One Man's Opinion

I realize it’s usually in vogue to see something popular and want to tear it down. There’s no icon somehow quite as satisfying as that of toppled greatness. Perhaps it’s an element of human nature, or perhaps it’s a classic example of why humans will eventually wipe themselves out, but no hero is ever quite as interesting as the fallen one, the high-school quarterback who now works at the glass factory, the starry-eyed politician whose long forgotten indiscretion becomes fodder for twenty-four hour news, the once trendy band that becomes instantly trite and offensive when heard on pop-radio.

I realize too that what I’m about to say can be dismissed as this kind of vicious and admittedly annoying deconstruction, the counter-argument to popular theory that flies in the face of convention simply for the sake of doing so. I might even entertain some self-doubt if I had a more significant history of snobbishness, if I listened to independent music that you’ve never heard of while attending films with subtitles. But, I am frankly not that complex, and rarely do I lose interest in a thing merely because others have adopted an interest in it.

So, with that disclaimer tendered, let me offer the following: I believe Bioware’s games are vastly over-rated.

Lovers of RPGs remember a time a little more than a decade ago when the genre was virtually gone, and then Baldur’s Gate came to us like a shining dream delivered from on high. Not only was this an RPG lover’s RPG, but it was a deep and complex narrative delivered with incredible depth, astounding artwork and faithful AD&D 2nd edition rules to make even the most grotesquely skeptical role-player shed a silent and joyful tear. The game was an epic, and it became the standard for a freshly reinvigorated genre. This was the company’s The Sixth Sense, the property from which Bioware leveraged a legacy of good-enough games that would be elevated to greatness and critical esteem simply by birth-right.

Bioware’s greatest accomplishment is not the digitized code that is pressed into millions of DVDs, but its astounding ability to capitalize on opportunities for success. While I am not necessarily beguiled by the company’s library of games, I am positively dumbfounded at the savvy of Bioware’s management to nimbly traverse the gaming business landscape. These are not men to be trifled with, and I would never denigrate their accomplishments by implying that some form of lesser-luck was involved. These guys are good at the art of manipulation, managing to paint themselves, their company and their products as paragons of the gaming landscape even if they don’t necessarily deserve it.

For example, Baldur’s Gate and its sequel are good, but were in many ways eclipsed by the Infinity Engine powered games from Black Isle, Planescape: Torment and the Icewind Dale series. Yet, despite a far more impressive track record, it is not Black Isle that survived the sucking whirlpool of Interplay’s bungling to become the crown jewel of Electronic Arts, but Bioware.

Bioware makes you believe in them, be you consumer, critic or executive. They seem unimpeachable, in the company of places like Blizzard for consistently issuing genius into the gaming landscape, and let’s be completely honest here, they are undeniable hit-makers. This is a company that will move product, that will get people through the door with money in hand, but to me Bioware seems better at making you believe their games are top-tier than actually making top-tier games.

I contend that with a lesser brand (and certainly without the Star Wars trappings) Knights of the Old Republic would have been a largely forgettable experience. And, Jade Empire would have been a product praised for making the effort but condemned to a host of average scores instead of being heralded by one IGN reviewer as “one of the greatest action RPG's of all-time” while another IGN reviewer suggested that the first had “underrated” Jade Empire by giving it a 9.9!

Oh, c’mon.

It’s not like I’m cherry picking here. This is pretty a common sentiment, and one that I questioned when I played Jade Empire for all of four hours before quitting in some amalgam of boredom and dissatisfaction. Like Neverwinter Nights before it, Jade Empire seemed to me like a game rife with averageness that was elevated by an admittedly competent story – that’s actually high-praise for gaming narratives – and the boisterous enthusiasm of reviewers who, I assume were playing the same game as I but coming to dramatically different conclusions. Maybe these folks are seeing something I’m not, but every Bioware game since Baldur’s Gate II seems to me like a ghost of an RPG with half-hearted trappings of the genre surrounding worlds of little depth with little choice.

