantasy trope and, I suppose, a holdover from Tolkien, where elves, who represented a pre-Fallen Man and the old mythic age, were withdrawing from the world to make room for the intrepid, inventive new man.

    Viewed purely as storytelling device (which is what they are), they sometimes function as a race of knowledge-guardians, whereas characters like Elminster would function as individuals of this archetype. In this guise, they’re in decline in order to make way for the true players, I suppose. Otherwise, they’re often a cautionary tale about hubris(Eldar, Jedi in KOTOR2).

    As a trope, this is almost as common as the race that exemplifies the Enemy.

  37. Kieron Gillen says:

    Nallen: Because if the awesome races were ascendent we’d realise they’re just a bunch of Nazis who unfortunately are right about them being genetically superior.

    KG

  38. Biscuitry says:

    Personally, I’m not going to touch a game with a title like that unless it has %$#@ing playable dragons. That’ll teach them not to mess with my expectations like that.

  39. SwiftRanger says:

    Biscuitry: so you’re gonna skip Diablo III f.e. as well because you can’t play as Diablo himself (not that I would object to playing him, would be awesome)? :)

  40. Okami says:

    @KG: So all these elder races are basically a bunch of Brucies?

    Hides in shame (a) for coming up with this really bad joke and (b) having needed 9 hours to do so…

  41. born2expire says:

    why does everyone think that star wars is beloved by everyone? well guess what, i didnt like KOTOR, i cant stand star wars, and mass effect was a big fat “meh” from me (prolly cuz i dont like sci-fi), not saying they where bad games just unimpressive to me.

    I totally agree with alot of people when they say bioware dropped the ball after BG2. Glad to see Bioware getting back in the right direction.

  42. Stromko says:

    I actually loved Mass Effect (after some initial frustration) and hated Jade Empire. I enjoyed both KotOR 1 and Baldur’s Gate 2. All I’m saying is it’s a largely subjective measurement when we’re comparing Bioware games to eachother. One could even rate NWN 1 and NWN 2 on different scales.

    There is no chance that Dragon Age will use the Mass Effect combat system anyway so one needn’t worry. The combat is going to play a lot like Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and Neverwinter Nights. I’m actually a bit tired of that game mechanic myself; it’s just detached enough that you have minimal involvement in the fight, and just fast and sloppy enough that you aren’t making any complex decisions. When it works, it’s awesome, it gives you a box of tools and you’re inventing a solution to an encounter or you die. When it falls flat, it’s a tedious, drawn-out march to the next story point.

    Walking from one goblin encounter to the next in some forgettable abandoned mine, or playing through Masquerade: Bloodline’s sewers? I wouldn’t choose either.

  43. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    This talk of races and such reminds me of hearing that Tolkien, later in his life, began regretting the notion of making a whole race (in his case orcs) evil. I think it took nearly half a century for his fantasy imitators to catch on to those same problems with the idea.

    And digging up an old topic, I can’t disagree with anything anybody’s already said on the “amnesiac hero” trope in the thread, but there’s other ways to build, and break, immersion. And in the delightfully meta-minded gaming community, being introduced to your avatar as an amnesiac hero is likely to break immersion instantly. Probably combined with a swift roll-of-the-eyes. And then people who have an honestly good reason to write an amnesiac protagonist have to go explain themselves, saying, “We’ve got a good reason for it! Honest!”

    As far as I know, only Planescape and Escalon did amnesia right. And that’s because they used it as a plot enabler, not a plot device.

  44. Albides says:

    This talk of races and such reminds me of hearing that Tolkien, later in his life, began regretting the notion of making a whole race (in his case orcs) evil. I think it took nearly half a century for his fantasy imitators to catch on to those same problems with the idea.

    There’s also the bigger problem of having imitators at all who are effectively stealing someone else’s ideological toolkit in order to mechanically recapture a sense of nostalgia and place.

    I agree with M John Harrison here.

  45. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    You’re right, though I found his “Aliens” analogy a bit curious. Probably because I liked the second movie more than the others.

  46. Alarik says:

    Please, just not another feeding ‘RPG’ made using bland and tasteless Bioware’s game-creation templates.

