Paige FTW: What’s Happening To BioWare?

When word went out that BioWare, the legendary RPG studio behind classics like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, were planning an original IP, there was excitement. There was hype.

Then, there was Anthem.

And, well, if you played Mass Effect: Andromeda, you kind of already know how this story ends.

By all accounts, Anthem has fantastic combat and flight, lush graphics and very little else to recommend it. That signature BioWare touch of tough decisions and lifelike characters appears to be missing. The endgame has been mercilessly derided. There was even a huge blowup over loot drops that provoked some fans into calling for a mass boycott.

But the bottom line is simply that Anthem aspires to be Destiny, and in that it would seem to be a failure, even if publisher EA predicts that the game will still sell 6 million copies by the end of the year.

Still, the question remains: What happened to the old BioWare? Is it simply a matter of old hands leaving the studio? Did they just lose their touch? Does this bode will for the next Dragon Age installment?

I am inclined to believe that BioWare is indeed losing some of its luster — it is the inevitable march of time and change (as well as corporate influence, to be fair). Andromeda was a lovely game to play — the combat was much better than it was in the original trilogy — but the rest of the game was hollow and dry, lacking the warm, affective life that marked the series’ pinnacle in Mass Effect 2.

There was no Garrus Vakarian there to win the hearts of players, and there are no Garruses in Anthem, either, which eschewed a true single-player mode altogether. While it makes sense that Anthem would choose to follow Destiny’s model, it seems a pity to waste BioWare’s strengths.

Yet, it is a decision they seem to be making more and more frequently these days. The future is ominous, indeed. The incoming Dragon Age will serve as the true test of BioWare’s decline.