BioWare is an Edmonton, Alberta-based video game developer known for making Western RPGs. Formed in 1995 by three doctors, they originally did mostly Licensed Games but recently they've been creating their own universes.
Let's just say that some of their RPGs have developed a reputation for being the video game equivalent of Door Stoppers, in the best sense of that term. You play a BioWare game because of the dialogue trees, the hours spent on developing side characters, understanding the world, and reading the Codex. The writing tends to be of good quality too, so much that Ben Croshaw once said that, if you're playing a BioWare game, it's a given that the writing is going to be good.
Mythic Entertainment and EA 2D have been absorbed into the company, as BioWare-Mythic and BioWare-San Fransisco, respectively. They've recently been split from EA Games into their own label, meaning that they have their own advertising staff, and even their own online TV channel, BioWare Pulse... KlickNation has been acquired by Electronic Arts, and is being combined with what was previously EA 2d, to make BioWare Social... And the new Victory Games studio, has been incorporated under the name "BioWare Victory", to make Command and Conquer Generals 2.
Games developed by BioWare:
- Shattered Steel (1996)
- Baldur's Gate (1998)
- Tales of the Sword Coast, expansion (1999)
- MDK2 (2000)
- Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn (2000)
- Throne of Bhaal, expansion (2001)
- Neverwinter Nights (2002)
- Shadows of Undrentide, expansion (2003)
- Hordes of the Underdark, expansion (2003)
- Knights of the Old Republic (2003)
- Jade Empire (2005)
- Mass Effect 1 (2007)
- Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (2008)
- Dragon Age: Origins (2009)
- Awakening, expansion (2010)
- Mass Effect 2 (2010)
- Dragon Age II (2011)
- Star Wars: The Old Republic (December 20, 2011)
- Mass Effect 3 (2012)
- Command and Conquer Generals 2 (to be released 2013)
- Dragon Age: Inquisition (October 7, 2014)
BioWare RPGs are sometimes called a genre itself. While it's not exactly true, their roleplaying games are indeed unique. They have a number of persistent tropes that move from game to game, and only setting is changed. That's the fact BioWare gets a lot of criticism and praise for.
This being said, worldwide popularity, influence and acclaiming of BioWare games once again proves to the world the fact which is well-known in our community: Tropes Are Tools.
List of tropes persistent in BioWare RPGs:
- Action Girl: The majority of the recruitable female characters will be this.
- Always Chaotic Evil: Often subverted. Drow, krogan, geth, qunari and many other examples come to mind. Played straight in other works.
- Anti-Hero: Shepard, Hawke, and the Grey Warden stand out the most.
- Anti-Grinding: This doesn't mean there isn't pointless combat (Far from it), just that it has no reward and appears in fixed places.
- Astroturfing: An employee of BioWare went to the VideoGame/DragonAgeII Metacritic page and gave the game a 10. While this is not an example of astroturfing (EA described it as the equivalent of voting for yourself in an election), it did inspire a case of astroturfing astroturfing, where fans of The Witcher went on The Witcher 2's Metacritic page, gave the game of zero, and pretended to be BioWare employees.
- Badass: Seriously, name one character from the games who doesn't fit into any badass subtrope. Mass Effect 2 is an excellent example, since your mission is to recruit a team of Badass.
- Battle Couple: The PC and his/her love interest.
- Bi the Way: Knights Of The Old Republic was to include a gay love interest, which reportedly didn't sit so well with Lucas Arts. Since then all games included at least one bisexual love interest of either sex that are open to same sex relationships. True to the trope, this is never treated as something unusual by the games, mostly because their "bisexual" characters have nothing changed by the PC's sex.
- Betty and Veronica: If a BioWare game includes more than one female NPC who can be romanced, it's a safe bet that one of them will be a cute, innocent girl-next-door type while the other will be a more exotic and sexy femme fatale. Some examples include:
- Aerie and Viconia in Baldurs Gate 2.
- Dawn Star and Silk Fox in Jade Empire.
- Liara and Ashley in Mass Effect 1 and 3.
- Tali and Miranda (or Jack) in Mass Effect 2.
- Leliana and Morrigan in Dragon Age Origins somewhat subvert this trope: At first Leliana comes across as the Betty, but you later learn that she has a rather promiscuous past. Meanwhile, Morrigan dresses like The Vamp, but she can be surprisingly prudish when it comes to sex.
- Perhaps the most blatant example of this trope is Merrill and Isabela in Dragon Age II.
- Blood Knight: At least one recruitable (The Black Whirwind, Canderous, Oghren), Wrex and Grunt.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Often the same character as the Blood Knight, but not always.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Although there is nothing stopping you from playing a Villain Protagonist, you should be aware that, unlike the good dialogue options, most of the evil ones simply boil down to "Jerkass who does things For the Evulz."
Of course, some of those options exist in these games, but Mass Effect 1, Dragon Age, and sometimes Jade Empire avert this. Dragon Age is particularly good at it, due to a lack of Karma Meter. You can come up with a good, rational reason to do just about every evil thing. To the point where one can measure the development of BioWare's storytelling and karma meter use in their ability to challenge the player with hard choices. The Dragon Age: Origins expac in particular has a choice which seems to have no "correct" answer.
