I was thinking more about Mass Effect tonight, in preparation to revisit my female Shepherd in the auspices of the Citadel DLC. I was also thinking about the video game version of Blade Runner. To this day, BR is the only video game I’ve played which truly got choice based gameplay right.
The way BR worked was a “narrowing down of possibilities” style. At the beginning of the game, you had seven or eight endings available to you. By the end of the first chapter, your choices would’ve closed two off. By the end of the second chapter, another two would be closed off. By the time you got to the actual endgame, only two or three endings would still be available. You couldn’t play a Replicant Lover for the whole game and suddenly, in the end game, unlock the “Best Bounty Hunter” ending (also known as the Krystal ending, for the hot babe you get to be with if you go this route). That one was closed off very early on if you made moves to support Replicants.
What this led to was a true need to play the game multiple times and try being a different character each time. Because you couldn’t play nice all game and then suddenly be a dick in the last hour of the game and unlock the “dick” ending. It took more commitment than that, and thus the reward was more fulfilling. When you made decisions, they mattered, because other decisions were closed off.
Mass Effect had such opportunity to do this, and to a degree it does. It handles who lives and dies very well, especially in the Krogan and Geth story lines. The dating is a little weaker, because you can romance everyone to a certain point, but it’s still satisfying. But Mass Effect doesn’t quite bring the choices as far as it could. Much has been complained about the “here’s three doorways” ending, but even beyond this, Mass Effect had very few choices which affected gameplay or game design at all.
Here’s an example. What if, in Mass Effect 2, you could make the effort to save everyone in your team from death in the final Reaper assault, but doing so meant you had to give up the opportunity to teach Shepherd two v very useful and unique psychic abilities? This would make such decisions much more dynamic. It would even make sense: a Shepherd who was willing to sacrifice her team to be a one-man army would have stronger solo-capabilities; a Shepherd who was giving up those abilities would naturally be relying more on teamwork.
Another place this could have easily been put in place was upgrading the ship. Why is it so cheap to upgrade your ship fully? You can easily upgrade the ship, upgrade everyone on the crew, upgrade Shepherd, and still have plenty of creds left over to buy a few dozen fish (to replace the ones that inevitably starved the last time you bought fish). Why was this the case? Why weren’t credits more precious or the ship more expensive to build up, so that you couldn’t choose to both upgrade Shepherd and the ship? Here was an easy opportunity to force players into choice based gameplay. Upgrade your ship to save everyone, or spend the precious credits on upgrading weapons and powers,
As Mass Effect 2 stands now, there is a “right” and “wrong” way to play the game. Once you know how to save everyone (something that I figured out on my first playthrough without much trouble), you’d have to consciously fuck up in order to have anyone die in that missions. Essentially, you’d have to willfully plan to have them get killed, and without any benefit to doing so. It’s one reason I’ve avoided a second Mass Effect playthrough, because I can’t imagine making those kind of changes to my first playthrough. There’s no incentive to change those things and, in a game that tries to showcase its choices as ME does, such lack of incentive is anathema, and unfortunate.
Chrono Trigger was another game that did this right, with the choice to save Magus and get him on your party, or to kill him and free Frog from his curse. While most people couldn’t pass up the chance to get one of the coolest characters in any RPG on their party, it was not inconceivable to defeat him to save Frog (who was the second coolect character), and letting Magus live always carried with it a slight pang of guilt.
Anyway, just thoughts I’m musing on. I’m still waiting for the next Blade Runner or Magus moment in gaming, and I’m surprised that ME wasn’t the one to deliver on it, with all the many sophistications of its programming and branching story.
Citadel DLC run coming soon….
Question with 1 note
todd360 asked: Just curious, what made you peg Control as renegade rather than Destroy? I thought it was a sly twist at the end that what you assumed through the game was suddenly turned on its head in the final moments. Ironically Control saves lives and offers guardianship (with paragon) rather than the dictatorship you get with renegade Control (thin line I know) and Destroy requires the sacrifice of a synthetic race you helped gain full sentience to kill another fully sentient machine race. Just wondering.
