One of GameZone's editors finds himself growing bored with BioWare's latest titles (starting with Jade Empire, apparently), prompting him to do a quick write-up covering the reasons behind his predicament. Lack of innovation, repetitive structure, and the absence of any game-altering choices are all cited:
Not only do we have the same basic tale and characters, the way the missions play out is exactly the same, too. A semblance of choice is given by branching quests, but you still have to play them all anyway. The outcome is more or less the same every time as well, bar a few different strings of dialogue. Every game follows the same route - initial starting quest, followed by three or four quests to be played in any order, followed by the closing quests. Each area contains several side quests, but these have little impact on the main story, except for the odd weapon or sidekick. Every game has a romance subplot, leading to a unique trait for you or your partner. And every game has a point where you will lose one or two followers, depending on whether you spoke to them often enough or not, or worse, bought the correct items during play (Mass Effect 2, I am looking at you!). Agree? Disagree?
And all this combines for point three, and the worst failing of all: the lack of real choice. Sure, dialogue options can lead to you getting a particular item, or keeping your friends happy, but the overall game stays the same. The options for dialogue are often excessively black-and-white anyway, and the game doesn´t play as an RPG anymore; instead, you pick the option that allows you to follow the path you have chosen (Paragon/Renegade, Closed Fist/Open Palm, Light Side/Dark Side, etc.) and aside from a different ending screen, the game still plays out the same. Such decision polarization also prevents (true) RPG gaming: there is only benefit to playing one way or another, and being a morally grey character just prevents you getting access to the higher tiers of the traits, thus forcing you to decide what to do based on light/dark choices, and not necessarily your own. There also is a lack of the impact seen in other titles - Fallout 3 let us destroy a town, and then deal with the ramifications afterwards. The best we can hope for is that a companion may leave us because they disagree.