Bioware is a model of consistency. Their titles, and the third party titles released using Bioware technology, are normally of such high quality that the company has rightfully garnered an excellent reputation for products that live up to their hype and surpass the expectations of critics. The level of consumer trust is such that it is now assumed that any purchase of a Bioware game will not be a waste of money. The level of commitment to quality originates from key personnel, such as Dr. Muzyka and Dr. Zeschuk, who innovate and deliver on promises. I rarely actively seek out titles from a specific developer and in fact, I tend to come across Bioware’s games usually by chance. Having never been disappointed with their work, and maintaining the belief that their attention to quality will surely continue with Dragon Age: Origins, I will outline some great Bioware games that I have enjoyed since the developer’s inception.
Oddly, my first Bioware experience was with Knights of the Old Republic (Metacritic score of 94%). Despite the level of acclaim that it had achieved, I only purchased a copy of the game near the tail end of its shelf life. While playing it on the original XBOX, I was very impressed by the amount of detail to the Star Wars universe and shocking storyline. This was one of the first games that fully engrossed me in its world and imparted the feeling of being able to influence more than just the body count. Being able to determine whether you were a good or bad character on the fly was a relatively new concept, while somewhat crude, and helped to move the story forward the way you saw fit. Even thought the combat system was not in real-time, this was not a detriment to the experience and in many ways improved the aesthetic feel. Even today, the game maintains a large following which eagerly looks forward to a sequel.
Eventually I came across another Bioware product – Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn (Metacritic score of 95%). In many circles this is considered the epitome of the RPG genre. I was actually overwhelmed with the amount of options and things to do, but was able to manage my way through it even as a newcomer to the genre. Without a doubt, this was one of my richest experiences in gaming. While the bird’s eye perspective could be off-putting to some players who crave graphics, it was helpful strategically and eventually the art would grow on you. The story is deep and engaging while the interactions with other characters will have the player making morally grey decisions that will keep them second-guessing themselves. There is so much to do that the player could get lost, but for some players that is just part of the fun.
Then came along the real-time combat RPG, Jade Empire (Metacritic score of 89%). Yet again, the game continued with the high quality and attention to detail inherent in a Bioware game, did well with critics, and was a fun experience overall. The attractive visuals and serviceable RPG elements combined with real-time combat made it an accessible title for many audiences but lacked the depth desired by some. The game introduced a new universe based on ancient China with characters that were at times hilarious and others that made you want to skip the dialogue and destroy them. Eventually your mission to free the empire sways away from the typical and enters the spirit realm where mythical elephants and tigers with fighting styles of their own must be defeated. With the way philosophy was intelligently weaved into the story making you question which side you were on, it was a pity when the game finally ended as it felt too soon. Luckily, there are rumors of a sequel.
Mass Effect, the popular space opera, was my most recent Bioware experience (Metacritic score of 91%). Straying away from the turn-based combat of Knights of the Old Republic and the real-time hand-to-hand combat of Jade Empire, Mass Effect was Bioware’s shooter-RPG. As a basic shooter with RPG elements, the title mixed stunning visuals and thousands of lines of dialogue resulting in an unforgettable film-like experience which was bolstered with downloadable content and an upcoming sequel. The intricate storyline keeps you constantly engaged in Shepherd’s efforts, needing to know what happens next, with a dialogue system that yields some fantastic moral shaking moments at the push of a button. The journey of a soldier who is enlisted to save the universe from evil, sometimes at all costs, is one that harkens back to Star Wars and is one that people seem to jump at.
I have omitted two notable exceptions from Bioware’s arsenal: the original Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights (both scoring 91% on Metacritic). The reason I have done is simply because I have not had the opportunity to fully experience them but it is important to note that they were also well received. From my perspective, it seems like nearly every Bioware game reeks of quality and tries to push its genre forward. As a result, the company has grown at an overwhelming pace and both Muzyka and Zeschuk have been named in Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 list. It appears that their decision to change occupations has paid off. Their most recent title, Dragon Age: Origins, is surely to be as good or better than most of their past products and some onlookers anticipate that DA:O could be the essential RPG of this console generation. The game has an ambitious and dark storyline spanning roughly 80 hours and incorporates a deep RPG system. If history is an indicator, it is a safe bet that this title will sell well and some predict even challenging for game of the year awards. We would be lucky if more developers put the kind of effort into their work as Bioware does.
What are some of your favorite Bioware titles? Is Dragon Age: Origins going to experience the same success as the previous Bioware games? Please let us know by commenting below. No registration required to comment.