Hey, Todd! Thanks for reading. That’s an interesting question and a great perspective on the ending that I hadn’t considered. It gives me more hope that the endings can adhere to different playthroughs.
I will say that the game itself presents Destroy as more of a Paragon action and Control as more of a Renegade action. Why? Because Anderson is used as the mascot in favor of Destroy and The Illusive Man is used as the mascot in favor of Control. In the Extended Cut, they even feature, being shown taking each action as it is explained to you. The message here is pretty clear: Anderson, who has been the stalwart ally of Shepherd throughout three games and is a hero of the galaxy, favors Destroying the Reapers. And The Illusive Man, who has been an enemy of Shepherd for the entire third game and a very devious ally in ME2, favors Control. Because they set it up in this way, it is hard to think of Destroy as anything other than the “good guy” option, and Control as the “bad guy” option.
On a personal note, for my Shepherd, who was a full-out Paragon, destroying the Reapers felt like the SAFEST bet. My Shepherd had been lied to by pretty much everyone over the course of the series, from Udina to The Illusive Man, and now she was supposed to trust a Construct which essentially tells you it’s protecting the Reapers? She couldn’t buy that. She did what she came to do and what the game told her Anderson clearly would have wanted: she destroyed the Reapers.
Post with 1 note
I was prompted to start thinking about the ending of Mass Effect again, partially because I replayed the last segment in order to fix a trophy glitch and partially because I wrote my review, which you can view by clicking the picture below.
Watching the ending again I am still really affected by it. And I keep coming back to the same question: would various Shepherds find emotional closure in the various endings or was the game designed for a specific kind of Shepherd, and specific choices? That is to say, did the writers have certain choices in mind when they wrote the main themes of the game and tackled the endings?
After debate and a little bit of research, I decided I can’t answer this question fully, not without playing another time. I did watch a couple of the other endings. I have to admit, the synthesis ending feels the most off-key, because it’s not a theme that’s brought up at any other time in the game. But the Destroy ending clearly worked for my Shepherd and I can see the Control ending definitely making sense for a Renegade (although I know the ending speech changes if you’re a Paragon and do it).
Again, a full analysis can’t be done without multiple playthroughs. But based on the one playthrough I did make, I felt like certain choices really fit in with the game that the writers, ah, wanted you to play. I say that VERY tentatively. I can’t honestly say that the writers had one series of choices in mind over another. The writing in Mass Effect is clever and subtle, and definitely changes based on choice, as I pointed out in the final Quarian mission, which I saw both ways. This is opposed to games such as the Deus Ex series, where conversation choices and even missions outcomes really don’t affect how the character acts and are secondary to the story the developers want to tell.
At the same time, the writing in Mass Effect does still tell a story, rather than the Fallout model, which just throws you in an open world and pretty much says have at it. Yes, you may be able to create whatever kind of character you want in Fallout, but it ultimately has less value than any Commander Shepherd because no one in the game world cares. You really feel like you’re controlling an avatar in Fallout; just a connection between you and the game. But Shepherd comes alive and progresses through a story that the writers tried to imbue with some meaning and symbology. The question is, in crafting this, did they end up favoring certain choices over others?
These were the three biggest indicators I found of potential favoritism.
In any case, that I made these choices helped make the ending fit my character. A big part of it was because my story was so focused around Liara. Really, the whole point and purpose to my Shepherd was to create a world in which she could live together in peace with Liara and neither of them would have to run, or fight, any more. That’s why she had to choose to destroy the Reapers, even at the cost of EDI and the Geth. Shepherd had promised Liara she would end the war and return to her. And that’s why the ending affects me so much. There’s tragedy, but there’s also hope. All of the goodbyes that occurred prior to the last mission just spoke pages about the fact that this was going to be the last time Shepherd saw any of them, and then Liara’s last heartbreaking cries for Shepherd as she is pulled away by the force of Harbinger’s attack drove it home. And then… well, it kept getting driven home, from Anderson’s death to Shepherd seeing the blood covering her arm, and finally the look on her face as she plugged bullets into the Crucible. And then, after all that, a ray of hope: a single breath amidst the rubble.
