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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 , Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age. At one point they were working on making a Warhammer Fantasy MMORPG. Have been brought under the heel of EA Games, resulting in a mass exodus of staff and new staff were brought in to fill the gap, but for now there's still life left in them.
They're currently working on games like Dragon Age 4 and weighing up the future of the Mass Effect franchise.
The company is possibly full of xenophiles, going by Star Wars: the Old Republic and Mass Effect, and family is a recurring theme in their works (especially daddy issues).
- 1 The Rise of Bioware
- 2 Bioware Games
- 2.1 Shattered Steel
- 2.2 Baldur's Gate
- 2.3 MDK2
- 2.4 Baldur's Gate II
- 2.5 Neverwinter Nights
- 2.6 Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
- 2.7 Jade Empire
- 2.8 Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood
- 2.9 Mass Effect
- 2.10 Dragon Age
- 2.11 Star Wars: The Old Republic
- 2.12 Anthem
- 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. In fact, it started doing medical software, before the founders decided to act on their mutual passion for games. 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, clever dungeon design, and attempts to actually let the player role-play instead of just throwing in tons of mindless hack-n-slash. Uses a cutdown version of Second Edition AD&D rules, and is generally regarded as one of the best things about the Forgotten Realms setting. A recent "Enhanced Edition" remake brought it more in line with the sequel, graphics and gameplay-wise, and is well worth a look for the curious.
This, this is an outlier to everything Bioware was making at the time, considering they were focused on making RPG's with a tight connection to their tabletop counterparts and this is a Run 'n' Gun Third Person Action Adventure Shoot 'em Up. They didn't even make the first MDK, that was Shiny Entertainment (who were also responsible for the Earthworm Jim games).
It is surprisingly good, though it's a bit contested whether it stands up compared to its predecessor. In either way, it sold quite well.
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, and using a fuller set of the game's rules. Don't play it first, you'll fucking ruin the original for yourself. Recently got an "Enhanced Edition" too, following in the footsteps of the first.
Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear
Brand new expansion from the developers of the Enhanced Edition, complete with the entire cast from the original 20-odd years later. Composed entirely of skub; see the main article for details.
On the one hand, the story and characters are generally regarded as forgettable at best. On the other hand, a pretty good recreation of 3rd Edition rules in video game form, and enough fan-made modules and content to make that last complaint rather moot. If you want to try the official stuff, read a summary of the core game and play the "expansion" stories instead (Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark), which start from level one, tell a continuous story, and have Deekin, who is one of the best things about the game.
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. Sure, the villain's a bit lame, the finale is just an endless swordfight against armies of piss-easy droids, the level cap's way too low considering the levels you can accidentally essentially waste before you can become a jedi, but on the other hand, holy shit I can slice through an army with a lightsaber. To this day, often held up as one of the best things about the Star Wars brand as a whole.
BioWare isn't responsible for the sequel, which was lucky for them because the other guys had like four days so they didn't finish it, and sold it anyway. But we'll get to that further on.
Kung-fu wuxia action brawler glued to a pretty sweet story with another great video game twist that plays with the "formula" mentioned above more than the chart would suggest. 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. If nothing else, it's a rare RPG that lets you punch someone's pressure points until they explode in a shower of gibs.
Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood
...Yeah, it happened. Story's okay, the character writing is a highlight, and the gameplay mechanics are at the very least quite creative, but the soundtrack is a goddamn abomination, balance is a distant dream on both sides of the screen, and there's just not enough content to justify its existence. Better than the average 3rd party Sonic title, but... well, that's not exactly a high bar to clear. And the plot ends on a blatant sequel hook that will never amount to anything.
Behind-the-scenes development drama is the chief culprit: Bioware started out on the title as a bit of a passion project for one of the founders, but after working with Sega turned out to be a pain, Ken Penders kicked up a lawsuit against both SEGA & EA, and Dragon Age started looming on the horizon, they ultimately rushed the whole thing out under the door partway through to fulfil their contract and breezed away, never looking back.
A cosmic horror story-space opera with much potential; handled properly from start to finish, it could have been to video games what Star Wars is to movies and Star Trek is to television (and is, depending on who you ask). But despite being a flagship franchise of Bioware, the series ended up being a microcosm of the company's gradual rise and fall.
