Blast from the Past
Betrayal and blight in BioWare’s RPG Dragon Age: Origins
If you’re going to take up the fight in the Dragon Age RPG series then you should really start at the very beginning. BioWare introduced its very own mix of low and high fantasy with Dragon Age: Origins, which this month celebrates its tenth anniversary as it launched in November 2009.
It’s a rich medieval universe bursting with magic and all kinds of supernatural creatures, and a few godlike beings too. Before you get into all that though, Origins was aptly named because you actually started your journey in one of six ‘origin stories’ depending on your choice of character to play as. The opening hours of the game are therefore very personal to your would-be hero.
You can play as a high born human noble, a high or low born dwarf of the Deep Roads, an elf living amongst their clan or in the squalor of a human city, or as a mage separated from the rest of the world in seclusion guarded by Templar. Whatever your predetermined origin story every one of your characters eventually meet a man named Duncan, and he’s a Grey Warden.
“You are required to do nothing, least of all believe. Shut one’s eyes tight or open one’s arms wide, either way, one’s a fool.”
It’s from there you get a glimpse at a whole other life and sure enough ‘things happen’ that are unique to each of the origins but the result is the same — your forced to journey with Duncan and soon discover cattle dung is about to hit the windmill. War is on the horizon and it’s being led by an all-consuming host called the Darkspawn, which marks the first Blight in over four centuries.
Rotten luck, eh? There’s good news though because the current King of Ferelden and his totally trustworthy and martially gifted father-in-law Loghain are marching out to meet this threat. Absolutely nothing can go wrong — you just need to split up from the main fight to light a beacon atop a crumbling old tower full of Darkspawn. Light that beacon and you’re done.
Thankfully everything that could go wrong does and so we get to gorge ourselves on tens of hours of adventuring as we travel across all Ferelden, which includes revisiting where your chosen origin story took place. We get to see how these legendary Grey Wardens are made and the terrible burden they must bear in keeping back the Blight. BioWare also created some pretty great companion characters we’ll meet along the way. Some are more useful than others but each is fleshed out with their own mystery, and there’s possibly some romance in the air.
”How odd. We now have a dog and Alistair is still the dumbest one in the party.”
One of the greatest was actually a DLC character called Shale, a sarcastic sentient Golem with a real hatred of pigeons having been stuck in some backwater village effectively as an inanimate statue. It’s to BioWare’s credit they created a real engaging cast of misfits for us to take along. We also get to define their roles in combat with some light scripting and choose their gear.
Dragon Age: Origins doesn’t hold your hand too much in your adventures as some things you just have to discover for yourself. Want the adulation of Redcliffe? Well you’ll need to save absolutely everyone left alive from the continuous onslaught of the dead summoned by a demon-possessed child, who just happens to be the son of a powerful lord who’s fallen into a coma and you need an alliance with. All in a day’s work for a Grey Warden. The Fade though, that’s messed up.
It’s an RPG with tons of spells and abilities, chests full of gear and loot, and a voiceless protagonist with classic dialogue text options. There is definitely a tonnage of RPG greatness in Dragon Age: Origins, and it even got an expansion called The Awakening that let you continue on as a now promoted Grey Warden Commander, should the Hero of Ferelden actually survive your choices.
Where to get Dragon Age: Origins today?
You won’t need to risk the Deep Roads of the web to try and find Dragon Age: Origins today as it’s easily available. You’re best off getting the Dragon Age: Origins – Ultimate Edition as it includes the original game as well as The Awakening expansion and all DLC. You can buy them separately on EA’s Origin store or together through Steam if you prefer.
If you have an Origin Access subscription then you can enjoy Dragon Age: Origins as part of it right now.
Weekly Top Stories Recap
Codemasters goes Slightly Mad
Racing sim studio Slightly Mad Studios has just been acquired by Codemasters. The studio was founded in 2009 and cut their teeth working on Need For Speed for EA, before going on to create Project CARS.
Slightly Mad’s founder and CEO Ian Bell will keep his position as head of the studio, which is diversifying their portfolio with an “unannounced Hollywood blockbuster title.” Codemasters has established itself as a racing game specialist in the last decade, concentrating on series like DiRT, GRID and Formula 1 so Slightly Mad will be in good company.
Maybe it’s time for a Dizzy kart racer?
“We are delighted to bring such an incredible racing game developer to the Codemasters family, and this unequivocally establishes us as a global powerhouse in the development of racing titles,”said Codemasters CEO Frank Sagnier.
Ian Bell added: “Our combined racing games portfolio is the envy of the industry and this new partnership will enable us to learn from each other, share resources and take advantage of emerging platforms and technology.” Could that Hollywood movie game be about racing too?
Codemasters goes Slightly Mad was featured in issue #131 of DailyBits.
Witcher fans are in for ‘good times’
It’s not ready for prime-time just yet, but some critics have already binged on Netflix’s new Witcher series. The reviews are under embargo until December 20th, but not everyone has managed to keep completely quiet. Fortunately, the first impressions seem quite positive!
