Bioware Beware

March 29, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Posted in rpg | 10 Comments
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I like Dragon Age 2, I really do. The story is getting good. The more companions you pull in, the more the game feels alive. And for what it’s worth, I don’t mind not being able to jump. I don’t mind that the explorable areas are so closed off, existing only for the scene that you as the player are meant to witness.

On the other hand, I think I would be a bad blogger if I didn’t at least question these choices. How much better would a Bioware game be if they had the open environments of Oblivion. How much better would it be if we could jump or explore or find tiny additions to the game that not everyone is meant to find?

In Dragon Age 2 you trip over every single little detail. It’s placed in your path so that you can’t avoid it. This isn’t a criticism as much as an observation, but Bioware treats its players more like viewers at times, than interactive subjects.

Don’t get me wrong, this leads to some pretty amazing stories. The characters are detailed, the dialogue so exquisitely written, the voice work superb, every shot of you talking with characters is designed and orchestrated. The cinematic experience of a Bioware game is rarely topped by other studios.

Yet I can’t decide if they’re moving in the right or wrong direction.

Part of me thinks, that although I enjoy their games immensely, they should be moving towards more open worlds, not away from them. They should be including more and more intricate quests, instead of these ridiculously straight-forward “find random object, return to owner” quests I’m encountering in DA2.

Instead with the sales of Mass Effect 2, which simplified and streamlined RPGs to great (it really was a terrific game and my favourite of 2010) success, I see them moving away from RPGs into something else. I get the impression that what they really want is to be in movies. Take this direction much further and we’ll be watching games, not playing them.

I guess what I’m getting at is that Bioware seem intent on limiting themselves, while most people who play games are intent on freeing themselves from their limitations.

Also that Bioware risks painting themselves into a corner by making all their games so similar.

Not to mention that, although it’s probably easier to tell a story around a defined character like Shepard or Hawke, along with it being easier to market Shepard or Hawke than the specific character you created, I’m not sure they’re improving the game itself by making the change to Dragon Age.

If Bioware continues to entertain me, I’ll be happy. That’s the most important thing. Certainly Star Wars: The Old Republic has the potential to fly in the face of everything I’ve just said.

I have to wonder of course. Would Dragon Age 2 be better with a more interesting item system? Would more interesting quests take this game to the next level? What would a Bioware game be like if I could jump, swim, and scale mountains? Maybe it wouldn’t be a Bioware game any more.


  1. I think you bring up some very good points. I don’t know about DA2, but I recently started playing DA:O and while at first I was having a great time, I’ve quickly become bored. While it does have different origin options, I’ve found that, so far, the rest of the story is on rails. Dialog choices don’t seem to make any difference other than you can miss some quests. I’m hoping this changes as I get farther into the story.

    After watching a really good Let’s Play Oblivion on YouTube, I’m thinking of getting some mods for it and giving it another go. Not wild about the FPS button mashing style combat, or the wonky inventory system, but I should give it another try to get my $8.50 out of it, at least.

    • I’m not really coming down on bioware games, just wishing they’d widen their focus from a pinpoint focus on story, and worrying that they could take it too far in the future.

      how do you not like either bioware or bathesda games? you may as well not play rpg games at all.

      • What? I didn’t say I didn’t like them, just that what seemed like a great game (DA:O) suddenly seemed to be just a nicer done NWN2. Oblivion should be decent with a few mods and control tweaks, which considering its age is probably to be expected. Maybe I was expecting too much after everyone raving over them. Whatever…

  2. It’s funny you should post this, because my husband is playing through DA2 right now and I think he’s only sticking with it so he has something to yell angrily at. (He’s really a Bethesda fan)

    I will say that the more cutscene-oriented Bioware’s games become, the more they remind me of JRPGs. Which may or may not be a good thing depending on your perspective. I’m told JRPGs have some excellent stories.

    • Interesting comparison to JRPGs, although I have to say my impression of JRPGs has always been long winded monologues and nonsensical story. however at least some people are entertained by the story.

  3. I’ll tell you, one thing I’m so glad BioWare finally left behind is their “go to one place, then go to three places, then go to one last place, kill boss” formula. They departed from that with ME2 and DA2, but I think their shtick for their RPGs has always been their companions and making good vs. evil choices. As long as they keep utilizing these factors in their games, I think their games will keep feeling the same.

    With each wave of games they put out though, they seem to make decisions to address criticisms and fix problems though. I’m looking to ME3 to see if they are going to be throwing in anything new to shake up their style.

    • Companions are definitely their schtick, a friend called their games ‘detailed dating sims’ today, and while i wouldn’t go that far, i understand it.

      However i wish they added more to the genre, instead of what seems like cutting back to just story and characters.

      • Oh man! It’s over-simplified, but I think your friend put serious hammer to nail on that comment… (obviously, there’s more to the games than that, but damn… it really does seem like that is a major focus of their games going back quite a few years.)

  4. Interesting! I really liked Dragon Age – bought every DLC and stuff for it. But I sometimes also criticized that there was less talk than action.

    But there was some interaction, which somehow got reduced in DA2 – at least the demo.

    The feeling is, is this an interactive movie or a game? Both are not bad, but I share your sentiment that this also has drawbacks.

    I wonder how they will do it in SW:TOR. Too much story and cutscenes have already caused these “single player” speculations almost a year ago, and there is a fundamental question in how much a MMO has to provide us a story to follow or rather if we are to make our own story in a MMO. This also applies to GW2 and future MMOs in general.

    • I figure the very nature of swtor means that they will have to have the things I’m missing in other bioware games. perhaps thats just wishful thinking, but i hope not.

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