The core trilogy was released between 2007 and 2012 for Xbox 360, PC and PS3 (Mass Effect 1 was originally an Xbox console exclusive and came to PS3 in a digital release in 2011 to conincide with Mass Effect 2's own PS3 port), with a re-release called Legendary Edition coming out in 2021 for PS4, PC and Xbox One.
Mass Effect 1
The first game in the series was excellent, with top-notch characters, setting and story. The player character is Commander [insert custom name here] Shepard who can be customized to hell and back. Humanity is new to the scene and wants more of a say in the galactic community; some aliens support this, others think humanity is too greedy/selfish/domineering/impatient/etc. Shepard is undergoing assessment for joining a group of galactic peacekeepers called the Spectres, when a race of robots attacks, prompting a galaxy-wide adventure where the player gets to experience a whole new sci-fi setting, fight aliens, slavers and monsters and bang someone on your loveboat, the Normandy. There is MUCH more to the situation than meets the eye (the mission where we see the entire story shift from an action Space Opera to a Cosmic Horror Story is EXCELLENTLY DONE).
For 2007, this installment was pretty gosh darn good; visually it's a bit rough by 2020s standards (so took on the most updates in the Legendary edition), and the gameplay is not what you'd call polished, but it's good fun still. A good bunch of the biotic powers can be wildly powerful and do really weird but cool things and there's a lot of powers available to most classes. It's often lauded as the most RPG-like of the Mass Effects, though it doesn't have too much in the way of choice - it's more of a "gain points to get more powerful" than a "customize your playstyle"-kind of RPG. Roleplaying-wise the game is a little weird at times, but very lovable - many characters do the "telling-you-what-you-already-would-know" thing a lot, but since it was the first introduction to the setting, it's justified. The characters are well-established, but arguably doesn't really become great until the next two games.
Many side-missions were a bit barebones. It also got two DLCs. The first one "Bring Down The Sky" was free, coming with a major bug-patch; and was fine, introducing the Batarian villain race. The second one "Pinnacle Station" was not free and was terrible.
BUT, for the time, this overall game is awesome, and introduced the world to the wonderful Mass Effect setting. The remaster added nicer graphics, more character customization, more lighting (cue lens flare memes) and shorter elevator rides, and it comes with BDtS. Although it didn't include Pinnacle Station, which was just as well; and it made Mirandabros all buttmad that the camera wasn't focused on her (admittedly top tier) booty so much.
Also famous for the nearly-indestructible-flying-almost-impossible-to-control-never-run-out-of-ammo-but-only-hits-shit-15%-of-the-time-and-then-gives-you-no-XP armored exploration vehicle of absolute, undiluted awesome, the MAKO.
Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2 was a great game, arguably the best of the series (according to fans and critics alike). The game is more focused in scope and less open-world like, with tighter if-a-little-rudimentary combat and more emphasis on the characters in your team than the entire world. ME2 is a bit more cinematic in comparison to 1 and spends more time presenting the setting to the player. Also notable for being fucking huge, being released on TWO DISCS, which was becoming increasingly rare at the time of release.
There was quite a change of scope of the story: Shepard must assemble an elite team of the galaxy's best mercenaries, criminals, and specialists to stop a race of aliens called the Collectors abducting entire humans colonies. You're forced to work with an extremist organization from the first game, who are financing your mission and are certainly not planning to betray you when you're no longer useful. "Main" missions take a backseat to recruitment and "loyalty" missions where you acquire and secure the loyalty of your team-mates, respectively (some of whom you can still bang on your loveboat). There's even some series-essential lore and plot-changing decisions locked away in specific recruitment and loyalty missions (in particular, Tali's missions are absolutely vital regarding the geth and the geth-quarian conflict, and also set up a plot arc for a galaxy-wide threat that could upstage even the Reapers... which got retconned out in the third game).
This makes for a character-focused story that goes at the player's own pace and takes you to previously unseen, seedy parts of the galaxy. Your enemies are more often than not mercenary organizations than evil robots this time, and you tangle with the criminal underworld just as much as you do the Collector threat.
Combat and RPG mechanics took quite a swerve; now there is more focus on straight shooting-and-cover-camping than powers. While somewhat disliked at the time, it was at least less janky than ME1 and easier to get the grasp of. The RPG system also took a grievous hit, but in the grand scheme of things, the new system boiled down what the old system was to what it actually provided - simply progression, with a choice of specialization at the end.
