Games: What spawned the success of Bioware’s 2009’s Game of the Year Dragon Age: Origins?

Following Dragon Age 2’s release, Sam Rawks asks what made the original so successful

In October 2009, gamers across the world were enthralled by the trailer for Bioware’s new Openworld, Dragon Age: Origins (DA:O). Incredible CGI sequences left people questioning whether the actual game could deliver the high levels of dramatic intensity it promised.

Following its première, Bioware’s forums were ablaze with chatter debating the authenticity of the promotional footage, with one contributor saying: “I wouldn’t go making gameplay assumptions from this trailer if I were you.”

Wise words, my friend. Of course, we know now that Morrigan can’t kill a High Dragon with a single spell but at the time we were ready to believe it.

When November 2009 swung around, DA: O was released to the world. While it boasted an impressive theatrical trailer, it was clear the gameplay wouldn’t be as simple as annihilating a boss in one go.

The game would have been far too easy, and ultimately boring, but Sacred Ashes obviously wasn’t the driving force behind DA:O’s addictiveness, merely a prelude.

One of the most important aspects of DA: O was its expansiveness. How many separate areas in Denerim (capital city of Ferelden – the main setting) are there?

The ‘places’ section of Denerim’s page on the Dragon Age wiki counts 19 different locations either intrinsic to the main plot, or appearing within optional side quests.

That’s a lot of city you can put off seriously visiting until you’ve completed most of the main plot, depending on the order in which you perform events.

DA:O had 111 side quests spread across 10 main areas. These sometimes involved travelling across half of Ferelden to reach – clearly a game for the hardcore ‘completionist’ to say the least.

The main plot provided 13 lengthy quests that had to be tackled in order to defeat the Archdemon and finish the game.

Perhaps also a redeeming feature is how much there is do at any given time in DA:O, meaning you are seldom bored when wandering through Ferelden.

As with so many contemporary RPGs, freewill was combined with a simple moral choice system meaning your actions affected and shaped the world around you.

The main quests usually had three ways to complete them: either by helping one of two characters to the ill effects of another, or saving both through a compromise.

Your actions throughout the game even dictated the eventual outcome to the narrative, with four different endings available.

DA: O was massively successful with critics, scooping up a plethora of awards from various gaming publications, leading gamers to ask if the imminent sequel will be able to match or even surpass it.

Based on Dragon Age 2’s trailer, it’s already looking like a must-buy. With no dragon-slaying on show, it instead displays a stylistic approach to fighting a monstrous demon.

Magically enhanced long sword in hand, the main character (revealed to be called Hawke) takes a heavy blow to the stomach and appears fatally wounded as the demon closes in on him.

The hero looks helpless, his end in sight. But does he have an ace up his sleeve… or in his armour at least?

His life flashing before his eyes (handily revealing more of the game) he initiates some form of magic by touching a mark on his arm and distorts space to pull the demon’s arms off and rip him clean apart.

I certainly hope DA2 is packed with aces like these to help you out in a tight spot. Perhaps based on a collect & spend points system of magic though, so you can’t use it to easily annihilate your way through the game.

Trailers produced using CGI sequences rather than showing actual game footage are, however, notorious for promising more than they can actually deliver. Will DA2 be able to live up to its alleged promise?

Dragon Age 2 was released on March 8

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