Dragon Age: Origins Preview

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Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Electronic Arts
Developer:BioWare Corp.
Release Date:2009-11-03
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
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Equipment, Monsters, and the World Map

There are a few elements related to the game's inventory system that are worth noting. For one, your character's strength has no bearing on how much he or she can carry. In fact, items aren't even flagged with any sort of weight, so your characters will never become encumbered as a result of carrying too much heavy equipment. Instead, you have a total number of unequipped items that you can carry within your party at any given time. This number starts out at around 70, but you can purchase backpacks at specific moments in the game that increase this amount by 10 each, to a maximum of 120 (or so I'm told). This might sound like a lot until you realize how many potions, missile weapons, and crafting materials you'll be carrying around. Thankfully, though, these types of items only count as one unit per stack.

Something else worth mentioning is that you aren't required to identify magic items. If you find the Shield of Highever, you can immediately equip it to take advantage of its (+4 to attack) bonus. Magic items themselves seem to be relatively common in the game, as I had already picked up quite a few of them from various chests and crates during my short time with the game. I suppose this is partly because I was a rogue skilled at picking locks, though bashing a lock isn't allowed and I don't believe there is a DA:O equivalent to the Knock spell. Along with an assortment of Ice Arrows and Bolts, Fire Arrows and Bolts, resistance salves, stamina-replenishing mushrooms, elixirs, potions, and poultices, my characters were also making use of unique equipment like the Chasind Flatblade (+1% melee critical chance, +1 armor penetration), the Ash Warrior Axe (+2 to attack), Havard's Aegis shield (+4% spell resistance, chance to avoid missile attacks), the Darkspawn Staff (+1 spellpower, +5% spirit damage), and the Warpaint of the Wolfhound (+4 damage vs. beasts). Your Mabari Warhound can only equip collars and warpaints, so that last item is exclusively for him.

Another item I came across was a Journeyman Lightning Rune, which grants a +2 electricity damage bonus to any weapon in your arsenal. The catch is that you need an enchanter to make use of these runes (of which there are multiple tiers), and the team wasn't ready to spill any info on where he or she is located. The only information I was able to glean was that once the enchanter is found, they will (set up shop) in the party camp for all our future upgrading needs. Such upgrading currently only applies to weapons, though I'm told that other items may be added at a later date. Hopefully that means we'll eventually be able to forge entirely new magic items, as we did with the aid of Cromwell and Cespenar in Baldur's Gate II.

At the very least, the game does feature a crafting system for creating elixirs, poisons, and traps. What you can craft depends entirely on your skill in herbalism, poison-making, and trap-making, as well as what components and recipes you've picked up during your travels. Some examples of traps that I could create shortly into the game include a spring trap, a claw trap, a shrapnel trap, and a caltrop trap. As for poisons, there was a generic venom and a deathroot extract that I could concoct. With no skill in herbalism, I didn't get a chance to check out the available elixirs, though I did notice recipes for sale at one of the game's merchants. I even activated one such recipe, after which the ingredients and other information necessary to create the item in question were permanently added to the in-game crafting screen.

Item sets are also present in Dragon Age: Origins, though I honestly didn't get to see many of these. The example I caught during my play time was a nonmagical set of armor (chainmail, I think) that awarded a fatigue bonus if the character had equipped a few of the same pieces. It makes sense, I suppose wearing pieces that were meant to complement one another with the same weight distribution and maneuverability is obviously going to help a character stay mobile. My guess is that item sets will play a much larger role later in the game, but their overall importance is yet to be seen.

To earn the items I mentioned above, you're going to have to go toe-to-toe with a legion of darkspawn, as well as Ferelden's many other threats savage animals, demons, undead, dragons, and outright (abominations). Based on my experience, there are a handful of creature types within each of these broader classes, and then a few subtypes beyond that. For example, you'll run into a lot of standard Hurlocks (a type of darkspawn) during your adventures, but then you'll also encounter the more powerful Hurlock Emissaries and Hurlock Alphas. It's easy to distinguish which of these creatures pose the most threat during a battle, as the lowest ranked adversaries are labeled in white text while the second rank adversaries use a yellow text. When you come across a much deadlier third rank foe (like the Ogre in the Tower of Ishal), it's labeled with an orange text.

Many such scuffles will occur as random encounters while we travel across the overland map. This aspect of the game doesn't open up until after you've finished your origin story and have become a Gray Warden, but from the small glimpse I was given, it looks quite promising. On the very first instance that I opened the world map, there were nine locations available for travel: Redcliffe Village, Redcliffe Castle, Lothering, Brecilian Outskirts, Denerim, Lake Calenhad Docks, Circle Tower, Frostback Mountains, and the Party Camp. There was plenty of blank parchment ready for uncovering and (to.) markers at the edges of the map, as well, which leads me to believe that there's quite a bit of exploration to be done. Here's to hoping that Mike Laidlaw's analysis of 80% of the game being non-linear is spot-on.