The DLC was very split; the major ones are spectacularly good and are generally considered some of the best for the entire trilogy (Lair of the Shadow Broker), while the smaller ones reek a bit too much of EA-style pay-money-for-guns-and-cosmetics bullshit (Firewalker Pack). Major rage ensued when one of the "DLCs" ( a full extra party member) proved to be actually on the discs, indicating that it was functional at release but intentionally suppressed from the player unless you paid extra for it - in other words, a blatant fucking cash grab. Luckily all the good shit is included in the remaster.
Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 is the most divisive of the three games and was host to some pretty impressive nerd-protests, but was overall a decent experience with a trip at the finish line. The game starts with the Reapers invading the galaxy in full force, leaving it to Shepard to do the impossible (again) and find a way to stop them before they purge the current galactic civilization.
The game expanded the previously streamlined combat and developed it to a fine point, and the game took another face-lift graphically. The story was overall decently received with a lot of YMMV discussion about how it was handled. Some did not like how some of the plotlines from earlier games were handled, how they were ended and whether or not they even mattered in the first place. Character development takes a bit of a back-seat now that Shepard has been on-board therapist for his entire crew since ME1 and 2 - and somewhat surprisingly, the one who gets the most focus is Shepard themselves, who visibly grows closer and closer to his/her breaking point.
A multiplayer mode was added, which, while originally controversial, turned out to be pretty fun and challenging.
Most of the problems with the third game were because most of the development team for the first two games (including several of the writers and head writer Drew Karpyshyn) quit partway through developing the second game or did not return to work on the third game. Their reasons for this were internal strife with Bioware as they were subsumed into EA, conflicts of interest and disagreement over the direction they wanted the story to go.
But all of this is not what you wanna hear about. You wanna hear about the ending, one of the most divisive events in modern gaming history. Without going into too much detail, the ending(s) for the game were immediately seen as some of the worst writing in a game to date, casually ignored most of the choices prior in the trilogy (something the devs had promised wouldn't happen) and left a ship-load of unanswered questions. The result was a several-month long campaign to have the ending changed, which eventually led to Bioware releasing a DLC that added to the original endings. It was well-received but many felt it still did not do the games justice - but at the very least it was free. DLCs for the game are considered a mixed bag - Some are quite mediocre (like Omega), while others are considered better than the base game (Citadel). On that note, two story-essential arcs were initially rendered DLC ("From Ashes" and "Leviathan"), but they were later integrated into the main game at no extra charge.
A bit of a whimper to end on, but no end to a good journey has ever been perfect.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
This is literally what happens if Mass Effect had a child with the Immaterial God of Autism while consuming lead-laced mushrooms, then said spawn got raised by an SJW. Expand at your own risk.
tl;dr: It's like Halo with the Mass Effect name plastered on but without subtlety, good writing, or functional animation.
After years attempting to essentially build No Man's Sky inside the Frostbite engine, the old devs got shuffled away, new devs were brought in, handed a pile of assets, and ordered to slap something together and shove it out under the door in a year and a half to recoup costs. Naturally, this went about as well as the last time they tried it.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is an intergalactic travel/space soap opera plot shoehorned into the story of the original trilogy released in 2017. You play as a member of the Ryder family, made (in)famous by Alec Ryder, a former war hero and Pathfinder for humanity who was blacklisted from the military for making the illegal AI SAM. There is also his deceased (spoiler - actually terminally ill and cryogenically frozen) wife and his adult children, who are male/female twins the player chooses from for the player character. Alec and a group of rich individuals pooled money and resources to build Ark ships and a knock-off the Citadel called the Nexus to go colonize the Andromeda galaxy (also to escape the Reapers, but that's classified in-universe. At the meta level, even though there are closer galaxies, the devs chose Andromeda because it's the most well-known galaxy besides the Milky Way). During the six century journey, massive amounts of Not As Planned occur - everyone arrived at different times, the multi-species quarian ark went M.I.A. and humanity arrived last with the human Ark sustaining damage and the non-PC twin rendered comatose. The Earth analog planet chosen for humanity to settle turned out to be uninhabitable for humans; while exploring it you make contact with hostile aliens and after an accident Alec dies saving the player character, who gets SAM implanted in their head and becomes humanity's new Pathfinder.
