Because even thoughts need a place to rest.

5th December 2012

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Mass Effect: Day 1

Since this is the first time I’ll ever have played Mass Effect and it is held in such high esteem by sci-fi and gaming fans alike, I thought I’d chronicle the experience—keep track of what I get out of it.

Mass Effect 1

My first night took me from the beginning of the game up through the first level—basically, I activated the beacon and had a couple conversations on the ship before quitting. I’m playing a female Shepard, named “Zipp.” She’s an earthborn war hero, Vanguard class. I was very close to selecting soldier because I like the weapons diversity, but ultimately I was too interested in the biotics to pass them up. You know, my obsession with transhumanism and all.

The combat takes some getting used to, but I’m pleased to discover that it’s actually pretty simple when you get down to it. I like the combat and the leveling system much better than I did in Dragon Age. All around, the whole thing feels more user-friendly, if not entirely intuitive. It’s simpler in terms of the actual abilities and number of things you can do with a basic attack, but that leads to a wider variety of strategy; where you aren’t held back by having to remember two dozen abilities and how specific attacks interact. The computer AI seems a little more intelligent than in Dragon Age, too, but I don’t want to take this comparison too far—it was really just a thought that occurred to me while I was playing.

One of my big fears about the game was that I would find the conversations stilted or boring. It has been a big problem for me in the Fallout series, the Elder Scroll series and, yes, the Dragon Age series. I feel bad skipping dialog and not checking dialog options in those games when it’s clear so much work went into world building but the presentation of that world building is so poorly written, or just so much exposition, that I get bored.

Not the case here: so far I’m finding myself actually interested in what everyone has to say. Mostly because what characters say feels relevant and, more importantly, realistic. I don’t feel like I’m being spoken to as a player, but rather as a character and the exposition rarely feels convoluted: there are few lead ins like “Oh? The global war? Everyone knows about that!” followed by an explanation of this thing everyone supposedly knows about. The interaction between Shepard and the characters leads to information being revealed, not explained, and I appreciate that a lot. I also like that Shepard says more than what you select as the dialog option. It makes it feel like I’m directing a film, rather than selecting choices from a menu: I’m never entirely sure how she’s going to handle my conversation choices and it’s a large part of the fun to see how she handles them.

I haven’t really made any big decisions yet, at least none that feel big (except maybe that I’ve been totally honest about my visions, and have decided to call them visions of “death”), so I don’t have much to share on that front. I’m playing a fairly “white knight; no nonsense” character with a strong sense of loyalty. Zipp has developed friendships with both Ashley and Kruiden and I definitely like the both of them (another surprise: it’s rare for me to like characters as equally as I do here). I’ve gotten a fair amount of Paragon points thus far and I don’t think any of the antagonist points. Fairly standard for me, really, in this kind of game—I’m just a hopeless good guy.

I really don’t have any major complaints so far, which is a good sign: usually the problems with a game show themselves in the first run and get worse as time goes on. For balance’s sake, I’ll throw out a few little things:

- the music in some sections is overly repetitive, like the same three notes being played over and over. Thankfully it has only happened a couple times, but once (the first time you are on the ship) was bad enough that I muted the music until the section was over. I have faith it’s not going to be a big issue throughout the game, as I know most of the ME music is fantastic.

- The cinematics have some delayed pacing in the dialog and character movements which I think comes about because they are using in game graphics to produce the cinematics. Sometimes the characters just don’t have the right weight to their movements in these scenes or the sound won’t completely match with the visual or there will be awkward silences. It’s not glitchy; it’s just put together oddly.

- It can be difficult to stay in cover, sometimes I’ll lose cover in the middle of my aim and won’t be able to get back behind it without jittering the control stick. It got me killed once but is definitely not annoying enough to kill my enjoyment of the game.

Tomorrow I’m off to see the council alliance. I think. Who knows what twists the game has in store for me? Well, actually, everyone but me knows. You’ve all played this before.

Tagged: mass effect playthrough