Bioware: a one trick pony
Like many other developers, BioWare have made their three main cRPG series into Action-RPGs with Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic. There is no doubt that these will be great games, but the problem is that they have been sculpted to what will sell, rather than making the gaming experience that a number of players are struggling to find nowadays. The market has always been driven by sales, but nowadays the publishers and producers are sacrificing genres in order to make more money. As said previously, Dragon Age: Origins was a commercial success so there was no real need to change the game so dramatically. This declination is inextricably tied in to the popularity of consoles over PCs amongst today’s gamers. As gaming spreads to mass audiences, producers and publishers are lured by the money that comes along with it. In this case it seems that EA have encouraged BioWare to open up the game to a bigger audience, and in doing so have lost many aspects of the genre it once was.
Worse still, there are signs that the game has been rushed out to meet publisher demands. The graphics are not going to mesmerise anyone, in fact they don’t look any better compared to Origins, environments are fairly dull looking but worst of all is weak level design. The review in PC Games has said that the majority of Dragon Age 2 plays out very much like the demo, meaning a lot of copy-pasted and narrow paths - ugly. Narrow paths in an RPG is actually an oxymoron as the genre requires freedom and an open world and should not be bottle-necking its players. What this effect does however, is focus the game more towards combat as is the nature of an action-RPG. It’s quite understandable that all of these shortcomings have occurred as BioWare are making an effort to bring out all three of their big RPGs in one year. Given that Dragon Age 2 has only had a maximum of two years in development, many of us suspected that the game would fall short in some areas. This lack of an open world, combined with the simple combat means that the game slides even further from its origins.
Watered down games
Getting down to the point, it seems that cRPGs just do not have a place in today’s industry. In fact, many aspects of the RPG in general are too compromising to publisher expectations that the whole genre itself is gradually being poured down the drain. The RPG takes time to develop and needs to be fleshed out to allow player freedom and choice (more on this can be read here), and time is something that is notoriously not included in the publisher’s guide to making money.
More and more we see games being transformed to cater for only one type of player and quite frankly, many of them are starting to become unidentifiable from each other. Publishers want you to play the game as quickly as possible so you can move on and buy their next title. Ultimately though, this way of doing business will hurt the industry as a whole. A storm is brewing and it’s one that publishers are calling on themselves.