Even the most recent effort in Mass Effect was a game that false started for me three times before I finally and doggedly surged through, waiting the entire time to be wowed by its supposed greatness. Mass Effect was pretty good in parts, but there were interface issues, load issues, texture issues, framerate problems, all within a game that still conveys the vast and open universe as a series of interconnected and unimaginative hallways. Exploring the galaxy turned into little more than surveying planets by pressing the A button to fighting with the controls of your interplanetary dune buggy as it bobbled and weaved from rocky crag to perilous valley. Mass Effect, like KOTOR, Jade Empire and Neverwinter Nights before, wasn’t a bad game by any means. It was an average game that was elevated by a decent narrative and the funding to add real production value.

My point of view, however, is very different from X-Play’s Adam Sessler who said of Mass Effect that it was a “towering achievement that surpassed my expectations on every level,” or Gamespy’s reviewer who concluded that “BioWare's space opera is one of the greatest role-playing games ever made.” Man! I wish I’d played whatever game they were playing. I’m pretty sure I got the same version asThe Onion’s AV club, which offered the game a respectable but wholly appropriate B- score. Their review being one of the few that didn't simply dismiss the games flaws as odd and inconsequential aberrations.

I don’t believe there is anything nefarious going on here. I believe that reviews of Bioware games are good faith efforts by professional reviewers, but I also believe that there is a well cultivated sentiment among these professionals and their readers that anything from Bioware is naturally brilliant. Bioware does a good job of not dispelling this myth, putting the effort in the right places to sustain this perception, and even cultivate it, but I think more critical analyses of the games show that there are deep flaws which are too often glossed over.

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I haven't played that many Bioware games to be honest, but I did prefer Icewind Dale to Baldur's Gate and I agree that Mass Effect was a far from perfect game. I still loved it, but I managed to dodge most of the anticipation and hype for it so I was largely taken by surprise.

There does seem to be a tendency among fans to look at Bioware games through rose tinted spectacles based largely on the RPG earthquake that was Baldur's Gate.

Eh, I disagree. When I bought KOTOR, I didn't even know who BioWare was. I hadn't played Baldur's Gate. I bought Jade Empire (still haven't played it, though... It's on the pile) on the recommendation of the Gamestop employee that informed me it was made by the same developer that made KOTOR.

I enjoyed KOTOR a great deal, and it is memorable. In fact, in thinking about it, it kind-of makes me want to go and install it again...

Mass Effect did, in fact, ride the BioWare wave for me, though. They didn't even have to try to convince me that they were going to deliver a quality product. The name was enough for me, like Blizzard or Bethesda, precisely because their products provided satisfaction. Overrated for you, perhaps. But I'll be buying the next BioWare game.

Never been a huge fan of Bioware.
Still play'em but not my favs.
I'm pretty much a bethesda, and now because I went back and played it fallout fan.

I agree, there was some early oh shiny sparkle moments with Mass Effect, where people were caught up in the hype of the game and its appearance. I'm saying this a a big Mass Effect fan. I think Bioware has moved to making stories with games wrapped around them. Well thats fine, I'm cool with it. I'm playing these games to be entertained and if thats what I get in the end and it is a good story then cool, I'm happy.

Bioware's future projects probably will not travel on the same trail Ken Levine is blazing. Incorporating story into play so as you live or experience narrative rather than participating in an interactive movie will probably split the genre in the future.

Overrated, yea probably. But Not enough to stop me from sitting up and taking notice of whatever project they may be working on. I guess we will all have to use our super brains to separate the wheat from the chaff in the future. In the mean time I'm glad they are out there making games.

Elysium, having just been listening to the conference call before I read your (as usual) eloquent piece, it's impossible not to throw (in a gentle, kind way) back in your face your own words about not being able to get into table-top RPG's the way others did.

I guess the question then becomes, "If a game doesn't work for absolutely everyone, does it deserve truly universal praise?"

