All throughout Jade Empire I was in some sort of a trance comprised of equal parts disgust and disbelief. I just couldn’t believe that a BioWare game (or any game, for that matter) could be that bad. Clearly I should have stopped playing, but I kept plugging away, hoping that at some point the game would somehow get better. It didn’t, and by the end of the ordeal it became clear that I just couldn’t love BioWare anymore. I’d lost all hope and stopped caring. For the first time since Baldur’s Gate, I didn’t even follow the development of their next game, Mass Effect. In fact, it was the first BioWare game I picked up from the bargain bin, as opposed to grabbing it the day it was released.
Why did I pick it up at all? I guess I just wanted another confirmation. Plus, a lot of people praised it. I figured that for 10 bucks I might as well make sure. Don’t you just love it when your biases are proven to be correct by empirical evidence? Mass Effect wasn’t as bad as Jade Empire, but that’s not much of an achievement. It was just another lazy KotOR remake, this time with even fewer differences. Same mechanics, same sci-fi setting, same lackluster writing, same non-character party members, and same locations. Oh, I almost forgot, there was one very important change. The light and dark side points were renamed Paragon and Renegade points. Other drastic differences included different alien mugs, the addition of a terrible inventory management system, and the exclusion of lightsabers.
That was it. I didn’t buy Dragon Age or any of its expansions or sequels. Nor did I buy the subsequent Mass Effect 2. I did try the demo, and recently the demo of Dragon Age 2, which once again made me feel very satisfied when it validated every single one of my arguments against BioWare’s designs. There were also a number of non-game-related issues in recent years, each of which made me take yet another step back from this developer. There’s no need to go into these, but most of them have to do with various business decisions that I found not to be in my best interest as a consumer. Really though, it was the terrible game design, atrocious character development, and the type of writing that could only originate in some sort of a junior high school for criminally insane children with developmental disabilities, which thoroughly and conclusively turned me off.
I am now done with BioWare for good, and based on what trusted correspondents tell me, I am better off for it. So with one of the biggest RPG developers out of the picture, how do I get my fix of escapism? What do I have to look forward to? Well, there are quite a few games that I cannot wait to get my hands on. CDProjekt has just released The Witcher 2, and based on what I know of it, it promises to be an amazing role-playing experience, full of rich characters and meaningful and painful choices. It’s a sequel to The Witcher, another one of my top five RPGs. Come August, Eidos will bring us Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a game so promising, it might even be as good as the original Deus Ex, yet another top five game. November is when I plan to travel to Bethesda’s Skyrim, the new Elder Scrolls game that needs no introduction. MMO-wise, I fully intend to skip BioWare’s Old Republic. Instead I’m looking forward to games such as Vigil’s Warhammer 40K: The Dark Millennium and FunCom’s Secret World. Blizzard’s Project Titan is also in the works, although we know nothing about it at this point.
This is the story of my discovery, infatuation, disillusionment, and abandonment of BioWare. I don’t ask anyone to agree with me, and I know that many people still hold these games in high regard. More power to them. Those who, like me, think that BioWare has sadly become a purveyor of third-rate drivel, will probably do well to check out some of the other games I’ve mentioned. If anything, it’s always good to know your alternatives. Oh, and if anyone is wondering what my top five RPGs are, here is the list from oldest to newest: Betrayal at Krondor, Planescape: Torment, Baldur’s Gate II, Deus Ex and The Witcher. If you missed any of these games, do yourself a favor and play them. Even if they don’t make it to the top of your own list, they’re still worth exploring.