When Mass Effect 3 came to an end people were clamoring about how bad the ending was.
Having never played any of them the debate really had no interest to me.
So one year after the release of Mass Effect 3 I decided, I should probably play them.
I’ll be playing them all in order and playing them to the fullest. Since these games require you to beat Normal Mode to unlock Hard mode and Hard mode to unlock nightmare mode… I’m only doing one playthrough.
It’s weird that Bioware stated only 5% of the population actually did their hardest difficulty setting without looking into WHY so few people played their games on the hardest difficulty settings.
Regardless, three brief reviews of three Bioware games.
Mass Effect 1
Sheppard you have to prove your worth and will be observed on your mission.
Promoted to SPECTRE!
Yeah that’s how this story begins.
Highly unlikable shallow characters galore.
Worst yet the game is constantly reminding you that you can choose as you want. The Council (who are like your bosses) are always reminding you that they do not care what you do or how you pursue your mission. However at the end of every mission they will make sure to lambast you. HOW DARE YOU SAVE THOSE PEOPLE they might say… if they find nothing wrong with what you did.
Much like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic you can just go wherever you want with no absolute path. One of the things I was immediately attracted to this game was how you could travel to so many planets that had nothing to do with the story at all and chase a bunch of red herrings.
The game allows you to pick various characters to bring along with you. In my experience it seemingly did not matter which characters I brought with me. There were unique conversations but nothing major.
The game features a moral system. I of course, hate moral systems. You get dialogue choices in which one line of questioning is rather neutral, one is kind of dickheadedish, and one is kind of nice and friendly. The problem is the words you are given don’t always indicate which is which. Sometimes you might get something like “Keep talking” and then suddenly Sheppard will jump on that person in a very negative manner.
No time to dance when you’re saving the universe
But you get two moral leveling options, Good and Bad (real names? who cares). Supposedly these moral choices have an effect on how things go.
The combat system is pretty bland. You get behind an object and fire at dudes. You hit a spell button and hit dudes really hard. The grenades are annoying. You throw them straight and have to activate them. While waiting for them to hit the right location you are left exposed and fired upon while watching.
The RPG elements in the game are pretty weak. I think a good RPG needs to have a large number of mostly useless skills. Skyrim is the perfect example of a game full of mostly useless skills. In this game you get Charm and Intimidate. So I maxed out charm and every now and then as long as I followed the path of good I’d get a unique option to get extra cash and XP.
On top of this you were allowed to customize your team mates. This is where the bulk of those useless talents kick in. The default option is auto level… which is what I used. 99% of the time I didn’t have enough “Electronics” to salvage anything.
Overall Mass Effect is a great game and a great start to a series. With every single unlock completed it took me 14 hours to finish the game. Once again however I am playing each game through three times so I can do all difficulty levels… that’s just retarded game design at work.
Had I bought this game in 2007 at $60, I might not be so enthusiastic about how little play value I get out of it. But as of $5 Steam sales this game is pretty good.
Mass Effect 2
I tried my hardest to keep my save file from the previous game and play with it here but no matter how hard I tried I just could not get it to work. So I played the game fresh with no information from the previous game. It was a little disappointing because apparently it made some major modifications on the game.
But whatever. You open the game and Sheppard dies, the end. Except he’s kind of cloned back to life. His entire team has disbanded and he has to pick a new team. I was desperately hoping that my krogan was still alive. I took a path in Mass Effect 1 that allowed me to keep him alive.
The game however was successful in making sure Kaiden was dead. I hated Kaiden so much so I was happy to see him go.
Since Mass Effect 1 seemingly killed off the big bad guy who successfully killed off the Protheans it is essential for them to create a new threat that is large enough to make bringing Sheppard back to life worthwhile. The new threat are a bunch of garbage men… I’m sorry collectors. This brings Mass Effect into the oh so common path of having insectoid enemies.
So a man, an Illusive Man, sends Sheppard on a mission to kill all the bugs. You know, like Starship Troopers. The switch is now Sheppard is working for the bad guys and of course everyone knows there are some devious evil corporate terrorist stuff going on here.
The character creation was just so much better. Apparently I could have picked a class in the first game, I had no idea until I played the second game and found eight classes. I played as an Adept so that I could shoot lightning balls at people and be a boss like Goku.