So that’s that. That’s pretty much the final debate going on in my mind: will a second playthrough deliver a new experience as engaging as the first time? I won’t be able to answer it until I do a new playthrough. I may post my thoughts when I eventually do that, but I’m not planning on making another journal series for the next time I play. I may end up doing it, regardless, but for now, these are my final words on Mass Effect.
Now I’m off to do more multiplayer. It’s really fun.
After having slept on it, some other random thoughts popped in my head. Nothing close yet to an analysis of the games or a breakdown of the characters/story, just more thoughts on story, design, and little things I wondered about.
An analysis is going to take some thinking and maybe another playthrough. I mean, Mass Effect is admittedly HUGE. The full series was about 90 hours for me, which is maybe not long compared to, say, a JRPG, but there’s so much world information packed into that time that on my first playthrough I feel like I only have the basics down. I can’t even explain, at least not well, how the Mass Effect Relays work, let alone relate the full history of all the various planets, races, and wars. I do have a pretty good handle on character back stories, but then I start thinking about all the options and possibilities I missed. Makes me want to spend all day on the ME wiki, just looking at all the character choices, but that would really spoil things for a future playthrough.
Speaking of which, I haven’t decided if I’m going to go for an insanity run or what. I almost feel like Insanity would just be less fun. ME2 was already pretty balls hard at times and ME3, while not difficult, just had some battles that dragged on. I was pretty efficient at taking out Brutes by the end, but Banshees are hard to hit and take so much punishing. And the little troops, like Marauders and Cannibals, just never stop coming.
I also haven’t decided exactly how I want to play it. I’m thinking of tackling a more roguish dick of a character, male, something like if Zaeed had been put in charge of saving the galaxy (heaven forbid). But I know me; I’m going to have trouble playing TOO much of a dick. Not so much for all the little side quests (it will be fun to make some different choices on those) but for things like killing the Rachni queen or letting the genophage continue unchecked or letting the Geth (or Quarians) die. Those are hard decisions to make, especially when you know that being sympathetic and inclusive turns out well in the end for everyone, with pretty much no consequence (the Genophage being a possible exception that we have yet to see the end of). I mean, the Genophage was headed in the right direction with this, what with not only the death of Mordin, and the threat of Krogan dominance, but also the promise from the Salarian councilor that he WOULD NOT HELP YOU if you cured the Genophage. I thought that made the choice really hard. Win the war? Save a species? But then that gets bullocksed when you save his life and he decides to help you anyway.
Side note, cause now I have to ask: if you don’t save the Rachni Queen, then does the enemy lose access to Ravagers? Because I hate fighting those things and it would be well worth it, from a gameplay standpoint, to kill the Queen if they don’t get to come around.
Anyways, if anyone wants to complain about choice in ME3, it’s areas like the Genophage where the finger should be pointed. I still have a lot of trouble with some of the design choices in all three games, and it’s different for each one, but ME3’s big hang up was that silly galactic readiness map, which really rewards one style of choice over another. I mean, the Paragon really has an easy time in ME3, being able to save Quarians AND the Geth, getting the support of Krogans AND the Salarians AND saving the Turians at the same time. While it really doesn’t have much effect on anything at all, I definitely would have been heart broken to see Liara die because of a lack of military strength, and I loved having Shepherd’s little hint of life at the end. That was exactly what I wanted to see.
So my question is, would this be as satisfying on a Renegade run? I mean, Mass Effect’s story (especially in 3) seems built around the contemplative, understanding, heroic leader. Would it play as well with a Renegade character who is brutal and self serving? I don’t know. Now, maybe I’m misunderstanding Renegade. Maybe the Renegade guy is just someone who gets shit done, no matter the cost, but I remember some choice options throughout the game which were pretty brutal. Especially in ME2, where you can basically side with the Illusive Man. How does that play out in ME3? It would have been interesting if you could have been more allied with the Illusive Man throughout the events of ME3, if you were a Renegade. Like if he were on the sidelines, offering you rewards and support for taking out the Krogans, etc. to replace the offers put out there by the Council and other races.
