I hated BioWare before it was cool to hate BioWare, so I guess that makes more of a BioWare hipster than a fangrrl. I’m talking before you ranted on Facebook because you didn’t like the ending of Mass Effect 3. I didn’t even play Mass Effect 3–that’s how hardcore I am. I don’t know what happened to Shep, but apparently it really sucked.
This is our second BioWare game for the club and my seventh (not counting expansions and DLC). Neverwinter Nights was one of the only games I bought during my poor college days, and, by the time I finished Mass Effect in 2007, I had chibi animations coming from my face at the sheer thought of BioWare. (And let’s not even discuss the squees anytime I got to talk to Joker, voiced by my 15-year celebrity crush, Seth Green).
I found out about Dragon Age: Origins. Five separate plotlines with hours of play before the game even begins and made by the same crew that gave me Neverwinter and Mass Effect?
Dragon Age: Origins came during a time when every RPG claimed that its ending would have the most variation; that the choices you made in game would affect the outcome of your character and their end plot. Everyone tried it, but no one seemed to get beyond the good ending and evil ending as the only options. (Remember the original Fable release?) DAO was announced five years before its release, giving the team a ridiculous amount of time to accomplish their goal.
In addition, Dragon Age‘s “choices plots” (as I call them), were supposed to vary dramatically, with less black and white (i.e. good and evil) and much more grey (e.g. the lesser of two evils). Instead of getting the “bad ending” because you harvested one little sister (JUST TO SEE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN), you would get an intricate conclusion that tied up multiple plotlines according to your decisions throughout the game.
Not only did Dragon Age deliver varied and detailed conclusions, but, learning from their mistakes in the first Mass Effect, BioWare spent more time on dialogue. Their dialogue options ceased being the typical three choices of good, bad, or trigger happy, and they became much more subtle and different. I could pick an apparent evil line, such as, “They were weak and deserved their fate,” and the character I spoke to could take it as a joke. It seems simple, now, but, just three years ago, that didn’t happen often–especially not in blockbuster games. Dialogue was spoken as it appeared on the screen, and characters took all dialogue at face value.
Mix the strong dialogue with decent voice actors and you have great characters: companions, enemies, random townsfolk, you name it. Characters do wonderful things for world building. These ones even talked to each other. That wasn’t revolutionary, by any means, but the priceless banter between Morrigan and Alistair or Oghren and anyone would beg to differ.
And this was all beside the plot. There was still a solid plot!
When Mass Effect 2 dropped less than three months later, I was still playing Dragon Age. I had to wait to get ME2, because I was having too much fun saving Fereldon over and over. Moving from that world to ME2 can only be compared to my realization that jocks owned video game consoles, circa 2004. Yeah, it’s great that more people are playing so that more great games can get released, but at what cost? In the jump from Mass Effect to Dragon Age:Origins, you can see growth. Mass Effect 2 was a Halo RPG, at best. BioWare had sacrificed everything great about their games to push out a juggernaut cash cow. The dialogue returned to good-evil-crazy, the characters were bland, and my comrades still jumped in front of my gunfire.
Like a good little fangrrl, I held out hope for Dragon Age II. It was obvious that BioWare changed their target audience for Mass Effect. Whatever. I was over Mass Effect. Bring on Dragon Age II.
Before I head into rant territory (am I there, yet?), I will say that people have become very passionate in their opinion of BioWare. Most of those people are mad about Mass Effect 3, but problems existed before 2012. BioWare was one of the developers to take the western RPG and foster it. I liked them because they were incorporating my favorite part of real (tabletop) RPGs: role playing.
And they flat-out abandoned that ideal. They went the action route. Dragon Age teased what could have been a wonderful evolution of action RPGs, and they said, “Nope. Let’s make money instead.” They didn’t want to put the time (money) into those dialogue choices or those conversations or, hell, even those skill trees. They put their money where the majority of consumers were and abandoned their original demographic. I can’t blame them for that (it’s a business, blah blah blah), but I can be angry about it. I have that right.
So my notice is this:
Knowing what I know now, I have the right to ridicule KotOR. I didn’t have a gaming blog when Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age 2 were released, and I will take it out on this game.
I hope you you understand. Thanks for reading.