Unlike the previous game I could play this on hardest difficulty. The big change is that enemies have so much health you run out of ammo and you are forced to Goku blast people to death.
The talent trees are really tiny compared to the old ones. Basically you can completely max out your talent tree by the end of the game.
This ruins replay value because it means you can’t try and play the same class again with a different build. Yes it means you can only replay just the 8 classes, what a sad sorry world we live in (that’s sarcasm).
I tried my hardest not to have sex with anyone while playing but dear god you play the Paragon role and it’s guaranteed you will get every single female on the ship guaranteed (and maybe even a gay lover or two).
The game mechanics changed around quite a bit. The old infinite ammo heated weapon mechanic was replaced with actual ammo clips. The downside is… you run out of ammo, a lot. Head shots are in which is cool but massively downplayed by the insanely high amount of damage you wield through powers.
Some cool new things I liked is the ability to position your squad. It makes you feel like you’re actually commanding a squad that matters as opposed to a bunch of people that sort of just do their own thing and subsequently die all the time. It doesn’t matter how many times you command them to stay out of fire in cover, as soon as you move they seem to just change position. This of course makes it all around less tactical because honestly what’s the point of ever bringing the sniper (Garrus) if he always run to the front of the fight and dies.
They also changed up the planet scanning mechanic from being a collectible to being a way of customizing your weapons. Truthfully this was the part of the game I cared least about so any change to this won’t matter to me (unless they remove it). I scanned every single planet in the galaxy before embarking on too many missions and truthfully the game would not let me upgrade heavily… so it seemed pointless.
They definitely have more lineararity to the game. In Mass Effect 1 you could leave planets at any time. There could be zombies everywhere chasing you down and you could be like, yeah I’m leaving this place. Mass Effect 2 locks you in. Once you enter a zone or a planet you are locked into that zone or that planet and you may never leave. To make it feel more like levels you get a status report at the end telling you all your rewards for completing said mission.
But to make it feel a little more open ended The Illusive Man informs you that you can choose whoever you want to be on your team, he is merely giving you dossiers of the galaxy’s most qualified men. So you get all the missions in blocks to complete.
Unlike the previous one you don’t have a ruling council sitting at the end of every mission going REALLY MAN YOU’RE SUCH AN ASSHOLE!
I’m uncertain how I feel about this. I didn’t particularly enjoy the sandbox style of Mass Effect. It seemed kind of tedious and pointless. Sandboxing to me feels like where you should be able to do everything or it sucks. And that’s kind of the problem I had with Mass Effect 1. It feels like the far more linear storyline of Mass Effect 2 works out.
There are some Easter Eggs but I mean they’re so obscure and hidden 99% of people won’t get it. The Miranda/Sheppard love story takes dialogue directly from Team America World Police. There was also a reference to Star Wars I noticed and then there were tones of Easter Eggs so obscure not even I’ve heard of them.
It was about my third day on this game I spotted this:
Why yes it is in fact the lofty promise that everyone references that Bioware made (that there was seemingly no evidence of) that your decisions would create your own individual specific ending… except that’s not what it says.
Good time to shift over to Mass Effect 3!
But before doing so I should note that my copy of Mass Effect 2 (on Steam) came with all of the DLC. The standard copy gave 30 hours of gameplay, the DLC added about 5 more hours.
Oddly enough the DLC isn’t listed on the Steam page despite the game containing it.
When you compare to the original it just makes Mass Effect 2 that much more amazing.
But yes, time to move on to the grand finale, Mass Effect 3.
Mass Effect 3
Is it just me or did they give Williams a sexy make over?
Mass Effect 1:
Mass Effect 3:
Yes let your hair down Lieutenant Williams because it’s time for Mass Effect 3!
So right off the bat a lot of the annoying things from the Mass Effects are gone, mainly scanning the galaxy for minerals this was a tedious boring grind and I’m happy it’s gone. In its place is a zone wide scan to see if there’s anything interesting (extra missions). Far bigger improvement.
I’d also like to announce that I was able to transition all my data from Mass Effect 2 to 3…. yay I would have flipped my shit had it not worked.
Immediately the first thing I notice (and most people do) is the game is structured a little less sandboxish. There is about 20 hours of extra side missions to do, but you can opt to skip all of them and only complete the main objectives in 20 hours. Yes I did the side objectives anyway.
