This blog contains several huge points of contention. I'll list each one point by point as best I can. (Possible spoilers)
- The Mass Effect trilogy delivered on 98.5-99% of its original promise. The only place it stumbled was the very, very end of the game after your final encounter with your mentor and your rival. Certainly the previous hundreds of hours of doing things absolutely right are not nullified by the last ten minutes of the final game. Yes it is disappointing it didn't end in a better handled fashion, no doubt. But people really need to put it in perspective. I'm not going to join the frenzy and say that the dinner was ruined because the last roll was stale after a 30-course meal comprised of the best entrees to be had. Let's put things in perspective.
- " In a wide swath of the gaming population festers a sense of being duped, or lied to." These are the same idiots who sue makers of ceiling fans because there wasn't a warning against throwing their small child into the fan (true story). The self-righteousness and insane expectations of certain gamers, many included in the group mentioned are simply pathetic and should have no objective bearing on the assessment of the success of the Mass Effect franchise. The extremists are extremists for a reason, and their opinions should not be taken as law.
- The consequences of Mass Effect 2 directly correlate to the outcomes of the entirety of Mass Effect 3. Garrus and Tali can die in ME2 and the emotional connection to either of those characters is directly connected to the entirety of ME3. I cared that they were just there in ME3 because of ME2. That may be "window dressing," but if it creates a better emotional resonance as much as anything else that is possible in storytelling then certainly its impact is greater than you suggest.
Furthermore, these are what people claim to be highlights of the third game, not "the only good moments." I could create a nested list of moments that I felt were great that came about because of my decisions from the prior to games were reflected but this post would likely never be completed. Amongst them are the outcome of Kelly Chambers, Thane, and Jack. The storyline of Kelly didn't even take place on screen, but carried much more emotional creedence than 99% of all games can muster at all. Thane already made me care about him, and the fact that he was there at all was dynamic, but don't forget that the other major character in that story was his son. Having success in both the loyalty mission and at the final of ME2 means that moment played out uniquely to me. I haven't looked up how that scene plays under other circumstances, but I have a hard time imagining it carries just as much weight with his son if the loyalty quest was not successful. And Jack's brief moment at the bar where you go to the dance floor and she says "Shepard, everybody knows you can't dance!" That is a great little hidden moment; a scene that only works because the buildup to the punchline was subtly set up after 4 1/2 years. Those moments simply can't exist in a time as brief as as a singular game. Of course, that moment could have really been with anybody, but that moment doesn't exist unless she exists, unless there's a stand in for Jack in that scene (I doubt there is). And those are only a couple of the moments that I thought of in an instant that are memorable and played out because of my previous decisions. Who knows how many great moments I could list if I sat there and thought long and hard about it. Does Alpha Protocol have highlights as well? Absolutely. If I wanted to whittle it down to just two highlights of that game then you can make the same argument against it as you can ME3, but that's silly because there are several more just like with ME.
And also I must remind you that Tuchanka is a culmination of several factors from ME1&2. My decisions were directly impacted by my relationships with certain characters. One of the most heartbreaking, memorable, and emotionally captivating moments in gaming (your last encounter with Mordin) simply DID NOT EXIST for a ton of gamers. The fact that Wrex was there influenced how I came to my decisions.
- Purely from a story perspective, I can see the argument that decisions have more diverse outcomes in Alpha Protocol. I can certainly see the perspective that because it is a much, much, much smaller scale story that they did execute more perfectly. It is simply way easier when there's much less at stake. You only have to account for so few things (relative to ME). But the payoff isn't as strong if you're invested. If a game hits 100% of it's roleplaying but the story is only 40% of what is possible in a story then it only has a 40% payoff. Now if a game hits even just 60% of it's roleplaying but is 100% of what is possible in a story (like a cohesive story, final ten minutes aside, written out over the course of three games) then it has a 60% payoff; 1 1/2 times more payoff than the other. So yes, while you can certainly say that Alpha Protocol might have created the feeling that your decisions had a more substantial impact on the story, the story just isn't as meaningful because there is a lot less at stake. You're not as emotionally invested in the characters because you haven't had as much opportunity to interact with them. The outcome doesn't mean as much because you haven't lived in the world nearly as long. You don't care about your character as much because you haven't been given the opportunity to care as much. The core idea of their game is executed more successfully, but the scope is exponentially smaller.
- One can make an argument that Alpha Protocol decisions are equally restrictive as those in Mass Effect 2 or 3. The story of ME2&3 have your decisions inevitably lead to the same path but you go down that path your way. You're going from A to B, but the way your character does it is dependant on you. In Alpha Protocol, you're still going from A to B. There are spots that you may look at or cut off, but you're still going from A to B. Closing a door in AP doesn't open another because it that door never really interferes with your critical path. It doesn't let you really take seperate paths, it just gives you options of straying slightly off the beaten path or not before you inevitably turn around and get back onto that path.
- Mass Effect 2 was game of the year on several sites. Many will argue it is still the pinnacle of roleplaying in games. That's not because of the opportunities that ME3 represented, it's because that game alone delivered on story, roleplaying and gameplay. There was no long-con or clever ruse Bioware played; they simply created the best game the industry had to offer at the time. Mass Effect 2&3 are quality pieces of entertainment. For you to say otherwise is absurd. Mass Effect 2 was considered by many the MOST quality piece of entertainment.
- You can argue to an extent that Alpha Protocol failed commercially because of outside reasons like marketing, etc. but that only goes so far. It was not a universally accepted critical success either. The gameplay was outright atrocious even compared to the original Mass Effect and even other similar minded games like Oblivion and Fallout 3. It was in many cases flatout broken. It was janky as hell and proned to glitching. The game design itself was a mess that lead to clear min/maxing which took any sort of strategy or unique gameplay out of equation. It was a straight up chore to play through, often leaving players frustrated and angry. At best it was boring, but players played it in spite of the game because the story was good enough. It looked like a shooter and played like ass. If it looked like an RPG that wouldn't have helped the game, because the gameplay still played like ass. Mass Effect 1 was janky, but used its traditional-combat-RPG elements much better than Alpha Protocol ever came close to. Mass Effect 2&3 cut the wheat from the chaff in terms of its combat, making the combat about strategy and execution rather than about pure level gaining and number crunching.
It's disheartening to see yet another fan of the genre not understand what makes an RPG and RPG. If you think RPGs are about numbers and xp, then you don't understand what makes an RPG. A role playing game is defined by its ability to have you the player have a specific part in the universe your avatar inhabits. That means letting the player have some sort of say in the outcome of his journey and creating a universe that feels alive and real that actual people, orcs, mutants and aliens would live in and inhabit; something Bioware, Obsidian, and Bethesda are all among the absolute best at. That does NOT having anything to do with lots of meaningless numbers or antiquated combat mechanics that were designed specifically around a) catering to an audience that was not as proficient at using the controller; and b) the technical limitations of the platforms of the time, which was almost 30 years ago.
- Alpha Protocol came out six months after ME2, therefore it is literally impossible for it to have "already done it best." As a standalone product, Mass Effect 2 is a much, much better game that delivers on the premise both of them share that your choices matter. Mass Effect 1 and 3 in this context are just supplemental extras. And really, that's the only point that matters.
I understand that somebody can absolutely love Alpha Protocol and even passionately hate the Mass Effect games; that's an opinion anyone is entitled to and there are a number of legitimate reasons for doing so. But no one can legitimately argue that Alpha Protocol is an objectively stronger game than the Mass Effect 2&3.