    We’ll see… Next BG styled game? :-P Or next Jade Empire dumbed game? :-((( Or next KotOR style game? :-|

  47. Jonas says:

    There are few things I would love more than another game made with Bioware’s game-creation templates. Templates which consist of:

    1) Sprawling dialogue trees
    2) Companions with personality
    3) Splendid character customization and progression
    4) A good amount of freedom
    5) Very decent choice/consequence

    “Oh please no! Not another excellent game like all the other excellent games from Bioware! Please start making linear first-person shooters or sci-fi strategy games like everybody else, Bioware!”

  48. Okami says:

    @Jonas:

    Templates get stale after some time, even if they’re excellent templates. Not even Bioware is safe from repetition.

    Let’s take a closer look at those 5 pillars of Bioware games:

    1) Sprawling dialogue trees: Yes, they sure know how to make solid rpg dialogue trees. But I still found myself clicking through them with KOTOR and Jade Empire. There’s only so much text I’m willing through sit through. BG2 and Planescape, I read every single line and it was just great. I guess it’s got something to do with the characters you meet. I just didn’t like most of the people I met in KOTOR and JE. Didn’t find the characters too interesting.

    2) Yes, they can do that. BG2 and PS:T were great. But KOTOR and Jade Empire I found lacking in that department. The party members were too stereotypical and the system that was at work was too obvious. Especially in KOTOR:

    Land on a new planet. Talk to everybody in your party about their past until they won’t tell you anymore. Maybe do a quest associated with stuff they tell you. Land on the next planet, everybody will have new dialogue options and tell you more about their past. Rinse, wash, repeat.

    KOTOR also shot itself in the knee by giving you no reason to include anything but the Jedi in your active party. Ok, so I have a bunch of really cool characters on my spaceship and I can talk to them and learn about them. Great. But they don’t really feel like party members, because I never use them in gameplay. They could be just another bunch of NPCs for all that matters.

    3) Splendid character customization and progression: Hmmm.. I’m beginning to see a pattern here. BG2 and PS:T yup. (Baldur’s Gate more than Planescape though).

    But KOTOR and JE? In KOTOR you max out your Jedi skills and craft yourself a new lightsaber every now and then. And that’s it. Sure, you can invest in other skills and equipment. But why bother? Same with Jade Empire. There’s a metric ton of different martial arts styles to choose from. And most of them are completely obsolete.

    Character customization should affect gameplay. If there are hundreds of different combinations of skills and pieces of equipment, I want them to be meaningfull in terms of gameplay.

    4) A good amount of freedom: Both KOTOR and Jade Empire felt very linear to me. The only freedom you had was to behave like a saint or a complete dick in some situations. Other games give you far more freedom in what and how to do it.

    Again the problem here was, that the underlying mechanics were too easy to spot. A room full of enemies: I can hack the robot, poison/electrocute them by hacking the security system or just run in and kill them all. I mostly ended up doing all, just to farm the most XP.

    5) Very decent choice/consequence

    The Witcher had decent choice/consequence situations. Recent Bioware games less so. Mostly because decisions usually had instant consequences and very obvious ones too in most cases.

    I guess the problem with recent Bioware games is, that they just got too good at what they’re doing. They had perfected their templates to a degree, where everything worked and was polished to a reasonable amount, but was just lacking a certain kind of soul. You can spot the templates they’re using at first glance. Especially if you’ve played a few of their games.

    Having said all that, I’m still a huge fan of Bioware and I only have the highest hopes for Dragon Age!

  49. Albides says:

    That’s because if you use them often enough, templates become formulas, just as much as the typical high-magic epic fantasy setting with its Ancients and perfect elves.

    Where you see companions with personality, someone else might see blatant stereotypes. Oh, so that’s the character with a mysterious past or dark secret? (If they don’t all have a mysterious past, as it feels like in some Obsidian titles). Oh, she’s the Girl Next Door (with a dark secret!). Right. And that one’s the Dangerous One. And so on and so forth. And when so much of the dialogue hinges on this too obvious characterisation, the sprawling convo trees might as well be about renaissance art for all that I might care.

    And then there’s the choice on consequence, which, IIRC, is a bit hit and miss in Black Isle titles, if not outright manichean. I remember it was worst in Baldur’s Gate, where being altruistic always seemed to pay off.

    And Jonas? We must either like Bioware games or be dubbed insipid action fans? There should be a law akin to Godwin’s rule about strawmen like that.

  50. Lord_Mordja says:

    Well, that was incredibly underwhelming. Take a PR course with Blizzard, hmm?