Pages: 1 2
A brief response to Alaric’s rant against BioWare, to Jim Redner’s PR goof, to Michele’s assertion that our reputation is not for sale, and to Angel’s commitment to stay out of the mainstream.
Recently, Alaric vented his anger at BioWare. I wanted to respond at the time, but my response was really too long to fit as a comment. Since I can just write an editorial blog anytime I want, I figured I could respond in a more lengthy and thoughtful way from my own soapbox.
First of all, let me just say that I have had some of the same feelings as Alaric. While I don’t bear the same kind of malice against BioWare that he apparently does, I completely understand his frustration. In my case, one of the last straws was NWN2. While NWN itself suffered from some problems, the writing and characterization of NPCs got much better in the Hordes of the Underdark expansion. The plot involved making some real choices, and had some interesting characters with compelling dialogue. (Whoever wrote Deekin’s dialog during the final encounter with Mephistopheles gets a gold star.) But by the time we get to NWN2, most of that wonderful writing is gone. NWN2 had so much potential that went unused because most of the NPCs were uncompelling and the plot had a kind of recycled feeling to it. The antagonists were named something different, but the ancient evil from the past schtick was something we had covered before in NWN. (One of the things that made Hordes of the Underdark so interesting was its unique plot construction when compared to the original NWN.) The game also suffered from a buggy release and unjustifiably high system requirements for the kind of graphics it had. The best NPC was Bishop, but you only got to see his full characterization if you made certain choices towards evil. (Bishop’s refusal to help Garius towards the end and his scathing commentary was pretty good. Just because Bishop was evil did not mean he had to just do what the bad guy said to do.)
What is perhaps more troubling to me, though, is that brief flashes of good writing like Bishop pop up in other works. While most players thought The Sith Lords was inferior to the original Knights of the Old Republic, I found that some of the characters were compelling. I was also very pleased by the way that game handled the standard ethical choices of Star Wars. Not only could you fall to the Dark Side or pursue a path of virtue via the Light Side, but your companions could be influenced in their ethics as well. All of your companions had their own starting ethics, but several characters could be convinced to see the world your way thanks to the influence system. While convincing Visas Marr to accept salvation and embrace the Light Side and abandon her devotion to her Sith training and moral outlook was fairly easy, convincing Brianna, the Handmaiden, to fall to the Dark Side was much more difficult. In fact, one of the chief satisfactions of playing The Sith Lords were these interactions with your companions. I played through multiple times just to see who I could convince to do what. Also, HK’s dialog, while probably not quite as good as the original Knights of the Old Republic, was still a lot of fun. His lecture on how to kill Jedi, and his complete disgust for people who try to shoot Jedi with blasters, was almost worth the price of admission.
Yet, these encounters with great characters and gameplay mechanics tend to underscore Alaric’s complaints. Even when BioWare has had a real winner on its hands, something has caused it to move into the land of “meh.” Smart players have looked into the files of The Sith Lords and discovered all kinds of content that would have made the plot make a lot more sense. The best thing they discovered was content related to the place where HK was made (tying up a loose end regarding the number and mission of HK assassin droids). This kind of thing points to something other than a lack of creativity. BioWare has had some good writers, but it seems like somewhere in the production process, interesting things got cut.
Of course, I am talking about games that are several years old. I have not really spent time with more recent BioWare titles for two reasons. One, since I am on staff here at Avault, I tend to spend time reviewing games; I can’t go out and spend billions of hours playing through Mass Effect and its sequels without compromising my employment, my review schedule, or my time spent with cats. Second, since I have to budget my time accordingly, I have to pick and choose games that I play outside of my capacity as a reviewer very carefully so that I don’t waste time on something I won’t like. While BioWare products continue to get good press from some quarters, nothing I have read makes me want to run out and pick up a copy of any of these recent titles. And that’s with our very own Michael giving some very high praise to these titles.
Wait a second now…Michael Smith of our own staff gave those games good reviews? I thought reviewers were part of a hive mind that reached a Borg-like consensus on what every game was worth. What in the Hell is going on here?
Pages: 1 2