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A major computer game studio primarily driven by two lead designers; their names are Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V.
One of the most popular RPG game makers of modern day, making titles such as Baldur's Gate (actually the just published that, Black Isle studios made that), Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age. They are currently working on making a Warhammer Fantasy MMORPG.
- 1 The Rise of Bioware
- 2 Bioware Games
- 3 Associated Games
- 4 The Decline of Bioware
The Rise of Bioware
Founded by three Canadian doctors in the 90s, Bioware didn't start out publishing RPGs. Their first game was a MechWarrior-style simulator game, with the serial numbers filed off. But the founders were all fans of tabletop RPGs, and their second game began life as an independent RPG, but publisher Interplay saw potential in it for hosting their next D&D game, and it became Baldur's Gate, Baldur's Gate became history, and Bioware became renowned as the savior and shining new light for the CRPG.
A MechWarrior 2 knockoff with less customizability and weirder enemies. No one, not even diehard Bioware fans and video game history nerds, cares about it, so moving on.
The game, the legend, the start of it all. The title that single-handedly saved the CRPG genre from its gloomy slide into irrelevance and Diablo-clones with smart writing and attempts to actually let the player role-play instead of just throwing in tons of mindless hack-n-slash.
Baldur's Gate II
The second game, the even more legendary legend. From dating your adventuring co-workers to taking the piss out of the situation in dialogue, if you love Bioware's stuff it probably has its origin here. Also a pretty badass follow-up/finish to the saga of the first game.
On the one hand, the story and characters are generally regarded as forgettable at best. On the other hand, a pretty good recreation of Dungeons & Dragons rules in video game form, and enough fan-made modules and content to make that last complaint rather moot.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
One of the first Star Wars RPGs ever made, KOTOR received widespread praise and acclaim for its complex story and well-written characters, including one of the most famous twists in gaming history. Gameplay-wise, a mostly-fun conversion of Dungeons & Dragons rules into the Star Wars universe. Faggots will complain about "binary moral choice" systems because that's the trendy thing to do right now, but it broke ground at the time for actually incentivizing roleplaying and staying in character in a way few other games had before.
Kung-fu wuxia action brawler glued to a pretty sweet story with another great video game twist that plays with the "formula" mentioned above. Bioware's first original role-playing setting was something of a sleeper, not selling in great numbers compared to previous efforts, due in part to cutbacks and restraints, but in the present day is well-regarded by most players. If you haven't tried it, give it a whirl.
Ah, the Mass Effect trilogy... such potential... this could have been to video games what Star Wars is to movies and Star Trek is to television. Arguably Bioware's magnum opus, the series ended up being a microcosm of the company's gradual rise and fall. On a side note: it's sad how many people rage about the ending of the third game and forget the high points in the first two (and the supplementary material) that made them love the franchise.
Mass Effect 1
The first game in the series was excellent, with top-notch characters, setting (so many interesting alien races...) and story. The presentation... not so much; the graphics and gameplay could be awkward, clunky, and even glitchy at times (ie; sniper rifles have a large hit area where even an intentional close miss would somehow result in a hit, seemingly joint-less ragdolls that often resulted in everyone being in bone-breaking positions even while alive, periodically lulzy physics that can sometimes unintentionally impede your progress, the unpatched overheating bugs that potentially rendered non-soldier classes utterly weaponless... you get the picture). It was still good. There were plenty of interesting side missions to do, most of the characters had decent development so you could like/hate them better (Hell even the side characters were given brief but good backstories), it had a lot of RPG elements that made RPGs lovable, tech and especially biotic powers were hella-fucking-balls fun to use because they were geared towards being more overpowered but mad fun to throw around instead of being stringently balanced (Like in ME2 though ME3 worked a bit to make powers more fun.), and overall you had more control of how you want your Commander Shepard to be through dialog and actions (ME2 gave you slightly less control though it introduced "interrupts" where you push a button to trigger an alternate scene, such as "hug Tali" or "kill jerkass mercs". ME3 made it worse).
There was a gripping DLC mission, "Bring Down the Sky" which involved stopping an anti-human Batarian terrorist from using an asteroid to destroy the human colony of Terra Nova. Of course, while you did have to pay for it in the past (Now it's free), Bring Down the Sky had very little in the way of the story as a whole, so even if you missed out on it, you aren't really missing out on the plot. But then, EA realized this wouldn't make them money, so they turned up the antee in ME2 and Emperor damn them in ME3 for literally making all the important plot-points DLC. It also had "Pinnacle Station," which... existed. (Its smoldering wreckage can be scanned in ME3, an apology to all the fans who bought it.)
Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2 was a great game, arguably the best of the series (according to fans and critics alike; possibly making it Bioware's best work). However, debatably, it did show a drop in character and story development compared to the first game. To be fair, ME1 had lots of characters, and it's the job of a good sequel to continue the story while fleshing out existing characters and introducing new ones. ME2 accomplished both, though some characters were better developed than others. At the very least, while most of the minor characters didn't get fleshed out too much, your squadmates get the full package. Also, there's only so much data you can put on a disk, and ME2 still required TWO DISKS to fit in all the content. The other shift in direction was that gunfights were heavily given emphasis, a good chunk of which in the wrong direction, long story-short they basically invalidated power-heavy classes (Mostly the adept) by making them largely redundant in the face of combat classes in higher difficulties.
There was quite a change of scope of the story: where ME1 had a mystery to solve and a villain to beat, in ME2 it is your goal to assemble an elite team of mercenaries, criminals, and specialists to stop a race of aliens called the Collectors abducting humans from their colonies (the Collector's motivation is pretty epic, but explaining that would be a spoiler reveal). The main story is told via a series of side missions that are flung at you now and then, but the game keeps telling you that you ABSOLUTELY NEED these people and should recruit them all to improve your chances of survival (some ARE essential, others not so much). Of course, in regards to DLC, EA really left their mark. While the minor DLCs (Weapon and armor sets, an old veteran merc out for revenge and a master thief as squadmates, plus an optional story that involves you trying to shut down a rogue AI/Human hybrid before it sets off a technological apocalypse) were passable, EA took three things that should have been in the original game and rendered them DLC: being able to drive vehicles (A hover-IFV this time) in short side missions and two stories that heavily influences the plot of the next game (Liara taking over the Shadow Broker's position and the Reapers' arrival). Overall however, if you don't mind those 3 things, ME2 is still full of boundless amusement from the multitude of ways you can approach the story.
Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3, while it had some good elements, like stream-lining combat, was a big step down from the first two. Some of the biggest complaints are that it rendered several choices from the first two games redundant, such as whether or not you perform genocide on a supposedly extinct race in ME1 and whether you saved or destroyed the Genophage cure acquired through unethical research in ME2. Also, story-essential characters were reduced to DLC. The first was the sole-survivor of a race thought to be extinct and even then, said character should have been included in the game by default anyway (It was on-disc DLC that was present in the collector's edition, they had no excuse not to put this in), given how very little the game came with in the first place. The second was the remnants of the Reapers' creators, who you were forced to ally with despite the fact that they were obviously evil (They could control the minds of entire populations, saw themselves as the apex species and everyone else being inferior to them, and had a massive God complex. Their MO was "serve us willingly or serve us via mind control". Never mind the fact that their own creation bit them in the ass and caused this whole Reaper problem). Surprisingly the game never addresses the fact that, once the Reapers are defeated, their creators will try to take over the galaxy again, something the previous games would have addressed. The most hated part was a sub-par ending that caused massive complaints from players for leaving literally all the plot threads hanging. Despite attempting to defend their presentation and hypocrisy, Bioware eventually caved in and produced a free replacement DLC ending that made a bit more sense (and even then the ending is still bollocks and still made little-to-no sense when you add up your whole journey from ME1 to ME3. It did more to explain the fates of the people and races you met and little on how the plot as a whole ended up). Some argue that the series devolved into a Gears of War clone with more dialog options, complete with multiplayer mode. Bioware is making some new game in the franchise, but many say that the main plot of the original trilogy was not resolved well, and said resolution is so broad-based as to make a new game's story... difficult, to say the least.
