There is a fine line between an artistic expression and a commercial property, and the difference is one that video game designers must struggle with on a daily basis. With the constant development cycles that major developers and publishers eventually get into, feedback from fans and critical reception is easy to come by only days after a game hits retail shelves. In the case of Dragon Age 2, fans and critics alike made it clear to developer BioWare that many of the changes in direction the team had implemented with the sequel were not what they had hoped.
So with Mass Effect 3 still in development for a rumored November release, we’ve started to wonder if the sea of complaints and wealth of shots taken at their most recent property will encourage ME3‘s developers to re-examine, or change their own plans for the third installment. It’s never too late to make a game better, after all.
From narrative themes to inventory systems and everything in between, the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series are undeniably siblings in the modern RPG genre. So while many similar games may look to their competition for examples of what to do or avoid, the comparisons drawn between BioWare’s two franchises are far more relevant. Even though Mass Effect took players into a science-fiction RPG built around gunfighting and telekinetic powers before Dragon Age: Origins brought a dose of fantasy to the mix, Dragon Age was the first property to be created.
From the PC-heavy roots of strategic and tactical combat of Origins, BioWare came up with a far more mainstream shooter to appeal to a larger number of gamers. It worked, with Mass Effect receiving incredible amounts of praise and commercial success, while still packing in narrative depth and extensive gameplay for the RPG fanatics.
The developer clearly saw an opportunity for further success through streamlining, removing nearly all RPG mechanics from Mass Effect 2 in exchange for a far sleeker presentation. The franchise had made a big splash among those who couldn’t tell an RPG from a hole in the ground, so the changes were deemed a massive improvement, and a new height for the series.
But what of those who prefer their RPGs to be deep, intellectual exercises that reward analytical decision making skills and potentially game-changing moral dilemmas? When the same streamlining was brought to Dragon Age 2 this year, the reaction was not as positive. Dragon Age 2 was a quality title, but with a current Metacritic rating of 79, and an average user rating of 4.5/10, it’s obvious that fans of the fantasy series had far more problems with the changes made.
So will BioWare simply stick to their plans for keeping the status quo with Mass Effect 3, and keeping the player’s control limited to binary moral decisions and conversation options? Or will they recognize just how needless some of the changes they made really were? We could go on for hours about the problems we had with Dragon Age 2, but we’ve narrowed our list down to a few important points we hope the developers of Mass Effect 3 will reconsider.