Throughout the story, the Milky Way races deal with all the socio-political and mental baggage they brought with them from the Milky Way while trying to establish new homeworlds. Along the way, the Initiative meets and interacts with alien races or their technology native to Andromeda. The first are Forerunner-expies called the Jaardan who don't appear in the game, but built artificial planets and may have left behind a semi-solid energy cloud that attacks anything near it, is attracted to certain types of technology and can shatter planets. The second are overemotional furless lizard-cat people with genetic memory called the angara, who struggle to trust aliens after their first contact (with the following race) went badly. The third are the hostile aliens encountered earlier; Dalek/Covenant Empire-expies called the kett, rocky-looking aliens who worship a scientific genetic assimilation process around which they built an expansionist, eugenicist cult. They're one-dimensionally Stupid Evil and their leader the Archon is the game's BBEG, the ultimate example of the kett's poor writing and arguably Bioware's most poorly-written antagonist. Unlike evil races of games' past (such as Mass Effect's geth and Dragon Age's Darkspawn), the kett aren't really analyzed or given anything more. No seriously, think about this; the Darkspawn were based around the concept of being a "living plague" and "bad guys (the player) wouldn't feel bad about killing", and they had more characterization and deeper lore than the kett.
The characters are almost all two-dimensionally nasty (such as practically every kett), lacking (such as Addison) or divisive (such as Peebee). Even the rare exceptions (such as Vetra) are watered-down versions of characters from the original trilogy, and were it not for that lack of good characters, the soap opera feel might have been forgiven. The few interesting characters barely get fleshed out, such as Bain Massani, son of the bounty hunter Zaeed Massani from the original trilogy's second game DLC, and a few characters from the original trilogy make hard-to-find cameos. Some interesting plot threads with characters and factions are hinted at, such as the disappearance of the quarian Ark ship (later resolved in a novel) and how not all kett support The Archon, but few get resolved and even fewer get resolved well.
The voice acting varies from good to terrible, though the latter outweighs the former along with several poorly written lines; such as the infamous "my face is tired", "I think I really pissed that one off. Maybe because I shot him in the face!" and "...I swear, we're the galactic good guys". There are also many glitches, bugs and instances of sloppy animations such as infamously bad facial expressions and running. Good animation is there (good luck finding it under all the derp though) and the environments while lacking in uniqueness are visually appealing and very open. The combat engine was functional and it probably would have made a good multiplayer, but that's arguably a kiss of death for a CRPG series. And since this is a Bioware game written after 2014, the writers made the mistake of pandering to woke culture and identity politics, especially since at least two key members of the dev team, including a leading writer, were avowed SJWs - but as was typical of the 'checklist' approach to representation, Bioware bungled shit up, people complained and they responded with even more tone-deaf pandering.
As far as actual gameplay goes, Andromeda is halfway decent, though quite uninspiring and mediocre at times. One of the few positives is that it takes a more open-world approach similar to the first Mass Effect, as opposed to the less appealing corridor-heavy sequels. The crafting system from the third game returns, along with a mining system that allows wider item access to party members. The combat is fairly solid, if lacking the usual ME polish, with a good amount of depth added by a short-range jump pack and the inclusion of previous classes' abilities and passive skills based on the specialization tree chosen. Even without the controversy, neither gameplay nor story is strong enough to carry each other, and far from up to the usual Bioware standard where it matters.
In closing, the game devs tried to push and capitalize on progressive narratives in a ham-fisted way, neglected to tend to the actual game, and failed miserably on both ends. In addition, the game was so widely panned that it caused EA to liquidate the game's development studio, not even 6 months after its release and caused EA and Bioware to discontinue all support for the single player campaign and focus on multiplayer. EA, already in the midst of subsuming Bioware, has pretty much given up on its lifeless corpse not even half a year after release due to the game being so subpar and fierce backlash from fans and critics alike.
Mass Effect 4
Announced at the 2020 Game Awards alongside news of the Legendary Edition remasters. Little is known about the game other than the hint that the character Liara is involved, but given the string of failures Bioware has had in more recent years, this may well be a Hail Mary pass to keep the company alive.
Bioware's "we don't need those folks at D&D to do a High Fantasy game!" Unfortunately, the Dragon Age series is an even more blatant example of the degradation mentioned above.