- Character Development: A lot in most, if not all of their games.
- Darker and Edgier: Their later work tends towards this. Despite sharing somewhat similar design styles, uniformly excellent writing and a signature character style, Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect might have been made by different companies. If one takes the Darker and Edgier path through Knights of the Old Republic, there's a definite trend. The difference being that Knights of the Old Republic leaves the option to the player.
- Dark Is Not Evil: A frequent theme, although games like Knights of the Old Republic play this trope straight.
- Deadpan Snarker: Seems to be the prime tenet of BioWare games--at least two or three companions will sway towards snarkiness.
- Deconstruction: Mostly of common character archetypes or plots.
- Dialogue Tree: This is the reason why BioWare games are considered doorstoppers. Dialogues are plentiful.
- Enemy Mine: The main protagonists of several games can be played with this motivation.
- Evil Is Petty: Inevitably, being evil in a BioWare game will mean "be a rude, selfish jerk".
Volus: Shoot them! Shoot the--
(Renegade Interrupt: Volus' bodyguards get gunned down)
Shepard: Too slow.
- Renegade Shepard has generally been the victim of inconsistent characterization throughout the Mass Effect series. While s/he generally acts like an ignorant though Badass thug, there are some moments at which s/he seems almost like a Magnificent Bastard, like at the end of ME 1, in which he and Udina orchestrate the rise of a Human Led Council to replace the one Shepard left to die, securing humanity's position as the galaxy's dominant race. or in the genophage arc of Mass Effect 3, during which !Renegade Shepard dupes the Krogan into thinking the genophage has been cured when it actually hasn't, and informs the Salarians of this deception, securing both their aid and that of the Krogan.
- Flavor Text: Weapons usually have a description, as do other items (planets in Mass Effect, for instance, have up to three or four paragraphs of description, even if you aren't supposed to stay more than ten minutes on them).
- Fighter, Mage, Thief: Averted only in D&D-based games. Mass Effect represents this trope with Combat/Biotics/Tech.
- Filler: Most of the minigames may qualify.
- Genki Girl: One of the romanceable females will usually be this.
- Hide Your Gays: Can be charted pretty well from being played straight to being completely averted. Knights of the Old Republic had it vetoed by Lucas Arts, Mass Effect 1 had gay romances scripted but removed at the last moment, the options becoming available in Jade Empire, Dragon Age II finally gave equal amounts of options, regardless of gender (outside of one character), and Mass Effect 3 is their first game to feature romance options that exclusive to the same gender. This trope is coming into play with The Old Republic now, with similar flashpoints as Dragon Age II had -- namely, people complaining that it lacks a same-sex romance option, and those railing against the possibility of such an option in their MMO. Apparently it will be an option, but in a post-release patch.
- Karma Meter: There's usually one of some degree. BioWare used a standard Good vs Evil meter for all d20 games (all of 'em are licensed). Thus, Jade Empire and Mass Effect are criticized for narrowing moral conflicts down to two choices -- heal the kitten vs. kill the kitten, despite Open Palm vs. Closed Fist is more like Altruist vs. Social Darwinist, and Paragon vs. Renegade are more like Idealism Versus Cynicism, Paragon sometimes even acts exactly like a Closed Fist adept would. Thus, there is no Karma Meter at all in Dragon Age, which was replaced by Relationship Values.
In Dragon Age, due to the fact that the PC's good/evil actions is reflected by which characters relationship values will build up the fastest. Ex: choosing the heroic and unambiguously "good" choice will lead like-minded, good-aligned characters to approve of your actions, making it easier to build camaraderie, loyalty, romance, etc. with them by opening new dialogue options and plot elements while simultaneously leading the more morally ambiguous members of your group to disapprove, which leads them to shun any efforts of building relationships with them by limiting said choices and quite possibly making them dislike you altogether. So the karmic dichotomy still stands, but only on the characters' front. You can just leave them behind while being morally questionable without repercussion, aside from one flagrant defilement of a major religious figure's remains.
- Light Is Not Good: Plenty of examples, especially when a Church Militant is involved.
- Loads and Loads of Loading: Commonly found in their games, but as computers got faster this became less of an issue.
- Love Redeems: If your love interest has an evil alignment (or a love interest that switches to the evil alignment), expect this to hit them full force. Unless she's Morrigan.
- Mr. Fanservice: At least one romancable.
- Multiple Endings: Slowly evolved over the games they made.
- Baldurs Gate finished with the Throne of Bhaal expansion which offered the player character a choice between finishing as a Good God/Evil God/Staying Mortal. Outlined with text epilogues.
- Jade Empire had different endings based on your Karma Meter, the romantic relationships between yourself and your followers and their Karma meters as well. It also had hidden pasts for two characters resulting in about three or four different endings per follower on top of the three main endings for your own alignment (Good/Evil/Dead/In Love With Hero/Secret Past/Secret past and In love with Hero/Evil with a secret past whilst in love with the hero... and you get the idea). These epilogues were only played after the main ending cutscene, however, which was chosen from 3 possibilities depending on whether the main character was good/evil/an idiot.
