BioWare's reviving Dragon Age and Mass Effect. Should we be excited?
BioWare's reviving Dragon Age and Mass Effect. Should we be excited? ⚡⚡⚡ Esports and gaming news, analytics, reviews on WePlay! The latest news on WePlay!
We've got some exciting news recently regarding the return of Dragon Age with the latest installment which was officially revealed during The Game Awards 2018 via the very first teaser trailer. It means that Dragon Age 4 - or whatever it is going to be titled - is a thing, and let's hope the fourth game in the series doesn't repeat the fate of Andromeda and what it did to the Mass Effect franchise. Speaking of which, Casey Hudson has also hinted at the possible coming news regarding Mass Effect revival as well. But should we be excited?
The gaming community mostly agrees that Mass Effect: Andromeda was a nightmare. Many of us couldn't even believe that the game was credited to BioWare. It lacked the quality, it lacked the atmosphere, but most importantly - it didn't even try to resemble a BioWare project. All things considered, Andromeda is responsible for putting franchise "on hold" by the EA executives. Dragon Age is in a better position right now, but the series showed the signs of a regress throughout the trilogy, and we do worry that Dragon Age 4 might continue the trend. The new entries were decreasingly well met by the fans, and to date, Origins is considered to be the best Dragon Age ever made, although Inquisition was pretty decent as well.
These are not, of course, the only games that we know BioWare for. The studio has a heart-warming portfolio of projects we love and care about - even years after they initially released. We owe this talented team the existence of Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights, but most importantly - they've developed arguably the best Star Wars videogame ever made - the fantastic Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Before being bought by Electronic Arts the studio released the exceptional Jade Empire - the one game we are hoping to see a sequel to one day. Then the EA acquisition happened, and everything has changed since.
EA is often pictured as the source of Evil in the gaming industry. The company has a long-lasting track of dead studios that didn't meet the expectations when ordered to do something specifically for money. One of the latest examples was poor Visceral Games. First, the authors of a wonderfully terrifying Dead Space trilogy were ordered to make a new Battlefield entry - sort of a spin-off so that EA can release new games in the franchise on a yearly basis. We all know what happened to Hardline and how soon it was abandoned by Battlefield fans. Apparently, it was the cold reception of the game that led to the departure of Visceral's general manager - Steve Papoutsis has left the studio and EA after 15 years in 2015, the same year when Hardline was released.
Whether or not it was EA's fault, we will always remember Steve's awkward interviews on how he loved Battlefield and how sincerely he wanted to make a unique spin-off. These were obviously marketing talks, but it is very likely that BioWare - among others - is continuing the story. Studio's executives have stated several times that EA has nothing to do with poor Andromeda performance and with allocating resources on Anthem development - thus damaging the process of working on the latest Mass Effect entry. Looking at the aftermath of these actions clearly determines that these talks were also a lie.
The real trouble comes from the fact that Andromeda is the latest singleplayer game by BioWare to date - and this particular project is a clearly bad example to be remembered for. Right now the studio is hard at work developing Anthem - an obvious take on "Games as service" formula which was mostly popularized by Destiny and its huge success that made other publishers jealous. EA's desire to hop on a hype train currently led by Activision is undisputable - and in return, we are lacking quality role-playing games that could've been made by BioWare. Even before Anthem there were several cancelled online-multiplayer projects by BioWare like Generals 2 that shifted to a free-to-play online-RTS through the course of development before getting cancelled. There also was an online take on Warhammer Fantasy Battles universe which didn't work out either. In other words, EA was constantly exploring the possibility to force BioWare to make online games - and the only success to date remains in the form of Star Wars: The Old Republic.
We've already covered the situation with BioWare's resources being allocated to Anthem while Andromeda was still in development - and the studio's Montreal team which worked on the latest Mass Effect entry was later merged with EA Motive. Yet, there's another troubling element to the overall picture of BioWare's fall which is a series of top-level departures. David Gaider, the scriptwriter for Dragon Age: Inquisition, has left BioWare in January 2016. He was later followed by Mike Laidlaw - another prominent veteran developer who has contributed to many of the studio's projects as the creative lead. He was even considered to be "the Father" of Dragon Age series. General manager Aaron Flynn has stepped away as well.
Never coming back?
Throughout the year's staff at BioWare has drastically changed and nowadays most of these guys have nothing in common with the teams that worked on the greatest projects by the studio. Still, there's been a slightly comforting incident with Casey Hudson returning to BioWare. He served as the producer for the original Mass Effect trilogy and took over the role of general manager after Flynn's departure a year and a half ago. Prior to The Game Awards 2018 Hudson revealed that BioWare is working on bringing Mass Effect back from the dead. The very first action in this direction was the release of a 4K enhancement patch for Andromeda on Xbox One - but it's just the beginning. And the best you can do right now is to not get too excited over this news - let's take into consideration all of the aforementioned concerns and take a fresh look at the current situation.
A new Dragon Age is in early stages of development; Mass Effect is even further from the return. The potential success of Anthem will determine the future of these games - and the future of BioWare as a studio. In case Anthem doesn't work out well, BioWare will most likely follow the fate of Visceral, Maxis, Mythic, Pandemic, Westwood and others. But in a situation with Anthem becoming a blockbuster there's a huge probability we won't see any of the new entries to the beloved franchises as well - just because EA would force BioWare to provide Anthem with a never-ending flow of additional content thus locking studio's resources within the boundaries of a single project and milking the Anthem community.
A requiem for a dream
The best case scenario for all the BioWare's hardcore fans will only unfold in the case of Anthem becoming a moderate success which will be enough to secure the studio's financial situation at the same time allowing it to continue the work on new projects. Still, it is far from being perfect. Once again, we have a troubled Andromeda development, a bunch of talents who have left the studio, a notable shift towards online features, a chain of cancelled online projects, an increasingly descending level of quality in BioWare's games and a greedy publisher behind its back. It is safe to say that we've lost BioWare forever - and we'll be greatly amazed if the studio manages to crawl back to developing masterpieces. That's almost certainly not happening - so lower your expectations and launch that dusty KotoR CD once again.