Basically, what I would look for in a Renegade campaign would be the ability to play a “humanity is going to make it alone” type of character and find the same success and emotional satisfaction that I did with the Paragon “let’s all be friends!” choices. That’s my next playthrough, and I will be impressed if they pull it off. It will never feel quite as awesome as this Shepherd did, though. I’ve said it before, but she was just perfect. Never has a choice-based game made me feel so in control or at least matched up so well with my aesthetic. Some of those ME writers and me would get along fine in a cafe hang out.
Which leads me to some random thoughts. I chose the shaved head for my Shepherd and I really haven’t seen a lot of Shepherds like that from browsing the internet. She seemed so perfect as a soldier, with her military buzz cut. Funny that I mostly see her with long hair and a rounder, less severe, face—like the “official” Jane Shepherd.
Another random thought: I never found Kasumi in ME3! No idea what happened to her. I found every other character from ME2, but not Kasumi. I did read this morning that she has a mission on the Citadel, but I must’ve completely missed it (probably because I hated going back to the Citadel constantly—that counts as true in all three games, by the way).
That makes me wonder something else about a Renegade playthrough. Does making some of those Renegade decisions cut down on content? Like, for instance, letting people die at the end of ME2. Already, to let people die, you’re essentially skipping a lot of loyalty missions (or doing them wrong, I suppose). Like, if you really want to play a dick, you would get Tali or Garrus killed. And that would cut out a huge chunk of ME3. Not missions, I know, but tons of little plot details and character developments. And couldn’t that lead to a far less satisfying ending, no matter how much of a jerk you are playing? And then, if you get someone like Zaeed killed, would you even get that little Citadel side mission in ME3? Or would you get it and he just wouldn’t be there?
I found the ending to be emotionally satisfying in every way. I was very moved by it. Honestly, I have no problem with it whatsoever, though I do understand the need for the extended ending, because that really does provide more understanding and closure, and incorporate more of the series’ choices in the finale.
And I will admit, I thought the “pedophile takes his latest victim for a walk in the snow” tag on was a little unnecessary (despite the fact that I am an avid fan of the “bard’s tale ending”).
But no, I didn’t have a problem with the ending, and I think they are actually fairly different from each other, if not in the actual graphical representation of events, then at least in the implications.
I’ve done some reading on the ending hate, and I’m surprised by the vehemence with which some people attacked the ending. It leads me to believe that perhaps I was in a percentile who seemed to play the game as the lead writers intended it, and thus my choices (such as my relationship with Liara, my shooting the Illusive Man, and Shepherd’s general acceptance of the tragedy of the final mission) felt more supported by the ending scenes then maybe they did for other players. It would take a full second playthrough before I could say that for certain.
On a gameplay level, I wasn’t bothered by the game culminating in three final choices. That pretty much sums up the entire game—go somewhere and make some choices. It’s not like the game itself was any less linear than the final moments. And I’m glad the ending followed that path. I would’ve actually hated it if the ending had just played out for me based on what I did earlier. That said, I’ll have to play again before I can decide whether the final choice is much of a choice, or whether it suits all Shepherds as much as it did mine.
I know some of you hate the ending, but I really, truly enjoyed it and felt not only moved at the end but totally invested and satisfied. Of course, I enjoy tragedy, and I also brought my love interest along for the final mission, which makes things INCREDIBLY tragic. Jeeessus. At least it was pretty heart wrenching if you’re in a relationship with Liara. As I said, I’ll have to go back and play again with some other decisions.
EDIT: To note, Liara survived in my game, but had to say goodbye to Shepherd. I’ve heard she can also die during that mission.
