What I’m Playing: Mass Effect

Or rather, what I played. I finished the game on the 23rd. I checked, and it seems to be the first Bioware game I ever played in earnest. (I had bought Baldur’s Gate at some point, years after its release, but never had the time to actually look at it.) Overall, I can say I was pretty happy and will look at more Bioware games in the future. Let me start with the bad things first, though, to end the post on a high note.

The Bad

The combat was a bit meh. That’s probably because I’m not any good at FPSs. What happened was that I started the game on Normal difficulty, and then got annoyed at the seemingly random deaths. I could play a combat scene four times, dying three times at different stages, only to finish the fourth time, but without any idea why it went better this time. My squad members also were quite useless, either standing around doing nothing, or getting killed almost immediately. I guess I just sucked at squad management. At some point I just got annoyed (still relatively early on) and switched to Easy. That helped, but almost a bit too much. Especially as the game went on and I got shock trooper specialization, I got nigh invincible. Even my squad members survived every now and then!

Control was pretty annoying overall. It was better than with many other console ports, but the game still could’ve made use of more keyboard shortcuts.

The romance stuff felt tacked on. About midway through, I couldn’t talk to Kaidan any more without ending up in sappy talk. I didn’t like him enough to let that get anywhere though, so I had to be very careful around Kaidan not to inadvertently end up with him.

Which ties in with another problem I had: Sometimes it wasn’t clear what effects a certain line in conversations would have. More than once I chose a reply, only to realize that the way Shepard put it was the opposite of what I wanted. A preview option would’ve been great here.

The final decision who to choose for the council. That felt manipulative. You had the choice between someone who had always tried to help you vs someone who had stabbed you in the back. Still, I think I’m happy with my choice (more about that later).

The Good

Real choice. That was very nice. Not all decisions were clear-cut, many situations weren’t black and white. It didn’t always work, but sometimes is better than never.

A good female character and model. I decided to play a female Shepard. The default model was thankfully very adequate, it didn’t suffer at all from the chainmail bikini water balloon problem. Jane Shepard is more a crossing of Ellen Ripley and Samus Aran than of Wonder Woman and generic fantasy elf no. 23. (Which incidentally reminds me of this interesting site; thanks to Toldain for the link. It seems that the more reasonable the armor of a woman, the lower the risk of weird stereotype body proportions.) I took the default model with very few changes and haven’t regretted that at all.

The story was for the most part interesting. Some of the side quests didn’t seem to go anywhere or have much reason. I think, for example, of the heritage armor that everybody agreed on in the end was a piece of crap. Overall, it was enjoyable, though. It wasn’t necessarily innovative, what with fighting the greatest threat to all life ever. But I liked the way it was transported, and the fact that not all decisions were obviously right or wrong added to that.

My Playthrough

This is more for documentation purposes. If you have played the game, too, you can compare your choices with mine. In case it’s not blindingly obvious, this section will be 100% spoilers.

I let the Rachni queen live. I didn’t see any reason to kill it, other than: “They’re bad, bad things. We fought them before and thought we had driven them extinct. You better make sure they don’t come back!” That wasn’t enough for me to kill off a whole species.

When I had to decide, I saved Kaidan. That was the only logical choice. I sent Ashley with the troops, because she’s a solider and Kaidan isn’t. So Kaidan is with the bomb, which is of utmost importance. The Salarians died as distraction, and you’re destroying what potentially is a cure for the genophage. You better reach your goal with those stakes.

Wrex lived. I didn’t see any reason to kill him. Everybody in his situation would protest. Also, he was, with Garrus, my squad throughout the game because I like the two characters most. It also gave a subtle tension between a race that’s on the verge of dying out, and the race that is responsible for that, even though that tension wasn’t very apparent between the two in the game.

I rescued the council, but only after I realized that my choice didn’t have any effect on the outcome of the citadel battle, and killing the council would lead to what looked like a human hegemony over everybody else, which didn’t sound good, seeing how humans are still upstarts compared to many other races. When asked who to suggest for the council, I deferred the decision. Shepard is a soldier, not a politician. It’s not her decision to make.

Next Up: Mass Effect 2

I actually started last night. I’ll probably finish it before I return to Oblivion. Mass Effect 1 at least didn’t feel very long, I finished it in less than 30 hours. (Not that I’m complaining, at 3,74 Euro that’s still a lot fun for little money.) I hope it’ll be just as good or better. I’m looking forward to more good story. My two big wishes coming from Mass Effect and having seen the intro to ME2: I want to find a cure for the genophage, and I want to break free from Cerberus as early as possible.

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