Commando for an emperor-less empire.
(Played in English on PC with a controller and OneXPlayer gaming tablet through Steam)
Star Wars Battlefront II campaign was marketed as a Star Wars story with genuine imperial point of view. But in the final product, the player character defected to Rebel Alliance before the first third of the story is done. It got me thinking, Mass Effect trilogy’s Commander Shepard is actually quite the uncompromising agent of imperial power, whether he or she is Paragon or otherwise.
One can criticize the unregulated and highly militarized super cop running amok in the galaxy as a bad power fantasy. In fact, one can criticize Mass Effect trilogy for many things, from its military exceptionalism to its deceptionally conservative gender politics. But all criticism pointing to one thing: if you still want a Star Wars through the eyes of “honorable” imperialists, you should play Mass Effect trilogy. Legendary Edition putting all 3 in one place is the easiest way.
Legendary Edition marks my sixth playthrough of 2007’s Mass Effect. While its improvements do not suddenly make this RPG ass RPG into the half assed but enjoyable Gears of War clone like the direct sequels, I would acknowledge the significance as this is the first time, I beat the game on Normal instead of Casual. Being able to aim down the sight of all 4 weapon types despite character class combined with the habit of RPG gear switch to higher numbers does make Mass Effect 1 feel like a gun trotting commando simulator.
The Mako vehicle does not feel as much an improvement to me. The booster forward is fine and repair not grounding the vehicle is helpful, but it’s still hard to get top of mountains with this new one. Guess infantry combat is always the priority of this trilogy. Another change I am not so hot on is the dedicated melee button, during a main story mission where you are fighting zombies, it’s actually more troublesome than the right trigger being auto melee in the old version.
The UI of health and shield can be seen as another problem. Original Mass Effect 1 has shield shown as narrow rectangles besides the health bar so player can see more clearly how much shield their friends and foes have left. Legendary Edition has those layered over health bars, Mass Effect 2 style instead of Mass Effect 3 style of separate squares, making it hard to read from time to time.
All in all, the combat is not improved that much for me to cry over the loss of Pinnacle Station, a collection of battle simulation that I have skipped in all my previous playthroughs.
Mass Effect 1 give us a whole new universe to imagine about, yet its plot is quite the boil plate action thriller as it’s basically Golden Eye in space. There is a rouge agent to take down and a super weapon to destroy, along the way one needs to kill a sexy lady sidekick along with her deadly squad of commandoes as well. What left space for sequels is that the super weapon is something out of the cosmic horror tales plus technologic singularity and they got loads of friends.
Of course, there are side quests to make things feel more varied. From some light detective work on Citadel to surveying some celestial bodies, Mass Effect 1 certainly makes itself lay more towards Star Trek rather than Star Wars.
Bioware had the reputation of crafting better characters than plot and Mass Effect 1 is no exception. It gives the player the fantasy of being a commanding officer of an advanced starship and half of that fantasy comes from the crew on the ship. Strangely the non-human ones stand out more here.
There is young Dirty Harry style cop Garrus, the old, wise, yet violent and potentially revolutionary Wrex and the nerdy Tali. Least and not last, the one and true love of any Shepard I player, Dr. Liara T’soni. All evolved through the trilogy and all like the trilogy itself have solid start in this game.
Where Dirty Dozen Dares
This is my sixth playthrough of 2010’s Mass Effect 2 as well. “Shepard’s Dirty Dozen” is my favorite game in the year of its release, my favorite of the decade 2010s and I still like it despite some shortcomings.
Mass Effect 2 is more of a shooter, though it does not have the more action bit of Gears game like its sequel expect press “A” to getting into cover and vault. Guns are not no longer upgraded through purchase and loots. With the planet surveying reduced to scan and mine, the crew of Normandy SR-2 needs to upgrade weapon types with the resource they mined on the one terminal aboard their ship.
The mining was somewhat despised back in the day, but with the game playable on Windows gaming tablets, I find it a good way to pass the time during long commutes. In fact, with Mass Effect 2 being episodic, it’s the most well-paced and suitable as a game to be played on the go.
I need an hour-long train ride to my usual place of work and a change of trains during that. This would allow me to do 2 short Loyalty or Recruitment missions. If it’s a longer commute to the other workplace I am assigned to, Liar of Shadow Broker and Arrival would make the trip there more endurable.