Dragon Age: Origins
The original, Dragon Age: Origins, was a game six years in the making, which shows in good ways (immense depth and craft to the situations encountered) and bad (wonky graphics that looked worse than Mass Effect's, despite coming out nearly two years later.). While far from being the grimdark spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate 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 premise is that your character is a Grey Warden, one of the last of a legendary order of guardians in the world, and the story takes place on the continent of Thedas (The Dragon Age Setting) in a nameless world. Start your adventure by picking your race as a Human, Elf, or Dwarf, then your class as a Warrior, Mage, or Rogue. The story begins with an explanation of the Blight and the Darkspawn who both caused it and arose from it according to Scriptures from the in-universe religion Andrastianism (a deistic religion centered around a woman called Andraste, whose essentially a combination of The Virgin Mary, Jesus, Muhammad and Joan of Arc). Darkspawn are Orc-like beings similar to Tolkien Orcs who were mutated by a contagious supernatural corruption (which may or may not be a divine punishment) and are also described as a "living plague". This living plague is said (and confirmed in future games) to have originated from a group of mages who travelled through the Fade (a spirit realm like the Warp but easier to enter and safely leave) who entered the Golden City (Dragon Age's version of Heaven) then tried and failed to overthrow the Maker (Dragon Age's Creator God who may or may not exist - this ambiguity a deliberate move by the writers). The mages actions turned it into the Black City, a place so dangerous no one whose gone there since those mages has ever come out and even demons avoid it. According to the Chantry (Dragon Age's Catholic Church analogue for the religion Andrastianism) this was a punishment from the Maker.
The Darkspawn are normally roving bands, but sometimes they rally under one leader, an archdemon - ancient powerful spirits taking the physical form of dragons, and when this happens it causes an invasion/natural disaster/epidemic called a Blight. During the first one, after much trial and error the Grey Wardens were created and successfully stopped the first Blight by killing the Archdemon leading it and have been a revered order of protectors ever since. However, cultural, political and religious differences have divided the peoples of the world and do so between each Blight, and things seem to be coming to a head in the first game. You play through the intro which establishes who you are and what your lot in life is and varies based on what you made your character, then the life you knew gets upended in various grimdark ways (ranging from being the elf peasant who killed the human nobleman that raped your friend to being a Dwarf prince who gets framed for fratricide by your younger brother). When a Grey Warden leader rescues you, you've proven your mettle and get inducted into the Grey Wardens to stop the Darkspawn in the human kingdom of Ferelden. Things later go really pear-shaped when the king's general/father-in-law abandons him to die in battle then framed the Grey Wardens for his death, making Ferelden's best hope outlaws or exiles. While the nations are threatened by a Blight and most of the realms are engulfed in civil war, you have been chosen to unite the shattered lands and slay the current archdemon once and for all. The setting itself has a few notable differences from your standard run-of-the-mill High Fantasy world, including a clerical order of Templars hell-bent on keeping mages in line, cutthroat Dwarven politics, Elves being second-class citizens and a shadow of their former selves and an interesting threat in the form of the aformentioned Darkspawn.
The character development was good - there are some squadmates who are optional but have fully-fleshed out stories and character arcs. 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, but only after giving you the sales pitch. 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
The most tragic game on the list. A perfect storm of wrongheaded design and corporate mismanagement, Dragon Age II was dead on arrival, and is easily not just the least beloved entry in the trilogy, but the least beloved thing Bioware did prior to its decline period (more on that later). The story had some interesting ideas and angles (the main character's family being rags-to-riches immigrants, Templar/Mage conflicts, etc.), but too often veered from one plot thread to the next without any rhyme or reason while being completely disconnected to the previous game. It clearly put trying to be "different" and "unconventional" on a pedestal over being good. 'Cause it worked sooo well in Generations, right?
Some characters, mostly Isabella, Varrick, and the player's hot/cute sister Bethany went over well, but overall, DA II's story, characters, and world are generally seen as a step down from the first game even if you aren't a hater. If you are a hater, then many of the characters were either idiots, one-dimensional, or just plain unlikable.
Gameplay fared worse, being the worst kind of busywork, consisting of running through the same not-even-reskinned maps over and over again, pressing the same buttons to do the same things to the same generic enemies as they teleport in out of nowhere. All these problems might've been ironed out as development went on, if not for 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 bankrolling. And when, thanks to their interference, the game under-performed, EA promptly scrapped the expansion they were building to wrap up the dangling, jangling plot threads.