*thinks*

*almost types something*

*walks away*

I can't help but agree with the overall premise, but I'd place KOTOR over to the side as a game that rivaled the impact of Baldur's Gate on the PC, only on a console. Neverwinter Nights (to a small degree), Jade Empire and Mass Effect are all games that pulled me along with their story, character work and their writing. The raw gameplay failed to resonate because they're trying to please too many different people and diluting the game mechanics in the process. I really wonder what would happen if Bioware quit trying to defend their title as "RPG KINGS" and embraced a full out action game style that doesn't feel like I'm playing Tabula Rasa. MDK 2 was a pretty good effort along that vein.

I still maintain hope that Dragon Age will step back from the edge and give us more than a veneer of choice in both story and gameplay. Baldur's Gate allowed for so much strategy and variety within the scope of the excellent story. We desperately need more of that.

Elysium, having just been listening to the conference call before I read your (as usual) eloquent piece, it's impossible not to throw (in a gentle, kind way) back in your face your own words about not being able to get into table-top RPG's the way others did.

I guess the question then becomes, "If a game doesn't work for absolutely everyone, does it deserve truly universal praise?"

Except he said he likes the Baldur's Gate series and that Bioware went downhill as they strayed further and further from that level of RPG complexity. It's a little out of context to suggest it's a contradictory statement.

Baldur's Gate eclipsed by Icewind Dale? Nah, not for me. BG's story made it a more enjoyable experience for me. And though I haven't played KOTOR2 or Jade Empire, the original KOTOR was a fun and memorable game.

Fair enough, but let me unpack what I was saying a bit--I think Baldur's Gate needs to be put in a very different category from KOTOR, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect. The three latter works all revolve around a sort of depth-psychology model of what an RPG should be, where the highest value would seem to be put on really feeling like you are e.g. Commander Shepard, Space Ranger, whereas Baldur's Gate was much more about solid traditional RPG gameplay.

So it seems to me that Bioware just happened to go in the direction that makes Elysium cry. As I wrote in the first response, I think he may well have a really good point that that does in fact mean that the latter three games are overrated, because they failed to do the Baldur's Gate thing and the depth psychology thing.

Elysium has been doing a lot of pieces lately that are just absolute slaughtering of sacred cows. I almost am reluctant to defend him but I also see where he is coming from. I guess to me those cows aren't near so sacred.

Now, I absolutely loved Baldur's Gate in the beginning but it fell away to typical CRPG Munchkinism after the first third of the game. Still great, especially as CRPG's go, but it was hardly a daring new direction. Baldur's Gate essentially did what Might and Magic VI did and reminded us that CRPG's were still a viable genre. The follow-up, which was just more of everything and some really hackneyed romance subplots (written right out of a geek's eye view of relationships) was simply more more more. I liked Baldur's Gate II, but it was more of a bigger version of the original game. Incidentally, I feel the same way about Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Not that there is anything wrong with that, not that I feel that you must absolutely innovate with every game, but at the same time I don't feel like some minor improvements and content additions necessarily makes a game some kind of instant classic either. Although anytime a company tries to repeat a success and doesn't screw it up by deviating too far from the main formula is a good thing in my opinion. That said, when an absolute lack of balls is on display as well I have a hard time going overboard with the kudos.

I thought Knights of the Old Republic was a fantastic game, though I think trying to divorce its greatness from Star Wars is disingenuous. If it were an RPG engine grafted into a Star Wars setting that would be different. KOTOR was created intentionally as a Star Wars game, and it shows in every aspect of its design despite its original storyline and characters. It was everything a Star Wars RPG should have been and KOTOR II certainly showed how easy it would have been to screw up. Unfortunately, more of the ridiculous geek eyed view of relationships creeped in.

Jade Empire did nothing for me. I tried it, I was bored with it, I didn't see the purpose of it. I'm glad I never spent any money on it. Truly, at that point, the Bioware name alone was a game seller.

As for Mass Effect, haven't played it yet but still plan to. I can't ignore the interface issues. One thing that struck me about KOTOR is how unobstrusive and intuitive the interface turned out to be. I could nitpick it to death, but I can do that with anything. Hearing about the interface problems with Mass Effect makes me think that certain aspects of the game might actually be a step backwards from KOTOR.

