I’m going to spoil the end of Mass Effect 2.
Okay, here it is…
You’re going to save the galaxy.
There are a lot of choices to make in the game, but as long as none of those choices are “I’m quitting this game”, you’ll inevitably fight the big bad and win.
Because of those choices, everyone on your team might hate you, or love you, or want to sleep with you, or want to kill you. They might all die. YOU might die.
But you will BY GOD save the galaxy, mister. Period.
Furthermore, along the way you WILL face the bad guys on a colony world, and get lured into a trap, and crawl through the mind of a dead, mad god.
The rest of it is theoretically up in the air, but I could probably still name about twenty-three other WILL HAPPEN things that every Mass Effect 2 game has in common. And I’m not picking that number randomly: there are twenty-three, precisely.
I’m going to do the same thing with Dragon Age: Origins.
You’re going to beat the Big Bad. Again, you might die or live based on your choices, and the people you have on your team and what they think of you depends on what you do and say, but there are a few immutable things that WILL HAPPEN in every playthrough. Broad strokes, but immutable none the less.
Now here’s the real gut punch for a collaborative storytelling games junkie like me: I love those games. Love em. I’ve played DA through three times (and two half-runs I have hold), and Mass Effect 2? More than that. Five? Yeah. I can pretty much recite every one of the unavoidable events in both games. (And will do so at the slightest provocation.)
Those games have demonstrated a hard fact; something that most story-games (if not story-gamers) would choke on, just a little bit, because it’s a slightly bitter pill.
Good or bad, it’s the truth.
The best thing a game can do is help a mediocre or novice conductor deliver a good trip.
Everything after that (read: a lot of the stuff that newer indie games concern themselves with) is – perhaps – a level of play many people will never miss.
Regardless of how great that stuff is.
*wanders off to ponder*