March 25, 2012

March 25, 2012 - Mass Effect Thoughts

Currently, I'm just finishing up my second play-through of Mass Effect 3 (Collector's Edition <3). I've been a minor voice for the Retake Mass Effect movement and Indoctrination Theory.

When I say minor voice, I mean I've used the hashtag #RetakeME3 a couple times. And Indoc-Theory... it's a nice idea for now, but we won't hear anything until April (I guessing PAX East).

But these... These are going to be my thoughts on the franchise so far as well as first impressions of the ending. Remember that this is just how I feel! Everyone feels differently about the games!!

Mass Effect

Me and Mass Effect got off on the wrong foot a few years ago. By that I mean I got it for Xbox 360 and didn't like the way the game handled. I never did finish it until a couple years ago. Mind, it was after I have purchased Mass Effect 2 for the PC.

For the first installment of the series, I found that I greatly preferred PC controls. They seemed to flow better, easier to aim, and the galaxy map wasn't a challenge to navigate with analog sticks. The story was immersive and I really had a great time playing it. I've only ever done Paragon runs because I can't picture Commander Shepard (the main character) being anything but the beacon of hope in the middle of a galactic conflict.

The leveling system if fairly detailed and gives you a lot of options for customizing your Shepard. However, the galaxy map leaves a lot to be desired. There is no way of tracking which systems you've cleared out without a pen and paper beside you. Having done several play-throughs, I've had a notebook beside me to mark down what I've completed. Bit of a pain, but whatever! Just a minor thing.

When you do find a planet to land on, you get to play around in the Mako, a sort of futuristic Jeep that can climb mountains if you know what you are doing. It handles like a boat, but keeps the open world experience... Open.

The end wasn't terrible as it tied up some of the plot-threads it had produced while leaving others hanging for future games. If someone asked if I recommended this game, I would say "Most definitely."

Mass Effect 2

As mentioned previously, I played through ME2 before trying ME again. That was my re-introduction to the series as a whole.

If there was one thing I would complain about, it would be the more drastic change in the actual game play. Controls have been changed, combat is different, and it feels like I'm pressing all the wrong keys to do the things I want. The leveling system has also changed, and not necessarily for the better.

Leveling in ME2 is taken down from a bunch of choices to a small handful that doesn't feel right to me. There isn't the same level of customization as in the first game. However, you finally get a percentile when you explore a system. This means that tracking your galactic movement is easier. But the Mako parts are traded in for planet scanning. Planet scanning is extremely tedious and time consuming. Even once you get upgrades for the scanner (more probes and faster scanning), it still takes a great deal of time.

Through DLC, however, you get some exploration sections, but they are very linear and not the same as bouncing over a vast swath of land in a boat on wheels. The Hammerhead handles much better, but it's just not the same.

The final mission is much harder to get 'right'. To get the best ending, there is a certain way you have to do things to keep all your party members alive. While it's harder to do, it's fulfilling to get everyone out. The final fight feels... Well, I'm not sure how to describe it. The ending wasn't great, but you could still explore the world after finishing the last mission.

Mass Effect 3

Finally, to my thoughts on the third installment of my favourite game franchise.

This is the game everyone seems to have a problem with, strictly because of the ending. Now, the ending I will get to in good time. But I would like to comment first on my impressions of the game up until that point first.

As the final installment (so far as of this writing, because I have no idea what Bioware has planned), the game feels final. The Big Bad Evil Guys have shown up to thoroughly ruin your shit. The controls are the same as in ME2. This is a good thing! It means that people coming back to see Shepard kick ass don't have to relearn the controls again. While there are some graphic glitches (such as the face thing that will probably be fixed in a patch), it's still a pretty game.

Leveling has changed yet again. But it takes from both ME and ME2. While using an interface similar to that in ME2, it expands to allow you to customize the powers you want to use. It's not the huge thing of ME, but it's also not the generic system of ME2. You are now also able to personalize your weapon load-out. The weapons you choose can have a variety of modifications and changes the way the gun handles in game.

While there is still no real ground exploration, it's almost to be expected as the galaxy is going to Hell in a hand-basket. But the planet scanning has been toned down. Now, you emit a pulse from your ship to find what you are looking for. It does have a chance to summon the Big Bad Evil Guys to your location, you aren't scanning every single planet hoping to find something.

The galaxy map also hasn't changed much. It looks different but functions pretty much the same. You see the return of squad mates, recruitable and not so recruitable, as well as other people from previous games who you may have helped out.

Collecting War Assets is kind of a drag, but being in a war is a drag. It's a little tedious, though I didn't expect it to have any sort of interesting aspect to running around asking people to join the cause.

Now, for the inflammatory part. The Ending.

Mass Effect 3 Final Mission/Ending

I thought this deserved a heading all of it's own because of the nature of the beast.

The final mission is you going back to Earth to, as the tagline says, Take Earth Back. London, England is in ruins and the Big Bad Evil Guys are everywhere. It looks as feels like a war zone. London is your new Ground Zero. You pick your squad and start running through the streets doing various objectives along the way. You are fighting your way to the 'Command Centre' for the resistance movement. It's not easy by any stretch of the imagination.

Once you get there, you can talk with people, call old squad mates and see how they are fairing in this war. There is some interesting dialogue, but also moving ambient conversation. Such as a soldier trying to get in touch with various outposts only to get silence. It's sad and really gives you the feeling of fighting a war you may not win.

After you give your final speech (Shepard gives a lot of speeches), you pick your final squad. These are the people who go with you until the end, so pick wisely!

You keep fighting through, again with objectives you need to get to... And there is a glowing beam of light that looks similar to one seen in ME.

And this is where the problems start...

The End

After running at the beam of light and get hit by a laser, you wake up. If you had special armour on before, you don't now. You are now wearing generic armour that is looking not so nice anymore. If you didn't have a pistol equipped before, SURPRISE! You have a magic gun that never needs reloading! Everything is hazy, you can't aim down to look at your feet, you can't go back the way you came.

Over the radio, you hear chatter that NO ONE made it to the beam. Yet you are fumbling forward! Once you take out 3 husk type enemies and the memenic Marauder Shields, you jump in the beam. And Things get more confusing.

There are various videos that can 'explain' what I mean by that. I won't go into details, but it feels less like the ending of a game where all your choices had some sort of consequence. Some people enjoyed the ending, I didn't. But, now I'm coming to my final thoughts.

Final Thoughts

The series is still wonderful. Nothing can change the fact that they are some of my favourite games. These are games I will always go back to no matter what. Even if I never change the way I play, everything still feels new and different. While the end of ME3 may have ruined it for some, I have decided that I don't care.

The end shouldn't ruin everything up until that point. The story is still wonderfully written, the voice acting it still stellar, and the characters still feel relatable.

So my final thoughts can be summed up very simply. I love the games. While it didn't end in what I feel is the best way possible, I'm not letting it ruin my enjoyment of the Mass Effect franchise!

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