So, in the past few months the completion of my thesis has given me enough time to indulge my CRPG appetite. Since around April I’ve played (in order): KOTOR, Mass Effect, KOTOR 2, Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2 (I actually upgraded my laptop to play Dragon Age!). Aside from being RPGs, the 5 games are all produced by Bioware (note that KOTOR II was handed over to Obsidian). BIoware is the RPG market’s current ‘big name’. They are famous for Baldur’s Gate II, (part one was unimpressive IMO).
I just wanted to add that the overdose of Bioware-type RPGs sucks as players are more and more going to imagine that Bioware type RPGS is the definition of an RPG. Mind you, I’d rather that than when Blizzard’s Diablo made everyone think it was the definition of an RPG.
However, one cannot help but notice that Bioware type RPGs often involve saving the world by going to 4 four different locations at your choice and leisure. This often feels contrived, as in both Mass Effect and Dragon Age, the places usually involve some store to upgrade equipment, and some boss to kill after being through all the little minions. The choice seems almost redundant. Contrast this to games such as Fallout and Planescape, where exploring is much more organic and rewarding and isn’t about ‘completing’ the area.
I really think Bioware only gets such good ratings and hype due to how they end the games (which is always on a fantastic note). After all, when you’ve been playing for 40+ hours you’re most likely to only remember the ending. Also, I must admit they are very well produced: great soundtracks and voice acting.
Dragon Age has too much grinding and the maps were way too large (making backtracking extremely tedious). Mass Effect 2 was extremely dumbed down (but getting rid of the Mako is +++ to me!!!) and felt more like ‘Shephard’s quest to get his team loyal’. Only two of Bioware RPGs make it into my top 10. Having said that, they do produce great games, and the ways their stories are told (short simple but effective and dramatic story) always make me think they are perfect for film adaptations. There are some awesome scenes and moments, such as in Mass Effect 2 when one of your teammates holds up a biotic barrier to stop seeker swarms; or the prison break in Dragon Age (which they ripped off their own KOTOR).
My top ten:
Vampire, the masquerade: Bloodlines
Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn
Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer
Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark
Final Fantasy VII
Temple of Elemental Evil (with circle of eight)