WARNING: this article contains spoilers for Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect 2, and several of the downloadable expansions for each. CONSIDER YOURSELF DULY WARNED!
Listen, BioWare. You know you’re the only development studio for me. It was never that your games were the prettiest. They’re nice, but you never made me save vs. pants-change like, say, God Of War 3. It was never that your gameplay is the smoothest or most innovative. Don’t get me wrong, Mass Effect 2 was a nice step up from its predecessor, with its powers and equipment systems all nicely overhauled and refined and that superfun mining minigame. That’s not why every BioWare game is a day one purchase for me.
No, BioWare, the siren song with which you keep crashing me into your cliffs is your storytelling. Your last two games have had great endings that can change dramatically based on the choices the player makes during the course of the game. Hell, you can sacrifice yourself at the end of Dragon Age. Or, you can throw one of your teammates under the death-bus. You can also save yourself by knocking up Morrigan. (Yes, it’s complicated, but one needs to weigh one’s fear of long-term commitment versus one’s desire to see another sunrise). In Mass Effect 2, your end-of-game choices include whether to appropriate dark and ancient technology to ensure humanity’s dominance over the galaxy, and (more importantly) whether to tell your boss, who is apparently a time traveling ad man from 1964, to take his incredibly high risk job and shove it.
These games had great storylines and compelling endings. People were invested in their own story that they had a hand in telling. That’s your niche. You’re the best in the business at this. Why, then, did you choose to have your downloadable expansions ignore these choices? Dragon Age: Awakenings lets you continue the story where you left off – and if you bravely sacrificed yourself to save Ferelden, nobody remembers. Including you. Did you get resurrected? If so, it sort of makes the monumental choice at the end of the main campaign, well, non-monumental. If you opted for making a freaky god-baby with Morrigan, don’t expect that storyline to be continued in the Witch Hunt expansion. Sure, you get some closure. Just not for the story your character was a part of.
Mass Effect 2’s DLC suffers from a similar (if somewhat less catastrophic) problem. If you told Space Don Draper Sterling Cooper Estevez to cram it at the end of the game, he must be a pretty understanding dude to keep giving you missions and new recruits and supplies and stuff. Oh, right. All the missions you do after you finish the game take place before you go on the final mission. Except you still have all the stuff and XP you picked up there. Pretty much the only way this makes sense is if this is somehow a sequel to Groundhog Day. (And now, I want to try to get Shepard looking as much like Bill Murray as possible when ME3 comes out.)
It’s not that you don’t know how. Mass Effect 2 even reads in the save file if you completed the first game and the choices you made there have consequence in 2. You even get a picture on your desk of your love interest from the first game! The same feature has been promised for part 3. Your whole damned business revolves around continuity, and you’re utterly and consistently screwing this up. Stop it, BioWare. You’re better than this.
I’m not even going to get into how some of the expansions you released cost $10 and are nothing more than two hours of been-there-did-that-a-hundred-times-during-the-campaign battles with a little story-nugget tacked onto the end. (Oh, wait. I guess I am.) This alone is bad enough, but when you then proceed to flush continuity down the dark fantasy toilet, it tends to make me furious. That’s right, BioWare. I made a freaky god-baby with Morrigan, and I paid ten bucks to find out what happened next, and you gave me two hours of mediocre, a cracked out praying mantis, and then two minutes of someone else’s story. A story, I might add, that doesn’t make any damned sense because I’d be dead. And then you STILL didn’t finish anything and teased at something else which will undoubtedly cost me ten more dollars.
I’m really not sure what’s worse at this point, BioWare. You continuing to nickel-and-dime us all, or me continuing to give you my nickels and dimes. It’s getting to the point where I’m getting desperate. I need my story fix. I might actually start reading (gasp) BOOKS. Nah, who am I kidding? I’ll be back for more, because your games (pre-DLC) are spectacularly awesome. But one day, BioWare. One day…. I’m going to be gone and you’ll have to sleep alone. Maybe you’ll forget me in the short term, but on those long, cold, lonely nights, you’ll miss me. You’ll miss the way I name characters “Baconlord” and variations on the word “scrotum”. You’ll miss how I AoE fireball everything and run around the room screaming until my mana comes back. Don’t break our happy RPG home bringing home all your loser DLC friends all the time and expecting me to entertain them.
I love you, BioWare. Stop it.