The game can be skipped entirely without missing much of anything; the narrator (the aforementioned Varrick), appears again in the third game and summarizes all of the important parts in one conversation. It's actually sort of the point of the story that despite Hawke and company winning every battle they were subsumed by greater forces, everything in their lives falls apart anyway, and nothing they did had any lasting effects.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Dragon Age: Inquisition picked things up... a little. It's certainly the best of the more recent Bioware games by a solid margin, but a lot of that is because literally everything about the game is risk-averse. Both the story and the gameplay are assembled from pure fantasy cliche, and the grimdark city-based environmental art style prevalent in the previous two games has been largely replaced with a glorious noblebright mostly-outdoor setting (dang if it doesn't look gorgeous though). Much of the shittiness of the DA world still exists, but its all moved to the periphery so as not to sour the fun times. Put a different way, if DAO felt like Lord of the Rings if it was written by George RR Martin or Andrzej Sapkowski, then DAI feels a bit like a Dragon Age entry written by Disney (the characters even sing to lift their spirits at one point). Which isn't to say that its bad. It just doesn't have the Grimdark edge that was part of what fans loved about the first entry.
The storyline is based on the player character accidentally becoming the Chosen One by accidentally picking up a shiny green orb which allows them to fix tears in the fabric of reality. The villain has some interesting implications about the lore of the setting, but the writers never really actually commit to any of that lore, preferring to have it remain as hearsay, and the villain becomes boringly one-dimensionally evil because of that. Gameplay-wise, Inquisition started as an MMO, and you can still feel the MMO influence; you explore about ten wilderness zones which are very large and pretty but have very minimal interaction, spend most of your time running fetch quests, and only hit story beats every three levels or so. Combat is a game of managing cooldowns and throwing particle effects everywhere.
That said, unlike some of the past games from Bioware's decline-and-fall period, Inquisition is actually fun to play. Most of the characters in your party are well-rounded (except for Vivienne and to a lesser extent Sera), there's a ridiculously large amount of party banter, and the romance quests actually feature involving character development instead of being something to add to the checklist. There's even some series-essential lore locked away in some of the romances (in particular, Solas's romance reveals absolutely vital information about the history of the Elven race). The gameplay, cliched and MMO-ey though it may be, is actually involving and fun at times, and the quest to hunt down all ten High Dragons is pretty awesome (as well as being pretty much the only way to get value-for-money from the game's otherwise superfluous crafting system; pretty much every piece of gear you can craft is outclassed by the loot you find from monsters, except for crafted items which use Dragon Bone, which are hilariously overpowered). Certainly not a great game, but it's quite good if you aren't overly sensitive to cliche.
While the main game doesn't add much to the setting's lore (such as the lore around the BBEG), the DLC missions add a lot of lore to the setting. The first is a mission to help a Dwarf realm plagued by earthquakes and Darkspawn where you learn more about the origins of the Dwarfs and Lyrium (the setting's equivalent of Warpstone). The second is one where you fight the fanatical followers of a tribal war god while trying to unearth the lost history of the Inquisition (it reveals more about the nature of the human vs Dalish elves conflict). The third takes place after the main game and has the biggest implications of all in the setting, where you start by dealing with political blowback against the Inquisition and end up in a counter-espionage move against qunari assassins and conclude by meeting an elven god whose plans to help the elves endangers the world.
Dragon Age: The Dread Wolf Rises
Bioware and EA have announced that there will be a fourth Dragon Age game, called the Dread Wolf Rises. It will revolve around the elven god introduced in the previous game and their plans for the elves and Thedas. The developers estimated its release to happen three years time from the game's announcement.
However, Dragon Age 4 has already generated massive amounts of Skub. Several key developers - including Narrative Director John Epler - made announcements on social media about identity politics, stating this game's story will be “political” and that it will be “celebrating our diversity and differences.” Even more worryingly, they've dropped lots of buzzwords surrounding EA's push to turn all their series into "live service" model games, supported for years, and right after their previous attempt to do so (see "Anthem" below) fell flat on its ass and died on arrival.
