I first discovered BioWare about five years ago. My introduction to them was through Dragon Age 2 at a friend’s house where I fell in love with the game’s character creation. The Hawke I created had orange hair and bright-yellow eye shadow, and I thought it was great to have that much freedom having come from RPGs like Skyrim and Fallout.
Even before this first experience, my closest friend had spent months trying to persuade me to dip my toes into the worlds BioWare had created. Being a huge fan of anything fantasy, I was tempted but weary based on past experiences with fantasy RPGs that often piled on lore while lacking an engaging story. I soon learned I was completely wrong to doubt BioWare when I played Dragon Age Origins for myself.
When I received the game in the post, I was surprised at how old Origins looked and felt compared to Dragon Age 2, but nonetheless I gave it a go. Having chosen the Dalish elf option for my character’s background, I was thrust into an interesting world full of characters I just couldn’t get enough of. It was gritty, dark, and realistic despite its dated graphics.
While some fans may say Mass Effect 2 was the best in the trilogy, the same can’t be said for Dragon Age 2. Despite its faults (like reused environments) it was still highly stylized (didn’t look like a copy of the first game) and the combat had improved while keeping with what BioWare does best: story and characters!
Mass Effect 3‘s ending is, as you know, one of the most infamous things in all of gaming history. Having come to the trilogy late, I already had access to the Extended Cut DLC, but I realize many people were unhappy with the direction the trilogy went in the end. Regardless, what’s important to note here is that this was a turning point for BioWare. While it can be incredibly beneficial to listen to your fans, this was the start of Bioware pandering to their fans.
Lets talk about Inquisition. This was where Bioware moved to the next generation of consoles, and started working with EA’s Frostbite engine. The first mistake, in my opinion, was to keep it both on the old generation and the new. I understand that they wanted those who couldn’t afford the new consoles to be able to continue their Dragon Age experience, but it backfired. Not being able to give the amazing Trespasser DLC, which contained key pieces of the story, to those still using the older generation of consoles was a betrayal to many.
BioWare promised much with Inquisition, but when the game launched, it felt completely different than what we’d seen in early trailers. This seems to be a running theme for developers: they fail to reach the high mark they set for themselves, usually because of time limits.
It took me two years to find my peace with Inquisition. I was a die hard fan, I had loved the series more than even Mass Effect, yet when I bought the game on day one, I was disappointed. A feeling I was most certainly not used to having when playing a BioWare game. The world was bland, it felt cold and empty. And the story was all over the place as the massive open world didn’t mesh well with BioWare’s style of storytelling. The main characters were a big positive for the game, but the villain was laughable. Spending so much time doing simple fetch quests took away any sense of urgency, unlike Origins where the map was slowly eaten up by the Blight. (I can tell you that gave me a fright!) The point is, it felt like BioWare had lost their identity with the release of Inquisition.
The final nail in the coffin for some was the release of Mass Effect: Andromeda. Again, a game I couldn’t wait for. The anticipation kept me awake at night. I played the early access first, and found the character creator lacking — something totally unexpected coming from BioWare. The character creator was lacking to the point that I felt unable to role-play as the person I wanted.
If you’re a long time BioWare fan, you’ll know their games have reoccurring glitches, such as the Mage tower in Origins where you can get stuck in a loop during the dream sequence. It happens in almost every game to some extent. Andromeda, however, was often unplayable due to glitches. Some were totally game-breaking, while the majority simply made playing unpleasant and showcased a severe lack of polish.
It’s all very unfortunate because the premise and the story had so much promise. The fact that plans for single-player DLC were dropped made matters even worse. I, among many people, felt disheartened that there would not be any DLC. Yes, the game wasn’t what everyone had hoped for, but BioWare blatantly chose to give up and let down their fans. Even the creators of No Man’s Sky stuck around to improve their game! Andromeda always felt like it could have ended up being a great game if BioWare had only given it some more time and the attention it needed.
If I could give BioWare one bit of advice, it would be that they ought to play to their strengths! Stop trying to be like everyone else. Focus on characters, on lore, on story, and get rid of the open worlds and fetch quests if they mean abandoning all that you’re great at.
Finally, Anthem. As a long time Bioware fan, I feel burned out and unsure what to think of Anthem. I feel as if they’ve dropped one of my all time favorite games series to start something that looks exactly like most current first-person shooters. I hate to say it, but we don’t need another Destiny or Overwatch. Anthem might be something new — I could give them the benefit of the doubt — but after everything BioWare and EA have done, it will take a lot to regain my trust.
Hopefully with the return of Casey Hudson we might see the return of the beloved Mass Effect universe one day, and I can only hope they succeed with future Dragon Age games. For the sake of the fans.
P.S., I hope you enjoyed my personal screenshots throughout the article!