Mass Effect trilogy was the rpg I had chosen to spend my summer with (yea I know Summer is over 6 months past but I completely forgot I had written this post, way to go..). Recommended by a good friend who was also kind enough to lend us his old PS3 and all the three games. I wasted no time and began the first game back in June. I was thinking of writing a separate post for each game but as I progressed I realized that the games got a higher merit as a trilogy and so what I am aiming for is a post of ultimate Mass Effect experience, thats because as far as gaming goes, it IS an experience.
Developed by the Canadian company Bioware, the first game of the trilogy was released back in 2008 followed by the sequels in 2010 and 2012. Watch the launch trailers below if you like to get an idea before reading this post:
The game exclusively dwells on one hero’s story, namely Commander Shepard whose main mission is to save the entire galaxy from a mechanical race called “The Reapers”. The story seems to be a run on the mill, mediocre, heroic sci-fi drama when put in a nutshell but the twists and turns will leave you with your jaw dropped on the floor. Plus how you convey something can be much more important than what you say.
Before I evaluate each game within its own merit I have to talk about the overall quality of the games. Bioware’s skill in transferring events and decisions caused or made by the player makes these games what they are, even more so than the Dragon Age series. Because while in Dragon Age you get to get a peek at your old companions and your former hero is solely mentioned in passing conversations, here you get to play through your much valued hero into a series of events spread throughout three wholesome games, interact and in most cases get to recruit old companions into your crew. This, results in your human nature to create a special bond with those characters (because we humans can empathize even with a pencil) and what happens to them really matter to you. As a matter of fact it carries you to dangerous and yet enjoyable degrees of empathy. Considering the fact that, the Mass Effect Trilogy is much like watching a very dramatic and absolutely moving sci-fi series where you get to act as the main hero in shape of an avatar, you need feel no shame if you tear up a little, or I don’t know, maybe blubber like a child at one point or another.
As it always goes with Bioware, the companions they create are so engaging, so well rounded, so well done, that you will have to remind yourself constantly that they ain’t real, they just seem like real. You will always come up with a favorite, it is impossible to avoid that, but you will like and sometimes admire each and every companion for what they are.
Now let us move on to the first game;
Action-wise, Mass Effect in my opinion is the poorest production of the whole series and that is not because it doesn’t include action but mostly due to the fact that the shooter side of the game doesn’t come anywhere close to the story side. The options in battle and how you develop your character are rather limited in comparison to its sequels. What I mean is that in character development you might need to spend a whole lot of points for skills that are of no use on the battlefield which puts you in a bind. The skills are not as powerful as the sequels either so despite the slow action, fights are considerably more difficult on casual mod, than the rest of the games.
What I liked?
Almost everything (especially the fact that you can equip new goodies at any point you wish) except for Mako, the jumpy space Cherokee…
What I didn’t like?
Mako, the jumpy space Cherokee…
Other than that everything was acceptable at worst and the game stood strong for a first game. There was room for improvement of course, which they focused on, in the next game.
Mass Effect 2:
The story of Mass Effect 2 was even more engaging than the first game, at least I thought so. Skill development gets plainer and choices seem more limited than the first game but those choices let you exclusively dwell on the skills which are battle-specific. You do not need to lose points on electronics and intimidate and such. You can build a character which is more efficient and formidable during the fights. Speaking of which, Mass Effect offers a better sense of action for this reason too. Weapons aim and shoot better, biotic and engineering skills hit harder and the visual effects in battle are highly improved. Taking cover during fight was bound to the x button on PS3 which also avoided your Shepard to go hiding behind various objects unnecessarily. The idea of guns having ammo was introduced in ME2 which was a lot to my liking. “The power wheel”, “aim”, “gun selection wheel”, “shoot” action buttons exchanged places which made your handling of the controller a lot easier.
All those comforts come with a price of course because although the fights seem easier they require better planning and strategy than simply going bam bam bam and pew pew pew.
As for the story side: I said earlier that the story was very engaging all the way through. The dialogues still come with the diplomatic and intimidate choices of lines but they are reduced in numbers, instead during conversations you will get a flashing option of blue wing in order to take a diplomatic action or red star in order to take a renegade action. You will have limited time to act on it and press the L2 or R2 on PS3 otherwise you miss it. I rather liked this addition to the game because it makes you follow the conversations more intently.
ME2 also comes with a great variety of companions of different species and dispositions. From heartless killers to virtuous assassins, from mysterious thieves to babbling scientists, ME2 offers the biggest range of companions in all three games. They all got their own stories and quests to earn their loyalty and interactions with them are developed in great detail. If companion interaction is taken into consideration ME2 was the best of the trilogy.
I cannot reveal much about your vessel in ME2 without revealing important plot complications and despite the fact that you will probably learn what happens in the first 20 minutes of your play time I still don’t want to spoil the surprise. Suffice it to say that:
“It’s bigger, it’s badder, ladies and gentlemen it’s too much for Mr. Incredible!”
What I didn’t like?
Being stripped off a map and a radar which shows the location of your enemies without having to press anything.
Mass Effect 3 :
This final game of the series and the story of Shepard had been a great source of speculation, criticism and/or praise. But we can easily claim that the technical traits are superb when compared to its predecessors. The skill development is neither too plain nor too complicated. Things like exploring planets with Mako or scanning planets to find resources, opening crates and bypassing doors, they have gotten a lot easier while the fights have gotten considerably harder. You can choose to play a story mode which lets you make all decisions yourself or action mode which has your character act without your interference, so those who are fans of rpg can play story mode whereas fans of action games can also enjoy fights without dialogue wheel interference.
There is also the multiplayer option which is not just a technical addition but is essential to the end of the story as well. Now I am not sure how much in favor of it I stand because this is supposed to be a solo rpg and passive-aggressively pressing people to play the multiplayer mode doesn’t sound so fair. However after trying it a few times myself I have to say that I found it very enjoyable indeed. So; Multiplayer option is not a faulty side of the game but it’s connection to the end-game story sort of is.
As for the story of ME3; here there were a lot of fans divided into different opinions, there are those who loved it all the way through, there are those who liked the story development but loathed the end and there are those who found ME3 to be the weakest of the trilogy. I aim to keep this post spoiler free so without revealing anything I will add this: I knew the end game from the beginning of the first game (how could I not? It was all over even on the Dragon Age forums), maybe for that reason it did not affect me all that much or changed my good opinion of the third game. Especially the free downloadable extended cut tied up a lot of loose ends for me so I count myself amongst those who enjoyed the third game all the way through. As for those who hated the end and it took them by surprise, I have to say that there was a whole lot of foreshadowing in the game you could have picked up on; you really couldn’t guess or you just didn’t want to believe? I feel for you though and understand perfectly well where you are coming from. It wasn’t an easy bite to swallow for sure even when it comes with a warning...
Rounding up this post, I thoroughly enjoyed the Mass Effect Games. It is not just a good game for sci-fi fans but for all those who enjoy a good rpg no matter the setting. Keep your guard up and give it a try.
It is an awesome game damn it!