In which I give in and talk about Mass Effect

Yeah yeah, I know: the game’s been out for two or three years — it’s old news.

Well, not to me. A few weeks ago (after reinstalling my home system), I was redownloading games I’d bought through Steam, and I got a ‘suggestion’ (read: ad) to pick up Mass Effect 2, which is the current hotness in the gaming world.

And honestly, I had reservations. Yeah, I know it’s a great game, and it’s getting a lot of geek love, but it’s something like 50+ bucks, so… eh. I’ll wait.

But then I noticed Mass Effect was up on Steam, also. It *also* got a lot of gamer love when it came out.

And it was a damn sight cheaper.

… and that’s where I’ve been for the last week or so. Flying around the galaxy, fighting AI robots, pirates, smugglers, things that want to destroy all life…

And trying to hook up with other members of the crew. As one does. Of course.

It has been, not to overstate it, a blast. A few thoughts.

Gameplay

  • I’d read some thoughts from people about the combat system and the inventory system and the hacking system — nitpicky complaints, largely, but complaints — and I’m just not seeing the problem.
  • I believe this is because I’m playing on a PC, not a console — I’ve never been much of a console RPG gamer (Fight games? Sure. Lego Star Wars? Heck yeah. RPGs? No.)
  • The hacking “maze” remains fun without cock-blocking what I’m trying to accomplish. The combat controls (once I figured out the magic behind the spacebar-driven menue) is pretty slick, and the inventory… well, yeah, okay: the inventory system is pretty stupid, but now that I understand it, it’s not that bad.

Character Customization

  • I like that I can make up my own “look” for the protagonist, and specialize his skill set. Said skill set choices basically consist of:
    • All-combat.
    • Finesse Combat (sniper rifles and pistols) with some tech abilities.
    • Finesse Combat with some psychic abilities.
    • All-tech.
    • Tech + psychic.
    • All-psychic.
  • I think that’s about it. I opted for the sniper-rifle/pistols option (which should surprise precisely no-one) and the tech option, because I don’t like not being able to open ‘special’ doors in games of this nature.  I am very happy with the result, as he feels like a very space-age commado, and in order to cover my gaps, I need to bring my two favorite NPC crew members along on missions. (Wrex (combat and psychic) and Liara (pure psychic)).
  • I love having the point-buy freedom in customizing my guy; focusing the elements of play I found interesting and pretty much ignoring the stuff that bored em. I ALSO loved that I could choose to level up the NPC crew members as well, if I wanted — it let me vicariously play all the various character options.
  • In hindsight, I feel the Tech options are a little weak, and I might have likes to do some of the cool-ass “biotic” powers, but if I’d gone that route I’d have been been completely hamstrung with regard to tech problems like locked doors and encrypted macguffins, so it’s just as well.

Story Customization: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

I went a particular route with my character; I pictured a considerate, do-the-right-thing-even-if-it-sucks, Humanity has to Earn Respect character — Malcolm Reynolds, if his stand in Serenity Valley had led to a costly victory for the Independents and eventual concession from the Alliance — and selected my responses during play based on that. The result was someone with very little “renegade” rating and a nearly maxed out “Paragon”. Moreover, the further I get into the game, the easier and more obvious those choices become for me — I’m entirely in the right mindset for this guy, even when that mindset leads me to some REALLY CRAPPY, PAINFUL decisions.

(Seriously: this game had me agonizing over some of the choices I had to make before I could move forward. A. GON. IZ. ING.)

But I have to tell you: I’d love to play this whole thing again as a real rogue. It would be a pretty different game.

Hopefully I’ll get a chance to, but who knows?  Kaylee bought Daddy Mass Effect 2 for his birthday, and it’s waiting for me to conclude it predecessor and show me how far the game’s creators have come in three years. Smirking, is what it’s doing.

(It’ll have to wait: I’m using it as my carrot-reward for doing some revisions before I let myself install it. Maybe someday I’ll even get Dragon Age and play it too.)

And honestly? That’s just a little bit sad — I know ME2 is a good game, and will probably make me love it more than the original, which means I might not feel the need to go back and really do the game up right, now that I understand how it all WORKS right from the start. (I don’t read manuals and I only use a single save-point during these games, so there’s no “go back to before I fucked everything up on Tuesday” option for me.)

I hope, at some point, I get the chance, cuz it’s a good game.


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