Whether you're complaining about Electronic Arts' digital rights management or its tendency to shamelessly milk recognizable brands, everyone loves to take a swing at the world's largest game publisher. What's more, the company has done little at this year's E3 to assuage these grievances, parading plenty of expected sequels and tired licenses in front of show attendees while steering clear of talk regarding its copyright policies.
However, the company's credibility among core gamers has received an undeniable boost via its recent acquisition of Edmonton-based BioWare, which is showing a trio of exciting new role-playing games set to be released over the next year.
Star Wars: The Old Republic, a massively multiplayer online game for Windows PC set in George Lucas' beloved sci-fi universe, seems set to take on the big guns in the world of MMO gaming when it releases in 2010.
It appears to be similar in design to BioWare's earlier Knights of the Old Republic games, but with far greater scope. Indeed, players will have the the ability to experience several character story arcs.
Company founder Ray Muzyka once told me that he prefers working on original intellectual property, but there's no denying his team has a knack for tinkering with that galaxy far, far away. The Jedi vs. Sith trailer unveiled at E3 is enough to make any old-school Star Wars fan drool with anticipation, and is a testament to BioWare's CGI artistry.
Also looking impressive is Mass Effect 2, the sequel to BioWare's acclaimed futuristic role-playing game in which humans struggle to find a place for themselves in a newly discovered galactic civilization.
The second game in the planned trilogy apparently stars Shepard, the hero of the original, who will be facing down not just the Reapers from the original, but also a powerful corporation with seemingly insidious objectives. Expect plenty of new planets to explore, new followers to recruit, and new combat abilities to master. BioWare has said there will be a new race or two.
What's more, returning players will be able to import the hero they developed in the first game--including his history (meaning if you killed an important character in the first game, he or she will remain dead in the sequel). This ought to provide a greater sense of continuity between games.
BioWare's third game on display at E3 2009 is the long-in-the-making Dragon Age: Origins (once known simply as Dragon Age), a fantasy role-playing game intended to appeal to players who enjoyed some of the studio's older role-playing games, such as Baldur's Gate.
Mike Laidlaw, the game's lead designer, was quoted as saying his team of writers and designers "has spent years building the world, developing the characters and crafting a story around the epic themes of violence, lust, and betrayal."
The game will apparently open in various locations with different missions depending on which race and class a player chooses. Experiencing everything the game has to offer will require playing through the campaign eight separate times, thanks to countless branching dialogue and story options-many of which see players making hard ethical decisions. "We really wanted to make people struggle emotionally and morally with the choices they are going to have to face," said Mr. Laidlaw.
Dragon Age: Origins will be coming to Windows PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 this fall.