BioWare may continually refer to Dragon Age: Origins as a spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate, but that game came out a long time ago, and for one reason or another Origins left us a little cold at E3 in July. Certainly we had none of the excitement left by Blizzard after Diablo III was revealed in style back in June.
So, feeling we may have missed something, we sought out Dragon Age: Origins game director and executive producer Dan Tudge for some answers on what has been an unusually secretive project - even by BioWare's standards - which now finds itself only months away from release. Thankfully what he had to say turned our needle very much back to "excited".
Eurogamer: How do you think Dragon: Age Origins was received after its unveiling at E3?
Dan Tudge: Our fans are definitely very excited; they've been waiting a long time for a fantasy RPG from BioWare and we defintely showed them what they wanted to see.
Eurogamer: What about people expecting something immediately exciting like Mass Effect - do you feel they've been mislead?
Dan Tudge: Well we've always said we were going to deliver a core fantasy RPG experience for our core users; this is like we mentioned at E3 of really returning to our roots. This was really the spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate, and honestly I think we really delivered on that.
Eurogamer: What are the revolutionary bits in Origins? To us it looks quite similar to Neverwinter Nights.
Dan Tudge: The actual Origins stories are actually your first two hours of gameplay, where you actually play your origins. And the choices that you make within your origin stories really change the lens on the way you perceive the world and the way the world perceives you. What's unique there is not just selecting your class, your character - although you are doing all of that, but you're actually playing your origins, playing the birth of your character. Honestly, rather than just selecting your character class, you're actually role-playing your character right from the very beginning and creating that character.
Eurogamer: What about game mechanics, what haven't we seen before?
Dan Tudge: I can't really go into the full details, but a subtle Origins example is something that I found very emotionally compelling. I was playing one of our origins stories and I actually had a situation where I had a very, very close friend within my origin... And to become a Grey Warden I had to make a difficult choice and had to leave my friend behind to what I felt was certain death. Playing through the game several hours later, I was actually doing a dungeon crawl underneath the city and I came across a prison area, and one of the individuals in one of the prison cells was my friend that I left behind, and I was actually elated because I had the opportunity to actually save him. Now I had picked any other origins he would have been some non-discreet player, but to me he was my friend. So it's a very subtle thing but very emotionally compelling.
Eurogamer: How dramatic will your choice of origin be on the game? Will it all come to the same point sooner or later anyway?
Dan Tudge: I'm not, obviously, going to give away any spoilers, and you'll see much more at Leipzig about what we're doing with origin stories.
Eurogamer: Are we right in thinking Dragon Age: Origins is not based on Dungeons & Dragons?
Dan Tudge: Absoulety it is not, yeah. We're based entirely on our own rule-set. We spent a lot of time developing the Dragon Age universe, and really the rule-set within the universe, the fiction within the universe, the characters, the people that inhabit it, the creatures... Dragon Age: Origins is really just the beginning, the first entertainment that we can put in the universe. We've got a lot of great plans for the universe.
Eurogamer: Can you tell us a bit about the rule-set and system in Dragon Age: Origins and how levels, character customisation, feats, spells, combos, etc. will work?
Dan Tudge: I talked a little bit at E3 about the spell combos, which is a feature I'm really, really excited about, where you can actually use spells to interact with each other. We hope this encourages a lot of exploration and experimentation. I've often used two mages in my party, which is really awesome because we can sort of tag-team spells together. Obviously, as well, all the classes have talents and skills, and all of those through levelling up can be grown.