Friday, September 5, 2014

Mass Effect - I beat it, here's what I think:

FYI, I only played ME2 and ME3, because ME1 wasn’t out for PS3 when I felt like playing it. So, this is all about the last two games. Also, for ME3, I played Citadel, From Ashes, and Leviathan DLC (I skipped Omega). I played as an Engineer; my most used sidekicks were Liara, Garrus, and Javik. I played on Insanity. I achieved the platinum trophy on ME3, but not 2.

SPOILER WARNING: I am going to litter this with spoilers, so if you haven’t played the game, go play it. That’s all you need to know. Mass Effect is amazing. Go play it immediately.

Mass Effect was beautiful.

I loved the worlds. I loved the set pieces. I loved looking out from where my shuttle landed and seeing a grand expanse of terrain. The views were incredible. Whereas most video games place you in a windowless room to fight through so that they don’t have to worry about creating outside visuals, Mass Effect creates large open windows and allows the player to see the world beyond. I loved looking around and admiring the horizon, seeing the battles unfolding far beyond the space that my character can go. The indoor settings were even expansive… seeing the inside of the Geth Dreadnought and the endlessly large tunnels… Incredible.

The graphics were some of the best I’ve seen on the PS3.

On the critical side of the visual spectrum, I will say that Bioware games have always, for me, had a problem with coming to life by way of motion. Whereas in games like Skyrim, the NPCs walk around, sharpen tools, use the log cutter, ride horses, etc… Bioware games, like ME, usually are populated with static NPCs that don’t move much beyond idling animations. I would like to see Bioware work on this, as their worlds are some of the most engaging and immersive ever created, they deserve to have NPCs that feel alive. Why is the same Volgon always in the Embassy when I show up? Why always standing in the same place? Doesn’t he live somewhere? Doesn’t he have other things to do?

Speaking of characterization,

Mass Effect has the best cast of voice actors and insanely well written dialogue. I loved ALL the characters that I encountered along the way (OK, except Kai Leng). Mordin, Wrex, Kasumi (who I was disappointed wasn’t playable in ME3 as she was one of my favorites in ME2), Legion, Miranda, Tali, etc, etc… I loved them all. They were all so very great. Liara’s conversation with her “father” was hilarious. The Citadel DLC really emphasized how great these characters are, and I loved having them all at a party. The Illusive Man was an awesome villain in ME3, and an even better ally in ME2. Even the random NPCs were fun to eavesdrop on, and hearing their mini stories play out through their conversations was very rewarding.

As for my criticisms, the biggest one I have is that the NPC dialogue was about as static as their movement. In Skyrim, you can talk to almost anyone, and they all have something to say. Bioware games have NPCs that barely notice that you’re there, and you can’t interact with them. I feel like Bioware has the talent to work on this aspect of their games; they can make more dynamic dialogue for NPCs.

I guess the last criticism I have about the characters is Liara. I played with her as my love interest, because she seemed like the most fleshed out character. Her voice, the way she talked to me, however, never made me feel like she actually was in love with Shepard. The only moment Liara actually seemed in love was during the Citadel DLC.

Dialogue Selection System

One of the things that many people give praise to is the Dialogue Wheel system hat ME uses while conversing with NPCs. However, I think most of the praise is due to the great writing rather than the Wheel itself. The Wheel is still very basic. Select up = good karma, select down = bad karma. I didn’t really see the dialogue as being all that complex as much as just enjoyable for the writing. The paragon/renegade system was… whatever. A person who is playing the good character will always pick the good dialogue option, the bad character picks bad. It’s not much of a real choice, when it comes down to it. It was good enough for what ME was trying to do, but it doesn’t deserve to be called complex. It wasn’t. It’s enjoyable, but simple under the mask of complexity. I don’t think Karma added much to the game in of itself.

Looting, looting, looting

This is my first BIG criticism of Mass Effect, and I’ve noticed it in many Bioware games. The looting is incredibly tedious compared to games like Diablo or Skyrim.

The reason I feel this way is a complex one, but I’m going to try and explain it.

OK, Skyrim: You enter a room filled with lootable items. You can steal cups, swords, gold, food, candlesticks, forks, baskets, cloth… about anything that isn’t tied down. But players only take the good stuff. Usually, to find the good stuff, though, you must hunt through the room filled with all the junk loot. Even though some of the junk loot is junk, sometimes it’s a coinpurse or a potion or spell. You can pick up a crappy sword and sell it if you don’t wish to keep it. The world is thick with loot, even shelf could hold something that can alter the way you play the game.

Skyrim’s loot system is insanely fun and rewarding.

Diablo: Monsters drop potions, armor, swords, shields, and gold. You take what you want, wear what is better than what you were wearing, and leave what isn’t worth selling. Every monster is a new opportunity to find something that can change the way your game is played, and the dungeons are all thick with monsters and lootable containers.

Diablo’s loot system is insanely fun and rewarding.

Mass Effect: You’re in a colossal room, with three long, giant hallways, and you’re looking for the one tiny box that holds a gun upgrade. There also might be some medigel and some salvageable credits in other boxes.

Mass Effect’s loot system is tedious and unrewarding.

