Dragon Age: The SWTOR Preview Made Manifest

dragonage_2These days Star Wars: The Old Republic fans are in a stage where they are looking forany piece of info they can get their hands on. With two class reveals (the Jedi Knight and Imperial Agent) the latest bits of discussion that has since died down, fans of Bioware‘s upcoming MMO effort are looking for any clue as to what will be in the gameplay.

Well, I’m here to tell you that one place that you could look is in the very excellent and well-rounded new hotness of Dragon Age: Origins. This single-player RPG from Bioware just came out a couple of weeks ago to huge fanfare and tons of praise from folks looking to get their latest Bioware fix. The deep story, multiple origins, and cast of characters have received a ton of posts from the blogosphere, and overall the reception has been largely positive. Hell, even my self-proclaimed nemesis enjoys it.

But within the decidedly independent experience of Dragon Age are hints and thoughts about how Star Wars: The Old Republic might actually work in terms of gameplay. You have a set of party characters that go with you – companions in SWTOR – and you have ways in which they may approve or disapprove of your actions. You have a moral choices system where you make difficult decisions about dilemmas in the game, just as they say SWTOR is going to have. The voice acting, featuring prominent actors such as Tim Curry and Claudia Black, is a huge part of the experience, and the fully-voiced environment reflects hours upon hours of recording time. And last but not least, the story, which has many threads, sidesteps, intrigue, and twists, serves as the backbone, a pillar which makes Dragon Age not just another rollicking RPG adventure, but one that has a unique stamp on its genre – just as SWTOR’s core marketing element has put forth.

Now, you may say “but Frank, we’ve seen this all before already – in KOTOR, or in Mass Effect – so what’s different here that points to SWTOR?”. Well, what’s different is that Dragon Age: Origins is the latest refinement of those core elements and systems, a way of playing an RPG that started in KOTOR and carried over into Dragon Age, over the span of years. Dragon Age: Origins highlights the latest and greatest in some of Bioware’s storytelling and RPG-style design docs, so to see Dragon Age as a way to preview Star Wars: The Old Republic’s gameplay is not that far of a stretch.

Bioware is well aware that this experience is just one element of the overall MMO experience, and that the multiplayer aspect is something to be integrated. So those concerned that SWTOR will be nothing more than a glorified single-player experience should rest easy – the feedback coming from Dragon Age’s experiences will no doubt be taken into account, but it won’t be the whole of the picture. Bioware’s drawing on the history of previous MMO releases for making a great online multiplayer experience – but you can rest assured that the single player feedback is going to be melded into it based upon the reception of games like Dragon Age: Origins.

But don’t let me diminish Dragon Age for you too much. Regardless of whether you want to play it to see how SWTOR might be or not, it’s a solid title and one worthy of a pickup – if for nothing else to hear Claudia Black mock you about saving kittens in trees.

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