Dragon Age: Origins Preview [PC]

26 Oct 2009  by   Paul Younger
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It’s my wedding day.I imagine that surprises a few of you. It might surprise you more to learn that I’m also a female elf which, to save myself the mocking I’ll get if I reveal that I give my player characters carefully-chosen fantasy names with far too many apostrophes and far too few vowels, I’ll claim is called Jane. So yes, it’s my wedding day.For the record, this preview is going to go through one of the game’s six character origins. If you don’t want to know more, do not read on.Elves are generally loathed by the humans of Fereldan – the country in which Dragon Age is set – and tend to live with their brethren in the slums of major cities, termed Alienages, the name of which should give you an idea of how these poor people are looked upon by humanity in general. Alienages. Alien. Foreign. Different. Inhuman.Our cast for this story revolves around Jane, our poison-making, back-stabbing, dual-wielding, mass-murdering psychopathic city elf. Today, she’s due to be married to Nelaros, the slightly camp “dreamboat.” Also getting married is Jane’s cousing Soris, and acting as bridesmaid is another cousin, Shianni.Things went a bit tits-up when Vaughan, son of the local lord, turned up drunk and in the mood to sexually harass female elves. That ended with Shianni bottling him in the head, which quietened things down until he came back with armed guards and dragged off Shianni, Soris’ fiancee, a few other girls littered around, and me. The bastard. “We’re having a party,” he said as he clubbed me over the head, “but we’ve got a shortage of female guests.”Violence and rape. What a brilliant way to start a wedding.Waking up in a cold, dank cellar with the other girls, it was time for action. The door was barred and there was nothing around to use as a weapon, so I told the others to wait for my signal before doing anything. A few were panicked, saying that we should just go along with it and try to forget it ever happened afterwards. Shianni, to her credit, didn’t seem as worried as she could have been, and I’m a mass-murdering psychopath so I was pretty much unfazed. The problem was one in particular, who was kneeling on the ground, praying to the Maker for deliverance. When the guards walked in and she told them to get away from us, she got a vertical slash across her chest.It was a novel way to make a point, certainly; with her death rattle echoing in our ears and blood pooling around her corpse for attempting to resist rape, most of the fighting spirit was choked off. The others were dragged out, leaving two to deal with me (as I, apparently, was “the scrapper”) who promised that they would be “perfect gentlemen.”Until dear cousin Soris interrupted them. “Excuse me,” he mumbled at the door, gingerly holding a sword. “Oh look, it’s a little elfling with a stolen sword!” chortled one of the guards, walking towards him. Soris knelt down and slid the sword along the ground towards me. The guards turned. One raised his hands and backed away slowly. “Oh, sod,” muttered the other.Sadly, two armoured guards against an unarmed elf and a sword-wielding elf in a wedding dress isn’t exactly a fair fight, no matter how pissed off the girl might be, so the first thing to do was use my Dirty Fighting skill to incapacitate one. This skill is pretty much the equivalent of throwing dirt in your opponent’s eyes – it does no damage, but keeps them out of your way for a little while. With one stumbling around trying to work out what was going on and Soris trying to punch him in the back of the head, I turned to the other. The fight didn’t last long. He swung wildly, and got a sword rammed through his chest for even attempting it. When the second finally recovered, he’d been reasonably wounded by Soris and it was little trouble to decapitate him, sending his head to the corner of the room and splattering my pretty wedding dress with blood.{PAGE TITLE=Dragon Age: Origins Preview Page 2}Nelaros, Soris explained as we stole the equipment of the guards, had decided to come and rescue me, and he was guarding the far end of the hall. Apparently Duncan – a Grey Warden who had come to the Alienage on business – had seen the injustice but couldn’t directly act, so he gave my unlikely rescuers his sword and crossbow and sent them after us.We worked our way through the building towards whatever the hell hall Nelaros was supposed to be guarding, but when we finally got there, it was clear we were too late. The remaining three guards from the cellar were there, and we opened the door just as Nelaros was cut in two. This fight was the first truly difficult one since waking up in the cellar – the guard captain had a yellow name, indicating that he was hard enough to take on a few party members by himself. Thankfully, no-one with an orange name was around, as those signify people capable of taking on parties by themselves.Two skills came in helpful: Dirty Fighting, and Dual-Weapon Sweep. The latter is useful for warriors and rogues who like to use two weapons, as it’s essentially two simultaneously horizontal slashes that hit everything in a forward arc. By stunning one, having Soris attract another and stabbing him in the back a few times, and then turning around and using Dual-Weapon Sweep to cut down the other two, we survived.Which left only Vaughan, busily beating up Shianni while two of his guards smirked in the corner. When Soris and I walked in, they assured him that they’d take care of us. He told them to stop. “Look at them,” he said, if memory serves. “They’ve made it through the estate and they’re covered in enough blood to fill a bath. What do you think that means?”Yes, well done. I’d killed every other guard in the place. Ten points for observation. He offered me a bag of gold and my freedom if I left now and let him have his way with the girls, who would be returned to the Alienage the next day, “a little worse for wear.” Considering I’m a mass-murdering psychopath that would probably have been okay had he not hit me, so I told him precisely where I’d put that bag of gold, one coin at a time, if I got my hands on it. He urged me to think again: the streets of the Alienage would be running with blood if I hurt him; the entire community would be punished. Again: mass-murdering psychopath. He was going to die. “I always regret talking to knife-ears,” he spat, drawing his sword.But by this time, I’d gotten into the rhythm of the combat, and the experience gained as I left the rest of the estate stained red  meant that he had little chance. It wasn’t long before his guards were down, and he wheezed his last breath.Which just left the inevitable aftermath. Shianni and the other girls were largely okay, if psychologically scarred by the attempted rape, but when the city guard came around the Alienage later that day I save Soris by taking the rap – and my execution was stayed by the unlikeliest of people. Duncan, the Grey Warden who had essentially initiated my escape, invoked the Right of Conscription: he saved me from death by recruiting me into the Wardens, to fight alongside King Cailan against the horde of Darkspawn besieging the country.And this is how the origins largely seem to end: the main character exiled in some way, and left with no choice but to sign up with Duncan and join the Grey Wardens. Not an easy path, by any means, and one that leads to almost certain death at the hands of the monsters once more ravaging the world, but better than living a few days in prison until execution day.

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