BioWare Austin’s Shadow Realms Cancelled

What happens if I touch this? WAIT NO WAIT NO!

Electronic Arts only announced asymmetric multiplayer action-RPG Shadow Realms [official site] in August, but have now confirmed that they’ve cancelled it. Being made by BioWare Austin (the studio behind the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG, not the Mass Effect gang), it was to be a modern fantasy game with nasty monsters rattling around our world. One player would control a ‘Shadowlord’ on the side of the monsters, while four human players would murder the nasties, and they’d all level up and get loot and all that. But no, not any more.

BioWare Austin general manager Jeff Hickman said in the announcement:

“We’ve made the decision to not move forward with development of Shadow Realms. We fully recognize that this news is disappointing to some of our fans, so I want to explain more behind this decision.

“While the team did amazing work on the game concept and we got lots of great feedback from our fans at events and through other game testing, right now there are other projects for the team to work on within the BioWare studios for the coming year and beyond. We’ve got an incredibly talented team here at the Austin studio, and they are excited and already deep on new projects within the BioWare family, ones that will make some great BioWare games even better.”

He goes on to explain that they’ll be helping out on Dragon Age: Inquisition bits as well as BioWare’s next Mass Effect and mysterious new game, “But the biggest focus for our team in BioWare Austin will be on Star Wars: The Old Republic.”

They’ll be doing things around the new Star Wars movie releases but oof, this doesn’t all half dance around the real reason it was cancelled. No Star Wars expansion can be that exciting. In the end, I suppose EA simply didn’t think Shadow Realms was good enough to warrant the investment.

Here’s what might have been, as it was back in August:


  1. Turkey says:

    I didn’t even know they had a playable game. I just remember seeing the teaser and then I completely forgot about it until now.

  2. TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

    To be honest, this is probably for the best.

  3. eggy toast says:

    The PvP Crawl on Steam (not the ascii roguelike) is fun and combining it with L4D/Payday style gameplay would probably be a blast.

    That said I don’t have faith in Bioware to make anything decent at all, though, so I guess probably might as well wait for someone else to do it.

    • Blackcompany says:

      Echoed my thoughts on the studio. Honestly I dont know why anyone still believes this is Bioware in anything but name. Everyone who made Bioware what it was has departed. Its EA Austin, maker of SWTOR. Plain and simple. That they have to continue using the Bioware name to try and sell RPG’s says far more about EA and their relationship with customers than it does about the modern “Bioware” by far.

      • Wulfram says:

        Well, apparently the main thing they’re going to be doing other than SW:tOR now is contributing to DA:I, ME and the new IP we know nothing about, so they clearly are still connected to the rest of Bioware.

        And I mean, If there can be like 50 different Ubisofts, why can’t there be multiple Biowares?

      • James Currie says:

        I think it is somewhat too early to lose faith in Bioware. In 2012 Bioware lost (due to a combination of layoffs and devs leaving – probably because they were tired of having to listen to EA’s executive board) a lot of good, talented employees. However they also trained the current ones. ‘New’ Bioware hasn’t really done anything that lets me reach a conclusion about them. The most I currently have to go on is Bioware Austin, which did an OK job of SWTOR and has kept it going with great success (at least by MMO standards, which really aren’t that high).

        As I have not seen much from Bioware I don’t see how they can be judged with any accuracy before even releasing a product wholly as the post-exodus Bioware.

        • shadow9d9 says:

          People need to learn that when a company is bought out, they cease to exist. People leave, control is completely changed. Their essence is changed. The one buying the property WANTS the name recognition. By you repeating and accepting the name, you encourage the behavior. Bioware is gone.

          • WiggumEsquilax says:

            Exactly. That EA was so willing to break Bioware into smaller chunks and scatter them across the map means that they never actually valued that particular dev studio in the first place. EA are the ones who destroyed it, after all.

            The only things left of the original Bioware are at most a small handful of staff. I’d hesitate to consider their various studios as being at all capable of independent thought or action. They’re no more separate from EA than EA Sports are from EA. Bioware exists solely and entirely for their licenses and name recognition.

          • James Currie says:

            Hence I drew a destinction between old (dead) Bioware and new (EA puppet) Bioware. I don’t have the material to judge the new one, and I am not one to leap to conlusions without substantial evidence.

  4. vlonk says:

    Some kind of development hell must have happened here since the management thought that pulling the plug on an ongoing project and pushing other projects was financially more profitable than going through with the original plan.

    Shadow Realms strikes me as an okay-ish title. Clever idea with the shadowlord dungeonmaster. Bioware-ish graphics, bit boring hack and slash combat displayed.

    Dumped one year before scheduled release probably means that the majority of the production cost happened already which makes this decision a big fat financial loss.

    So which development hell was worse? Shadowrealms could not be made into an exciting asset worth the publishing effort/tarnishing the bioware name OR is SWTOR in some kind of second TORtanic event?

    OR: cannot compete with Evolve and was deemed a financial disaster in the making.