But not right away. I was incredibly attached to my Shepherd and it’s going to be a while before I’ll be able to consider any other version of events as even viable. I mean, I LOVED my Shepherd. One of my favorite things through this process was going around and seeing other people’s Shepherd’s and getting to hear some other choices and decisions. It sounds like you really can build very different characters. Mine was a soldier to the end, a tragic hero who was good at what she did because the times demanded it. All she really yearned for was peace, and a chance to enjoy it. But given the choice, she would chose peace over her own fulfillment.
In the end, she used the Conduit to do what she said she would. She stopped the Reapers. It’s going to be a while before I’m able to process more than that. I’ll come back in a couple days and make a final post summing up my feelings on the series.
In the meantime, I’m sure I’m going to get plenty of feedback on how the ending actually sucks, and that’s fine, but know that I really enjoyed it and have no complaints. Really. None whatsoever. And I should mention that, even if it turns out on a second playthrough that “ohymgod those final choices aren’t much of choices at all!” it’s just not going to get me upset, like so many of the fans were. Maybe because I grew up with the original Deus Ex (some of you will know what I mean by that). Or maybe I was just lucky and made “the best” choices and now that’s stuck in my heart as the “good ending.” Whatever the case, I was impressed and end my playthrough on a great note.
EDIT: Quick war stories. I didn’t die (well, except at the final enemy, the stupid Guardian in slow mo), but there were some tight spots. Also, EXTREME lag during that last run to the beam. I thought my poor PS3 wasn’t going to make it. That actually had me more worried than the enemies, hah!
Oh, also, I should note that my Shepherd did survive in a little scene in the ending. I thought that happens regardless, but just found out it was because my military strength was high enough. That was another cool part of the ending, for me.
Goddamn! Javik has quite the past. Makes me think about the rumors of a prequel that keep floating around. Would I enjoy the idea more if it centered around Javik’s tragic loss of his crew to indoctrination and his need to kill them all, one by one? Yes, I think it would.
So, uh, that’s what Liara looks like. It was nice to get an actual scene, since in ME1 it was, I think I said, like watching the color blue hump the color white and in ME2 the sex scene was more of a “I grab your fully clothed smaller back” scene.
One thing that’s a little disturbing are the invisible pillows everyone in Mass Effect keeps putting their heads on. I noticed it first with Ashley in the hospital. She just sort’ve cricked her neck at this horribly uncomfortable angle for the whole conversation and then I realized the pillows weren’t being shown. Same with the lying in bed scene I just got. Are pillows in the future actually going to be made up of energy fields which fully support our heads at the most comfortable angle? That would be great.
On a side note, I have missed MANY ship conversations this run simply by accidentally double clicking the talk button, which (if still centered on the character), cancels the current chat and skips to the next one (which is usually something like “leave me alone” or “see you later”). It’s been slightly annoying.
One conversation I missed a chunk of was the one between Tali and Garrus as they, uh, “checked her helmet for holes.” Really, that pairing up was unexpected. But alright, why not?
Also, “Emeeergency Induction port.” That’s fantastic. Some of you know what I’m talking about. It does make one wonder what some of the other characters would be like drunk. We know Ashley gets rambunctious and wild, James gets loud, Tali gets sloppy and belligerent, and my Shepherd gets flirty. I don’t know that I’ve seen anyone else drunk. I have some guesses…
Liara: cries a lot
Garrus: the “one more shot” pusher
Javik: really belligerent
EDI: short circuit
On the final missions, now. And what do they do? They force me to bring EDI. Urgh. Well, with that, I decided Ashley would be my second choice. It ended up being good for the final battle against Kai Leng. Also, my new Dominate skill borders on over-powered. It’s insane how much devastation and confusion it lays down in the midst of enemy forces. And it was cool finding out EDI was from that godawful Luna mission. Inconsequential, but a cool tie in nonetheless.
Next update will be my final session. I plan on beating the game tonight.