The upside is that it means you are getting 40 minutes of well scripted voice acted content. This can be compared to Mass Effect 1 in which you ran around in a dune buggy and killed a bunch of people at an outpost 100 times as your side missions.
Or this can also be compared to Mass Effect 2 in which you went across the entire galaxy scanning every single inch of every single planet in hopes that one of them would have a compound for you to attack that would have a few enemies in it to kill.
Having these side missions scripted gives them context and meaning in the overall story. I never felt at any time I was doing a mission which only involved me killing stuff.
Also there are less options as far as crew members go. You might remember that in Mass Effect 2 you had nine different crew members to choose from. This approach was actually really dumb on Bioware’s part. I’m sure many people shat on Bioware for not including their favorite new champions in this game, but I like it. With as many champions as there were in Mass Effect 2 I feel I didn’t get much of a chance to meet the reptillion guy or the matriarch woman or well… most of them. Cutting down the roster also means the various champions are very specialized as opposed the the vast number of copies that I saw in Mass Effect 2.
So story. Well the reapers are finally here and they are… zombies. The first wave of guys were robots. The second wave were proteon bugs. The third wave are space zombies. They’ve pretty much covered every single scifi villain race.
The reapers randomly show up and simultaneously invade everything Sheppard is re-commissioned to the Alliance Army to unite everyone under his banner to do battle with the reapers. To make matters worse Cereberus is evil again and doing all sorts of bad things.
One major difference in storyline elements between this one and the others is that the others featured a lot of unknowns. It wasn’t entirely certain what they would face when they reached the end. In this one they know exactly what they’re facing because it’s just always around.
To this extent the storyline writers had to make some major stylistic changes to how the story is told and added in a lot of hipster bullshit stuff that was seemingly unnecessary. On top of that they’ve also made sure to elevate every single average character or champion from the past games to some massive status.
It goes like this.
I MET SHEPPARD ONCE, HE HELPED ME MILK A COW!
Promoted to General.
But seriously the story of this game is REALLY good. A lot of people are going to dislike that it moved further and further away from sandboxing. To me the Mass Effect series is great for someone who likes well written stories. This can be compared to Elder Scrolls which has all around terrible story telling but really great sandboxing elements.
The worst Mass Effect is…. Mass Effect 1.
Hands down out of the three this is the worst. There are tones of terrible design elements that don’t fit. Mass Effect 2 is so clearly the best Mass Effect. Despite having way too many champions it made for an insanely satisfying experience. Mass Effect 3 just might have been too cinematic. Just the shear amount of time spent on cinematics is insane. It could have easily been over 50% of the game.
So closing this one out.
My favorite thing about the Mass Effect universe is easily the Morden. When you first get him in Mass Effect 2 he is a scientist who carries a shotgun, gunning down any mercenaries that come to his clinic. He thought like a utilitarian seeing things in terms of results.
We find out that he engineered the deadly genophage virus that was killing off the Krogan population. But over time as he travels with you and sees the consequences on people’s lives that he is causing he slowly changes his mind.
By Mass Effect 3 Morden is so pro-Krogan that he leaks information to the Krogan clans of a cure.
It is because of this transformation from psychotic sociopathic doctor to caring and guilt ridden scientist that his death is so tragic. It is interesting to know that only 5% of people opted to murder Morden, goes to show how much people got into this moment.
There is no single statistical choice as low as this one. Every single person wanted Morden to become a better person.
It is stories like these that made people rage so heavily at the end of Mass Effect 3. Mass Effect from start to finish has had a very emotionally invested storyline in which you are introduced to a large cast of very likable characters who you personally have an impact upon.
To me I was more upset about the ending of Mass Effect than Mass Effect 3.
In the end the game offers what people wanted, a different story every single time. After finishing all three I decided to look up Rachni Breeder Betrayal. As it turned out had I saved the Queen in Mass Effect 1 the Queen would have appeared in Mass Effect 3 and not betrayed me.
The game offers tones of permutations and alterations. So what if the game ends the same way every single time. If you really cared about the ending of an RPG you probably haven’t played a lot of RPGs. Skyrim ends the exact same way every single time, and yet you never hear people complain about how absolutely crappy the ending is to that game.
In the end Mass Effect 3 is not a bad game. It’s not the best of the series. But it’s definitely worth purchasing the entire series (on sale of course) and playing through all of them.