From Baldur’s Gate to Mass Effect.
In February 1995, a bunch of guys and their close friends and cousins, some of them with medical degrees and programming, decided to create a medical simulation programme to help people. They also happen to play video games during their spare time. With their medical field funds and profit, they figured “screw it”, launch a video game company with their pooled resources of US$100,000, and made a Mechwarrior clone.
They only found huge success after their publisher at the time, Interplay, gave them the Dungeons & Dragons license to make a game using their patented Infinity engine. Those founding guys were Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, and that company was Bioware.
It’s easy to list Bioware as the de facto company that created the best Western RPGs on god’s green earth. It’s also easy to list Bioware as the company that fell from grace with the release of Mass Effect: Andromeda – god help the publications who gave that game a near-perfect rating. No matter what, Bioware is a game development company that has touched every PC gamer and console gamer’s heart with its legacy of narrative-heavy experiences.
To celebrate the launch week of their next game Anthem, the Kakuchopurei team will talk about the first Bioware game they played and loved, as well as their favourite experiences from their many titles.
People who know me will know that I’m a massive sci-fi geek, including the likes of Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon 5, Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, and much more. The reason why is that science fiction is a genre brimming with limitless potential. People often say the sky’s the limit, but in sci-fi, there is no limit.
You can now probably guess what my favourite Bioware game is, but I’ll tell you anyway, it’s the Mass Effect trilogy, or more specifically, Mass Effect 3. I wasn’t really a fan of Bioware then, so when I launched the first Mass Effect for the first time, I was instantly mesmerized and taken in by the grand space opera before me.
Just like Star Trek, every race of aliens in the Mass Effect franchise has its own distinct cultures and characteristics, ranging from the militaristic Krogans and the scientific Salarians to the nomadic Quarians and the sentient machines that make up the Geth.
Just like Babylon 5, the Mass Effect protagonist Commander Shepard has to unite all the races against all odds in an effort to fight back against an ancient unstoppable force from beyond the fringes of the known galaxy, the Reapers.
Just like Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica, there are space battles and conflicts on a scale that spans planets and stars, with the fate of entire species at stake. This sense of urgency could be felt the most in Mass Effect 3, which remains one of the most emotionally satisfying payoffs I’ve ever experienced in gaming.
Despite Mass Effect 3‘s controversial and divisive ending, I loved the game. In this game, all the relationships I cultivated and choices I made throughout the previous two games finally came to fruition.
I cried as Mordin Solus sacrificed himself to cure the entire Krogan race from the genophage. I scrambled to help between the Quarians and the Geth settle their differences, although it meant the death of my AI friend Legion. Those were just some of the heartwrenching moments I experienced in Mass Effect 3.
Oh, and if you’re wondering, Tali’Zorah is best waifu. Don’t @ me.
Seriously though, the Mass Effect trilogy remains one of the most sprawling and expansive games I’ve ever played to this day, with an emotional core unmatched since or perhaps rivalled by games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Kingdom Hearts 3 (yes, really). I’m still waiting for Bioware to spin their magic once again, whenever that may be.
Before I go, here’s a sweet cover of my favourite theme from the Mass Effect franchise. Enjoy!
While Alleef’s favourite game was Mass Effect 3, I have to say that my favourite BioWare game would be my first foray into the gameography of Bioware. It was Mass Effect 2. I was introduced to Mass Effect 2 circa 2011 when my best friend, Nasir, brought his copy of Mass Effect 2 to school just to geek out and share it with me.
When we arrived home, we popped the disc into the old faithful PlayStation 3, which is now dead (RIP PS3 Slim), and started our adventure with the Lazarus Project. It was truly a moment to remember.
While I would agree that Mass Effect 3 has better mechanics, improved graphics and QoL upgrades, however, I would maintain that Mass Effect 2 had a more, direct and honest approach which I grew affectionate upon. The clunkiness of the characters’ face during dialogues would keep me company during long hours of gameplay.
It’s been quite a while since my last playthrough of the game, and I have forgotten most of the game, but one moment stuck with me forever that paved the future of my gaming career. The final mission, or to be more precise, The Suicide Mission.
How many games out there would give you the sheer responsibility of your crew members? Not many. Mass Effect 2 was the first game that introduced to me the concept of permanently killing your crew members, and the impacts are surreal. I never had an in-game moment in which I felt that my actions could save someone’s life, or end another.
The approach to the Collector Base, together with the ominous yet epic soundtrack during Sheperd’s speech, plus with most of the crew being confident that this was a one-way trip, makes for an epic gaming moment for books of gaming history. Even writing this sentence takes me back to the moment and gives me goosebumps.
Gosh, the thought of losing my squadmates, and restarting the game just to save them brings back the fondest memories with BioWare’s legendary trilogy. It’s a small wonder why two Mass Effect games wound up on this feature.
Alleef ended with a sombre cover of one of his favourite soundtracks. For my side of the story, I will restore the spirit with an epic piece:
My favourite game from these Canadians will always be the original Baldur’s Gate 2. I remember waiting day and night for the sequel, back in the days when “software boutiques” were up-and-coming in the PJ and Klang Valley area. The first Baldur’s Gate was a surprise hit for me, but I wasn’t a fan of the really huge graphics.
Still, I soldiered on through and found a really awesome D&D CRPG experience with a bunch of awesome characters with well-written side stories. Minsc and space hamster Boo will always be in my party. And the party dynamic; it’s cool that they added party members who cannot work with specific people. Random fights would trigger if you put Minsc and Edwin together in the same party.
So obviously, I was stoked for the sequel. I read up about it on PC Gamer and PC Magazine, and other mags in the Indian magazine shops. When it was on sale, I spent the money I saved up, booted the game, and never left my seat and monitor. The game was so addictive, Bioware went out of their way to put on this tip on one of the loading screens:
Yep, these guys clearly speak to me. Long college hours were spent on studying law AND studying how to deal with the githayki, umber hulks, and the politics of the drow in Baldur’s Gate 2. I ran my own stronghold, I sorted out the main villain’s god complex (Irenicus is definitely top-50 game villains material), fought a bunch of dragons (and died multiple times doing so), and had the moral dilemma of either siding with a vampire or a thieves’ guild.
Also, I took part in a play that was doomed to failure while in the midst of solving a cult involving beholder worshipers. Fun times.
I may have flunked law school, but thanks to some good ol’ CRPG story inspiration, at least I made my mark in a Sega JRPG while behind the trenches:
Yes, I wrote the stories of Ronda the crab puncher and Nikolas the haughty scientist in Chain Chronicle. Were it not for the past inspiration of Bioware games, I wouldn’t have thought of doing something like this for a video game. So thanks, Canada!
When I hear the name “BioWare”, a few things pop up in my mind: dialogue wheels. And vast, open spaces, super convoluted storylines … and my favourite warrior-class character.
Yup. I had a thing for Cassandra Pentaghast.
While many would talk about the vast world which BioWare create in their games in, I’ve always been more intrigued by the effort they put into the history and lore of some the characters. Not only limited to Cassandra, mind you, but the rest of your companions in Inquisition as well; Blackwall, Dorian, Solas… you get the picture.
My favourite of the Dragon Age games is Inquisition which I poured countless hours into and she’s one of the enjoyable parts of that journey. Writing believable characters which contain several layers to their personality is no mean feat and I believe the BioWare team’s hit it out of the park with Cassandra.
Her characterization in Inquisition proves that you can write a tough, no-nonsense female character while at the same time maintaining her femininity. You don’t need to be butch to appear badass nor wear a skirt to be attractive.
Oh and let’s not forget; her tsundere demeanour makes her an attractive yet challenging romance option as well.