Matt mentioned that he’s playing Dragon Age: Origins, and now I am, too. And I just played through a scene in the game that I thought was worth reporting:
So you come to this village that’s being attacked every night by waves of shambling undead; they emanate from the dark castle set on high cliffs above the town. Many villagers have been killed, and those who remain are huddled in the church. Everybody is freaked out and fatalistic. They think tonight’s attack is going to be the one that finally wipes them out. It’s grim.
So you promise to help, of course (and you need to get into that castle for your own reasons). But here’s where it gets interesting: Instead of fade-to-black and then the big fight, you spend the next portion of the game exploring town, convincing and cajoling villagers to help you:
- The blacksmith wants to drown his sorrows in booze and wait for the end to come; you convince him to repair the village militia’s battered weapons instead.
- Three selfish mercenaries have boarded themselves up in a house to ride out the attack; you browbeat them into the joining the fight.
- A skilled archer is skulking in the shadows of the inn; he feels he has no stake in the battle. You uncover his secret and blackmail him into joining.
- The knights remaining in the village want blessings of protection from the church. But in a twist, the church elder is all like, “Are you kidding me? Blessings won’t help them fight.” You convince her that anything that helps morale, even if it’s just an illusion, is essential.
And so on. There are supplies you can discover and traps you can lay. But here’s the important thing: You can fail at any of it! You can say the wrong things or overlook people altogether. Or you can choose to skip it all—to face the undead horde friendless and alone.
Rio Bravo or High Noon. It’s your choice.
The nuance and humanity of this section really surprised me. So did the flexibility. There was not the usual feel-good fait accompli; not all roads led to a band of brave villagers fighting at your side. You could pretty easily screw things up and alienate people!
And this whole complicated little episode is, of course, like 0.5% of this entire game. It’s still too early to render judgment, but so far, Dragon Age is on track to be the best-written, the subtlest, video game I’ve ever played.