Why They’re Great: Bioware

A while back (2009 in fact), I wrote a post about my favorite developers. The post had a list of ten, along with a brief description of each company. I am going to take a closer look at some of my favorites. Today’s focus is on Bioware.

Bioware is a Canadian developer owned by EA Games, known for their long history of role-playing games. Their first big release was Baldur’s Gate in 1998. Their most recent was Dragon Age 2, released this month. From then to now, there is one thing that stands out as a key feature.

No, not the storytelling. In fact, Bioware tells relatively simple stories. The primary narrative is usually tied to a few key moments. Their plot twists are often obvious and cliche. The climax is foreshadowed long before it happens. None of this make their plots particularly bad; they work. They just aren’t phenomenal.

The primary plot is almost secondary to the rest of the game.  Take a look at this map of Baldur’s Gate. Look at all those places to visit. About half a dozen of them are actually central to the storyline. The rest are secondary and even tertiary, tied to the central story by the thinnest of threads. This effect only increases as you go further in Bioware’s collection. In Dragon Age 2, the main story is almost completely secondary to the real gem of Bioware:

Companions.

I have already talked about Minsc. I could write equally glowing posts about Garth or Bastila.  Tali or Garrus. Alistar or Isabelle. I could write one about your dog in Dragon Age, who has more personality than the main character in most video games. These are the places where Bioware shines.

Bioware characters are complex individuals. Ashley Williams is loyal, patriotic, and brave. She is also xenophobic. Anders is a powerful mage, who viciously fights for their rights. He also loves kittens. HK-47 is a sarcastic assassin droid who loves to refer to the hero as meatbag. He’s also . . . well, he isn’t anything else, but what else could you ask for in a droid?

I recently finished Dragon Age 2. Because the game takes place over half a dozen years, your companions become part of your character’s life, and also a part of each others. They develop, grow and change, just as you do. As such, they mean so much more. I made several key decisions entirely based on what was best for Hawke’s companions, regardless of the greater consequences. The final decision, the ultimate choosing of sides, came down to how I felt it would affect a single character. I decided what I did, ultimately, because of her.

Bioware companions are as real as any fictional character I had encounter in books or movies. In a very real way, they are not just the heroes companions. They are mine as well. They are the best Bioware has to offer, and no one else can do it better.

-That is all.

 

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4 thoughts on “Why They’re Great: Bioware

  1. I don’t game much. But, the last game I played was Jade Empire. I’m a mouth-foaming fan!

    And your right, man– it’s the companions and followers. I kept thinkimg it was the story all this time, but I play parts (sometimes the whole thing) over again because of the characters you meet.

    I’d play more Bioware games (and other console games in general), but I’m afraid I’d lose my family and job because I’d never, ever leave the game console alone.

  2. Nicholas Lester Bell says:

    It is interesting that you bring up Jade Empire, because I personally think it has some of the weakest companions Bioware has ever made. They are still loads above the average video game character, but definitely a low point for Bioware. So if you do find some time to play their other games, there are even better experiences to have.

    I also understand the desire to replay portions to relive those experiences. Mass Effect was my biggest time sink for that. I loved that game to death, beating it six times, for a grand total of around 150 hours. Crazy fun.

  3. If what you say is true about Jade Empire, then I’m playing KOTOR and Mass Effect as soon as my kids go off to college!

    🙂

  4. YA says:

    Dragon Age 2 is a terrible game and you should feel terrible for liking it, or any of BIoware’s other games that are fan fiction dating simulators masquerading as RPGs.

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