Game Reviews


So I’ve finally finished another game out of the massive stack of games I collected while working for BioWare.

I first started BioShock about two years ago, playing enough of it to get an initial first impression. Anyone who has played Dragon Age* will see a few of features influenced by BioShock, including the notification system that tells players new journal and codex entries are present. At the time that I was playing BioShock this was how I was primarily playing games, looking at dozens of them every month for strong (or weak) design features but only spending a few hours with each.

Anyways, with more leisure time I finished BioShock a couple days ago. I had already made it about halfway through and had seen some of the big moments (I’m keeping this spoiler proof, so forgive the vagueness). I was very satisfied with the game: the story was strong, with twists (some obvious to me, others not so) and an engaging structure. The strongest element was the overall atmosphere of the game world, there was such a consistency of oddness to the undersea city that I always felt ‘in the game’. There were certainly levels with weak design where the objectives were hard to uncover, but there were also brilliant levels, the like of which I’ve never seen before. The combat was fun, though I’m not a huge fan of shooters and there was a nice light level of rpg elements, with the player doing genetic modification on himself to allow for upgrading.

Will I play BioShock 2? As much as I enjoyed the world of the first game, I’m not certain. I’ll probably wait for a couple years and take a crack at it, unless I hear overwhelmingly positive things about it. At this point, even with more ‘free time’, I’m finding myself trying to focus on new things and not revisiting the old. Discovering the new and odd world of BioShock was one of the biggest payoffs for me and since the second game is set in the same location as the first, I’m not sure I’ll have that same feeling of exploration.

* Disclaimer: I haven’t actually played the release version of Dragon Age, having completed it several times while working with BioWare. When I left there was a notification system and I’m assuming the shipped versions have something similar, if not identical, to that.

Former lead designer at BioWare (Dragon Age: Origins, Neverwinter Nights). Creator of Raiders of the Serpent Sea.


  • cal

    The notification system is indeed present in DA:O. The only deficiency I would complain about is that the notifications flash for a brief moment and then ‘nest’ in the left-hand UI before fading out after a few seconds. For most items (new quests, new abilities) you can click on the notification and get more information, but for others (new items), you can’t. Whyzzat?

  • Brent Knowles

    I don’t remember if it was an actual decision to not grant more information when clicking item notifications or just an accident of design. It might have been that we didn’t have an easy way to show the user what it meant to click on an item — by that, I mean, there was no code-way to jump you into your inventory and specifically highlight a particular item? Or it might have just been overlooked — new items weren’t part of the original plan for notifications so it might have been added later, without much consideration of what should happen when you clicked on it.

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