Превью Dragon Age от ComputerAndVideoGames.com (English)

Dragon Age aims to deliver just that. For although touted as the spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights, and with all the stats, monsters and quests that entails, Dragon Age far outreaches those games in its technical and artistic range. BioWare are looking to add a third layer of communication to what is said and how it's said; how characters look when they speak. With any luck, we can kiss goodbye to immobile faces badly lip-synching dialogue that deserves animated expressions. We'll begin to understand motivations instinctively; rather than digesting dialogue and calculating our next move, we'll feel what is the right way to proceed. BioWare's plan is nothing less than a reinvention of the genre, of the way we play.

Dragon Age is all about invention, in fact. BioWare are creating its world, its systems, its whole lore from scratch. Five people have spent four years fleshing out the details. Not programming or designing levels, just creating the world and writing its history. After working on what were effectively licensed games in the Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights and KotOR series, it's evident that BioWare are intently focused on creating a convincing setting. That's something Scott Greig, Project Director, was keen to stress.

"If you look at all the other great fantasy licences, like Dungeon and Dragons, or Lord of the Rings, there's a lot of work gone into building these up, and we wanted the world of Dragon Age to be worthy of gamers' time and effort. We want Dragon Age to feel like it has a history, rather than a few random fantasy elements thrown together. We realised that, if we owned our own IP, we could wield enormous control over the setting and story."

That said, some tried-and-tested formulas are also used - such as party-based adventuring. Your main character will be joined by up to three comrades. "All the characters have their own agenda," says Scott. "We're very clear about what they want, and it's not just straightforward good or evil. We're going to be clear that when you act, there will be fallout."

Your hero will also be invested with an Origin Story. There'll be two to choose from for each race - the example they give is a dwarf noble or commoner - and this choice entirely dictates your first couple of hours in-game, giving some texture and logic to your involvement in the main quest. It will be a recurring theme later in the game, too: there'll be a nemesis specific to your Origin Story who'll be back to haunt you throughout your adventure and if you, as a dwarf, ever venture back to the dwarven lands you came from, your history as well as your choices can impact the plot.

All the Origins lead to the same starting point for the overall plot after an hour or two, but their influence continues throughout the game, creating different subplots later on. For each race, there's one traditional fantasy Origin, and one that's "a lot more edgy". From three archetypes - fighter, rogue, mage - before long you'll get a chance to specialise your main character's class (and those of your party). Later in the game, yet another level of choice will enable you to mix and match abilities in a way old-fashioned D&D wouldn't dream of.

Wondering about that name? Think 'Bronze Age' or 'Iron Age' - the game takes place in an era dominated by dragons and powerful magic. "Magic is a really big deal. If someone were to walk into a pub, point the finger, and you burst into flames, that would have real consequences in the world. There'd be all kinds of controls put on the use of magic." Scott's point is that this world isn't complacent about magic, death and destruction. The idea is to make us feel the results of our actions more keenly.

To that end, in combat, weapons no longer swoosh through the polygons of your foes - Scott Greig and lead animator John Santos beat each other up with sticks and wooden shields in a car park to prototype how the animations should fit together. It's physical and it's brutal. Instead of people standing toe-to-toe and swinging repeatedly, they're ducking and dodging and moving to attack.

They also wanted to get large-scale combat right - presumably because there's likely to be dragons to fight. "We really want it to feel like the cave troll scene from The Fellowship of the Ring," explains Scott. "The key thing is that you're not in control of one person, you're in control of the whole battle. You've got the party guys running out, with one guy jumping up on the back and stabbing, the other guy ducking between the legs. Maybe one character distracts the dragon so another can sneak up behind it, while magic-users find cover and cast spells. Maybe your wizard turns over a table and shelters behind it. Or maybe you're under attack from a wizard behind an overturned table, and you just blow that table away."

Perhaps the most remarkable goal, given the complexity of the technology, is that BioWare aim to give us the power to design our own adventures, as with Neverwinter Nights. "I was the first programmer on the Neverwinter Nights project," says Scott. "We expected a certain level of community involvement, but it's gone beyond our wildest dreams. We'll be including a similar level of support for custom content in Dragon Age. But the training wheels are off. You'll be able to create a game as detailed as Dragon Age using our tools." The same claim was made for NWN, and the results ranged from paltry to professional. Yet the quality is not the point - it's about empowering gamers, letting us unleash our creativity.

It's hard to think of a BioWare game that hasn't been hugely ambitious in one way or another. In aiming to push storytelling in particular to a new level, the Canadian goblin-fanciers are setting goals that, even if only partially achieved, will please their fans and further open RPGs to a wider, more mature market. BioWare are back. It's about time.