- Dragon Age Origins had genuinely different ending choices that would change who died and lived (including the Warden) and the fates of various characters over the course of the game were spelled out by epilogue text-cards.
- Mass Effect 3's (perceived) lack of this trope was a major part of the fandom's bitter response to it.
- Mythology Gag
- Boo, the Miniature Giant Space Hamster, makes appearances in the Baldurs Gate series. You can buy a space hamster with a knowing smile in Mass Effect 2.
- Chiktikka Fastpaws is a raccoon sidekick of a god that Aerie of Baldurs Gate invokes by saying, "faster than Chiktikka Fastpaws!" Chik'tikka vas Paus is Tali of Mass Effect's combat drone. She'll shout "No one is faster than Chik'takka vas Paus!" during combat. She'll also shout "Go for the optics, go for the optics!", which is a reference to the aforementioned Boo and the shout his owner Minsc will say.
- "How's a dwarf get named Shepard?"
- Really, every BioWare games after the early ones with nothing to call to has at least one company Mythology Gag in it.
- Baldurs Gate: "Lord Foreshadow", who was heading to Neverwinter.
- Old Save Bonus: Started with Baldurs Gate where a character imported from the first game could have better stats and some items that could be use to forge new gear. Taken Up to Eleven during the Mass Effect series where an imported character would carry over a huge number of decisions from the first game that would majorly impact the second (and a number of minor impacts too). Expect this to go even further in the third game.
- Mass Effect 3 indeed has a ball with this in one sidequest, calling back to several minor events from the first game. What do a bunch of ancient Asari writings, a technology license, being owed a favour from a scientist and being nice to your insane fanboy, have to do with anything that might help Shepard save the galaxy? Not a damned clue! But somehow, in the space of 2 minutes, they all get combined in the most awesome way possible!
- Optional Party Member: Despite the fact each of them gets truck loads of Character Development and enough dialogue to fill a novel, only about two of your party members will actually be important to the plot. Generally a male and female lead, who will probably love interests.
- Optional Sexual Encounter: Played straight with Baldur's Gate II and Neverwinter Nights, but tends to be subverted in many of their other games by having lasting, serious consequences for the player's actions. Mass Effect and Dragon Age do both, with optional encounters early in the game and serious romantic interests later.
- Planet of Hats: Generally averts this in their games, taking stereotype races or cultures and deconstructing them. Brilliantly and most notably averted in the Mass Effect series.
- Pre-Climax Climax: In Jade Empire and Mass Effect. Potentially one in Dragon Age.
- Reconstruction: While there are deconstructions in it, Mass Effect is generally seen as a Reconstruction of the sci-fi genre.
- Rescue Introduction: BioWare likes this trope for party members:
- Mass Effect: Ashley, Liara and Tali from the first game. Archangel, Legion, arguably Jack and Grunt from the second game. In retrospect, Wilson is a subversion, since he's the one who coordinated an attack on the facility on behalf of the Shadow Broker.
- Dragon Age Origins: The Player Character for Flemeth, and then more conventionally: Sten, Shale and arguably Wynne.
- The Awakening expansion has Anders, Oghren, Sigrun and Justice all traditionally rescued, while Velanna subverts this because the Warden was actually rescuing trade caravans from her. Likewise, Nathaniel is first encountered in the dungeons after being captured during an attempt to murder the Warden.
- In Dragon Age II, Hawke and family meet Aveline by saving her and her husband from darkspawn. Flemeth again introduces herself after rescuing Hawke and company from darkspawn.
- Baldurs Gate 2: Branwen, Dynaheir, Viconia, Yeslick and Xan in the first game; Aerie, Cernd, Haer'Dalis, Viconia (again!), Mazzy and arguably Minsc and Jaheira in the sequel.
- Knights of the Old Republic has you rescuing Bastila (or as she'll insist, her rescuing you...)
- Romance Sidequest: Basically a trademark of BioWare games. Starting with a minor sidequest in the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion to Baldur's Gate and implemented as a major feature in Baldur's Gate 2, after which it became a staple of their games.
- Sliding Scale of Linearity Versus Openness: Mostly type V, but some are more of a Type IV.
- Sociopathic Hero: At least one will be a possible party member, if not the player his or herself.
- Strictly Formula: BioWare games follow a characteristic pattern.
- The End Is Nigh
- Troperiffic: Dear God yes. A notable example being the Mass Effect series which after only two games, three books and two comic series, has over thirty pages on this site. Mass Effect 3's main page had a good 150 tropes on it before it was even released.
- True Companions: Usually what the party becomes by the end of the game, though certain members will always despise each others.
- Tsundere: One of the romanceable females will be this.
- Villain Protagonist: If you decide to be a bad guy. In most games, however, you can't be a fully-fledged evil-doer. You must try to save the world.