Only a mere 14 days away, Dragon Age Origins is almost upon us.  Wonder what all the hoopla has been about?  Here are 6 reasons why you should be excited about  the forthcoming epic from Bioware.

1.  Bioware returns to what it does best

While they were the brains behind classics such as MDK2, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect, Bioware is best known for doing epic party-based point and click RPGs better than anyone else.  Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, and (in a simpler style) Knights of the Old Republic…these games are legendary, and are some of the best in the industry. 

2.  Extensive backstory for your character

The race and class of your character in Dragon Age is going to have a massive impact on the story explored in the game.  The first few hours of the game will be entirely different depending on your choice of Warrior, Thief, or Mage and your history.  For example, as an Elf born on the streets, you could exact your revenge on your human oppressors in a race-fueled tale of revenge.  Another backstory choice is as a Dwarf Noble who has to deal with the types of family issues unique to the rich and powerful.  Deception and power grabs will likely ensue. 

The advantage of having 6 fully fleshed out backstories is that it keeps you from having to create your own.  Some of the more hardcore folks out there may not like this, but I think it is a great design choice to keep your character firmly rooted in the game world, and to keep the narrative flowing smoothly.

3.  Play the way you may

In an article posted on Kotaku, EA/BioWare senior product manager David Silverman described multiple ways to use the combat system depending on your style of play or your skills.  The fact that the combat system is so varied is good news for us all; if you aren’t a hardcore gamer or aren’t used to controlling multiple characters in an RPG, you can keep things simple and leave the rest of your party entirely on autopilot.  If you are a party-based RPG fanatic or you like having complete control over your party, a detailed yet simple scripting system (similar to what is found in recent Final Fantasy console games) enables you to set up how your party members will react depending on a given situation, completely independent of your input.  You could also just control each character on the fly, or in real time.  Having the option to keep things simple or to have complete control during any combat encounter is encouraging…autopilot and scripting keeps simple encounters from taking too long, and you can switch over to individual control while the game is paused and queue up actions if you happen to come up against a major adversary.

4.  We are finally treated like customers again!

For a while now, EA has had a reputation for locking its games down with SecuROM, a limited number of installs, and other highly invasive attempts at curtailing piracy.  Naturally, when you treat people like criminals, they are going to act like criminals.  Spore became one of the most pirated games of all time very shortly after launch, and people have taken to flooding Amazon entries of EA games with wave after wave of negative reviews, citing draconian DRM as the only reason.  Well, no more.  EA has decided to treat us like customers once again: Dragon Age Origins will only be coming with a simple DVD check.  No SecuROM, no install limits, no weird DRM that screws up your machine…just an old school script that makes sure the DVD is in the drive.  I applaud EA for this decision, and I think it is indicative of the different direction EA has taken itself in the past couple of years. 

I’m going to be spreading the word to people (both in person and online) to not pirate this game and insist that anyone they know who has pirated it to go out and buy a copy of it.  I can understand acting like a criminal if a company is treating you like one, but EA has extended an olive branch here…it is vital we show them we can be trusted. 

5.  It’s gonna be huge

Based on previews I have read (and a review in Game Informer), Dragon Age is going to take between 40-70 hours per playthrough.  Given that your sex, race, class, and origin completely changes your experience, there is a TON of replay value here. 

6.  The same tools used to create the game will be available to end users

Much like Neverwinter Nights, Dragon Age Origins is going to come with an extremely robust SDK…in fact, they will be almost all of the same tools used by the development team to create the game.  Even though Dragon Age is going to be single-player only, I’m really looking forward to some of the crazy and insane ideas that the community comes up with.  The fact that an SDK is being released with the game, combined with it being a Bioware team-based RPG, means I’m sticking to the PC version only on this one.

Chill the Bawls, find a couple of games or comics that your girlfriend/fiance can get into, and clear your schedule.  Dragon Age Origins comes out on November 3rd in North America and November 6th in Europe.