A little birdy reveals Dragon Age III. Anyone surprised?

As is the norm for modern day reveal, BioWare have chosen Twitter as a good place to coyly announce the development of Dragon Age III. Yep, a third is on the way, hot on the heels of the second which released just a few months ago. Senior director of creative development, Alistair McNally, tweeted the studio’s need for “exceptional environment artists,” purposely using the tag #DragonAge3 to cause all kinds of “OMG”s on the social site.

It’s no surprise that game number three is in the works for a franchise as popular as Dragon Age but it amused me to read the want for more environment artists after the criticisms of DA2. One of its sticking points was how you seemingly visited the same location over and over again, heavily relying on recycled backgrounds. Are BioWare looking to right the wrongs of repetition? It would appear that way.

Lets hope the team get a little longer to work on Dragon Age III than they did with the second though. A famously short development timescale soured more than an ignorable number of gamers but EA boss John Riccitiello has gone on record (via That Video Game Blog) with his desire for annualising the publisher’s top properties. That could very well mean Dragon Age, Dead Space and Medal of Honor (to name a few) would have yearly iterations instead of the 18 month – 2 year breathing space that is good for certain IPs. This may not be a such a bad thing as it clearly works for Call of Duty and sport games so why not for all types? Well we’ve seen the crushing effect of milking a franchise for all its worth with the demise of Guitar Hero and subsequently Rock Band too. Given the breadth and scope of fantasy RPGs like Dragon Age, the more time they have, they better then experience and less likely they are to have you running around a dungeon wondering whether you’ve been there before.

Still, a third Dragon Age huh? Cool. I’d best get cracking on the second one just in case it does appear around March 2012.

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Mass Effect 3 delayed, Mass Effect portable okayed.

The official Facebook page for Mass Effect 3 had some bad news yesterday as it posted a message saying the game has been pushed back into early 2012 instead of holiday 2011 when it was said to come out. Executive producer Casey Hudson wrote: Mass Effect 3 will be released in the first three months of 2012. The development team is laser focused on making sure Mass Effect 3 is the biggest, boldest and best game in the series, ensuring that it exceeds everyone’s expectations.”

I can’t but wonder if this has anything to do with the outcry towards Dragon Age II and its many recycled dungeons. At the start of March, composer Inon Zur spoke to IGN about his involvement with the fantasy game saying how it was a bit if a rushed job due to EA wanting to “capitalize on the success of Origins,” pressing BioWare hard for it to be released sooner rather than later. Only 14 months stand between Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II and for some players it really showed. If it were allowed the appropriate breathing space, it’s probable that the gameplay could have matched the high quality story telling that DA2 is said to possess.

What happened to BioWare’s other triple A franchise may have nothing to do with the delay but I’d imagine it would at least be at the back of their minds. The time between Mass Effect 2 and 3 would have been a fair amount longer in comparison if it were to come out this year but an extra few months to really tighten up the code could be the difference between an award winning game and one that’s not quite up to par.

On top the the news about the set back, EA listed a handheld/mobile release for Mass Effect 3 and Battlefield 3 too. It comes as no surprise when EA are actively pursuing the mobile space and already have both franchises on the iPhone. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has an iOS version as does Mass Effect who received a prequel to ME2. However, it needs to be said that neither of them are very good. Though mobile phones aren’t necessarily the avenue here because we could just as likely see a 3DS or NGP versions which would be a lot more interesting if true. Whatever they end up being, I’m hoping the Battlefield 3 (coming late 2011) and Mass Effect 3 (early 2012) portable won’t be watered down ports but follow the brilliant Dead Space on iPhone and create there own unique experiences.

Pre-order the pre-owned

There are very few people who can say they’ve never purchased a pre-owned game. They’re cheaper, sometimes easier to obtain and for the most part, identical to a brand new copy. But because publishers and developers get boned when their games gets resold with all the profit going elsewhere, a wave a initiatives are being implemented in order to try and get people to keep their copies. Things like DLC, day-one bonuses and passes for online play. Whose to blame? The finger is usually pointed at retailers who buy back titles for obscenely low price then reprice it at a similar price to brand new ones. Once stockist, Game, is turning that finger back, adding another next to it as if to signal a big ‘up yours’ to the publishers by offering a service to pre-order pre-owned games (via Eurogamer). For £33.99 you can have the chance to play either Fight Night Champion, WWE All-Stars, Virtua Tennis 4, Crysis 2, Homefront, Dragon Age II, Shift II: Unleashed or Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 a week later than their released dates. The claim is you’ll be saving £16 off the RRP but it’s rare that games ever go on sale at £49.99 and flitter around the £39.99 price. So for six quid less and at least (it must be stressed) a week after release, you could finally get to play the game you want.

It’s odd, isn’t the idea of pre-ordering a game usually done by those who want to play it straight away and are often of the hardcore persuasion? Seems a bit weird to me and I’m sceptical as to whether it’ll catch on. Sceptical and hopeful too. To me, if a game is worth pre-ordering, I wouldn’t want to wait and miss out on potential content. And what do Game think the publishers will make of it? They’re continuing moving towards a market without physical retail stores so you would have thought Game would want to stay in their good books eh?

