RPGs have been a seemingly non-existent genre this generation and coming off of two generations where there was a never ending assault of quality RPGs hitting every other day, this issue is very well the biggest one this generation has. Well, to me it is, anyways. With the release of the Final Fantasy XIIIs still a bit off, there may be something to fill the void and it's coming from one of the best western RPG developers, BioWare. The same people responsible for Mass Effect are bringing us an all new multiplatform adventure which the guys at the studio have dubbed as their own Lord of the Rings. Also, being that this is their first fantasy game without a license of some sort, they have a lot more creative input.
BioWare has had a very specific plan for Dragon Age from the very beginning, in that they aimed to change fantasy role playing game by offering the game more. And how are they doing this? It's quite simple, really. First, you you take the status-quo multi-stranded storyline that BioWare is so well known for. Because the storyline has so many different paths and outcomes, this ensures that spoilers will be something you won't have to worry about hearing from your friend.
Secondly, upon choosing a character, you have six backstories to pick from for the character. And again, each one of these six backstories has multiple paths that you can unravel, all based on your decisions throughout the game. So if you're looking for a game you can replay numerous times, Dragon Age's threaded story layout is a fantastic way to do so.
Thirdly, another facet of the game that no other RPG has done before comes in the form of a quasi-genre-bending feature that allows this game to double as either an action-RPG or a strategy-RPG. You can choose between two different styles of gameplay on the fly, and the difference between them is one is more traditional and hack n' slash, while the other allows you to plan and play a bit more carefully, in addition to being able to manually select and cast attacks from a list of abilities. The differences are surely distinct, and there is even a camera angle you can change depending on which angle you prefer with your style of play (isometric or over-the-shoulder).
In either of the styles you can switch to one of your teammates on the fly during exploration or battle, again, giving you the flexibility that most RPGs don't. And of course, each character has his/her own unique abilities which you can map to the face buttons of your controller. In total, Dragon Age is expected to be an 80-100 hour game, but we're not sure if that figure includes numerous replays in order to see all of the different storyline threads and endings (chances are it does).
Now, as far as the technical stuff goes, Dragon Age didn't seem to look as pretty as Mass Effect, and we can chalk that up to this being a multiplatform game with a game engine that has evolved from a largely PC/Windows-based graphics engine. This new Eclipse Engine is obviously retooled, new, and much of it is from the ground up, but unfortunately it doesn't display any of the 'wow' we were expecting to see. Still, we doubt many of you who are into this particular genre of RPG games will care, because it's still a decent looking game at the end of the day.
Look for Dragon Age Origins to hit October 20th.