    • iainl says:

      Either they feel it can’t compete with Evolve, or more likely Evolve’s preorder numbers aren’t looking great. Which, given the confusion over which version you should buy, may not be the core gameplay’s fault.

      • montorsi says:

        I mean, some of us used to have to futz around with bat files to get our games to run, and even we can’t be bothered to figure out Evolve’s release bullshit. I don’t think that that should be an indicator of the popularity (or lack thereof) for the genre as a whole. I’m personally very interested in any new multiplayer PC games, unless they follow Evolve’s model of course.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Probably, since i’m pretty sure not even EA could come up with something so insane, and that’s saying something.

        But it also was an odd and complicated project that likely required a lot of focus, if that’s the case then i’m honestly quite happy they prefer to think about their usual stuff, other than being less of a financial risk for them.

        Talking about low risks, i heard somewhere that they’re gathering interests for a remastered ME that will seamlessly transition to all 3 episodes, other than containing all the DLC and being a good excuse for the new console players to finally enjoy it above 20 fps.

        Oh and for me as i, ehrm… haven’t played any of them. Heh. Yes, i know…

        EDIT: Abot that “I heard somewhere”, it seems i might aswell finish reading articles, this one for example. Hah!

  5. yhancik says:

    It was also such a distinctive title for a video game.

    • kaisergav says:

      Yea, I wasn’t very inspired by that. It just seemed a disappointingly derivative name :|

      • April March says:

        It was so derivative I was sure it was a remake of an old property. Not even joking.

        • yhancik says:

          Likewise, I even went to Mobygames to check, and was surprised to find there hasn’t been a previous game with that lame name :D

  6. BooleanBob says:

    So… a game is killed so its developers can work on crunch relief and DLC? Hmm.

  7. Lobotomist says:

    It looked like very shaky concept. No wonder it was cancelled

  8. Bradamantium says:

    Judging from the comments here and in other conversations I’ve seen on the matter, I’m just about the only person that was looking forward to this. I could easily do without the “v1” bit of the original “4v1 urban fantasy dungeon crawler,” but all the rest of that sounded delightful. Certainly looked a bit rough around the edges, but what we saw was limited stuff, presumably rather early in development.

    Mostly, I’m just pleased when any big studios announce actual new IP, and end up summarily disappointed when their focus turns back to what’s tried and true.

    • vlonk says:

      Actually the v1 thing is what interested me about this game the most. This setting of heroes against a sentient opposition/environment/DM is not often explored in computer games, yet fascinated a whole generation of munchkins/DnD players. When I first opened my Star Quest boardgame as a young boy I got the feeling it is my sole purpose to brutally murder all player squads. Good times good times. Now that sadistic itch lies dormant in gaming. Was hoping these shadow realms might harbor some nostalgic moments of tension and an occasional triumph of the dark side.
      But it is a tough balancing act to make all 5 ppl have fun. Maybe they could not make the active DM role interesting enough and ended up with a player getting bored to death in reenacting the “mighty quest for epic loot” dungeon, maybe they could not balance PUG hero teams against a competent DM.

    • malkav11 says:

      As I’ve said elsewhere, I was looking forward to Bioware doing new IP (although I’ve heard the main studio is working on a couple themselves), and I wouldn’t mind at least one of them being urban fantasy based. But Shadow Realms hadn’t done anything at all to distinguish itself from a narrative perspective and I really didn’t want an online game, much less a 4v1 game. I don’t want PvP at all in any fashion whatsoever, and although I enjoy coop, I prefer coop games to focus on a two player experience because that’s much easier to muster than four people and although games that support four could theoretically scale down to two or one, in practice they rarely do.

  9. Martel says:

    Wasn’t this game released today under the name Evolve? :)

  10. bleeters says:

    It does make me wonder how The Old Republic is going for them right now, that they’re naming it specifically as their main focus. I don’t feel like their recent expansion was that well recieved, but it’s hard to tell from the outside.

    But then I’m still waiting for them to beat Inquisiton into a state fit to be played on my PC, so I’m pretty apathetic about them as a company in general right now.

    • James Currie says:

      Last I checked SWTOR was going pretty strong, a consistant money earner for EA. It lands in their top ten moneymakers each year even among all the AAA releases. So yeah… SWTOR is doing quite well as of late, despite serious teething problems for its first year.

      • bleeters says:

        Fair enough. I do regularly come across a lot of negativity in the usual internet places, but it’s difficult to know how much stock to put in that. It’s pretty much the same for every MMO I’ve played.

        • USER47 says:

          The negativity is an internet evergreen. The game itself is fine, it’s not the best game in the world, but is is also very far from the worst. I guess it does fine financialy wise, you can still find a lot of new people there, people subbing or buying cartel coins etc. It is very much alive.

  11. zeekthegeek says:

    Played this at EA testing lab when it was real early and had a blast, shame its going away. Not enough Urban Fantasy stuff in games.