Dragon Age Xbox 360 Hands-on Impressions: 'She'll Really Do Anything'

By Nick Breckon, Jun 02, 2009 7:45pm PDT One of the lingering questions about Dragon Age was how it'll play on a console.

Primarily developed for the PC, the game features plenty of World of Warcraft-style action buttons across the bottom of the screen in that build of the game. Porting that directly to consoles would seem a challenge.

After getting my hands on the Xbox 360 version, outfitted with a prototype interface, that question was answered soundly: it plays fine. Three of the face buttons are mapped to spells, and the left trigger acts as an alt-toggle, offering six mappings to the PC version's ten. One bumper key takes over healing duty, leaving only a three-button disparity between the two builds.

Unfortunately, beyond the controls, I came away from the Dragon Age E3 demo feeling oversold--particularly on its sexuality--and ultimately underwhelmed.

The presentation began with lead designer Mike Laidlaw spending ten minutes explaining how players can have sex in the game. There was no lead-up to this segment, mind you. This was the headline topic. This was the new shit.

Laidlaw loaded up the "party camp," essentially a bonfire where your party members hang out. Walking up to a red-headed woman, Laidlaw noted that the player has "reached the point where she'll really do anything," and I cringed.

Then it was on to the sultry wizard Morrigan, who normally plays the tough sorceress, "but she's really been hitting on us." Players can earn the favor of their suitors by way of persuading them in conversation over the course of the game, but apparently it'll take a little bribery to go the distance.

So how does one copulate in BioWare's latest? You hand out gifts, of course. Laidlaw promptly wooed Morrigan with a book of arcane magic. This has gameplay application, as Morrigan will earn magic points by reading the book. "But there may be other gains as well," said Laidlaw, and I wanted to throw up a little.

"It is cold in my tent," said Morrigan, inviting the hero in for fantasy fulfillment. Laidlaw chose the "let's see what happens," option, and then there was a brief tease of sex, set to what sounded like Celine Dione.

This encounter angered the jealous redhead, thus creating a dynamic love triangle. Laidlaw offered us the choice of who the player should eventually "get with." Someone yelled out "redhead!"--no doubt a devout fan of Alyson Hannigan--and I wanted to leave.

CD Projekt's The Witcher handled its promiscuity with an over-the-top approach. Reducing women to trading cards made for a system that was impossible to take seriously, and played into the rest of the game's misogynist sense of humor. BioWare's own Mass Effect handled its sex in a no-frills manner, reducing it to one fairly brief instance in a much larger narrative.

But in creating what is essentially a sex sideshow within Dragon Age, BioWare is fully entering territory that I'm not sure it can conquer. Sex in games is still in the pubescent stage. Hammy voice acting and stiff 3D models--Mass Effect's character animation still tops Dragon Age in my estimation--make for awkward, pimply approximations of intimacy. One can only hope these early efforts lead to eventual maturity. In the meantime, they can be painful to watch.

Anyway, the remaining few minutes of the demo were relegated to the reveal of the first dragon in Dragon Age. It was an impressive fight, but I've never doubted BioWare's ability to create an engaging fantasy combat system. It's the engaging fantasy world that I want to see evidence of.

Dragon Age: Origins hits PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on October 20.

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  • It's too bad we can only see a minut portion of the game, and only from a single person's viewpoint. Sex VS Romance is a perspective issue, and it's obvious where this reviewer's notion of either is. The fact that you can do something in a game, is not a notion of that it's necessary, or even that you should, just that integrated into the story there is now another aspect of realism added to your escapist fantasy. The fact you can play a game from 20 - 45 hours and it's still the same day in game, and noone ever has to go to the bathroom is a rather obvious realism fault which we are able to readily overlook.

    This comment is what gives me goose pimples:

    "Sex in games is still in the pubescent stage. Hammy voice acting and stiff 3D models make for awkward, pimply approximations of intimacy. One can only hope these early efforts lead to eventual maturity. In the meantime, they can be painful to watch."

    I take this to mean that if there's going to be sex in games, the (porno-)graphics should be more satisfyingly realistic. Unfortunately, as he said, game physics doesn't allow for squishing of body parts together, nor is the gaming world ready for it. Our perception in video gaming is because it's allowable or possible it's necessary, which isn't true. Same with purchasing a video game. Rent instead, but don't expect accurate representation from 10 minutes of someone else's gameplay experience.

    I had a ton of fun last night chasing cats and catching fish, trying to scrape up enough money to buy a slingshot on my Wii last night. No sex, no blood, no gore, though I did get a kick out of clipping all the grass in every area with my wooden sword.

  • This paragraph was taken out in editing:

    "I asked if you could instead woo one of the men, but unfortunately you cannot. My hesitant half-malf deflated to no mast at all and I knew that this was a mini-game that could never be up my alley."

    sup Nick, I actually agree with your comments about this, I don't know if it'd make more sense to have a more obvious seperate between opinion and coverage. Some kind of structure like : Intro + opinion, coverage, Closing opinion

    Also did they talk about the game? Also the question I'd have asked him is "do you guys have girlfriends at all? or just strippers"