The latest installment in the Mass Effect series is coming out today in my country, and while Mass Effect is one of the most revered and famous examples of Western action-RPG, I will not be playing it any time soon.
The first game in the series I found to be a chore to play. The gameplay was awful, and there was a bug which kept my weapons from recovering from overheat (as there was no reloading mechanic in the first one). It didn’t help that I played it on a potato computer either, which meant the environments looked like something out of a Play Station 2 game, and not a good one. The models and animations were pretty good, however, and I found the writing, story, and world building to be rather interesting. But gameplay-wise, it was dreadful. Thankfully it was also extremely short, and when replaying the entire series I could blast my way through this in only a few hours, skipping all sidequests and optional stuff to go straight from story mission to story mission.
My personal favorite, and that of many gamers I think, is the second game. Even though it opens on the worst case of narrative failure that I can think of (I’ll touch upon that in a later article) but it proves enjoyable nonetheless. The environments still don’t feel like a living, breathing world for the most part, but at least they’re not poorly rendered anymore. The story is on par with the previous one, which is good, and the wide amount of consequences that can stem from the player’s actions is great, until you realize that it is absolutely obvious what you have to do to have people survive the final mission. Which means, if you want your characters to survive, the replayability of the game is actually very poor, because you’ll be replaying nine sidequests to save your precious little characters.
The most controversed episode of the series is the third one, which concludes the first trilogy. It is about on-par with the second in terms of gameplay, and the story takes a little dip in my opinion, as it felt much more linear to play than 2 or even 1. Worse of all was the ending, where all of the questions that the player could ask were hand-waved away by a deus ex machina character and led to three “different endinges” which were merely recolors of each other. I was also pissed off that this game killed my Asari girlfriend, and more importantly that my character kept on her way like she didn’t even care that the love of her life was lying dead in a pool of blood at her feet. I don’t know, I think I couldn’t keep going if that happened.
Yes, my Sheperd was a lesbian all along. I don’t mind the possibility given to the player to play as a homosexual, as I just think it gives players more choice, and you can’t become one if you don’t choose to. I have a slight problem with Kaiden, who was straight in the first game, seemingly becoming bisexual in the third, but it is pretty minor (and the fact that I was playing as a female probably explains why I didn’t find it too contradictory).
I guess the main problems I have with the series (apart from its ending) are the bullet-sponge nature of enemies, which I always hate in video games, and the linearity of the level-design, which hinders replayability. A game like this, which is based around making choices and observing their consequences, is designed to be played multiple times and experimented upon, however, replaying the same corridor shooter for several times is just tiring. A better way to do this would be to design the levels like a Deus Ex game, allowing several different routes and ways to approach the situation, instead of just “run in a straight line shooting enemies until they die”.
But this article is mostly about the new game, Andromeda. So, why will I not play it?
The animations controversy is a part of why I’ll not bother giving money to EA and Bioware. Shipping a game in that stage, without even a day-one patch, for 60 bucks, and then say what amounts to “Yeah, we’ll fix it later” is incredibly contemptuous for the consumer. I’ve said it in my article published yesterday, I’ll say it here, I’ll say it again: EA is milking their consumer base because they don’t know any better. I understand why people who are less calm than I am would be angry at people and throw their anger a little liberaly at the first person they think is responsible, even if I can’t condone some of those comments.
While we’re here, let’s just adress the alleged “sexism” of these people. The problem the critics have is not that this person is a woman, it’s that she did a bad job. Criticizing someone who did a bad job is healthy, and it’s even healthier when you decide to criticize the job itself, regardless of the gender of the person responsible. Saying that this is due to sexism, and even worse, without any proof, is incredibly disingenuous.
Mostly, what I do not want to encourage is the fact that EA seems to be making Bioware is pseudo-Ubisoft. Faced with the great sales of the French publisher (muh patriotism iz pleased) they appear to have started a new wave of open-world games. Problem is, if Dragon Age: Inquisition is anything to go by, it will turn into a generic mess of “kill 10 enemies of this type and bring me their meat to feed my family for, like, a day, because I’m too lazy to do it and I’d rather sit here doing nothing” quests galore, and bland, uniteresting world type. I thoroughly hated the few hours I’ve played in Dragon Age : Inquisition for this reason, and when they announced that this game would be open-world, I just gave up on buying it.
Maybe I’ll go back to Inquisition later on and force myself through it in order to write a proper article on it. With a bit of luck I can find it extremely cheap at my local gamestore. I don’t know yet. We’ll see about that.
Maybe I’ll buy Andromeda for ten bucks when it drops in price in a few years, too. Who knows.