Nom nom Dragon Age nom II

The release of Dragon Age II is almost upon us with only a month or so left to wait. As with all games, the ESRB who rates games for the appropriate audiences, have updated their site (via Video Game) detailing the kinds of things that can be expected. It’s a Mature game, so 18 in the UK and features “Blood and Gore, Language, Sexual Content and Violence.” Nothing new eh? Sounds like the description to Dragon Age: Origins. Dismemberment and copious amounts of blood splatter are yet more inclusions that aren’t out of place in a BioWare fantasy game in fact, Dragon Age is known for coating characters in blood even when fighting rats.

That’s all fine, sure some would like these types of games banned for their gore but the biggest upset to those with an overly moral statue comes when any kind of sexual encounter is mentioned, especially same-sex couples. Rockstar’s Bully caused a stink when the main character could engage in the act of kissing with another boy and Dragon Age: Origins raised a few eyebrows because it allowed players to be gay (heaven forbid!) Again, thankfully, such dated critics tend to get ignored by the majority but BioWare are tempting them out of silence with Dragon Age II and its fellatio scene. Yep, in between slaying all kinds of nasties, players can find alternative ways to unwind with a chosen mate: “In one cutscene, a woman kneels in front of a male character and appears to perform fellatio – there is no depiction of the sex act; the camera pans out to the rest of the room. The words ‘a*s,’ ‘bastard,’ and ‘sh*t’ appear in dialogue.” Lets be clear, there is NO depiction of the act just the suggestion though the fact that one of the two begins cursing up a storm would indicate something isn’t quite right…

This seems to be a move forward for BioWare who, in Mass Effect, showed some side-boob and a love scene similar to any prime time TV show. In the first Dragon Age the sex was toned down and Mass Effect 2, although full of clever camera angles to show off Miranda’s ‘best side’, was relatively tame with its bedroom gymnastic scene. The usual kissing and cuddling ending in two people laying in bed has always been the acceptable way of including sex but anything else, like fellatio, tends not to be part of it. ESRB’s description sounds as if BioWare are keeping the adult themes classy so not too rattle anyone’s cage and make a case for sex in games not to be a churlish mini-game. Greg Zeschuck and Ray Muzyka, the top guys at BioWare, have always expressed their interest in making adult focused video games and this to me seems like another step towards that and should be applauded. Just wash your hands first.

Dragon Age II demo confirmed

The ‘will they, won’t they’ saga of BioWare releasing the rumoured Dragon Age II demo to consoles has come to an end with the developer announcing that it will indeed and in a matter of weeks too. February 22nd is the date for Xbox 360 and PS3 owners to circle in their diaries (if you keep a diary and not rely on scraps of paper as I do!), introducing us to Hawke, DA2‘s protagonist as well as three different classes. The demo gives us the chance to play through the game’s prologue where on completion, a brand new location, Kirkwall, becomes available. There, Isabela, a romantic interest and smuggler will be waiting. Once all the schmoozing is out the way and the demo wraps up, anyone who goes on to play the full game of Dragon Age II unlocks Hayder’s Razor, an dwarven blade with the ability to increase health, mana and combat abilities.

So what will the world make of Hawke and the new console-focused control scheme? The original Dragon Age didn’t have a pre-release demo, nor did a lot of BioWare properties, suggesting that maybe the team feel they have something to prove, that DA2 will be as good a game as the first if not better. A large number of media outlets have positive previews about the game and being a developer with such a brilliant track record, I don’t think there’ll be much to worry about.

Dragon Age II gameplay video emerges

Vodpod videos no longer available.

At this year’s Moscow Igromir Game Expo, one attendant captured around five minutes of gameplay footage from Dragon Age II and felt YouTube was a great place to store it. As with all off-screen videos, the whole thing is a little shaky and since Dragon Age II won’t be out until March 2011, it’s not truly representational of how the final game will play. But it is interesting to see the combat is shaping up especially since BioWare are tailoring the console versions (the video shows it running on a Xbox 360) to be better suited for their respective controllers. How does it look to you? Was it a happy viewing or one that boiled up the blood? I think I’m with those who answered ‘happy viewing’.

{Thanks VG247}

Dragon Age II rises to power in this new trailer

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Ah, Dragon Age II. A name that for some gamers has become dirty words from the mouth of BioWare. The move away from a PC focused experience to cater for the console majority hasn’t gone down too well but if not anything else, the trailers have always looked awesome. But they would, they were all cut-scenes so the Canadian developer has released a video that is fully in-engine and still looks fantastic. Still little of the newer game mechanics are shown but ‘Rise to Power’ as it’s called gives a tad more insight into Dragon Age II‘s story and band of characters that the hero, Hawke, has to enlist in order to, wait for it, rise to power.

You can definitely see how BioWare have progressed as a company and the techniques they’ve clearly learned from making the Mass Effect games. Like the second of these space operas, Dragon Age II appears to me more cinematic as if hoping to be a Hollywood smash whereas Dragon Age: Origins seemed like a cult classic. Since I fall into the console-gamer category, I really like the new direction and everything I’ve seen so far making me quite excited for Dragon Age II‘s release in March 2011.