Is EA Ruining Bioware?

Note: [All opinions expressed herein are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of GamerXChange]

Let’s face it, we live in a day and age of huge corporations buying out other corporations, then cutting up those smaller corporations and selling them for as much money as they can possibly make. EA has long been a company that raises my ire, it’s almost like a bad habit when it comes to their games, you know the company itself is bad and only after profit, but you keep buying their games anyway. I’d say EA has some quality franchises and some upcoming very promising titles, but they do tend to run their more quality franchises into the ground, they rush sequels and have caused a decline in overall quality to a number of different franchises in the past. EA is definitely a huge corporation that wants a full monopoly in the gaming industry, most of the time I probably wouldn’t care, but lately I’ve noticed a decrease in quality and originality in one of my all time favorite developers Bioware. So the question needs to be asked. Is EA ruining Bioware?

I first learned of Bioware way back when I got my first look at Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic on the original Xbox console. It was that game along with Halo CE that brought my attention to Microsoft’s gaming console in the first place. If it were not for Bioware, I probably wouldn’t be the huge gamer I am today. The quality of the original KOTOR was just something I’d never seen before on a home console. All the offerings from Bioware were spectacular, Jade Empire really stood out as a definitive RPG last generation, I was really hoping to see more from that series, but it seems that EA has some other plans for Bioware at the moment. I’d venture to say KOTOR and Jade Empire were my two favorite titles on the original Xbox, I played them both countless times and it was really the first time that choices I made in a game actually made a difference in the outcome, this made you almost have to play through their games at least twice.

When the next generation of consoles launched I had really high hopes for anything made by Bioware and they didn’t disappoint. Mass Effect launched in 2007 and that game blew me away, all my expectations were absolutely exceeded. After I finished the epic space adventure I literally said “wow” and wanted to start the whole game over and get a different ending by doing things differently throughout the game. When I heard Mass Effect was a planned trilogy I became really excited, mostly because Bioware kind of left us all hanging with the story arc in KOTOR and Jade Empire, but they tended to work at their own pace and it’s best to let creative companies and people work like that. I knew there would be more Mass Effect and that was good enough for me. The one thing I didn’t want was a rushed sequel like KOTOR 2, I knew Bioware didn’t make KOTOR 2, but it was rushed and nowhere near the masterpiece of the first game. When I started hearing that Mass Effect 2 was coming out in early 2010 I was as excited as I have ever been for the release of a game, 3 long years had past and it’s my opinion that a 3 year development cycle always gives us a more polished and better overall gameplay experience.

When I got Mass Effect 2 the first thing I noticed was that EA had implemented an online pass of sorts, where if you bought the game used you missed out on a whole main mission and character. I grumbled back then about it, but nobody seemed to pay much attention, I even guessed that EA would be putting online passes in all of their games in the future, which of course is the norm for them now. Anyway the thing I noticed right away was the game was a little bit simpler, I guess in an attempt to reach a broader audience, but there seemed to be more of a slant towards 3rd person shooter as opposed to actual RPG. So although I enjoyed Mass Effect 2, I was left kind of scratching my head and wondering if this might just be an aberration or if it might actually become a trend for the now EA owned Bioware.

A little bit before Mass Effect 2 came out Dragon Age: Origins came out, I tend to believe this game was being worked on before the EA purchase and that is why it turned out so amazing. I was again blown away by Bioware and their ability to tell a great story and have simplistic controls that weren’t really available on other console RPG’s at the time. Once again I was excited to hear that a sequel to Dragon Age was going to be coming, and only slightly a year after the first one, this was in addition to their already being a huge add-on in Dragon Age : Awakenings. So I was a little skeptical about the swift turnaround, I know Bioware is a large developer, but they were seemingly working on a bit too much at a single time, especially when you consider they couldn’t work on KOTOR 2 because they were working on Jade Empire, yet now they somehow are able to work on multiple games at the same time, DLC and full-scale expansion packs. Something wasn’t adding up, or it was adding up and it was adding up to mediocrity.

So Dragon Age 2 released, or as I like to call it Side Quest Age 2. The game was a debacle when compared to the first one, the outcry by fans was overwhelming and the user scores on Metacritic really told Bioware what the majority thought of the now more casual Dragon Age game. To me the game was still fair, but they changed so much that it didn’t even feel like a Dragon Age game, it was one of my biggest disappointments of all of 2011, it could have been great with some more time and polish and thought. Later Bioware came out and said they were rushed by EA and they tried to apologize, but the damage was already done. My thoughts then turned to Mass Effect 3, with Mass Effect 2 coming out in 2010, they slated Mass Effect 3 for 2011, thankfully after the fallout of Dragon Age 2 and how it was rushed, Bioware pushed Mass Effect 3 into early 2012. It’s still sooner than I would have liked it or expected, I would much rather have a complete game then something sooner that was rushed.

My worst fear for Mass Effect 3 is that they spent this extra time adding in worthless multiplayer and didn’t focus on telling a great story, which is what RPG’s and especially Bioware RPG’s are all about. You might get a few extra buys, but you alienate your true fans by doing things this way. I just don’t see how a company can work on 3 or 4 games at a time and be under time constraints and still put out a quality product. Don’t get me wrong, I still have faith in Bioware, but EA has a habit of ruining things I enjoy, most notably by buying the NFL license and gaining a monopoly in NFL games, now were forced to buy Madden or nothing. I know Activision gets a lot of hate, but I’m personally happy EA cannot get a foothold on the FPS market like it has with sports and so many other titles. I have high expectations for Mass Effect 3, I just hope it doesn’t turn out that EA completely ruined a once great developer.

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