- Alternative Opinion: While all this is true to some extend, the previous description of ME3 completely fails to talk about very important details regarding the game. Sure, it isn't as fault-less as the previous games arguably are, but the game has multiple positive changes compared to Mass Effect 1 and 2. First and foremost, the gameplay has been upgraded significantly, using the same gameplay we know from ME2, but refined to be a lot less tedious. Shepard is now more agile, being able to throw him/herself around to dodge and evade enemy attacks. The game also has more emphasis on melee and close-quarter firefights, what with the addition of the Omniblade, a searing hot monomolecular blade floating above Shepards wrist. Powers have been refined as well: now they feel like they matter and do a real difference to all classes - Defensive buffs have negative effects to Shepard as well, the weight of your weapons make powers slower to recharge (which balances firepower and actual powers nicely) and, most notably, all biotic and tech-attacks can be combined to make explosions to devastate the enemy, adding a layer of strategy and finesse as well. The enemies are less stupid and more diverse as well - Though they all hail from three factions, the enemies manage to bring new stuff to the table, like heavy-armoured linebreakers, snipers who doesn't use rocket-launchers all the time and boss-like enemies, who tank hits like a Plague Marines - often you will be suprised by how tactical some of these guys can play (if you consider threat saturation and shock warfare tactics anyway). There are ton of new weapons, who are not just reskinned upgrades like in the first game - Guns range from minelaying pistols and fletchette-shooting shotguns to fuckin' grenade-charkram-launchers! All this new stuff is beautifully put together to create gameplay with more feel, speed and grit, that plays like newer action titles - And that might be what puts people off. I can understand why some would miss the gameplay of ME1 because of how it felt like a true RPG, but when it comes down to it, I reckon that Mass Effect has evolved past the title of "Sci-fi-RPG", being a fullblown Hollywood Blockbuster-game with capacity for both gameplay and social interaction. It is not like they completely forget the roleplaying though - Many wellknown characters reappear with a facelift and the writing is better than ever, with more humour, feelings and likeable quotes that will stay with you throughout the game (I don't need luck - I have ammo!). The game is, all in all, less tedious on the social part compared to the old games - A tour through Normandy, your personal spaceship, is now more entertaining, as they now walk about the ship talk with each other and give actual contextual comments to your current mission. From time to time, your dudes will invite Shepard to hang out, and in these moments, you really feel like you have come a long way with them. If you, by any chance, don't feel this is enough, there is always the Citadel DLC, which is one long party with all your old crew-members having a blast reminicing the old days, shooting up bad guys and cracking jokes on the game's behalf. Trust me, it's amazing.
- By sexy you mean turn a tomboy soldier into a pinup girl? Then yes.
They haven't even resolved the main plot to the original trilogy in a way that makes sense and is not just the most literal example of a deus ex machina ever written coming out of absolutely nowhere, spouting bullshit that invalidates the entire plot of the trilogy up to that point, and forces you to choose from three equally unappealing outcomes that have nothing to do at all with the rest of the game! Instead, the writers just decided to call their consumers idiots who wouldn't know a good story if it hit them on the head (and still insist that the people who hated the ending were a small minority in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary). Ironically Gears of War ended up being being better than Mass Effect in regards to story. Everything has a clear set up, (ex the secret third faction was hinted at in the first game) The story ending weapon works the way its said to and the ending was clear.
- -Anonymous, on the future of the Mass Effect franchise
Dragon Age is a more blatant example of this degradation. While far from being the grimdark spiritual successor that Bioware hyped it as, the story of Dragon Age: Origins was above average and possessed an interesting character creation mechanic where your background changed numerous parts of the storyline, the character development was good- but evidence that things were starting to fall apart were obvious right when you met the questgiver who forced you to buy a DLC pack if you actually wanted to do the quest. The "expansion pack" Awakening wasn't too bad either, at least if you ignored the fact that it had been visibly rushed and was loaded with gamebreaking bugs.
Dragon Age II was dead on arrival- the story veered from one plot thread to the next without any rhyme or reason while being completely disconnected to the previous game, all the major characters were either idiots, one-dimensional, or just plain unlikeable, and the gameplay consisted of running through the same reskinned dungeons over and over again, all problems exacerbated by the fact that their corporate overlords had them rushing the game out in less than a year, in their endless quest to have all their properties work like the Madden and FIFA games they're used to making. Dragon Age III's developers have openly announced that the game would be "heavily influenced by" (read: a ripoff of) Skyrim, which says a lot about how far they've fallen.
Often grouped with Bioware's games, and highlighted as the pinnacles of Bioware's talent, these games were actually made by other, completely-independent, studios: Black Isle Studios and Obsidian. These games used engines developed by Bioware and licensed by shared publishers, which resulted in graphical and interface similarities. Thus, many players believe that they were made by Bioware when this was not the case.
- Planescape: Torment
- Icewind Dale
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords
- Neverwinter Nights 2
Was rushed and only had development for about nine months resulting in whole chucks of the game missing and bugs out the ass and Obsidian wasn't allowed to patch it (much of it has been fixed by fans).
The Decline of Bioware
In 2007, Bioware was bought by EA and since then their games have been slowly declining in quality. It began between the release of the first Mass Effect game and Dragon Age: Origins (note how EA isn't shown in the opening credits for ME1). More on this can be found in the entries for those two franchises. Simultaneously, their games since have been characterized by rushed output, bullshit predatory business practices, and terribly prevalent DLC.
So in short, if you want a good Bioware game, look to the past.