It’s been a weird few years for Bioware; since 2017, the studio(s) have been in flux. The release of Mass Effect Andromeda, a game that is not nearly as bad as you’ve heard, left a lot of folks disappointed and ultimately put the franchise on ice due to poor sales. I often wonder how Andromeda would’ve been received had it been given another three months of development time. When it was released, the game struggled from a technical standpoint. Things like facial animations and lighting just looked off. And as Assassin’s Creed Unity fans know, the memes can overshadow any positives about a game even after the bugs have been patched. That being said, I’ve written before about how a large chunk of the gaming community wouldn’t accept Andromeda no matter what, whether it be because the original Bioware team wasn’t working on it or due to the still festering anger over the Mass Effect 3 ending. Not to mention the turbulent development that Mass Effect Andromeda went through in its early days. and ultimately, the studio started crunching to meet deadlines in a seemingly toxic work environment
After the lukewarm reception to Andromeda, the next Bioware game was Anthem, a game I unfortunately pre-ordered. Normally I never do that, and this game is why I never will again. If Anthem hadn’t been preoccupied with creating a Destiny-style co-op environment and just made a Bioware RPG using the mechanics and lore around Anthem, I think I would’ve loved the game. Still, instead, we got a 40-minute story followed by lots of grinding the same three maps over and over again for terrible loot drops. Most always-online games strive for constant updates and news, but with Anthem, we got absolutely nothing for months at a time. Bioware was clearly not ready or structured to make a Destiny clone.
And those are just the games released during this time. Behind the scenes seems just as turbulent. Aaryn Flynn, General Manager of BioWare, announced that he would depart from the company in July of 2017. Casey Hudson, the lead for the original Mass Effect games, returned to BioWare as its new General Manager. Lead story developer for Jade Empire and Dragon Age creative director Mike Laidlaw announced his departure in October 2017 after 14 years with the company. James Ohlen, the lead designer of the Baldur’s Gate series, Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, and Dragon Age: Origins, as well as the game director of The Old Republic MMO, left the studio after 22 years in July 2018. and then after that, On the 3rd of December 2020, both Casey Hudson and Mark Darrah, the executive producer of the Dragon Age series, announced their departures from the studio. So the studio has seen a lot of turnover amidst its challenging past few years.
On a macro level, we’ve recently heard that Electronic Arts, the parent company of Bioware, has apparently been asking around about an acquisition or merger. Companies like Disney and Apple, to name a few. How this impacts Bioware remains to be seen, but these types of things don’t happen with a wrist flick. I would imagine any sort of impact should EA be bought would manifest long after Dragon Age Dreadwolf and maybe even after Mass Effect 4. It also makes you wonder if Microsoft wants to add to its behemoth of stables next to Blizzard and Bethesda. Maybe they want to buy EA too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxqBle_O6jIhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxqBle_O6jI
I love a lot of video games but none of them as much as the Dragon Age games. I’ve written before about how it was the first game I bought on my ps3, the first console I purchased with my own money. I spent a very long time playing that game over and over again. Luckily Dragon Age: Origins has a lot of replay value considering its branching story paths. So this universe and its characters mean a lot to me, which is why I have been scouring the internet since I finished Dragon Age Inquisition, the third installment in the series, for news about the follow-up. And understandably, there has not been a lot of news. I’ve had to live on concept art and ancillary short stories for a while now. If you want to get super in-depth and have every piece of Dragon Age info dissected as I do, I highly recommend Jackdaw on Youtube. I’ll save the incredibly nerdy lore breakdown for another article but suffice it to say, Bioware’s credibility hangs on the release of this game.
What happens with Dragon Age Dreadwolf will also impact the upcoming Mass Effect game. As of right now, we only have a brief trailer. And since Dreadwolf is still at least a year away, The next Mass Effect is even further behind that. With so much internal turnover Bioware is in an interesting spot where they are returning to two beloved franchises but with an entirely new creative team and direction. That being said, I don’t expect the new Dragon Age game to suddenly become a twin-stick shooter or something but as much of a fan of the Dragon Age games as I am, I’m equally interested to see this franchise’s interpretation through new eyes. It’s tough to imagine this game bombing. Not because I’m a fan of it, but because this is it. There is no second or third chance to try and reinvent the wheel. If Bioware puts out an underperforming Mass Effect Andromeda and then the dumpster fire that is Anthem only to take all this time on the next Dragon Age, and it’s bad. The company has some serious soul searching to do.
You often hear about what massive game influences the direction of other games. I remember before Dragon Age Inquisition’s release, It was said to have been influenced by Skyrim, which at the time was a juggernaut. The Witcher: Wild Hunt has clearly influenced the modern Assassin’s Creed games. Even Call Of Duty adopted a dialog choice system for a time. Without much to go on, it’s interesting to wonder what kind of influences Dragon Age Dreadwolf has. Maybe the best kind of influence is classic Bioware storytelling. What better redemption story is there than that.