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.

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You’ve got to fight for this love

Still it continues, the debate as to whether BioWare have crapped-up their high fantasy RPG series with its sequel. News of Dragon Age 2‘s difference in story telling, combat and character focus has sent ripples of discontent through forums since the announcement in July. A few videos and interviews have been given discussing the changes and now it’s up to Mike Laidlaw, lead designer of DA2 to walk us through a combat segment in multiple ways showing the diversity on offer to players of the PC version. Laidlaw battles the same scene twice, first treating the game as an action RPG and then with a traditional strategic approach. I’m no expert of the franchise or anything but I couldn’t see a drastic difference from the first game. The animations appear a faster but that’s about all I could fathom from the video (found after the jump).

So in that respect, there’s nothing to fear right? If the combat is structured the similarly to Dragon Age: Origins then there should be no concern as to whether the PC experience will be negatively effected by the decision to make console versions better suited to a controller-based platform. That was one of the sticking points which caused an upset earlier this year because at first gamers wondered if strategy was being replaced with hack and slashing. Clearly it hasn’t been. But is it still too soon to breath that sigh of relief? Not for me though I think a few more walkthroughs are needed before the hardcore fan base are satisfied. And I’m sure they’re on the way soon.

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The rights and wrongs of Dragon Age as told by the developers

You may love Dragon Age: Origins for its story, tactics and acceptance into the high-fantasy world it called home but like all proud parents of an over achiever, BioWare only want more. In this video (after the break), executive producer of Dragon Age 2, Mark Darrah and his band of merry developers, talk openly and critically about the highs and lows of their first Dragon Age game and how that effected its sequel. One thing that seems constant throughout is how the characters get utterly covered in blood! I mean really, someone get that dude a wet wipe or something.

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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.

Deal or no deal?

Rather than spooning out discounts on games that you’re not really that interested in (like normal), Microsoft are giving Gold subscribers the chance to vote on what they want to see as an October Deal of the Week. The screenshot above (from Major Nelson) shows all the reductions to choose from including a third off Deathspank, Perfect Dark for half price and some healthy savings on a lot of Dragon Age‘s DLC. What gets my vote is a third off Trials HD making it 800 MS Points (£6.85/€9.60/$10). I already have the game so won’t benefit from the saving but it’s so freaking good that if it encourages more people to buy it, then that’s more people enjoying the madness. The specific date as to when this deal will take place is yet to be announced which is a bit of a bummer but at least we know it’s in the month of October. Voting takes place via the Spotlight channel on your Xbox 360 dashboards.

Morrigan’s whereabouts discovered in final Dragon Age DLC

The last hurrah for Dragon Age: Origins DLC is coming September 7th (like another popular BioWare RPG) and deals with one character who left a lot of left a lot of questions behind. Morrigan. Set a year after the end of Dragon Age, Witch Hunt gives players the chance to confront Claudia Black’s vocal incarnation, hopefully revealing why she disappeared and what drove her to join your crew in the first place – other than being a cool team member.

Witch Hunt will take you back to Ferelden where Morrigan was first encountered, unlocking powerful rewards for use in both Origins and Awakening. What those rewards are hasn’t been made public knowledge but BioWare is promising big things out of quite possibly the final DLC before Dragon Age II hits on March 11th 2011. Seeing as I’m lagging considerably behind in my efforts to complete the first game, I best get my act together!

Witch Hunt will be available on all formats on September 7th for £4.80/€6.72/$7 or 560 MS Points

Dragon Age 2 and its Shepard

After the buzz generated by confirmation of Dragon Age 2, doubt has crept into the minds of enthusiasts. BioWare’s official press release for the game says Dragon Age 2 thrusts players into the role of Hawke, a penniless refugee who rises to power to become the single most important character in the world of Dragon Age. Known to be a survivor of the Blight and the Champion of Kirkwall, the legend around Hawke’s rise to power is shrouded in myth and rumor. Featuring an all-new story spanning 10 years, players will help tell that tale by making tough moral choices, gathering the deadliest of allies, amassing fame and fortune, and sealing their place in history. The way you play will write the story of how the world is changed forever.” Gone is the ability to play as one of four races, in Dragon Age 2 you’re a human called Hawke. Speaking on behalf of BioWare, Chris Priestly clarified on their forums that players can choose to be male or female drawing parallels with the Mass Effect franchise and its Commander Shepard. Because of this, some fans seem less than happy about the direction of Dragon Age 2 with the fear of BioWare creating a game more akin to Mass Effect than Origins. How does this effect your opinion if at all? Being a bigger fan of the sci-fi RPG makes the news less offensive to me but I know quite a few others that would disagree.