In honor of the recent Dragon Age II launch and in anticipation of the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic, I thought I’d go back through BioWare’s library and rank the games from best to worst — and why.
Knights of the Old Republic
I know, I know — as safe, predictable and boring a pick as they come, but I can’t think of a BioWare title that both bowled me over as a game and a story as KOTOR. We may take it for granted now, but Star Wars games by the early 2000s were really sucky and had lost a lot of the essence of what made Star Wars… well, Star Wars.
Then comes along KOTOR that not only wipes the slate clean by jumping back in time a whopping 3,000 years, but carried with it the Star Wars spirit in all its glory. It was simply awesome all around, even with a couple whiny companions, and I never got tired of picking Dark Side options. No wonder why fans were really hoping that KOTOR would be the setting for BioWare’s MMO, and they were right!
Baldur’s Gate II
As I’ll talk about later, the original Baldur’s Gate never clicked with me, but BG2 was a lengthy obsession in my gaming. I played it alongside a friend who was doing the same thing, and we’d often call each other to swap war stories about our adventures every day.
At the core of Baldur’s Gate II was the feeling of a wide-open world where you could just go on a whole bunch of adventures before finally settling down to tackle the main plot. Because of that, I took my sweet time exploring the city, establishing my own personal fortress, wooing a girl or two, and building up my character to uber-elite status. It was a terrific ride from start to finish, and I don’t think I’m alone in considering it one of BioWare’s finest masterpieces.
Hm… now this is tricky. Which is better, Mass Effect or Mass Effect 2? I love both almost equally, but I’m giving the edge to ME1 because the story felt more gripping and I couldn’t get enough of that bouncy rover vehicle (just kidding on that last part!).
With both games, I am jazzed that BioWare decided to go the scifi route because we get precious little of good scifi storytelling in RPGs these days (cue caveman marine: “I MASTER CHIEF! I BLOW STUFFS UP!”).
Mass Effect 2
Also quite excellent, although the overarching story and final act were underwhelming as motivation. Still, I totally loved the characters, and the part with Joker saving the day probably ranks as one of my favorite RPG moments ever. And how funny was his relationship with EDI?
Very funny, is the answer.
Dragon Age II
Unlike the two Mass Effects, I have no compunction against ranking DAII higher than DA:O. While I appreciate the characters, dialogue and SOME of the story of DA:O, overall it was a bland-feeling game that claimed to subvert typical fantasy tropes — and yet fell right into them anyway. Whereas Dragon Age II just feels more exploratory and less rote of a RPG, one that I’m more likely to finish.
DAII has a better combat system, a protagonist who actually talks, and the freedom to explore the world BioWare had to establish in the first game. I really like the fact it moves forward in the timeline and intertwines with aspects from DA:O, although not as much as some people were hoping, I’ve heard.
Dragon Age: Origins
Here we reach the middle point — the “not bad but not especially good either” section. As I said, I didn’t hate DA:O so much as completely lose interest somewhere 3/4ths of the way through, which isn’t a great sign if that’s supposed to be where the story is ramping up. There were quite a few things that I’m fond of here, such as the dog as a character and the dynamic between the mages and Templars, but overall it wasn’t enough.
This is kind of a weird entry in the BioWare experience, since it was both a single-player RPG and a multiplayer experience. I tried it but didn’t really latch on to it enough to remember anything more for this post.
Hm. Cool setting? Sure. Martial arts? Neat. Everything else? Forgettable.
And thus I’m relegating BG to the bottom of the heap, even though it was BioWare’s big breakout hit. BG2 was so superior in every way that BG is just sad in comparison. I never really liked the repeating maps or the initial lack of direction, and the story wasn’t nearly as interesting as its successor.