Monday, 2 February 2009


I have a short list of 'must-have' developers. I'm not Microsoft or anything, I'm not going to buy them, make them create Halo games then dissolve them. What I mean is, developers whose games I buy simply on trust. Now I'm a games reviewer, so their games have to be not only

consistently good fun, but consistently special to me.

As such, that list, as I mentioned, is short. Valve, id Software and Monolith (although they're pushing their luck right now) are a few stalwarts. Starbreeze is well on their way towards the list. And the main RPG one is Bioware.

There's always a game I start with though, and usually don't play all before that one. Monolith started me with Aliens Vs Predator 2 (yes, I missed Shogo, although I loved Blood) for example. Valve had me at 'welcome to the Black Mesa research facility'.

Bioware though only came to my attention with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and after that it's pretty much Jade Empire, Mass Effect and, um, Sonic Chronicles. In short, I missed Baldur's Gate, and frankly I couldn't give a damn. As such, I am not especially looking forward to this game:

Dragon Age, now unnecessarily with 'Origins' stuck on the end. A PC-led RPG by my favourite RPG-maker. Look at that screenshot. I am mad?!

No. Despite my love of stories in games, it took me a long time to get into RPGs as a genre. Part of this was vanity - I really hate isometric viewpoints in character-based games. Another is simple - I hate elves, orcs, Tolkien-ripping-off RPGs, which seemed to clutter the market since the dawn of the genre. Baldur's Gate, being an isometric Dungeons & Dragons game, fit into that.

Now we're getting a spiritual sequel to that, and it looks like an offline MMO. The only reason I played The Witcher was because it didn't look like a complete Tolkien thing (and the PCZ review helped). This, judging by the trailers, looks very Tolkien-inspired. I'm yawning already.

I just don't care right now. I'm sure it'll be different and have a great story, but right now if this wasn't a Bioware game I wouldn't be paying it any attention - and even then not too much.

Impress me, Bioware. Prove my faith in you justified.

- Chris Capel


  1. Interesting factoid: Jade Empire was originally called Dragon Age...

  2. Heh, really? Didn't know that.

    Jade Empire was a very different game to the usual RPG fare though. I guess what I value most is originality.

    - The Tingler

  3. Why do you buy all those Star Wars / Indy games then? ;)

  4. As someone who was raised on Tolkien, I have similar aversions to Tolkien rip-offs...but I have to say, the quality of the story-telling in Baldur's Gate, and the ways in which it breaks free of Tolkien-land in the sequal and expansion (as it features a few cross-overs to the Planescape setting, including the occasional trip to the planes), allowed me to see past it.

    Quite simply, the Baldur's Gate series is epic. Brilliantly written, beautifully designed, and with an ending that completely shits on ANYTHING that Bioware have done since.

    Really, KOTOR and Mass Effect are soap operas compared to BG2.
    Plus, BG2's villain is VO'd by David Warner (the bad guy in Tron, amongst many other things) and he is awesome in the role.

    "I cannot be caged. I cannot be controlled. Know this as you die, ever pathetic, ever fools."

    That being said, Dragon Age looks utterly naff to me.

  5. Ah, David Warner - evil goit in 'Time After Time'

  6. "Why do you buy all those Star Wars / Indy games then? ;)"

    Indy games because they're few and far between and are usually good fun, Star Wars games I only buy the ones that looked remotely good. As such, you will not find a Clone Wars game in my collection. Well, apart from The Clone Wars, but that wasn't based on the cartoon so that's alright.

  7. I think the Dragon Age/Jade Empire link was mentioned in one of Zone's developer interviews; can't remember the issue though.

    My fave Star Wars game is still JK: Outcast. Wasn't Republic Commando supposed to be good too, though?

  8. Republic Commando was indeed very good. The only bad thing about it was that at just three missions it was a bit short.

    Favourite one? Probably the first Jedi Knight (or the second Dark Forces).

  9. If you see Baldurs Gate as a "Tolkien Clone" then you'll see the vast majority of modern fantasy as the same, which it really isn't. Tolkien was the first to give elves, dwarves, goblins etc. with histories and languages (as far as I know), but that's the biggest idea that modern fantasy has taken (though of course there are many other subtler influences). Elves and dwarves existed much, much further back than Tolkien.

    Since its become part of the genre to give races histories and languages, I don't see how that makes something that follows that a Tolkien clone. It's just following the genre that Tolkien's work partly shaped.

    Also, Baldurs Gate is isometric because you control *six* characters, not just one. If it wasn't top-down isometric then the other characters would be lost.

  10. I do see what you're saying Gabez (welcome, btw), but it's still true that, aside from Lord of the Rings which I believe did the "traditional swords & sorcery fantasy" fairly definitively, I'm not really interested in games that use this type of tale as I don't see them as original. As such, I've missed a lot of great games and books over the years because of this belief.

    The top-down isometric thing is something that I just really dislike. Bioware would cut down to three characters from KOTOR onwards, and I think that's enough. Six just becomes too many to manage properly in my opinion.

  11. Well Mr Tingler...I have to say, your arguments against my arguments against Mass Effect have been somewhat dampened by the lack of Baldur's Gate in your life :p

    It's an aesthetic preference, to be sure, but personally I wouldn't mind seeing a BG3 or somesuch, that returned to isometric prerendered visuals...but prerendered visuals done with the sheer artistry and polish of Myst 4, with lots of modern techniques in place.

    I loved KOTOR (and its flawed but incredibly deep and intelligent sequel), and I've played through Mass Effect 2 or 3 times, but my perspective on things is that Bioware's produce became somewhat watered down from Neverwinter Nights onwards.