I do think they make good games, but saying they're "overrated" is not the same thing as saying their games suck. I do wonder if BioWare gets the same sort of pass that SquareEnix often does with reviewers, where their scores seem somewhat inflated thanks to name recognition alone. Reviewers are not really "critics" in the classic sense, and I often have to take what they say with a huge grain of salt because I expect them to be somewhat blinded by the star power of groups like BioWare.

Did you actually finish Baldur's Gate 2, Elysium?

TinPeregrinus wrote:

So it seems to me that Bioware just happened to go in the direction that makes Elysium cry. As I wrote in the first response, I think he may well have a really good point that that does in fact mean that the latter three games are overrated, because they failed to do the Baldur's Gate thing and the depth psychology thing.

I won't speak for Sean, but I think the games suffer small failures on their own merits, regardless of what came before them.

KotOR, while a fun experience on the first play-through, didn't hold up too well on repeats. Turned out to be too linear, while the dialogue was actually pretty bad. Especially from Carth. I'd put Mass Effect in that same category, but I'm interested in the story enough to see where they take it in the sequel(s). BG2 was definitely Bioware's best game, if I'm forced to rank them.

every Bioware game since Baldur’s Gate II seems to me like a ghost of an RPG with half-hearted trappings of the genre surrounding worlds of little depth with little choice.

It has been a long time since someone had said something with which I so emphatically agree.

I loved the games made by Black Isle and it took me a long time to figure out what the difference between them and BioWare is. I think that outside of the media a lot of people have experienced similar confusion. I think that BioWare's games tend to be ambitious and they are a different sort of play style than what is available in many current RPGs - BioWare seems to be the successor to Origin and SSI and other classic CRPG-makers of the 80s and 90s and I think that earns them a lot of good will. They're also a good company that seems to care about things that gamers care about, and that gets them a lot of points.

I don't think their good regard is ill-deserved, I just think that a lot of the other great aspects of the company influences the way their games are looked at. I do think that their fairly heavy focus on good story (though I am tired of having to qualify "good" with "for video games") also results in some rose-tint to critical glasses.

Now, i'd put both Bethesda and Bioware in the same stable in terms of quality. They make decent games but seem (to me as well) be appreciated more than they perhaps should for the effort they presented.

I recently started playing KOTOR and it's a decent game (i'm a bit stuck at the moment - stupid sand people!) but not nearly as engrossing as Planescape Torment (a game i've played 3 or 4 times and yet never completed) or even Baldur's Gate 2 with the really nice party character interactions (like the bitch fests between the young de-winged elf and Sahira). I don't know whether i'll beat it and never bother with trying again if i can't get past this part of the game.
I had a similar problem with Jade Empire as there was just something lacking for want of a clearer explanation.

Again, with Oblivion compared to Morrowind. I was engrossed and loved the clearly defined, if somewhat eccentric world that was produced in Morrowind but wasn't engaged in the slightest by the generic fantasy cut-out lands of Cyrrodil in Oblivion... even though i knew the places and previous events that had transpired.

Yet while i agree wholeheartedly with your analysis, Elysium, I know that for something to be mainstream it cannot be truely special in most senses of the word. Anything that i've seen that is popular on a large scale tends to have it's ancestry in genericity(Did i just make that word up?) combined with whatever had originally inspired the work in the first place.

Certis wrote:

I won't speak for Sean, but I think the games suffer small failures on their own merits, regardless of what came before them.

I certainly don't disagree with that, but I guess it seems like once we start talking about small failures, we're into a slippery world of "this game is a better game because it has five small failures, as opposed to that one that has seven." I think Elysium's piece is provocative in part because it doesn't go down that road at all but rather says "The whole Bioware thing just doesn't do what everybody says it does." As such, of course, the piece presents a broad target simply because of that very strong provocation--so I guess I need to say that I'm almost certainly coming off as much more of a Bioware fanboy than I actually am.

Certis wrote:

I really wonder what would happen if Bioware quit trying to defend their title as "RPG KINGS" and embraced a full out action game style that doesn't feel like I'm playing Tabula Rasa. MDK 2 was a pretty good effort along that vein.