The story of Mass Effect 2 fits into another subgenre of action cinema: heist, action-packed and high body-count heist. Getting a crew, making plans and killing everything before getting to the mark. The relatively unique thing here is the episodic approach of “getting a crew” bit. The Recruitment and Loyalty missions of each crew members can be seen as character driven episodes of an action-drama show. The world building and character development in those contain is still few and far between among AAA titles nowadays.
I suppose a small moment in Mass Effect 2 is where Shepard being the super cop had become a bit grinding for me nowadays. During a “good cop, bad cop” routine, good old Katarina I played as a Paragon waited until the detainee’s defense attorney arrived. The attorney talked and talked until K Shepard told him she is a SPECTRE. Then the attorney stopped and urged his client to comply because they face the super cop capable of literally burying them both without consequence.
My image of defense attorneys was born out of Jackie Chan’s Police Story. I saw they as people who roast cops on behave of rich assholes for a living. To see one back off from the super cop is grinding even for someone who do not hate cops as much as the leftists on the internet. Well, at least it’s not outright military propaganda like 3.
A Dance of Ice and Fire
Back in 2012, I was disappointed but not that disappointed in Mass Effect 3 considering the shit storm surrounding the end. After 5 playthroughs, I like it better in the 4th and 5th than during the first 3, now I just see it an okay war story instead of something capital I Important.
Mass Effect 3 went full-on Gears with the A button allow Shepard to do commando rolls and move between covers like a ninja. B button contains a light melee with tap and high melee with hold, combined with powers giving this game a character action game favor. There is no vehicle in this game, infantry combat all the way.
Another thing setting Mass Effect 3 apart is that the combat never feels fast and easy outside the comedic Citadel DLC. Late into Mass Effect 1 and 2, Shepard can just lift her gun, aim and squeeze the trigger twice to thrice to kill a grunt enemy, while in 3 that can never happen. Enemies can do the same commando rolls, though sometimes that can let them into the reach of heavy melee. It’s a Gears game with super powers through and through.
I played a female Commander Shepard named Katarina in Legendary Edition. It’s an homage to the Granblue Fantasy character with the same name as both ladies can freeze their enemies to death. Katarina Shepard started a Sentinel with cryo attachment to her weapons. Then she was resurrected to take down the Collectors as an Infiltrator with the habit of using cryoammo. When it’s time to fight the Reaper invasion, she focused on technology and became an Engineer.
An Engineer with Cryo Blast and Incendiary can perform a dance of ice and fire. It allowed me to grow attached to even more boil plate human squad member Kaiden Alenko, who also has Cryo Blast at his disposal. Upgrading Shepard Incendiary to blow up frozen enemies, she and Alenko can a combination for mass destruction in combat.
I’m among the few who were not that impressed with Marvel’s Avengers, or Star Wars 1313 for that matter, back in 2012 thanks to Mass Effect 3.
For Avengers, I just felt that it’s Mass Effect 3 without interactivity and the space setting, the saving graces of a game caked in a shit storm back then. That movie also has indoctrinated human commandoes and blue aliens to be meld down, and it set up a billion sequels instead of ending a series. As for the leftist’s criticism of both being military propaganda, “no shit” is all I can say. It’s servable blockbuster, 2 months too soon from a game I played.
As for Star Wars 1313, I think I am just tired of seeing a galaxy through the scoop of guns.
With the so-called Extended Cut offering a Dragon Age Origin style ending, I cannot say I’m too upset about the ending. It’s blown out of proportion and made me aware of some unpleasant corners of the internet. As for those who want to know where does Bioware steal that end from, I recommend you to read Foundation’s Edge by Issac Asimov and watch an anime mini-series titled Gunbuster.
The starship trooper's dream better remained as a dream
The ambition of Mass Effect trilogy is not exactly fulfilled in itself and perhaps further attempt would never be made. It’s out of reach for us as the better society through military exceptionalism as Starship Troopers by Robert A Heinlein envisioned. Either way, whether as games regarded highly upon their releases or objects to be criticized, one still needs to play Mass Effect games to talk about them. Legendary Edition is simply the definitive way to do so.