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Shepard don’t fear the Reapers

July 29, 2014

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So that was about 70 hours, mostly well-spent I think.

I should put more words here.

I was a bit skeptical about the Mass Effect series before I started it.  To be honest, I was mostly turned off because it seems to have collected the sorts of fans who Take Things A Little Too Seriously, and also it’s from Electronic Arts and I still haven’t forgiven them for dropping support for Atari 8-bit computers in roughly 1984.  That’s fair, I think, it’s only been 30 years and I can’t be expected to forgive them quite yet.

Did I just make fun of other people for taking things too seriously, and then say that?  Really?  Let’s move on and talk about the actual games before I’m forced to examine that last bit too closely.

I won’t spend too much time talking about Mass Effect or ME2, but it would feel weird skipping straight to the end.

The first was an action RPG with 3rd-person cover-shooter mechanics, Diablo-style random loot drops, seriously janky vehicle physics and mechanics that you are largely allowed to figure out on your own.  Considering how many games I’ve played where the tutorial level stretches through, roughly, the first half of the plot, it’s kind of refreshing to have a game that gives you some of the basics and then kicks you out of the nest to fly or fall.

I didn’t necessarily see it that way at the time, mind you.

I didn’t give myself any time to relax between finishing the first game and starting the second, and the transition was just a little bit jarring.  It was the same universe, sure, and I had a kick seeing characters from the first game again, but the controls were just different enough to throw me for a loop and I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t know who these “Cerberus” people were.  It turns out, as an aside, that they’re a niche group you butt heads with three or four times in the first game if you go around looking for side missions, but it’s very possible to miss them if you focus on the main storyline.

Even with those complaints, it was a huge improvement over the first game.  I was not a fan of ME1’s combat, which ME2 tightened right up, and I had a lot of fun with the story, even if the first third of it was “let’s get the band together” and the second third was “let’s run some errands for the members of the band so they like me more”.

It also had the Best Character-Establishing Shot in recent memory, with Legion’s first appearance.

Somehow I managed to make it through ME2 without losing any of the Important Crew Members (let’s not talk about the half of the Less Important Crew Members that didn’t make it), and followed that up by immediately installing ME3 and going through Yet Another Jarring Opening Sequence.  If I am completely honest, it wasn’t until about 90 minutes in that I stopped believing that it was just another cliched nightmare sort of thing and that Any Minute Now there would be a scene where Shepard bolted upright in bed, covered in sweat, and the ACTUAL story could get underway.

Yes, It starts off that bleak.

It’s hard to separate Mass Effect 3: The Game from Mass Effect 3: The Assorted Nonsense, and much of the bad press the game got was because of The Assorted Nonsense, and I will admit that rather a lot of that bad press seems to have been quite deserved.  It’s hard to feel that gamers didn’t have Origin forced down our throats, and the multi-player likewise felt tacked on for the sake of selling online passes to used purchasers.  Worse yet, the game feels rather ephemeral – so many of the features require various servers, or are at least enhanced by various servers, and at least one companion tool has already been pulled out of the iOS app store.  The notoriously controversial ending may have been replaced with something that patches up plot holes and gives the player more closure, but that version isn’t on disc, not even on the recent Trilogy release.  Five years from now, it may not be possible to play the same game.

Setting that aside and looking at the game only as, well, a rather enjoyable 3rd-person shooter with light RPG elements and one heck of a storyline is pretty tricky and I wasn’t always able to pull it off.  I managed to do enough surveying planets and doing side quests and odd jobs to get the Not Entirely Happy But Still Pretty OK ending without being forced into the multi-player, but it always vexed me to look at my war assets knowing that their impact was being halved because I was only playing the single player campaign.  Thankfully, the glaring at the war assets screen represented a relatively small part of the game, with the vast majority spent running around alien worlds and blowing stuff up.  THAT stuff was pretty much as good as it gets.

So, about 70 hours, mostly well-spent.  Probably won’t jump right into the recently-announced sequel until ME6 hits, of course.  🙂

 

 

 

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