From Neverwinter to Inquisition: A Personal View of Bioware
From the time of Neverwinter Nights and The Forgotten Realms to Dragon Age and Mass Effect I have been a long time player of BioWare games. Recently I went back and started a new game of Neverwinter. (Yes, I still have the game and all of its extensions.) I was amazed by how far ahead of its time the game was, yet how primitive it was at the same time. It was like going back to see an old friend you hadn't seen in 20 years.
Back in 2002, and for several years after, I played Neverwinter righteously and became an avid member of the online community, playing on servers and getting in to the story of The Forgotten Realms. Over time, other games began to come out and I found other realms to explore, but there was nothing quite like it.
When Neverwinter II was released by Obsidian, it was a step into a new era of gaming. Although there were minor issues with the game, it was a welcomed step in to the new age of gaming. My devotion to the game was strong, and I kept returning to the Forgotten Realms, despite the releases of other newer games.
The Aurora Engine was a hit and BioWare had changed the landscape of gaming for gamers across the world. The Aurora Toolset had been lauded as the best thing BioWare did. It was brilliant, and in the words of Breedan from the Washington Post, including the toolset “was the smartest thing BioWare did."
The times changed, and BioWare and Obsidian moved on to other projects.
Ones many of us have played - including the Mass Effect series, SWKOTOR, and Dragon Age. Many fans saw DA as a step back into the Forgotten Realms, and the Internet was ablaze with speculations as to whether this was a continuation of Neverwinter. Unfortunately, it was not. The feeling of the Forgotten Realms was gone. This was a let-down for a lot of gamers, so a large number of the fanbase moved on. I have to admit - I even tried the Neverwinter Online game and played it for a while. Although it was fun in a cartoonish way, it was just not the same game.
I myself took the plunge and bought Dragon Age Origins; it seemed different, yet I enjoyed the game and still play it often. There was the usual Bioware opening screen that was akin to Neverwinter Nights, and that helped to make it familiar.
When Dragon Age II came out, I was already off on other quests and had been playing LOTRO for a couple of years. Having tried many MMORPGs I landed on the LOTRO servers and was pretty caught up in Middle Earth and the social sites that satellited around it. Then I decided to try Skyrim and loved it, so I backtracked and began to play the Elder Scrolls series. As fate would have it, this was around the release of The Elder Scrolls Online. I bought it hook, line, and sinker and jumped over from LOTRO to ESO. During that time I bought Dragon Age II.
I was shocked. There was no similarity between the games, and I had to wonder what BioWare was thinking when they released this as a sequel to a decent game. The feel and look was not the same, and the gameplay was a step backward in some ways. And the combat was repetitive. In fact, having played Neverwinter recently, I can honestly say in comparison it was as if Neverwinter had risen from the grave - but not in a good way! The graphics are beautiful, and I still love the lore of DA, but something was lost in this version.
I still play the game, but only because I own it; I hate to waste a game.
This brings me to Dragon Age: Inquisition.
And the whole point in all of this. Because of what I consider inconsistency between the two Dragon Age games that came before it, I was very reluctant to even consider this game. Trailers are generally not a good reason to buy a game, as it's easy to doctor a video. Often trailers are not videos of actual gameplay, but cutscenes and other heavily edited instances. Nonetheless, I decided to take one more look at the Dragon Age saga because of what I saw in a trailer.
I made the proverbial prepurchase and went for the Deluxe Edition. On release day, I ran down to my local game store after work to pick it up.
When I got home, like so many other gamers, I was excited to install what I thought would be the redemption of BioWare. As Origin started to install the game, it wanted to download all 27 gigs from its servers. There was no way to tell Origin not to do that. I immediately stopped the install and jumped online and did a search. This also occurred when I installed another EA game, but it wasn't as large so I just let it run. In retrospect, it was merely annoying, but at that moment, it was actually infuriating.
After leaving a message on a support forum, I decided to poke around myself, as I am an avid computer geek and programmer. I found the only way to stop an online install with Origin was to go into offline mode. There is no mention of this anywhere on Origin, and no way to choose not to download a game when you actually have the disks. With that out of the way, I began the install.
Once the game was ready to play, I immediately got started. Here begins the nightmare. Like so many others, first I could not connect to the servers, then the load screen would freeze, then I would just simply have to task out of the game. This happened over and over again.
After a while, I just gave up and started searching the internet for solutions, which took me to the BioWare community site. I found that I was not alone in my nightmare; others were experiencing the same issues, in addition to other problems. BioWare was on it, promising fixes as soon as possible.
Let's get to the point.
As a gamer of many years and a computer technician/webmaster, as well as a 10-year retail veteran, what comes in to play here is the bare facts. Many of us spent seventy dollars in good faith to play a game that we all hoped would be a crown jewel, and despite how good or bad the game itself may be, paying good money demands a good product. And a good product has to work.
I finally got into the game, and although it still has issues, I find it to be somewhat enjoyable. The fact is, the sour taste in my mouth with having to wade through problems just to play a game I paid for makes it hard to enjoy it. Reading the Metacritic reviews, you will find 90 percent of the top reviewers in the industry give it high marks and praise. But if you read what the gamers say, almost 50 percent out of 1355 reviews give it a thumbs down for many valid reasons.
It's not the critics that make or break a game, it's the players and the creators of the game that do that.
BioWare has created many good games I still love Mass Effect and am waiting for the release of ME4. Unfortunately, as far as Dragon Age Inquisition goes, "the Damage Is Done" and redemption is not at hand. The quest that lies ahead for BioWare now is to slay the dragon they have created and become the hero they once were so long ago in the Forgotten Realms.