It has been a hellish few months for BioWare and EA since the launch of Anthem. The game was panned by critics for being mind-numbingly boring, the fanbase has been displeased with the loot, and now Kotaku’s Jason Schrier has published an insightful and alarming piece that suggests the E3 2017 demo was a fake thanks to the game’s troubled development. However, while Anthem has rightfully been condemned for being a lackluster game that doesn’t have any of the “BioWare magic”, in hindsight the once renowned development team actually started to lose their identity with the popular Mass Effect 2.
Mass Effect 2 is fantastic, but it started BioWare’s decline
Mass Effect 2 is probably BioWare’s best ever game thanks to its roster of characters, combined with its gripping narrative and acceptable gameplay. There were a ton of worlds, each of your squad mates were interesting, and the Illusive Man was the perfect antagonist. Yet, although Mass Effect 2 was a lot of fun and a massive improvement over the original Xbox 360 exclusive, it was the beginning of BioWare’s decline as there was more focus on action rather than RPG mechanics.
Now, while the disappointing Mass Effect 3 had more of a focus on action rather than RPG features, the shift initially started with Mass Effect 2. Yes, you essentially role-played as Commander Shepard by making decisions, being bad or good, and choosing who you wanted to bed, but the experience was noticeably streamlined as the exploration was linear, the inventory was near non-existent, and the skill tree was simplified.
And then Mass Effect 3 was even more noticeably streamlined in a supposed effort to reach “larger audiences”. In fact, it lost the series’ identity so much that by the end of the game the decisions you made didn’t matter as the only variations in the ending were the colours blue, green, and red. From what started off as a well-balanced shooter-RPG with the original Mass Effect on Xbox 360, eventually transitioned into a simple third-person shooter with dialogue choices and sex scenes for you to discover.
The underwhelming Mass Effect: Andromeda tried to recapture the RPG side of the series, but Anthem is an embodiment of how BioWare has finally lost what once made them so special. The loot in Anthem is poor, there’s no story, it’s impossible to feel anything about the characters, and there are only two dialogue choices when engaging in conversation. No, Anthem isn’t marketed as an RPG, but it has none of what you’d expect from a BioWare game, and it has completed the downward trajectory BioWare was on after Mass Effect 2.
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