Bioware Part 2: During EA

Mass Effect Galaxy, an iOS game, was the first Bioware game to be published by EA. But, I’m not going to include a mobile game. I just don’t think mobile games have a place in this particular conversation. With that being said, this marks the transition to Part 2 of my series looking into Bioware. This article will focus on Bioware games that have been published by EA.

Again, I’m going to use Metacritic and their Metascores as a means to keep everything fair from the first part. I would like to point out that although review scores don’t completely capture the quality of a game, they can be used as a quick baseline reception of the game from multiple sources. I think it’s also important to note that Bioware is a multi-team company by itself and many teams helped develop some of these games. But, I don’t think it’s fair to differentiate between teams of the same name.

For Bioware’s first outting with EA they introduced a new franchise. This time the delve into the world of fantasy, balanced by their Mass Effect science fiction offering.

Dragon Age: Origins was likely far enough in development that EA likely didn’t influence much about the game, besides DLC. Across all three platforms, Xbox 360, PS3, and PC, Dragon Age: Origins averages an 88 in Metascore. The same score as Mass Effect. I think it’s really cool that Bioware released new tentpole franchises that are received relatively the same.

Dragon Age: Origins’ Metascores:

PC — 91

Xbox 360 — 86

PS3 — 87

Average — 88

Not even four months later, Bioware released Mass Effect 2 in January of 2010 to much acclaim. On PC, Mass Effect 2 is the 9th highest rated PC of all-time. The game’s PC Metascore is 94.  The game ranks at #5 on the highest rated Xbox 360 games list. Mass Effect 2 sits a bit lower on the PS3, hitting #13 of all-time.

Bioware doesn’t have to compete with Naughty Dog on Xbox systems, so the lower PS3 ranking makes sense. I’m surprised to see the overall scores raise 7 points from Dragon Age: Origins to Mass Effect 2. Clearly, Bioware is still doing something right at this point.

Mass Effect 2’s Metascores: 

PC — 94

Xbox 360 — 96

PS3 — 94

Average — 94.66667 rounded to 95

Both games released under EA, until 2011, kept up with and even outpaced expectations for the Bioware team. However, Dragon Age 2 released almost 16 months after the original. That is an insane turnaround time for any development team. The game’s review scores suffered. Dragon Age 2 averages 7 points lower than Bioware’s current Metascore average and 7 points lower than the previous game in the series. Mass Effect was on the rise while Dragon Age declined.

Dragon Age II’s Metascores:

PC — 82

Xbox 360 — 79

PS3 — 82

Average — 81

Bioware finally returned to Star Wars with Star Wars: The Old Republic. They didn’t work on any Star Wars property for 8 years and their triumphant return was anything but. I have a hard time separating my own feelings about the game prior to its release with other opinions. I wanted to like the game, as I’ve always been a fan of MMO’s and didn’t see a reason why this game would be an exception to that rule.

Also its Star Wars from Bioware, the team that gave us Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Plus, MMO’s develop more over time than other games and I don’t think it’s fair to judge them based solely on the release content. But, I’m still going to use whatever score Metacritic has for the game. The overall Metascore of 85 is only a few points lower than Bioware’s average. But, it’s still lower.

Star Wars: The Old Republic Metascore:

PC — 85

Next up on their release schedule is Mass Effect 3. The culmination of a five-year series that defined Xbox 360 for a few people, myself included. I love the three games in the mainline Mass Effect series. There isn’t much more to say, I’ve talked about it enough already. The scores are higher than Bioware’s average and only just slightly lower than Mass Effect 2.

Mass Effect 3’s Metascores:

PC — 89

Xbox 360 — 93

PS3 — 93

Average — 91.66667 rounded to 92.

I’m still not entirely sure what Dragon Age: Inquisition is compared to Dragon Age: Origins or Dragon Age II. They all kind of exist on their own and they only contain some minor story events or characters from the other games. They are barely connected. Dragon Age: Inquisition marked the first foray into the new systems for Bioware. Developing for new hardware can’t be easy so I would understand if Dragon Age: Inquisition didn’t do as well compared to other games. However, according to Metascores, Dragon Age: Inquisition was about where it should be compared to the average Bioware score from pre-EA.

Dragon Age: Inquisition’s Metascores:

PC — 85

Xbox One — 85

PS4 — 89

Average — 86.333 rounded to 86

And we arrive at the latest Bioware game released. Mass Effect: Andromeda released in 2017 and really tarnished the brand. I’ve heard people talk about how it was developed by a “B-Team” from Bioware or just never had the opportunity to be as great as the other series because of who worked on the game. I don’t really buy that argument.

All teams at Bioware and EA should probably be held to the same standards. I’m sure the team who developed Mass Effect: Andromeda worked just as hard on that game compared to their counterparts who worked on the other games in the Mass Effect series. Onward from the mini-rant, this is the second time a during-EA Bioware team released a game much lower than expectations. It scored 15 points lower on average.

Mass Effect: Andromeda’s metascores:

PC — 72

Xbox One — 76

PS4 — 71

Average — 73

Average Score Recap:

Dragon Age: Origins — 88

Mass Effect 2 — 95

Dragon Age II — 81

Star Wars: The Old Republic — 85

Mass Effect 3 — 92

Dragon Age: Inquisition — 86

Mass Effect: Andromeda — 73

Average Metascore across all games during-EA: 85.7 rounded to 86.

Okay, so technically Bioware’s games have a lower score with EA as the publisher. But, two points is not very much. Both averages would be considered as “universal acclaim” based Metacritic’s ranking system. Across the hundreds of Metacritics who rank the games, EA only impacted the overall score of Bioware’s games by two points.

In Part 1 of the Bioware series, I pointed out the average score across all Bioware games before EA is 88.

Again, I will point out that reviews are not the end all for helping to understand the quality of a game or how much people like the game. But, reviews are a great place to start the understanding of what changed with Bioware after they were purchased by EA.

Considering the relative proximity of the average scores across Bioware games pre-EA and during-EA makes me think that the development quality has not declined overall.

However, I do think EA had an impact on how Bioware does business. I’ll leave that for part 3.

Thanks for reading.

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