I have a cute little dev-crush on BioWare, you see. My BioWare adoration spans back to the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic days. I remember late 2003 better than most years in gaming, thanks to randomly discovering what would become one of my favorite video games of all-time. Back then, I was at the tail end of my teenage years; still innocently ignorant to many genres – thankfully, genres that I am well-versed with today. At the time, the concept of a Western RPG never registered to me. I was so cooped up with the PlayStation 2’s endless catalogue of Japanese RPGs that I didn’t have the time to explore anything different. Towards the end of the year, I found myself bored and in dire need of a new game. I hopped in my beat up ’89 Honda Accord and drove out to the now defunct Video King store, hoping something would pop out. As usual, I wandered through the PS2 section to see if there was some spectacular game that I miraculously forgot existed… only to find nothing. I saw their small little Xbox section and dismissed the possibility of finding anything. “It’s probably a bunch of copies of Halo and other shit I’ve played already,” I proclaimed to myself as I walked over to that isle. It turned out that my not-so bold prediction was right, but I looked down and saw KotOR sitting there ‘diamond in the rough’ mode.
A fierce one man mental debate took place. I kept reminding myself that I was not a Star Wars buff. I never understood the appeal. For that reason, I quickly dismissed the game and started to give up on the hunt. Before I could put KotOR down, I recalled the overwhelming praise that I’d heard of the game – the incredible storyline, the infamous plot twist, the satisfying gameplay and so on. I reminded myself that it was only $5 to try it out, so I abandoned my preconceptions and took it home. I won’t bore you with a step-by-step walkthrough of how I came to love KotOR, so I’ll sum that part up by saying “and the rest is history.” Western RPGs emerged as one of my favorite genres in video games, and BioWare, in turn, earned a lifelong fan. Apart from BioWare shoveling Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords off to Obsidian so they could develop the grossly overrated Jade Empire, I’ve been a happy BioCamper ever since. Most of BioWare’s games dominate my list of favorite games of all-time, and was no sign of slowing down.
You noticed the italics, didn’t you? “Was” as in past tense? Perhaps. My perception of BioWare is a bit skewed right now, because I have neglected to play the Dragon Age series. Initially, my reason for ignoring Dragon Age was purely accidental. I passed on Dragon Age: Origins because there had been a bunch of other games I was playing at the time. I didn’t think anything of it – the game wasn’t going anywhere and when the time was right, I go in and try it out. Eventually I did, but I made the mistake of purchasing Dragon Age: Origins alongside two other games in a B2G1 promotion at GameStop. I ended up playing just an hour’s worth of the game (nowhere near enough time to gather an opinion) and eventually got caught up in the other games. Time passed, I traded it back to afford something else and that was that. Still, I had the intention of going back and giving it another try. Before I knew it, Dragon Age 2 was in stores and I thought “oh great, now I’m really far behind.” The hype surrounding the sequel was strong, but I was floored to hear that Dragon Age 2 was a monumental letdown to BioWare fans. It got so bad that people were telling other people not to play the game at all – it was that bad. Man, just as I start warming up to the idea of playing the Dragon Age series again, this happens? BioWare made a bad game?
After making my way through the hectic holiday releases of 2011, I was back in that familiar neutral zone of not having anything to play while still being months away from my next must-have game. You know how that story ended, of course. I went on to pick up Saints Row: The Third and relished in its goofy glory… but you didn’t get the whole story. The day that I brought my games to trade for Saints Row: The Third, I had a brief moment of second guessing. It had nothing to do with my excitement for Saints Row, but it was because I happened to glance through GameStop’s PS3 wall and saw all of the Dragon Age titles (including the Awakening expansion) on the cheap. Suddenly, I was brought back to that fateful day at Video King. There I was, staring at a BioWare game as a foreigner once again. The mental deliberations kicked in, and I was hashing out everything that I had heard about Dragon Age – how much everyone adores Origins and Awakening, but how Dragon Age 2 had become the Devil May Cry 2 of BioWare’s catalogue. I did the thing that every gamer is prone to doing, which is scanning the manual and the back of the case, hoping to find something that tipped the scale even though I already knew plenty about the series. This time, however, I didn’t abandon preconceptions. I sat the game back on the rack and plucked Saints Row: The Third out of the pile instead. History didn’t repeat itself, and there’s no ironic coincidence to make mention of. I said “no” to a BioWare game. It’s been nearly a week since I picked up Saints Row: The Third, and now that I’m hitting home stretch with it, I’m glancing at Dragon Age all over again… and I don’t know what to do.
I don’t know how to approach Dragon Age. I really don’t. With so many people making a fuss about how far the series has fallen, I’m understandably hesitant to invest hundreds of hours into what could be a colossal letdown. Some people have told me that both games are awesome. Some people have told me that I should play Dragon Age 2 first because that game was such a step back that it actually makes Origins feel like the sequel. There are even a few acquaintances that told me to avoid the series all together. I am extremely confused, friends. I acknowledge that the logical next step is to play it and see for myself, so I will. But, the title of this blog wasn’t meant to proclaim anything about Dragon Age to you. It was a question to help me. What is the best way to experience this series? Do I play them in chronological order, or do I flip it and play the “inferior” Dragon Age II first? Should I avoid Dragon Age 2 completely? Most importantly, what do you think about the Dragon Age series? You tell me, guys. Seriously, leave me a comment below to help me figure this out. I am probably a couple of days away from playing something Dragon Age, but I’ll pull the trigger once you guys tell me where to aim. What can I say? I’m open to suggestions. Tell me what you think of Dragon Age and how someone late to the party can still party with BioWare.