DUDE, SLOW YOUR ROLL:
Big ol' Mass Effect spoilers to follow. Eat with your eyes at your own risk.
With my Lost and Damned blog series complete, I jumped back into the world of Mass Effect last night and re-created my Commander Shepard. For the record, he is an orphaned war hero with the abilities of the Vanguard (biotic/soldier cross that implements mostly shotguns and pistols and can use up to medium armor). When I first got into Mass Effect way back when, I initially created a Soldier class Shepard, but found that it really limits your play, since biotics are totally out of the question and thus more tactically interesting maneuvers are impossible. I strongly recommend that anyone who hasn’t played ME (or would like to play it again) go for a hybrid class. Best of both worlds.
So far my experience with Mass Effect has been one akin to the saying, “you can’t come home again.” Sure, all of the scenes that were epic then remain so now, but there just isn’t that eye-popping awe to them anymore. Regardless, I’m still having tons and tons of fun with it, even the combat. As I’ve been playing through the first encounters with my weakling Throw and my anti-personnel pistol I am reminded of just how god-like my Shepard was at the end of my first playthrough. Lifting large objects and then throwing multiple enemies to their instantaneous death was his forte. I can’t wait to get there again.
Speaking of first encounters, let’s talk a little bit about the opening mission. You are charged with rescuing the flagship human colony (Eden Prime) from a strange attack seemingly triggered by the discovery of an ancient alien artifact. It is later revealed that the attackers are Geth, a synthetic race originally created by Quarians as slaves that, through some form of synthetic evolution, obtained minds of their own and revolted, slaughtering many Quarians and reducing them to a space-faring race. When I hit my first level up about a third into the first mission, my main priority was to max out my charm attribute. I recommend anyone who plays ME to max out either that or your intimidate skill, as both will yield some pretty nice payoffs, even to a newborn Shepard. There’s a particularly interesting/alarming payoff at the end of the game, too… But we’ll get to that in due time. Midway through the mission it is discovered that a notorious Turian Specter by the name of Saren has defected to the Geth and is in fact the mastermind behind the attack on Eden Prime, though the reasons for his betrayal are unclear.
At this point I’ve gone the paragon route with Shepard, save for a few key instances, one of which occurred in this mission. Anyone remember the crazed scientist you encounter by hacking the lock on a safe room? Yeah, totally threw the haymaker on that guy. Why? ‘Cause I’m Commander fucking Shepard, that’s why.
I almost forgot to mention that Eden Prime is also where you meet the lovely Ashley Williams, a gunnery chief who lost her squad in the initial attack. She’s determined to get her revenge on the invading Geth and joins up with you to do it. After the ensuing battles she is left without a unit or a colony to defend and is thus reassigned to the Normandy. From this point on you can add her to your party and it is possible for her to play a more personal role later on in the game.
With Eden Prime saved and nightmarish Prothean warnings safely tucked into Shepard’s dome (no, I’m not going to explain how that happened), Shepard and company head back to the Citadel, at which point you are greeted with a gorgeous cinematic revealing the behemoth space station behind what can only be described as space clouds. This is the second time you hear Joker (your ship’s pilot) speak and the first time I realized on my initial play through that Joker is voiced by the one and only Seth Green of Robot Chicken fame (infamy?). I like Green a lot as Joker… He’s certainly a welcome addition to the cast, and it’s nice to see him get some serious work (no, Buffy the Vampire Slayer didn’t count).
During Shepard’s first shoring on the Citadel he encounters not one but two characters that will make up the Normandy’s (your ship) future crew. One is the gruff smack-talking Wrex, an alien bounty hunter sent to the Citadel to kill shady owner of Chora’s Den (a strip club and presumed whorehouse), Fist. Wrex and Shepard’s paths cross when Shepard learns of a Quarian that came to the station with information that could possibly link Saren to the crimes committed on Eden Prime. When I inquired as to her whereabouts, it was implied that she may be in Fist’s “care.” Thus Wrex joins the team with the common goal of going after Fist. This is the second time I deviated from the paragon path: when you finally blast through all of Fist’s guards and confront the man about his crimes, you are given the option to either let the snake slither away and fall off the grid forever, or blast his good-for-nothing self into the hereafter. I’ll leave which side I came down on to your imagination.
After dealing with Fist you chase down the Quarian and the information she holds. After rescuing her from would-be assassins (hired by none other than Saren himself) and giving her information to the Council as proof of Saren’s treachery, she joins your team. Now, although the Council concedes that Saren is a traitor and should have his Specter status stripped, they don’t believe the part of the intercepted transmission where Saren is speaking with Lady Benezia (his current second-in-command and confidante) about the imminent return of giant mechanical life forms (called “Reapers”) that happen to be hellbent on the destruction of all organic life in the galaxy. Go figure.
Tangent: as I was playing through the game and taking some notes for this blog, my girlfriend mentioned that this game was “boring” because there was very little action. Though I strongly disagree about the boring bit, I have to agree on this: Shepard and his friends and foes talk a lot. The dialogue in the first few hours of the game easily overshadows the combat, but then, that’s how I like my space operas: long-winded and lengthy. For those of us who have shorter attention spans
I’m sure you could limit the amount of dialogue by only interacting with story relevant characters, but if you’re that type of gamer then you probably won’t enjoy Mass Effect anyway.
Alright, let’s tie the bow on this one. This is where I’ve left off: not only am I, a newly appointed human Specter, tasked with the pursuit and capture of a legendary Specter who’s skill and resources presumably far outstrip my own, but also with stopping the invasion of a far superior machine-race that will, unless I do something about it, eradicate all things green and beautiful.