Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Order Dictates: Bioware Silences Negative Opinions?

Earlier this week, Bioware released Dragon Age 2, the sequel to the smash hit Dragon age Origins. Though critic reviews have been generally positive, the fan response has been catastrophic. Metacritic rates Dragon Age 2 at a respectable 84 out of 100 from critics. It’s certainly one of the weaker scores the prolific RPG developer has received over the years and a far cry from the 91 it received with DAO (note: this is based on the PC ratings). Fans however, are being particularly harsh on DA2. 3.0 out of 10 is the current aggregate score from user reviews. An unfortunate score to be sure, but honestly, it should have been expected. DAO was marketed to the hardcore RPG demographic, whereas DA2 seemed to have been marketed towards and entirely different audience (if you’d call it marketing. Where the hell was the launch trailer?!).

I personally have not played DA2, nor do I have an interest to, which is a testament to the failures of the game in and of itself. I have been a loyal Biofan since the days of Neverwinter Nights. I have played nearly every Bioware Game to date (with the exception of Baldur’s Gate and I never finished Jade Empire). I even wrote a review calling Dragon Origins Bioware’s opus. My initial excitement for DA2 waned dramatically as more information came to light.

For the record, I don’t begrudge Bioware’s decision to try something new and experiment with different methods and styles. I do however begrudge Bioware for their handling of the aftermath of DA2’s release. Fans have been highly outspoken in their criticism of DA2 over the Bioware Social Network. Bioware’s response was creating a sticky topic of fan reactions on the forum to avoid cluttering the message board. That makes sense. The only problem is, only the negative threads are getting locked down and marked as spam. I visited the forum and found no less than 20 negative topics locked down. That is an excessive amount of threads sure, but the problem is that I found nearly as many active topics praising Bioware for such a fantastic game. Why is Bioware not holding positive feedback to the same standard as the negative feedback? Are they attempting to alter the perception of the fan reception by locking all negative opinions and keeping the praise active? Considering the swirling rumors about Bioware’s attempt to remove certain negative reviews from metacritic’s website, I’d say it’s a strong possibility. EA has also been accused of bullying critics that rate their games poorly in reviews. Wow. Looks like they may be imposing order on the chaos of video gamers’ opinions.

None of this makes Bioware, EA, or the fans look good (calling forum moderator Stanley Woo an ass just because he locked down a thread is both juvenile and pathetic). Most the negative criticism is being painted off as PC gaming elitists and internet trolls. I find it highly unlikely that every single person who reviewed on metacritic is a troll. It is far more likely that they are an emotional and bitter fan base who felt they were getting a sequel to a game they loved rather than a reboot designed for a completely separate audience. This is all just personal observation and conjecture. As I said, I have not actually played DA2, but considering the sheer size of the negative response, I find it highly unlikely that this is a simple smear campaign. Bioware fans feel betrayed. I sincerely hope that Mass Effect 3 turns out okay, because as of right now, I don’t have much hope for my former favorite game developer, now that EA is busy assuming direct control.

3-28-11 UPDATE: Earlier this month Escapist magazine reported that a suspiciously positive review on Metacritic for Dragon Age 2 was taken down recently. The reviewer gave the game a perfect 10/10 score stating, "The immersion and combat of this game are unmatched! A truly moving and fun epic... Anything negative you'll see about this game is an overreaction of personal preference. For what it is, it is flawlessly executed and endlessly entertaining."

This review was written by a user named Avanost, who is more commonly known by his real world name, Chris Hoban, an applications engineer currently working for none other than Bioware. The review, of course, made no mention or disclaimer to such information. Yikes.

So let me get this straight Bioware, if I were to play Dragon Age 2, dislike the hell out of it, and complain to you directly how much I disliked this game, my opinion would be invalid due to the fact that I am clearly overreacting due to personal preference? I thought you guys listened to your fans, not write them off when they say something you don't like. I guess this explains why Ashley and Kaidan have been completely erased from the Mass Effect universe. I admit, I'm having trouble believing just how far this company has fallen in such a short amount of time. Have you sold your soul to the EA devil? Sorry. Just had to say it.

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