MDK 2? The one where you play a fish in a maze? WHAT?

I really enjoy Bioware games - I finished Baldur's Gates (the complete series, with datadiscs and all), the KoTORs, Jade Empire. That says a lot, because I don't usually finish games. They were all a great romp, but there is little in the way of memorable experiences in them. What I really remember from them is fun stuff: Minsc and Boo from Gates, HK-47 from KoTORs and that conquistador from Jade Empire voiced by John Cleese. No other emotional bond, nothing. Yet I can still recollect emotional stuff from Planescape: Torment, like when you first meet Deionarra and all the stuff connected with her that I will withhold so as not to spoil the experience for others. Torment made you care, regret your past decisions and strive for changing them (or not), which is why it's more fondly remembered. Same goes for Ico.

I'm actually alright with it, as I consider these games as a very well written fan-fiction. As a fan, you know the setting, you can foretell how the things will turn out, but you have great fun reading it while it lasts. But once you start comparing this fan-fiction - albeit well-written - to, say, Shakespeare, you'll make a fool out of yourself. As I see it, gamers are fans and their elation with this great fan-fiction can sometimes obsure their rationality, hence all the hype around Bioware.

I would actually say that Bioware's games are simply Western Final Fantasies: games that use cliches, tried-and-true mechanics with some new improvements thrown in ever so often and a not very inventive story (although fabulously told) to back it all up. That is what Bioware (or Square) provides in spades: top-notch fan service. We demand it and Bioware's not to blame to provide it as best as it can. Let's be frank, we (as a mass) don't really want them to innovate, to push the envelope. Torment tried just that, and sold well below Baldur's Gate.

I missed the KOTOR bandwagon when it came around the first time and couldn't join once I bought it due to bugs and glitches that made playing a massive chore. Which is sad considering my love for Star Wars. I did buy Jade Empire for PC and thoroughly enjoyed it, but not more than Fable, which was much better about the gameplay aspects.

As it stands, I patiently await when Mass Effect comes out on PC (anyone got a date on that?). But I'm not exactly chomping at the bit like I was when I first read the thread in g&p. Therefore, the score so far is 1 pro, 1 con. It seems Mass Effect will tip the scales.

I guess I agree with Elysium on this, though I do take exception with his characterization of KOTOR. Jade Empire and Mass Effect are good games, but not "great" and thus probably not deserving of the really high review scores they got.

KOTOR is tricky because I think it all depends on how into the story you get. For me, the story worked and the twist caught me off guard. However, I can see someone having a different view if the story didn't capture them.

It took a couple of reading for me to realize that Ely isn't really criticizing Bioware here. He is criticizing the writers who openly fellate them in their reviews and the fan-boys who think that KOTOR and Mass Effect are the greatest thing Evar!!!

The comments about Bioware's signature design choices are interesting and have lead me to think about their games in new ways. I can't speak for our beloved leader, but this article has me thinking along well traveled lines: games as a medium are experiencing growing pains. There is enough content in games that reflective gamers need more than reviews to feed our interest. (Klosterman and Costik have said this quite eloquently.) Reviews are great, but they really exist to get us to the point of purchase. After we've played the games, its time for another kind of conversation.

Not that there is anything wrong with reviews, but as any writer will tell you, one of the first rules of writing is to consider your audience. The audience for reviews is people considering buying a game. For this audience, hyperbole is perhaps the most used writing technique. While I'm personally prone to fits on uncontrolled enthusiasm about games I like, a steady diet of hyperbole wears very thin after a while and leaves me hungering for more. Bioware makes quality games, and even if they don't earn their lofty ratings, it is safe to say that they have earned a place in most gamers' collections. Now that we've bought them and played them a bit, it's time to talk about the choices the designers made and why we like or don't like them.

Elysium wrote a very good criticism of Bioware's design tendencies. It isn't critical of Bioware in the "teh suck" sense. Buy turning a critical eye to the choices and themes in Bioware's games, he has helped all of us think about what we like in games and articulate the feelings that make us gamers in the first place. Conversations like these really define the niche GWJ has carved out for itself amongst the fanboy blogs, advertorials, influenced reviews, etc.

