For a long time now, BioWare has been counted amongst not only the top RPG developers in the gaming industry, but the top game developers period. They’ve delivered several games that simply took our- and many others’- breath away, like the Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2, Knights of the Old Republic, Neverwinter Nights and more recently, the Mass Effect series and Dragon Age: Origins.
However, in light of recent events, BioWare have started receiving more hate than respect, more disgust than love. Dragon Age II, people say, was the beginning of BioWare’s downfall, and that even with the Mass Effect series, they’re trying to attract the “Call of Duty” crowd. But is it fair to “hate on the”, as we say, after all BioWare has done in the past many years?
Let me begin by saying that I’m a huge BioWare fan. I’ve played and loved almost every single game BioWare ever made, and respected them greatly for the great products they have developed over the years. However, I will keep my bias out of this editorial, so you can keep the “this post is biased” comments to yourself.
I mean, hasn’t BioWare delivered some of the best, deepest Role Playing Games, some of the best video games period in the past? Baldur’s Gate II is still regarded my many as the greatest RPG ever created, and BioWare has, at several times, been the leading developer in the RPG genre and a milestone that all RPG developers try to mimic, follow and beat. And Baldur’s Gate I and II are not even it. Knights of the Old Republic has to be one of the most enjoyable, engrossing and deep experiences to be provided by any game last generation, across all platforms.
But then, many people overlook all these great games, and take up Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age II as examples of BioWare’s “consolizing” and “casualizing” their games, appealing to the masses rather than the hardcore RPG fanbase. Yes, I agree that Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age II were not as much RPGs as they should have been, and definitely not even half as much as their predecessors. Yes, I know that BioWare has let go of their fans who support hardcore, stat-grinding RPG mechanics and have been loyal to BioWare for so long. I agree with all that. But I have several counter arguments.
First of all, Mass Effect 2 was, RPG or no, an excellent game, worthy of a 10/10 from us and even the Game of the Year 2010 award. It had a great story, some very memorable characters, excellent morality system and element of choice and enjoyable combat. True, the light RPG elements must have been a huge put off for fans of the genre, BioWare and the first game. But if one put his or her preconceptions and biases aside, they’d see what a wonderful and beautiful game Mass Effect 2 truly was.
Secondly, while it is true that BioWare has always been more or less like a blueprint for all western RPG developers to follow, BioWare themselves have always said that they’re more about the story, the element of choice and how their stories are presented than RPG elements and stat grinding. Agreed, the latter was once more important to the devs than it is now, but as I wrote above, BioWare has always primarily been about telling a great story that hooks and doesn’t let go of the player. And Mass Effect 2 delivers in that respect in all ways possible.