I’m a long-time fan of BioWare. I’ve been playing their games for the better part of my whole life. Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, KotOR, Jade Empire, Mass Effect–all of these games have had a lasting impact on me and I’m always tempted to go back to re-experience the greatness of those gaming classics. I can’t express the disappointment I felt when they were bought out by Electronic Arts and the changes that came with that acquisition. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some great games from BioWare since the acquisition, but the practices and tone of the games have changed drastically since the studio gave up its independence.
Even though it’s published by EA, Dragon Age: Origins is, in my humble opinion, the last classic BioWare game. Production on DAO began long before EA’s purchase of the Canadian developer and it’s undeniable that it feels everything like one of their older titles. A spiritual successor to their Dungeons & Dragons licensed games, Dragon Age was a love letter to their fans and hardcore gamers. It was an in-depth tactical RPG with branching stories and great characters. I loved it, as did pretty much every other loyal BioWare fan. It was a game that gave me hope for the future of the studio under EA’s umbrella… until we got Dragon Age 2.
Among the many things bad with their fantasy RPG sequel, Dragon Age 2 can easily be considered Mass Effect with swords… and a much smaller world. Dragon Age 2 was everything DAO wasn’t–everything a Dragon Age game shouldn’t be. Despite Mass Effect being a great gaming franchise, it’s successful in that its mechanics work within its game world–those mechanics don’t belong in any sequel to a tactical fantasy RPG. With that said, I can’t help but be a little apprehensive about the upcoming Dragon Age 3, which will lay the groundwork for the next entry in the Mass Effect franchise.
I can see the positive side of this as it will cut down development time for the next Mass Effect, but it also indicates that the next DA will not really distance itself from the “ME with swords” identity established with the second game. If BioWare proves me wrong in this assumption, I’ll be thrilled. Until then, I’m going to remain cautious about the next Dragon Age.