Mass Effect (with video)

 
 

I have beaten Mass Effect no less than three times now. Not of my own volition, though, I assure you. I really don’t like the game THAT much.

The first time I beat it was late 2007 when I had just gotten the 360 version as a Christmas present. I played it all Winter break, and beat it in about 50 hours. My opinion at the time was that it wasn’t as good as my favorite BioWare title and one of my favorite games of all time, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, but I could tell they worked hard on it. Even so, I felt that Mass Effect was kind of the beginning of the end for BioWare. I didn’t think it was as engaging, nor was the writing as good as some of BioWare’s previous, like KotOR and Jade Empire. I didn’t get as attached to the characters or storyline. I didn’t feel as driven to reach the end goal.

Time passed, and Mass Effect 2 came out. Around this time, though, I was having trouble with my 360. My hard drive had completely failed and all data was lost. I really didn’t want to start ME2 without bringing in a previous character, and I needed a refresher on the story anyway, so I played through ME1 again, getting some new achievements this time. I wrote about this playthrough a while back, and the discoveries I made about poor optimizations, etc. I beat it for the second time. I was ready for ME2.

But there were other complications. I was busy with school and didn’t have the time to play a long RPG. So, I put it off. More time passed, and soon I had built my own computer. Several months later, I bought ME1 and 2 for PC during a Steam sale. I certainly wasn’t going to buy ME2 at this point for a console I no longer really played, I once again had not played ME1 in a while and needed another refresher, and I figured playing through ME1 again on a better platform was a more economical decision than buying ME2 for 360. So, a few weeks ago, I started up Mass Effect one more time, this time on PC.

After many rushed hours of powering through the main story and handling a few side quests, I finally defeated it for the third time. I don’t have much more to add that I haven’t already said in past posts, although I can say with certainty that the PC version is considerably better than the 360 version. Much better optimization (no popping textures and a smooth, constant 60 on the framerate), and it just feels right playing it on the PC.

Demiurge Studios did a great job with the port. In fact, it’s no wonder ME was so well optimized for the PC: Demiurge apparently excels at optimizing games, as they did the memory optimization for the Xbox version of Advent Rising. They also did the art and level design for the opening sequences of BioShock, which were some of the most memorable and breathtaking scenes in the game. There should be more studios in the industry like Demiurge: A company that can take a good game and add a few touches to make it a great game.

***

I beat Mass Effect a couple of weeks ago. The other night, I beat Mass Effect 2. I don’t think my breath that was whisked away in the opening moments has yet returned.

Maybe it’s because I’m sick of Mass Effect. Maybe playing three times through a game I don’t find incredibly engrossing put a bad taste in my mouth for the series. I was stuck in a purgatory for 5 years; a purgatory where I’m forced to play the same 2007 game with N64 textures and bad framerate over and over and over again. Then, finally, I was able to move on to heaven: Mass Effect 2.

I’m going to go ahead and say it if you haven’t already figured it out: Mass Effect 2 is the best BioWare game I’ve played since Jade Empire. Now, granted, I have not yet played Dragon Age: Origins, which I’ve heard is pretty good. But just gauging on the BioWare games I have played, I am extremely impressed with ME2. Considering KotOR is one of my favorite games of all time, BW had a lot to live up to with Mass Effect. I just didn’t feel it delivered as well as their previous games. ME2 hit the nail on the head for me.

When ME2 was released, all I heard was that it wasn’t as good as the first, because it was all action and no story. Yet it grabbed nearly every GotY award that year, and many critics praised the story. Having now played through the game, I can judge for myself: Yeah, it’s more action-y than ME1. That’s not a bad thing, though, especially since my fears that stemmed from that did not prove true: THE STORY DIDN’T TAKE A HIT. You’ve heard it before (I said it a few sentences ago): “All action and no story”. It’s a common thing, especially in the recent period of video games that attempt to cater to the Hollywood movie buff, delivering simple controls and equally simple stories. Mass Effect 2 is definitely more like a Hollywood movie in its action-oriented missions. It plays more like Gears of War with tighter controls and a simpler combat setup than its predecessor. However, none of this takes away from the story and atmosphere of the game.

Mass Effect 2, as I’ve previously said about Portal 2, is like a good book: You just can’t put it down. The characters are as lively and deep as in an Obsidian game, and the thickening plot with the Collectors was an interesting way to take the story. The writing is as good as always and Shepard feels more like a real person in this game than just a figurehead player character. Needless to say, I feel satisfyingly more emotionally attached to elements of this game than its predecessor.

This was the game BioWare’s been wanting to make. They got their backing from EA to make a kick-ass blockbuster, and they did it. They fixed many of the problems of ME1, cut the boring bits they just couldn’t make work the way they wanted to (roaming around on bland, copy-pasta textured planets in the Mako, anyone?), and delivered a fun, fast-paced action RPG. The first game fumbled a lot because it didn’t know what its strengths were. It was a bunch of RPG elements mashed together like some kind of RPG Frankenstein. It seemed like they originally wanted to make Mass Effect a traditional RPG with ARPG elements, but it just didn’t work. They wanted it to be more complicated than it could be on a console. Sure, we’d all like to go back to the days of Baldur’s Gate when RPGs were complex and difficult, but that’s not for this series. Mass Effect was destined to be an ARPG, nothing more, and Mass Effect 2 is the first in the ME franchise to really excel because it knows that.

 

***

 

I wish I could say everything is fine now. I wish I could say the Mass Effect trilogy continues into the third game as epic as the ending of the second, like Lord of the Rings on steroids. But I can’t. It’s sad. I started playing Mass Effect 3 last night, and… it has problems. Not game-breaking problems, but… depressing problems. Problems that should not be in a game of its budget. I need more time to get my thoughts together, though, and I should probably beat it before I pass judgment, but so far I am not nearly as impressed as I was with Mass Effect 2. I’ll save more words for later.
 

                                                                                                    TRG
 
 

 
 

***SPOILERS AHEAD***

 
 
 

The first time I played the final mission in ME2, I didn’t save everyone. I was disappointed about that, so I decided to try again, and I felt like recording it. The following 1080p video is the last 40 minutes of my playthrough of Mass Effect 2, right up to the credits. Clearly, as this is literally the LAST 40 minutes of the game, there are spoilers. If you have not yet played this incredible game, I highly recommend you pass on watching and just go play it. Start with the first one, though, or you might be a little lost.

Enjoy, and don’t forget to watch in 1080p!

 
 

 
 
 

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~ by The Retro Gamer on May 17, 2012.

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