Mass Effect (2008)

Thanks to the Steam holiday sale I finally got around to playing this game. Originally, I bought this game when it first came out and was receiving a pretty good critical review. At the time I was busy with graduate school, and work so I did not have the time to play the game. Only recently have I really thought about trying to get back into it again. A few months ago I popped it in the Xbox 360 and gave it a go.

Mass Effect on the Xbox is absolutely dreadful. I played up until the Citadel, and hated every single second of it. The film grain and motion blur made me dizzy, the frequently lag and slow down were jarring. And, Shepherd felt sluggish and unresponsive. To make matters more annoying, the tackle system in the game was poorly developed. Gone are the days of careful strategy of KOTOR. They simplified the combat system, but only in a detrimental way. Sure you can give your party members directions, but the AI is pretty shotty, and you are limited in the things you can do, for example you have to issue both team mates the same command.

I put the game back in the box, and moved on with my life. I did a little digging around, and decided that I would probably enjoy the game a lot more on the computer, and I found out that Steam had a $5 sale on it a little while ago, so I hung around to follow the holiday sale around Christmas. Lucky for me they had the sale again so I purchased a license.

Mass Effect on the computer is not exactly what I would call fun, but it was much more playable than on the Xbox. I also did a bit of digging around to find out that I could disable film grain and motion blur, and my computer was fast enough to render without dropping frames. So, once I finally got past the technical issues facing me I was able to dig into the meat of the game.

I would say both the best and worst things about ME is the story. While the story does steal many elements from other science fiction stories, it does come across as quite an epic battle. Unfortunately, this epic battle requires you to be dragged around by your balls through out the game.

Yes, I understand that you spent a lot of money on animating cut scenes, and you want me to see the whole story, but please NEVER employ unskippable cut scenes. This is an unforgivable sin of modern game development. At lesat in ME the story was good, but there are so many games out there with a shitty story that I don’t care about, I just want to skip the cut scenes, whether it is my first or fourth play through.

The other issue is the whole “playing a movie” concept. I know that some people like this, but I personally hate it. I don’t want to have a few moments of shitty game play capped by yet another cut scene. I get that you want to maintain the integrity of the story and atmosphere, but it is really annoying and is just another form of enforced linearity.

The game gives you a couple of choices, because you can execute some missions out of order, but you have to do the missions, so it is really just an illusion. Sure there are dialog options, and side quests and things, but once you screw around with them you realize how pointless they are in the grand scheme of things, and you are still just following a strick path the developers laid out for you.

Hacking mini-games suck. I am not exactly sure why game makers have been using them so much lately. I did end up playing ME and Bioshock back to back, so I was already sick of hacking games when I started ME. And, to make matters worse it was the same annoying mini-game every single time. At least you always have the option to just skip the game by paying with omnigel.

Let’s make vehicles drive like the warthog? I know I had a few trouble adjusting to the controls back when the original Halo came out, but once you get the hang of it, you’re golden. Go with one stick, aim with the other, it controls just like running around with your character. Instead in ME you get the abortion that is the Mako. This thing controls like fat man in an earthquake. I thought the controls were bad on the PC, but they are borderline unusable on the Xbox.

And, the last major thing that I did not like was the elevators. There are a couple of major problems with them, the first, there are simply too many of them. Second, they are scripted loading events so installing the disk to the hard drive (on the Xbox) does not improve loading times here. I did kind of like that there were short dialogs, or news updates though. One of the things I missed from KOTOR was the ability to have dialogs with party members during missions. If you could have advanced dialog with your party members doing elevator scenes you could have killed two birds with one stone.

Having said all that the game actually is not that bad. Once you get the hang of combat, and deal with all your equipment, and getting enough omnigel to bypass the hacking game, the game starts to get pretty funy. I think my judgements are a bit jaded because I am still steaming over the rancid Final Fantasy X, and that I picked one of the more difficult classes to play on the first play through, adept.

There are some things about the game I think they got right. For example, navigating across the galaxy is managed from an intuitive map inteface that allows you to jump from system to system with ease. And, I liked how you were able to equip diffent weapons and armor that changed the appearance of your characters. In some many games you are pretty much stuck with one appearance, and maybe and alternate you can unlock somehow.

This may be the first time that I have spent almost and entire rant bitching about something, and then still turning around and recommending it. Ultimately, I did end up having some fun playing the game towards the end, and the story is quite impressive. So, in spite of all its flaws I will give Mass Effect a 2 on my undecim scale.

Author: Jeff

Born a cantankerous old man, mellowed ever so slightly by age.

One thought on “Mass Effect (2008)”

  1. The only major lasting impression I took from mass effect was the morality system. Clearly this was inspired by 24 where it wasn’t a matter of good or bad but being ‘Renegade’ where points are gained for apathetic and ruthless actions and ‘Paragon’ points are gained for compassionate and heroic actions.

    One of my least favorite parts of fallout 3 was it’s karma system. Clearly it’s more black and white and sometimes the good and bad choices are so stupid (the end of Broken Steel clearly comes to mind pretty much a game breaker to be honest for it’s “bad” choice if you wish to stay in character).

    The dialog and the choices were my favorite part of the game and almost enough for me to recommend somebody to play it solely for that because sometimes the results are so funny.

    ‘Mass Effect was released in 2007 on November 20 in USA and Canada, November 22 in Australia and New Zealand, and on November 23 in Europe.’

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