So… Anthem. What a mess.
Just a couple of years ago, Anthem was touted to be the “next big thing” from legendary developer, BioWare. It was their attempt to create a totally new IP and, in all honesty, I was initially excited for it. The game looked technically impressive when it was first shown at E3 a scant couple of years ago.
Flash forward to today and I’m extremely glad I didn’t purchase it. I lost interest in Anthem pretty quickly when I found out it was a multiplayer only game; I have a thing against the gaming industry foregoing the single player format but that’s another story altogether. Never mind that the game is joining the increasingly crowded multiplayer shooter and it has to contend with the likes of Fortnight, PUBG and Destiny. Basically, it already had an uphill battle ahead of it to make it stand out. Anthem is standing out alright, but for all the wrong reasons!
To say that Anthem has a rough start would be an understatement. If a game actually causes a PlayStation 4 to cease functioning, then having boring gameplay and grinding to get really good look is the least of its worries! I don’t care if BioWare has identified the problems and have patched the game; I’m not touching Anthem with a ten-foot pole!
Sadly, Anthem is BioWare second major disaster of late. Before that came Mass Effect Andromeda. That was another game that everyone was looking forward to. It was going to launch a totally new Mass Effect trilogy in the Andromeda galaxy. I liked Mass Effect Andromeda okay but that was mostly because I got it later after they fixed the graphical glitches and animations. “My face is tired,” indeed!
All of this is making me worried about BioWare’s upcoming project, Dragon Age: The Dread Wolf Rises. This is definitely a game I was looking forward to because I thoroughly enjoyed Dragon Age: Inquisition. That game was my first introduction to the series and I wanted to see what happened to my Inquisitor and how she (yes, she) was going to handle Solas. But with all of what happening with BioWare lately, I’m worried that The Dread Wolf Rises will be a disaster!
It seems really weird to be hating on BioWare, a company that was known for having a solid track record before. It’s been making critically acclaimed games with hits like Baldur’s Gate, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire and the aforementioned Mass Effect and Dragon Age franchises. The thing is, I don’t really believe it’s BioWare’s fault that they’ve had these recent failures.
I blame EA.
Okay, to say that it’s all EA’s fault isn’t probably true; I do acknowledge that some of the blame has to fall on BioWare. But most of the blame? The lion’s share of the fault? Yeah, that’s totally EA.
EA and BioWare’s relationship is both simple and complicated. During the early days, BioWare made games as, well, they’re a game development company. They’re the guys that write, program and do all of the grunt work. They didn’t distribute the games themselves. What they used to do was go to different game publishers, such as EA, LucasArts, Microsoft and even some companies I’ve never heard of like Interplay.
This all changed when EA purchased BioWare in 2007. I read somewhere that BioWare was in danger of closing down and they were really happy when EA got the entire team. It even looked like everything was going to be working out as well as this was when BioWare started work on the Mass Effect series as well as the Dragon Age games. They were how I got to know the company in the first place! And what a way to be introduced to a company! By the way, if they release the Mass Effect Trilogy on PS4, you can bet I’ll be willing to buy it!
But the good times didn’t keep rolling for long. Things started to unravel in BioWare. While I just stated I love the Mass Effect games, I know I’ll be disappointed with Mass Effect 3. After the smashing success that is Mass Effect 2, the third game was a big miss. There was just something about it that peeves me. Maybe it’s how a lot of the characters (hint: see Ashley Williams’ botox injected face) look like plastic mannequins in the third game. Or maybe how the thing just didn’t end in a satisfying way when it was originally released. Whatever the reason, I just don’t like Mass Effect 3 when you compare it to the games that came before it.
The company did make up for it with Dragon Age: Inquisition. This was a game that I got as they were practically giving away Game of the Year edition for free when I purchased it on the PlayStation 4. I have never played a game in the series but I loved my time with it. It made me want to play the earlier games… but after seeing how they didn’t age all that well, I decided to just wait for the next installment, thank you. Apparently, all their faces were tired back then!
Unfortunately, things just started to devolve around that time. A lot of the original team that worked on BioWare’s older games started leaving the company. It wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t the big key players but that wasn’t the case. Not only did the company’s founders leave, but most of the head writers and directors left BioWare soon after. This is the BioWare we have today. It’s the BioWare that has a lot of the creativity cut out from it.
So why am I blaming EA for BioWare’s state? Well, I can’t help shake the feeling that EA who, in their infinite wisdom, decided to exercise more control over BioWare and this got on the nerves of the people who left as their creativity was starting to be stifled. EA already has a bad reputation of sticking their nose into the development of their games in the past. Who’s to say they still aren’t doing the same thing today?
EA also has a habit of milking their fans out of all the money they can. To be fair, the video game industry is still a moneymaking enterprise and it’s not like us consumers don’t have the choice of not buying DLC. They are also not the only company that does this. But it does go to show you how much they don’t really care about the art of making video games but are just in it to milk the public for everything they’re worth. If they’re willing to go to court to defend themselves against a law instead of just tweaking the game mechanics, you know there’s something wrong.
These are the kind of mandates that EA is imposing on their developers and even BioWare isn’t immune as they’re probably ordered to carve out some portions of the game and sell them separately as DLC. Anthem is a prime example of this. Besides causing the gaming consoles to crash, which is already horrible, players are actively avoiding the free drops that enemies leave behind! They’re intentionally avoiding free stuff because good items are amazing rare! I’m betting this is intentional so that frustrated players will just decide to buy the good stuff outright using real money. Once again, this is conjecture on my part… but I’m probably right.
Does all of this mean that BioWare is done for? Not necessarily. If what I’m saying here is true and EA has been adding their own ideas to make them more money but destroys the player’s experience, it’s an easy fix: just stop! In fact, there’s already a recent example I can point to… and Apex Legends, a game that was published by, you guessed it, EA!
Apex Legends was a surprise hit from out of nowhere and no one really believed it was going to be a success… no one except Respawn Entertainment, the developer behind the game. Respawn Entertainment had to reassure the people at EA that they were on the right track! I’m glad that EA did leave them alone because, while I may never play Apex Legends, the game’s player count has been skyrocketing since its launch. Not bad for a game that had virtually no marketing and no interference from EA.
I strongly believe that BioWare can still do great things if EA just let it do its own thing. EA can guide them by giving them limitations but don’t tell them to design their games just because you think it’ll make them more money in the short term. Hopefully, they’ve learned their lesson as Dragon Age: The Dread Wolf Rises is already in production. I don’t want to see another BioWare disaster. If I do, it’ll be my face that’s tired.
Do you think EA is to blame and is interfering with BioWare and the games it makes? Let me know in the comments section below!