So, I fucked a blue chick
I've blogged before about how terrible I am at finishing lengthy games. The last reasonably long game I beat was Fable II. And before that I can't even remember the last time I beat a game longer than 15 hours long. I always seem to put the game down for a break when the mechanics get repetitive and then I just never pick it up again. Or in the case of Mass Effect I pick it up again 6 months+ down the line by which time I want to start again from the beginning to refresh my memory of the story and gameplay. I’ve started playing Mass Effect 4 times now. The first time I gave up at the first driving section because the Mako controlled horribly. The second time I got beyond that, but not by much. The third time I gave up halfway through the first Citadel section because I was repeating the same things I had played 2 times before. With everyone talking about Mass Effect 3, I decided to jump back in for a fourth time this week, and I finally played the game to completion!!! This blog started as a rambling stream of thoughts about the game, but I’ve managed to organize it into something vaguely resembling a well organized blog. Expect some spoilerific stuff about ME1. I’m sure few people care about spoilers from a 2007 game this point, but never say I’m not thorough with my spoiler warnings.
What I liked:
I have always loved the Mass Effect universe. It is an amazing sci-fi world with vibrant and unique aliens. It clearly has influences from a bunch of other sci-fi fiction, and it seems to cherry pick the best things and merge them with some unique ideas into a very compelling world. I love the elcor and their slow, emotionless speech. I love the Hanar and their unique turn of phrase. I love the mystery of the Quarians and the Volus, hidden behind their environmental suits. I love the Krogan and their 4 testicles. I love the Salarians, Asari and Turians too. Everything about the world is awesome. It is a well thought out and well realized sci-fi universe. I particularly like how it explores humanity's role in this universe and how the other species view them. I’m a bit of a Star Trek fan, but I’ve never liked the “origins” story of Star Trek. To me, it never adequately explains how Humans went from being the “new guys” on the galactic stage to being the most powerful species in the known galaxy. Mass Effect tells the story of the rise of humanity extremely well, something I find extremely compelling.
The character development is another thing I loved. The writing does a brilliant job of making you feel attached to the characters. Or even the opposite. Take Ashley as an example. I started out indifferent to her. She seemed like a generic soldier character. It wasn’t long before I began to hate her because of her xenophobic views on aliens. I wanted to call her a “xenophobic bitch” and throw her off my ship. But as I talked to her more, I began to understand why she was like that. The story of her grandfather surrendering to a fleet of Turians and how that has held her back during her entire career. It didn’t excuse her borderline racist views, but it helped me understand her and feel far less volatile towards her. I actually felt bad sending her to her death on Virmire. Many of the other characters had compelling backstories and character development too. I particularly found the relationship between Shepard and Liara to be very interesting, and ultimately ended up getting the romantic story with her.
Few games allow the player as much freedom in their decision making as Mass Effect, and it makes for a really compelling experience. There were multiple times where I had to pause and think about my actions and how they would effect the universe, or even just how they would effect Shepard herself. The biggest one to me was probably whether or not to kill the Rachni. Doing so would amount to genocide, but the Rachni had attempted to wipe out the other species in the universe in the past - could they be trusted? I ended up reluctantly saving them, a decision the Council didn’t seem too pleased with. I’m sure I’ll learn of the consequences of that action in Mass Effect 2 and 3.
What I didn’t like:
The actual combat was very lackluster to me. I decided to play as a soldier since it seemed like the most straightforward class, and I mainly wanted to get through the story and didn’t want to have to learn a bunch of techniques in order to advance. The combat went from being infuriatingly hard in the early portion of the game (the Krogan Battlemaster on the Liara mission in the Artemeus Tau cluster was so annoying) to being stupidly easy later on. I’m sure the early game stuff wasn’t helped by me putting all my points into Charm and Intimidate early on to avoid missing out on dialogue options. Either way, towards the end I was just running around gunning dudes down without even taking cover. It only became slightly challenging if I was facing a Geth Destroyer or something similar, but even they weren’t too hard. Even the final boss (the zombie monkey Saren) was easy once I figured out that I had an ability that could revive my team mates. That meant that Liara dying wasn’t the end of the world - I could just revive her and she’d go back to being awesome and help me take him down.
That’s pretty much it. That’s the only real gripe I had with the game. OK, it’s a big problem since you spend large portions of the game fighting dudes, but it was worth putting up with to see the story through to conclusion. The only other thing I can really think of that I disliked was the shops and loot. The loot made the shops pretty pointless because I was finding good items all the time. By the end of the game I had over a million credits left over. I’m sure there was better gear for sale, but I didn’t feel the need to buy any because everything I had seemed fine. If the combat was more compelling, I might have cared more about my gear. So it still ultimately comes back to the combat.
Some other thoughts:
I think I have a problem. I make too many save files. Throughout that game (which took me about 23 hours) I amassed 153 save files. That’s one save every nine minutes. Despite how easy some of the combat was in the late game, I’d still feel compelled to save after every battle in case I died. At times it felt like I was saving after I’d walked 5 yards just because I didn’t want to walk that 5 yards again. I feel like a crazy person for having so many saves.
Also, I want to briefly mention the character creation. I always spend far too long trying to create the perfect character in these kind of games. And I the Mass Effect character creation looks simple and easy to use, but for some reason I found it incredibly hard to make a decent looking character. Ultimately I ended up really happy with my Shepard. She looks better than the default for sure, but it took a lot of effort. Also, the hair looks TERRIBLE in that game. It looks like the hair belongs in a PS2 game.
Anyways, now I’m looking forward to getting to Mass Effect 2. I really want to see how my decisions in this game will effect the universe.I don’t want to jump straight into it since I’m worried I’ll get burnt out on the gameplay. I know ME2 is a big step up gameplay wise, but I still want to have a bit of a break. I think I might read Mass Effect Revelation though. I really want to experience more of the fiction in the universe right now, so reading the first Mass Effect book seems like a good thing to do.