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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. They are currently working on making a Warhammer Fantasy MMORPG and possibly xenophiles, going by SWTOR AND ME.
- 1 The Rise of Bioware
- 2 Bioware Games
- 2.1 Shattered Steel
- 2.2 Baldur's Gate
- 2.3 Baldur's Gate II
- 2.4 Neverwinter Nights
- 2.5 Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
- 2.6 Jade Empire
- 2.7 Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood
- 2.8 Mass Effect
- 2.9 Dragon Age
- 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.
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.
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.
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. Arguably Bioware's magnum opus, the series ended up being a microcosm of the company's gradual rise and fall.
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, a skilled solider that nearly everyone calls Shepard, whose customization goes right through to their backstory, love life and gender. 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. Said aliens include the asari (always female blue-skinned space elves, with head crests instead of hair and ears, who can move objects with their minds and are oversexed in-universe and among the fans), the turians (a dutiful race of avian/reptilian humanoids with a militant culture and carapaces who were the first to make contact with humanity), the salarians (skinny, quick-thinking, short-lived amphibious lizard people with a talent for espionage), the quarians (spacefaring, tech-savvy humanoids with full body envirosuits and weak immune systems living in exile; the sole member who appeared in the first game became one of the franchise's most beloved characters) and more. While Shepard is undergoing assessment for joining a group of galactic peacekeepers called the Spectres by protecting a human colony under attack, the leader of the attack, a human-hating rogue member of said peacekeepers, shows up. He murders Shepard's mentor, having allied with the attacking robot race using an ancient machine for his own ends... but 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).
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 ME2 introduced things such as invisibility tech and the biotic charge. 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.)
Also famous for the indestructible (until you meet a Thresher Maw)-flying-never-run-out-of-ammo armoured exploration vehicle, the MAKO.
Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2 was a great game, arguably the best of the series (according to fans and critics alike). However, while presentation and gameplay improved it did (debatably) show a drop in character and mission quality compared to the first game; though given how high the first set the bar the second was still good on these counts.
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, your squadmates get the full package on character development. Also, something many gamers overlook, there's a limit to much data you can put on a disk and ME2 still required TWO DISCS to fit in all the content (not counting DLC) in a day and age where that kind of thing was not often done anymore. This game also introduced several more alien races such as the Drell (fish/reptile people who live on the Hanar homeworld when they overpopulated theirs), the Vorcha (goblin-like aliens who can re-generate and live on average only 20 years) and the Yahg (big, burly aliens with eight eyes, a pack mentality and armor-plated bodies).
The other shift in direction was that gunfights were heavily given emphasis, a good chunk of which went in the wrong direction. Long story-short they reduced the effectiveness of 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 the galaxy's best 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 (up to a mission aboard a certain derelict where things progress more as an RPG should), but the game keeps telling you that you ABSOLUTELY NEED these people and should recruit them all to improve your chances of survival (some [spoiler: such as your returning two squadmates from the first game] ARE essential, others not so much). Then again, as a character-focused story, some of the best parts of the game came from going on "loyalty" missions with the crew on adventures to different corners of the galaxy, and the "fragmented" nature of the main plot, almost as a side effect, gives the player immense freedom in choosing what order to do them in.
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 decent, 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 immersive setting and multitude of ways you can approach the story.
Mass Effect 3 (The Downfall)
Mass Effect 3, while it had some good elements, like stream-lining combat, was a big step down from the first two Mass Effect games. Some of the biggest complaints are that it trivialized several choices from the first two games, such as whether you chose to reprogram or destroy a Geth faction 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 (especially since a lot of the character was on the disc). 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. However, these 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/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.
Apart from all that bullshit, the gameplay from ME 2 was finetuned to something pretty fun to play (tho still lacking the depth of a true RPG), including melee, new weaponry and powers, and while widely assumed to be an unneeded addition, the multiplayer 'Horde Battles' did have a few good things, like being able to be a fucking Krogan Warlord with a four-meter long Thunderhammer and a cranky temper, or simply win any Bronze game automatically by playing a Geth Prime. A few characters were added and old ones came back, being generally pretty well written, or fucking amazing, if playing the Citadel DLC, and small things, like the "I'm in the middle of some calibrations." social bullshit was removed and made more interactive with the crew. These points are, however, only a few shining lights compared to the black holes of failure the above paragraph details, and are generally not mentioned when discussing ME 3 - And often for good reason.
After the game was released 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 very little to explain the fates of the people and races you met and nothing at all about how the plot as a whole ended up, and ultimately came off as a passive-aggressive jab at their fanbase for daring to want actual closure to the trilogy). 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 and ambiguous as to make a new game's story... difficult, to say the least; then again, as mentioned before, the change in plot and quality was due to disagreements and rearranging of the games development team. This hasn't stopped them from announcing work on a sequel anyway.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
FAIL. Not even made by the real Bioware studio. Popular idea states pretend it does not exist. Expand at your own risk.