It took a couple of reading for me to realize that Ely isn't really criticizing Bioware here. He is criticizing the writers who openly fellate them in their reviews and the fan-boys who think that KOTOR and Mass Effect are the greatest thing Evar!!!

Give that man a cookie!

I tend to agree, Elysium.

The fact that Mass Effect's flaws weren't just tolerated, but completely overlooked, is troubling. The message to BioWare, apparently, is that they can do no wrong. Which doesn't bode well for future releases.

I fully agree with Elysium on this, and that's saying something.

Baldur's Gate, NWN, KOTOR, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect should all be lumped together under the same sub-genre of RPGs for one reason: they're heavily story driven where your character is the center of their respective universes, which strays a hell of a lot from the tradition RPG format. Your character is special, has a destiny, saves the world, etc. And guess what? The hero character is generally intended to be played as the classic warrior/soldier type, not a supporting character like a thief, wizard, or the like. Icewind Dale did not do that at all; it's story was simple and your characters were just average adventurers off of the street like any regular table-top RPG scenario. Those that favor IWD over BG tend to site that difference as to why it's superior.

That said, there is a dramatic decline in complexity as Bioware subsequently released new products. Mass Effect barely has the trappings of an RPG. It's skill set is simplistic, it's inventory ultimately bland (one gun can be as good as the next), and you never really get the sense that you're playing the role of Shepard since somebody else is doing the talking for you. And let's not forget the combat, either; even though skills influence your performance, it's still basically a shooter-style system. It's more of an action-adventure game than a role-playing game and I wouldn't put it on my top RPG list at all. It's a good game, just not a good RPG, which can be said for a lot of Bioware's products post BG.

The Fly wrote:

The fact that Mass Effect's flaws weren't just tolerated, but completely overlooked, is troubling. The message to BioWare, apparently, is that they can do no wrong. Which doesn't bode well for future releases.

Though it is hardly as if this is a unique situation in the gaming media, which is generally in a pretty sorry state when it comes to objective reviews.

I largely agree. Ever since the Black Isle days Bioware RPGs have seemed largely devoid of the soul I loved in BG/PS:T. This doesn't mean I think they're bad games -- I enjoyed Mass Effect and KOTOR a great deal (Jade was forgettable IMO), and a lot of the flaws I hear quoted most often didn't really bother me. But the experience hasn't stuck with me as something that I cherish like it had with the earlier Black Isle games. I picked up The Witcher recently with the hope that It would be able to fill the void that has never quite been filled for me since finishing Planescape.

I too have high hopes for Dragon Age: developers seem more willing to add depth and complexity with the PC gamer as a target audience. It'll be a bit of a litmus test for Bioware I think: if they pull it off and bring back the magic, they're still brilliant developers who need to be given more freedom to do games not "dumbed down" for what is perceived as the less sophisticated console gamer (a perception that annoys me). If they just make Jade Empire 2 with a new setting, well, I think this article will stay perfectly relevant.

Stupid naked emperors.

Botswana wrote:

The follow-up, which was just more of everything and some really hackneyed romance subplots (written right out of a geek's eye view of relationships) was simply more more more.

The romantic subplots in BG2 are, in my opinion, the best I've ever seen in a game. Jaheira's struggle with devotion to and love for her dead husband and blooming feelings for the player character (who she had traveled with since he was an orphan) was entirely believable to me, and symptomatic of the complexity inherent in many relationships. BG2 was the only game I've played in which offering emotional support to a quasi-romantic partner was required -- they didn't just like you automatically. In this way you can see the relationship develop and understand the feelings behind them. Compare this to something like Mass Effect (with lines like "if you expect to get me into a tinfoil miniskirt and thigh-high boots, I want dinner first" I almost put the game down) where the "relationship" seems much more contrived. In general I dislike romantic subplots in games, but the believability of the BG2 plots really hooked me. Just my $.02

edit:

Elysium wrote:
It took a couple of reading for me to realize that Ely isn't really criticizing Bioware here. He is criticizing the writers who openly fellate them in their reviews and the fan-boys who think that KOTOR and Mass Effect are the greatest thing Evar!!!