So it turns out Leviathan is glitchy as shit. I ended up replaying the last part of the Leviathan mission in order to get back my money. In checking out some online forums, it turns out that Leviathan can actually cause all sorts of glitches, two of which I encountered: freezing, and the money glitch. I also lost all of my Normandy fuel (oddly). There’s also supposedly a glitch which cuts out part of the extended ending DLC and one which stops Shepherd from leveling.
Anyway, in a few moments here I’m gonna find out whether it worked. It was fun doing the mission again (I did it much better this time, as usual on a second run). I debated bringing a different time to check out the different responses, but stuck with Liara and Garrus (I’m trying to figure out whether they are a plausible final team). Liara’s responses are especially meaningful if you’re in a relationship with her and I wonder if they are changed if you aren’t. I would guess they are, because she gets pretty intense about you almost dying. She also has a little quip about tentacles, if you go see her after the mission.
And the verdict is in. My money is safe! To celebrate I played another mission, this time taking on Horizon and the Sanctuary facility. Cool mission, fun fighting. I love my new dominate ability. I was using Marksman, kind of as an homage to the first game where it was my most-used skill, but it wasn’t as useful here, I found. The Vanguard became more specialized by ME3 and Marksman is just not the best choice for that class. Mostly it takes too long to recharge your powers. Dominate, though, is quick to recharge and absolutely devastating to the enemy.
Playing Garrus and Liara for the rest of the campaign. Which, if I’m guessing right, isn’t much longer. Getting close, now.
Okay, with Leviathan ending with the phrase “The Truth is Out There,” it’s official. It’s an homage to the X-Files.
It figures that, as soon as I post a session update saying I am done going to the Citadel, I download a DLC mission that involves, what else?, going to the Citadel four times. I’m not really complaining. Leviathan was AMAZING. I didn’t even plan on finishing it tonight but got so involved in the story of it that I pushed through and completed it. I eagerly devoured all of the information gathering choices at the end of the mission. Mike Suskie once said that he thought ME3 players would be more satisfied with the series’ ending if they played Leviathan first. I haven’t beaten the game yet, of course, but I already think I’d be inclined to agree. Leviathan was the highlight of the series, so far, and gave a satisfying explanation for the creation of the Reapers and an explanation for what they do. And I felt shivers down my spine when The Old Ones awoke and swore to direct their anger at the Reaper horde. Awesome, in the true sense of the word. It was awesome power, and willpower, being presented there.
Back to my not-really-complaints: I love the whole “be a sleuth” aspect of the mission, which has you searching around the lab for clues, but was sad to see it get relegated to a “click on everything” adventure game. I did get a little excited when the game presented a quick action Renegade choice to let Ann Bryson continue to stay under Leviathan’s power so you could get full data on where Leviathan was. I hesitated (I’m such a good guy) and missed the option, but in the end it didn’t matter: all it meant was that I had to spend a little time searching and scanning on the galaxy map.
What this mission was lacking, and it’s something I’ve mentioned before in the series, is selective consequences. What I mean is that the best moments in the game have come from when one choice prevents another. These moments have come at lynchpins in the story (Wrex’s death, Ashley vs. Kaiden, save the Council or spare the Human Fleet, etc.) and that’s great. Leviathan told a great story and set the mood brilliantly, seriously creeping me out at times. It only lost its hold on me during those laboratory scenes, where I could tell what it was trying to do, but could also tell that it was failing because of a lack of consequences for sloppy detective work.
Speaking of sloppy, had a couple glitches tonight. My game full on froze right after rescuing Ann, which prompted a hard reset of the PS3 and a subsequent non-negotiable defragmentation to search for any corrupted data. It didn’t find any (say thank ya). The other glitch had to do with my money. It, uh, disappeared. I don’t know where it went. Over the mission I ended up acquiring something like 11,000,000 credits. I know because I checked near the end. So imagine my surprise when I finished the mission and ended up with only 4,500 credits (and god knows where that number came from).