It's an intergalactic travel plot that was shoehorned into the original trilogy (because no mention of it was made there) where people cross the galaxy in Ark ships to escape the Reapers and colonize the Andromeda galaxy. While there, the Milky Way races meet a few alien races. One is the Halo Forerunner-expies called the Jaardan who don't appear in the game 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 is overemotional furless cat people with genetic memory called the angara who struggle to trust aliens after their first contact went badly (with the following race). The third are a possible Covenant-Empire-expy race of rocky-looking aliens called the kett who worship a scientific genetic assimilation process. While there are a few others mentioned in passing, it's clear the kett are the villains, as they're two-dimensional with unsubtle writing while possibly serving as thinly-veiled negative allegories of certain beliefs and ideologies in real life... for one thing, the kett leader is the BBEG, he has a crest like an angel's halo and he's called The Archon.
The characters vary. Some are watered down versions of the ones you know and love from the original trilogy (such as Drack), others are good (such as Vetra) and some are lacking (such as Addison). 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). A few characters from the original trilogy make cameos, but several well-liked ones make no appearance save their voice actors playing a minor NPC. Some interesting plot threads with characters and factions are hinted at (such as the disappearance of one Ark ship, more about the Jaardan's abilities and past and how not all kett support The Archon)... but while not many get resolved, even fewer get resolved well and too many get dropped without further exploration or even dismissed.
The voice acting varies from good to terrible, though the latter outweighs the former and there are several poorly written lines (such as the infamous "my face is tired"). 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 the various -isms that it's in vogue to pander to right now. In closing, the game reinforces the following quote; "In trying to please all, he had pleased none." Oh and also, 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. Yep, you heard it right, Andromeda crashed and burned so badly that EA has pretty much given up on it's lifeless corpse not even half a year after release.
The Dragon Age series is a more blatant example of this degradation.
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 a year 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. Start your adventure by picking your race as a Human, Elf, or Dwarf, then your class as a Warrior, Mage, or Rogue. With the return of their ancient nemesis, the Darkspawn (similar to Orcs, but they're the various peoples of Thedas mutated by a divine punishment manifesting as a contagious corruption because mages tried to overthrow the Maker) the kingdom engulfed in civil war, you have been chosen by fate to unite the shattered lands and slay their leader, an archdemon, once and for all.
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 - the story veered from one plot thread to the next without any rhyme or reason while being completely disconnected to the previous game, most of the characters were either idiots, one-dimensional, or just plain unlikable, and both clearly put trying to be "different" and "unconventional" on a pedestal over being good. 'Cause it worked sooo well in Generations, right? Gameplay was 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 anything; the narrator 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 Bioware game for a while, 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 prevelant in the previous two games has been replaced with a glorious noblebright mostly-outdoor setting. The storyline is based on the player character accidentally becoming the Chosen One by accidentally picking up a shiny green thing 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.
- Alternate Opinion:
- The above opinion is way too naive. If its an improvement, it's only because they hit rock bottom in the prequel and had nowhere else to go but up. 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 replaced with a cookie-cutter outdoor setting that looks like it was directly copied from Skyrim. The storyline is based on the player character accidentally becoming the Chosen One by accidentally picking up a green orb which allows them to fix tears in the fabric of reality, and despite claims to the contrary the choices made in prior games have minimal impact; the fact that all of these choices can be preselected and modified via the use of an application released with the game causes the marketing of "your choices matter" to fall flat on its face. The villain was a character who was introduced in the DLC of Dragon Age 2, which will confuse everyone who didn't happen to buy that particular DLC as his presence in the plot is never foreshadowed even though the player is expected to know who he is. 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. Nearly every quest boils down to "get this crap for me", and the story progresses in fits and starts (and once again ends on a barely coherent cliffhanger where no plot threads are tied up, because that worked so well with Mass Effect 3). Combat is a game of managing cooldowns and throwing particle effects everywhere.
- Most of the characters in your party are only marginally less one-dimensional than they were in Dragon Age 2, and the dialog can go from dull to pants-on head retarded ("You want to ride The Bull" comes to mind, among many others). The romance sidequests are often tacked-on and seem to cater mostly to yaoi fangirls who don't comprehend the fact the average player of a CRPG doesn't appreciate characters whose entire romance subplot can be summed up as "I am a homosexual, now let's buttfuck each other". The gameplay is copypasted from virtually every MMORPG there is, and while it's not as aggressively bad as Dragon Age 2 that's not saying very much. Overall, it's sad how a supposed successor to Baldur's Gate devolved into a shallow batch of cliches held together only by a colossal marketing budget.
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 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. 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. 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 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.