I hear people often say that “EA ruined Bioware” or some variation of the sort. I’ve always wondered if it’s true. I’ve been a fan of the studio since the original Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire. When I played those games I didn’t really understand gaming studios or the creators of games. Eventually, Bioware would become one of my favorite game studios. Lately, I’ve been wondering if EA’s acquisition of Bioware actually did “ruin” or hurt the developers. Let’s find out.
TL,DR: At the bottom, as usual.
Bioware has been developing games for more than 20 years starting with Shattered Steel in 1996. The game doesn’t have any Metacritic information and reviews are sparse, but people seemed to generally enjoy the game, nonetheless.
The next game from Bioware is the beloved Baldur’s Gate, which I’ve never actually played. I played Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance on PS2, but didn’t have a PC capable of playing back at the release of the original game. The game maintains a metascore of 91. The game is tied at #48 on Metacritic’s list of all-time highest rated PC games. It’s sequel, Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn, sits at #6 on that same list sandwiched between Bioshock and Portal 2, at #5 and #7, respectively, with a metascore of 95. That is some good company to keep. It seems like in Bioware’s early years in the late 90’s they were on top of the world.
Between the Baldur’s Gate games, Bioware released MDK2. MDK2 sits at the metascore of 83, good but not quite as good as their other offerings.
Two years after Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn, Bioware released Neverwinter Nights. The game also boasts a metascore of 91, tying the other Bioware offering sitting at #48 on the all-time highest rated PC games list.
Bioware comes into my mind in 2003 with the launch of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Between that and The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, I almost abandoned my PS2 roots for Xbox entirely. I obsessed over those two games and for good reason. They are both incredible and deserved to be played, even now, 15 years after their release.
I’m not the only one who feels that way about Knights of the Old Republic, either. The game is #26 on Metacritic’s highest rated PC games of all-time and #7 on the highest rated Xbox games of all-time. The metascore is 93 for PC and 94 on Xbox.
Next, Bioware created a completely original game, Jade Empire. I really enjoyed the game but didn’t fall in love like I did with some of their other offerings.
I think many others felt the same, great game for a new intellectual property, but not as good as some of their past games. The PC version sits at 81 on the metascore while the Xbox version is slightly higher at 89.
Okay, I’m not including the next two games as part of Bioware in the EA era because the purchase didn’t occur until the game was pretty much finished and neither of them were published by EA.
I didn’t know this game exists, and I rather not know it does. The metascore is 74. Moving on.
Ah, the glory of Mass Effect. I don’t remember much hype about this game before it came out because it was alongside 10 other immaculate games that year. I feel like once people had to play it, Mass Effect seemed to win our hearts. (I’m serious though, 2007 launched some of the most amazing games. Look at this list compiled by Mark Walton at Gamespot. He doesn’t even include Mass Effect, which seems crazy to me.)
I’ve mentioned it a few times on the site, but Mass Effect sits close to, if not at, the top of my favorite game series ever. I love everything about this 3 game series. It’s a shame they never made another one. I hope in a few years they go back. Mass Effect was my reason for getting an Xbox 360.
Metascores for the game across Xbox 360, PC, and PS3 are 91, 89, and 85, respectively. Mass Effect didn’t set the world on fire like Mass Effect 2, but we were thinking about it.
I’ve listed some fairly high review metascores and rankings for Bioware game released prior to their acquisition by EA. In order to get an understanding of their total review, I’m going to average the scores of each of the games. To keep it fair, I’m going to create an average across platform, if a game released on multiple platforms, so that each game is only weighted once. I’m going to exclude Shattered Steel because it does not have a metascore.
Baldur’s Gate – 91
MDK2 – 83
Baldur’s Gate II – 95
Neverwinter Nights – 91
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – 93.5, rounding up to 94.
Jade Empire – 85
Mass Effect – 88.33, rounded down to 88.
Sonic Chronicles – 74
Bioware Average Metascore: 87.625, rounded up to 88.
So, Bioware’s pre-EA metascore average for each game is around 88. Even with the odd Sonic game thrown in there. That seems insanely high in quality overall. Off the top of my head, I would guess that Valve and Blizzard beat it, but I don’t know for sure what other studio would score that high.
I’ll work on Part 2: During-Ea, in my next post as I don’t want each article to get too long.
TL,DR: Bioware made really good games prior to EA buying them. “Universal Acclaim” if we are using Metacritic’s benchmarks.
What studio should I look at after Bioware? I’d love to hear some ideas.
Thanks for reading.