Terrified fans predict this could be the moment when EA finally puts poor Bioware's neck in the guillotine, while still hoping frantically that it will instead be Bioware's second wind, something they could desperately use right about now.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
TL;DR: Bioware aimed to develop an MMO combining the setting and story of KOTOR with the sprawling, open-world appeal of WOW. Delays caused by production caused Bioware to rush development of other games in order to meet fiscal targets. The game itself became more controversial with time as expansion stories seemed to take TOR further away from KOTOR than its 100-year timeskip had already done.
Anthem is an online multiplayer action role-playing video game developed by Bioware. Everyone in Bioware was on this project, with many people saying this is the company's do or die game. The game was initially slated for a 2018 release on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but this date was moved to February 2019. It is a science fantasy game, where humanity has numerous civilizations on a single planet. If all the science fantasy schticks like elemental powers combined with Big Guns, the armored duds, the emphasis on color and the grind gameplay makes it look a bit like a Warframe/Destiny clone, don't worry - that's exactly what it is.
The story takes place on the planet Coda. Coda was created by mysterious beings called The Shapers, who some humans consider gods; they planned to make the world in nine days but vanished on day three, leaving everything incomplete and hostile, especially for humans. After a brief period of enslavement by aliens, the humans broke free, formed three factions (the Dominion, the Guardians and the Freelancers - the PCs are part of the Freelancers) and began fighting each other. This is where you and your ability to infinitely farm resources and quests for NPCs come in.
Development was rough, with rumors swirling that EA is deliberately putting Bioware in a no-win scenario where no matter what happens, the C-suite has an excuse to exercise more control over or liquidate the studio; given the amount of resources put on this project, if Anthem fails EA will actually take a major financial hit, so all in all Bioware may have become expendable by this point, while if it is a success it could mean supporting and making more games like it instead of the kinds of games fans love and want more of. Worryingly, several members of the dev team left during development, including the lead writer Drew Karpyshyn.
Early "VIP" showcases were a mixed bag - great combat and movement, but otherwise not too impressive. The game didn't really gather any momentum in the hype side of things, and by the point of release, Anthem received mediocre scores at best: with the game having 61 Metascore and 4.1 User score to date. The game has seen been left almost dead in the water; a roadmap to fix the game was introduced and promptly dashed. To add insult to injury, a report from Jason Schreier revealed a troubled, bloated, rushed development cycle laden with both crunch and a lack of real direction.
As of 2020 there was increasing talk of remastering Anthem, but between fearing a failed remaster, the possibility of forcing people who already brought the game having to pay for the remastered version, and the fact that the both Warframe and even Destiny 2 have done better and are even free-to-play, the chances of a successful revival were very slim. Then in early 2021, Bioware/EA threw in the towel and cancelled the plans for remastering Anthem.
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, both of which included lot of the same staff. These games used engines developed by Bioware and were 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
Both of those last two were rushed out for Christmas, NWN2 with only around nine months development, resulting in whole chunks of the game missing and bugs out the ass. Obsidian wasn't allowed to patch either, though much of the lost content has since been restored by fans.
The Decline of Bioware
In 2007, Bioware was bought by EA and it wasn't long after that their games began slowly declining in quality. It began with the release of Dragon Age II, and greatly accelerated in more recent years, as can be seen with Mass Effect: Andromeda. 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.
Then the founders all left because it just wasn't fun anymore with the glowing eye of Jon Madden/Sauron looking over your shoulder and trimming away all the fat until only a skeleton was left. Followed, in the next few years, by most of the senior writing/production staff. Unfortunately, the people who stepped in, or were put forward by EA, to fill the gaps this mass exodus left tended to be incompetents, and it's shown in their later games such as Mass Effect: Andromeda and to a lesser extent Dragon Age: Inquisition (see above for more details). They also have developed a rather nasty workplace, pushing their staff extra hard to work long hours to the point where it's causing them emotional and psychological harm. And, of course, EA relentlessly pushes for them to stop making the kinds of popular, deep, well-written single player RPGs that made them famous and that their fans want to play, and instead focus resources on heavily-monetized and monetizable looter shooters or multiplayer modes along with sprinkling in identity politics here and there to pander to the Anglosphere's current zeitgeist.
They haven't yet been sucked bone dry and thrown on the pile like so many other studios "acquired" by the Men From Redwood City yet, but everyone knows/fears it's coming. With EA liquidating their Montreal-based Bioware studio, it looks like the clock is one minute closer to midnight for Bioware.
So in short, if you want a good Bioware game, look to the past.