The game of the year

Nero’s beautifully brutal review of Bioware’s Dragon Age: Inquisition:

With BioWare’s reputation established in the early 2000s by middling but commercially popular, if somewhat buggy, releases such as Baldur’s Gate and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, BioWare was, at least a decade ago, strongly positioned to achieve sustained success at the “average games that perform well with customers” end of the market. (To be fair to both of those titles, they have very enthusiastic fan bases.)

But the company in recent years has become… well, a bit of a running joke. Most gamers say the rot set in around 2009 or 2010, when BioWare was acquired by Electronic Arts. Perhaps it was a talent exodus, too much managerial interference or a failure to keep the creative teams fresh. Either way, BioWare’s ability to release artistically accomplished–and even, some reviewers say, technologically competent–games began to evaporate.

There is also a suggestion that BioWare’s games became unduly politicised at around the same time, pandering to what some call the “social justice” narrative, awkwardly shoehorning minority characters and progressive messaging into its plots and meddling with storylines to push political agendas that have never resonated with ordinary gamers. Practically every release from BioWare now contains dozens of gay and lesbian romance storylines or sex scenes, which many young gamers find baffling.

2011’s Dragon Age II unexpectedly bombed with consumers, despite, of course, the rave reviews from mainstream game news sites, who need only get a whiff of a paraplegic lesbian in an ill-fated love affair with a black transsexual to award a game full marks. Mass Effect 2 wasn’t a critical success with ordinary gamers either; they called it “filler” and said it was “uninspiring.” It, too, bored players with politics.

And then of course there was the extraordinary failure of imagination in Mass Effect 3, the ending of which has gone down in gamer history as one of the most needless creative failures in the history of the industry. The games press, needless to say, denied there was anything wrong with Mass Effect 3, scolding gamers for being “entitled.”

But if entitlement means expecting a sensible and narratively satisfying resolution to an expensive, immersive video game, most consumers will be happy to admit that they are guilty. Many of BioWare’s customers wondered whether more time could have been spent on a satisfactory ending and less on irrelevant lesbian sex themes. 

Don’t be fooled by the reviews. As Nero notes: “That reviews of triple-A games by professional journalists are likely to
bear no relation to their reception by fans has become a truism of
video game journalism.”

I’ve never been a BioWare fan, so their ongoing implosion is of little interest to me.