Give that man a cookie!

Sorry, this is the internet.

Bioware hater.

stupidhaiku wrote:

But the experience hasn't stuck with me as something that I cherish like it had with the earlier Black Isle games. I picked up The Witcher recently with the hope that It would be able to fill the void that has never quite been filled for me since finishing Planescape.

You should really check out the NWN2 expansion: Mask of the Betrayer, created by Obsidian. A central figure behind Planescape: Torment was Chris Avellone, the lead developer; who later went on to work at Obsidian (along with a few other people from the PS:T development team, such as Dan Spitzley, Aaron Meyers, Dennis Presnell, Brian Menze, Yuki Furumi, and Scott Everts). I think Mask of the Betrayer is much closer to Planescape: Torment than the direction BioWare has decided to take their games.

stupidhaiku wrote:

The romantic subplots in BG2 are, in my opinion, the best I've ever seen in a game.

I agree, which to me says what a piss poor job most games do with relationships.

My impression of the romantic subplots were all either geek fantasy, geek reality, or geek projection.

You've got "the good girl" who is sweet, naive, yet beautiful and pure as driven snow. Of course, you take her virginity.

Then you've got "the castrating bitch". Someone who was in love with someone else but that person is gone and they're settling for you. This is of course the reality of most geeks, at least the true geeks that you envision with little social interaction. Instead this one wasn't dumped or shortsightedly dumped her boyfriend with the rad sports car, but her husband is dead, but the end result is the same.

Then you've got the slutty exotic experienced woman, essentially a porn star for the fantasy world. The only thing she was missing was a chain mail bikini.

Notice the two wish fulfillment girls are also a type of elf?

Then you have the male romantic interest, if you've made a female character. He's devilshly good looking (wish fulfillment) but he's also full of himself and a bit of a whiner (projection). This is manifested even more in KOTOR with Carth Onasi.

KOTOR doesn't do any better, except that instead of the "good girl" and "porn star" you just have "castrating bitch", who is actually part good girl and it's implied you take her virginity as well. Oh yeah, she dresses like a stripper as her default outfit. Despite the presence of jedi robes she usually has a skintight number on with that titillating but utter useless loincloth thing going on.

As it stands, Baldur's Gate II is the epitomy of relationship-building for videogame storytelling with KOTOR taking 2nd place. That speaks of a real sad state of affairs in my opinion.

Tannhauser wrote:

You should really check out the NWN2 expansion: Mask of the Betrayer, created by Obsidian. A central figure behind Planescape: Torment was Chris Avellone, the lead developer; who later went on to work at Obsidian (along with a few other people from the PS:T development team, such as Dan Spitzley, Aaron Meyers, Dennis Presnell, Brian Menze, Yuki Furumi, and Scott Everts). I think Mask of the Betrayer is much closer to Planescape: Torment than the direction BioWare has decided to take their games.

I avoided the hell out of both NWN games, but you had me at Planescape. I thought it was just an expansion. Time to look at some prices.

I liked KOTOR and I survived Jade Empire but I have not finished any of the other games.

I think Bioware is something of a blessed child because the thing that has obsessed them the most over the years is integrating plot and narrative with gameplay. This also happens to be an obsession at the core of every fan of the Western CRPG. Each generation of their games has pushed the production values more and more in this direction of an interactive film. My feeling is that this gets tedious and I tend to gravitate back to the JPRG-type games that don't try to do this at all.

Another aspect of this argument that has occupied my brain is the capacity for people in the industry and especially for "fans" and gamers to generally overestimate the quality of the offerings in their little favorite genres. I've noticed this to be true in the science fiction, comics, etc. And it's certainly the case that gamers are chronically optimistic about how good new and classic games are, even when they are not.

Bioware benefits from this, having created a lot of good content over a long period of time.

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