The End of a Dragon in Dragon Age: Origins

Combat and story are two integral pieces of the puzzle known as gaming, but they're absolutely essential in almost every roleplaying game that exists. However, few studios place as much emphasis on both aspects of the gameplay as BioWare does, so it comes as no surprise that the last portion of their GamesCom 2009 demonstration of Dragon Age: Origins featured a fight with a dragon the size of a small house. Intrigued? Come check out the rest of the story!

The High Dragon, compared to the adventurers, was absolutely enormous, looking like a small house compared to the likes of Leliana, Wynne, and Morrigan. As our party engaged the beast, the creature immediately began to waylay into us, using all of its attacks to destroy the party. But the party did the same to the beast.

In most roleplaying games, the content of the title in question is
often served up either through storylines or combat. Depending on the
RPG in question, you might get a more of one than the other –
JRPGs are notoriously long-winded when it comes to story and the Diablo
series is a great action-RPG – but these two elements are
always in integral part of the roleplaying game experience.

href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/72887" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: right;" src="/image/view/72887" />

Dragon Age: Origins
is no exception. Along with the vast array of
choices placed in front of your every step of the way, the ability to
get to those decisions is derived from your skill with a blade or the
magical forces. While the combat system still hasn’t been
detailed in full – nor will it be in this article –
we did get a glimpse of it during the GamesCom 2009 demo.

To start, if you haven’t read yesterday’s column
“The Consequences of True Choice,” please href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/72908" target="_blank">go
back
and read it now. Since this is coming at the end of Mike
Laidlaw’s temple walkthrough, his party decided to clear a
path for pilgrims to see the Urn of Sacred Ashes. Unfortunately, one of
the game’s nastiest predators, a High Dragon, perched atop a
cliff face just waiting for them to come and try their hand at killing
it.

The High Dragon that we encountered outside of the temple was a massive
creature (as you can href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/72904" target="_blank">see
from the screenshots). Unlike the
dragons that you’ve seen in style="font-style: italic;">Dungeons and Dragons
or in the
movie Dragonheart,
the High Dragons in DA:O are sleek and almost snake-
or horse-like in appearance. As with most of the other scenes in the
game, the creature is absolutely gorgeous and the animators certainly
took their time creating this monstrosity.  

But it was as deadly as it was beautiful. Mike Laidlaw was on hand to
give us some of the details about what the dragon could do.

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“The dragon is certainly equipped to take on our entire
party,” he explained. “It can attack in full 180 or
360 degrees. It can sweep with its tail, kick with its back feet,
buffet people with its wings, and blast people with fire, to name a few
attacks. Up until this point in the game, this is
probably one of the biggest fights you’ve ever
seen.”

And Laidlaw wasn’t joking. And Laidlaw wasn’t
joking. The High Dragon, compared to the
adventurers, was absolutely enormous, looking like a small house
compared to the likes of Leliana, Wynne, and Morrigan. As our party
engaged the beast, the creature immediately began to waylay into us,
using all of its attacks to destroy the party. But the party did the
same to the beast. Wynne and Morrigan stood at range with their magic
spells, blasting away at the creature with all sorts of effects that
appeared to be based on electricity, fire, and some sort of darker
energy that wasn't completely obvious at first glance. The male
protagonist stood at the front lines with his sword-and-board, hacking
at the creature while Leliana moved around behind the monster.

But the scariest part of the whole encounter was the moment where
driver of the demo pulled the entire party back out of range. That's
when the audience knew their worst nightmare: The dragon fights
intelligently. Rather than simply lumbering about and chasing the enemy
with the highest aggro, the High Dragon decided to launch itself into
the air and take on any party member that had drawn its ire. Sword and
magic collided with scale over and over again.

When it was clear that the High Dragon was not going to be killed in
the length of the demo time (an example of just how tough this monster
was) Laidlaw gave the signal and pulled a little developer magic. The
dragon was brought down to almost no health and finally killed, but not
just by a simple swing of the sword. On the contrary, Leliana jumped
onto the head of the dying dragon like some sort of crazed spider
monkey and proceeded to dig her daggers into the beast’s head
time and time again. Blood sprayed everywhere – as was
necessary with a creature that size – and finally the
creature fell. The developers made it sound like this sort of cinematic
ending to high end creatures wasn't a one time occurrence, but might
happen much more often than that.

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The demonstration ended with Leliana standing over the downed creature.
Whether it was the developers intention or not, a lot was left unsaid
and a lot of questions went unanswered. Would someone else employ the
kill shot if Leliana wasn’t in the party? How long does the
dragon fight actually take? Is there a way to not fight the dragon at
all?

All of those questions remain floating in the ether, and none will be
answered until people begin getting their hands on the game. But the
very fact that we have these questions is proof that people are
interested in what BioWare’s doing. Let’s just hope
they deliver on all of their promises.


To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Dragon Age: Origins Game Page.

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