The show is based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s books and have nothing to do with CD Projekt RED’s interpretation of the Witcher universe – although the show does seem to take some visual cues from the game. For example, Henry Cavil’s Geralt looks a lot like the White Wolf we know and love from the games.
There’s a megathread collecting various opinions on Reddit, collecting various more or less eloquent but undeniably excited outbursts, such as “Embargo sucks but this show shure won’t. And @LHissrich didn’t lie saying that Henry IS Geralt.”
Will Geralt have the Griffin trophy for an extra 10% dismemberment chance?
“The fight choreography is insane. First fight Geralt gets into is beautifully savage. The blend of swordplay and Geralt’s signs is perfection #TheWitcher” tweeted another. Brutal fights and a ruggedly handsome Witcher seems to have awakened the thirst, but us mere consumers will have to wait until The Witcher debuts on December 20th.
Witcher fans are in for ‘good times was featured in issue #130 of DailyBits.
Sony patents ‘scene tagging’
Sony has filed a new patent for something called ‘scene tagging’ which enable developers to inject meta data into screenshots, video or other user-generated content captured from a game.
The patent filing specifically mentions meta data describing “where the recording or screenshot was taken, who was included in the user-generated content, and what objects are found in the user-generated content.” This would make it easier to search for screenshots from particular parts of a game, or video showing how to solve a particular puzzle.
Sharing is caring (patent pending)
Another part of the patent mentions that “the metadata associated with the user-generated content would allow viewers to experience the same events that were recorded.” This could mean that screenshots and videos could include game data like instant replays, ghost cars for racing games or even save games.
The patent even seems to mention virtual and augmented reality: “This technology may use an infrared projector, a camera, a depth sensor, and a microchip to track the movement of objects and individuals in three dimensions.” It’ll definitely be exciting to see what kind of new sharing options PlayStation 5 will offer.
Sony patents ‘scene tagging’ was featured in issue #129 of DailyBits.
VR not a focus for Project Scarlett
Microsoft is the only one of the big three console platform holders who hasn’t at least experimented with VR. Sony has been building and supporting the PlayStation VR platform for years with first-party exclusives, while Nintendo dipped its toes with the Labo VR Kit for Switch – but Microsoft has stayed clear.
Sure, Microsoft is clearly dedicated to the HoloLens augmented reality head-mounted display, but that appears to be an enterprise-grade professional tool priced way beyond what the average consumer will spend on VR gear. Apart from that, Microsoft’s VR presence is limited to streaming Xbox One games to the Oculus Rift.
That doesn’t seem likely to change in the near future: Microsoft’s VP of Gaming Phil Spencer told Stevivor that VR is a part of the Project Scarlett strategy: “I have some issues with VR — it’s isolating and I think of games as a communal, kind of together experience.” said Spencer. “We’re responding to what our customers are asking for and… nobody’s asking for VR. The vast majority of our customers know if they want a VR experience, there’s places to go get those. We see the volumes of those on PC and other places.”
Microsoft’s all about that sweet Mixed Reality
It doesn’t seem like Microsoft is convinced that virtual reality is a good business since “nobody’s selling millions and millions” of VR headsets. Spencer also explained that Xbox users don’t associate the Xbox brand with VR, and does not expect Xbox to become a VR brand. In short, the closest you’ll get to VR on a Microsoft platform is using a competitor’s software and hardware on Windows.
VR not a focus for Project Scarlett was featured in issue #128 of DailyBits.
Google denies Stadia causes Chromecast overheating
Reddit is teeming with claims that prolonged use of Google’s new streaming service Stadia causes Chromecast devices to overheat and stop working.
Google disputes the claims, and simply states that there are “no thermal overheating issue with Chromecast Ultra.” Their engineers have “done extensive testing on the hardware, services and games – this includes tests of long Stadia play and video sessions – and have not seen thermal shutdown problems.” The internet, unsurprisingly, disagrees.
The problem seems to be that the Chromecast heats up over time and drops their internet connection. Chromecasts are somewhat famous for running a bit hot, and it seems like Stadia is pushing the tiny device a bit far.
Since Stadia runs games in the cloud and feeds video to users much like a video streaming service like Netflix, there’s no particular reason for Chromecasts to respond badly to a Stadia stream, but maybe sustained decoding of 4k video at 60 frames per second is too much.
The hot new thing
Overheating hardware is only one of many complaints that have cropped up in the week since Google launched Stadia: Users have complained about input latency, questionable framerates and dubious visuals – including claims that the vaunted 4k premium service delivers upscaled 1080p footage rather than native 4k. Many users simply didn’t receive their Stadia kits on launch day, and the Stadia version of Destiny 2 is apparently desperately underpopulated. Many small streams form a big river, as they say.
Google denies Stadia causes Chromecast overheating was featured in issue #127 of DailyBits.