I think the thing is, looting in Mass Effect takes about the same amount of playtime as looting in Skyrim or Diablo, but the only difference is that you’re only going to find 1-3 pieces of loot, whereas in Diablo and Skyrim, you’re bound to find literally hundreds of pieces of loot to sift through. Oftentimes Mass Effect’s loot is something I didn’t want anyway. I only used the Particle Rifle. That’s it. I played with powers otherwise (I played as an Engineer). All of the guns I found along the way were worthless to me. I just wanted to play with my particle rifle. The armor you could find was never better than the armor that you got initially, because I preferred having better health to upgrades like melee damage. So, I used the basic N7 armor the whole time. In Skyrim, you constantly find armor that outdates your old rags in every way, but the N7 armor from the beginning holds up throughout the entire game. What’s the point in upgrading armor if it takes away my health? My Insanity run required my health to be full.

Honestly, I won’t say that I believe Mass Effect needs more loot in the game. I played ME for the story, not the grind. I would suggest that Bioware scraps looting altogether for the next game. I would rather be able to play the game without feeling the impulse to search the giant levels for the one box filled with 1000 credits. Just give the player the payout at the end of the mission, and let me shop for whatever I want without the constrictions of forced boring, searching.

Galaxy at War was infuriating at the end

I am a completionist. I wanted to end ME with 100% on the Galaxy At War map. I played the heck out of multiplayer, which was pretty fun up until level 20. GAW ticks away every few hours, so you have to keep playing multi to build it back up.

I was at the end mission and then my game crashed. When I rebooted, my GAW was at 99%. It had ticked down literally a few minutes after I had gotten it up to 100, so I was FORCED to play another round of multi. It was really maddening. I think that if you get GAW up to 100%, you should be allowed an entire 24-hour period to beat the game before it ticks down. Would that be so bad?


The End

The ending of ME has been hotly debated. I’m not a hater, but I do have some things to say. Now, to be fair, I never played the original ending. I beat the game with the patched, extended ending, and so I have no idea about the complaints people had with the old ending. I was fine with the ending I chose, which was to destroy the reapers.

I ended my game with 100% Galactic Readiness and a War Acquisition score over 7,000, so maybe that has something to do with why I liked the ending. The reapers were destroyed, and *spoilers for the secret ending* my Shepard character survived. With imagination, I could see my character and Liara spending their days having little blue children together. How nice.

My ending also meant the death of the Geth, which was sad because I united them with the Quarians during that mission. Oh well. The other two options seemed dumb to me, so I destroyed them all. EDE also died because of my choice, and I guess that’s notable.

The real frustration I felt with the ending was the final mission in general.

It was… sorta boring. Waves of reaper enemies, over and over. Brutes and Banshees, more and more. There wasn’t any real boss fight. Not much dialogue to listen to. It was just fighting reaper enemies on repeat for hours. The final mission was one of my least favorite missions in the game.

Also, that part where Shepard is walking toward the beacon alone, all bloodied up with one pistol in her hand was NOT FUN and INSANELY DIFFICULT on insanity mode. I have great aim, but those last 4 reapers were extremely difficult to kill. I spend a half hour played a five minute sequence on repeat, trying and dying and trying and dying. It was infuriating, and it drew me out of the climatic moment I should have been experiencing.

Also, I accidentally chose to control the reapers. I figured the first option, the good option would be the blue tower and the first on the left… it was the opposite. I had to quit and replay the mission to go back and select the destroy reaper option.  

What I want from the next game:

New lead character, set after the events of the first trilogy. With the Mass Relays all being destroyed, it’d be cool to play as several different characters (different aliens) caught in the different sections of space. Without the Relays, I wonder what a rogue Salarian ship would do having been stuck in the Krogan DMZ, for example. It would be cool if you played as several different characters spread out throughout the Galaxy, all trying to figure out how to get to their respective homes. Perhaps the game is about fixing the Relays in that way.


With the Relays destroyed, remember the entire fleet that Shepard gathered was flying over Earth… none of those aliens would be able to get home. It would be interesting to play through the fallout of having all of the aliens being stuck in the Sol system.

I think it would be a cool cameo if (SPOILERS), for players who had Shepard live in the end, if there was a secret mission to pick her up from where she landed and reunite her with her love interest.


1. Mordin and Kasumi were my favorite characters (to talk to)

2. Grunt died during my Suicide Mission in 2, as did Jack

3. I cured the genophage, and did not betray Wrex

4. I never used Vega or that other white macho guy character for sidekicks, because why would I take macho white guys when I can take awesome aliens?

5. I loved the openly gay characters

6. Taking Javik along with me and Liara on the mission to Thessia was the best decision I made in the games… his and Liara’s shared dialogue about the Asari gods and artifacts is truly some of the most memorable parts of the game (watch what I mean by clicking here)

7. I played as a Female Shepard because I’ve heard her voice talent was amazing. It was. Also, the one major graphical glitch I had was my character’s eyelids getting sucked into her eyes. I’m not sure why this happened, but it did during every cutscene.

8. I completed all non-DLC side mission in ME3, and I don’t regret it. haha

9. I wish there was more about the Hanar and Elcor. Also, the Keepers were creepy. Also, I want to see more alien wildlife.

Finally, I’ll just say this: Play the game if you haven’t. It’s great. I WILL be purchasing and playing whatever Mass Effect game comes next. 

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Thanks for reading!

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