Anyway, credit loss seems to be a common glitch in ME3, both in single player and (this has to be more frustrating) multiplayer. It sounds like if I wanted to, I could reload an old save and the credits should be back, but I’m not really in the mood to replay all of tonight’s session just to get my credits. Yeah, it’s a lot of credits, but I’m sort’ve done spending them. The only other thing I want is to switch my bonus power over to the Leviathan one of Dominate. I used Slam for a long time, now I’m using Marksman, but maxed out Dominate would be really helpful.
In the meantime, I’ll pretend the 11 million credits went towards drinks and ship repairs.
Gonna be short tonight, cause I’m dead tired. First of all, thanks to Mike Suskie for pressuring me to pick up the Leviathan DLC. I started it up tonight and it’s fantastic. It doesn’t feel over dramatic to claim that it is the single best mission I’ve played in the entire trilogy. It’s incredibly moody, and feels like playing through an episode of “X-Files in Space.”
I was a big X-Files fan for the first five years of the show. I recently tried to make it through it all on netflix and was reminded of why I quit around that time. Boy it gets bad, though there is the occasional gem. A personal favorite would be the conclusion of Moulder’s sister obsession. That’s a brilliant episode, and I think it comes as late as season seven. Actually, that was the last episode I ever watched. It felt like the conclusion I’d been looking for. I didn’t care to continue on for another, what? three seasons?
Anyway, this mission reminded me of the early days of X-Files, when everything was about crazy people, possessions, conspiracies, and the unknown. Between the doctor getting shot (I thought he was going to be a main character—well played, Bioware) and the crazy ass mumblers (which is what I’ve been calling the possessed people in the mines), I was actually very creeped out. When the fake doctor started screaming at me and bleeding from the nose, I decided I was all in for this DLC. Not because it was awesome, but because at this point I had to know—what was going to be the payoff for this build up?
I still don’t know, and I definitely don’t want spoilers on this one. I hope it lives up to what it’s promised with this insane build up.
As a side note, Banshees are really hard to kill. I died three times on the Banshees in the mining colony and only beat them in the end because I stumbled across a new Reaper weapon that’s a little bit like a mini-Cain. I miss the Cain :(
If I had known you could play the multiplayer to promote galactic readiness instead of all of that fetch quest bullshit, I would have been doing it long ago.
I promise this is the last multiplayer session I’ll cover. I had to do another one after I realized that there is no deathmatch: this 4 player co-op is what you get. And I’m fine with that, prefer it in fact. I prefer it for two reasons. One, it keeps intact everything I like about the single player game. The same tactics apply, but now you get to go all out with them and really push the system in some cool ways. And two, it gives players a common enemy, which shuts off the more nasty elements of the usual competitive gamer market.
It’s not that the game isn’t competitive or fun, but I don’t have to deal with some 13-year-old teabagging me when I die, and somehow it avoids the Left 4 Dead syndrome, too. That syndrome is the one where players either bash you constantly over the mic for not being up to the standards of play (and then boot you) or run around in circles getting everyone killed. The fact of the matter is, multiplayer Mass Effect is pretty much single player Mass Effect, except that it is a celebration of the fighting system in a way the single player can’t achieve.
Let’s talk about that. One is getting to work with a team. I hinted at this in my last update, and it really is one of the best things about multiplayer. Team play is encouraged simply by the points system: you get points for killing guys. So even though the reality is that everyone is just trying to steal each other’s kills, this ends up playing out as cooperation. I’ve had my ass saved more than once by a teammate who was stealing my kills, and I’ve saved guys dozens of times from hoards of enemies (which, to me, look like big piles of exp candy).
Also, now that I know this is all there is to the multiplayer I can definitively say, yes, I am damn good at this. Which is rare for me to say about a multiplayer game that isn’t on the N64. The only other one I can claim to have been boss at is the latest Alien Versus Predator, and that almost doesn’t count because no one plays it. I was also good at Max Payne 3, but not SO good that I deserve mention. I could hold my own. But here (and this is getting back to the main point) I seem to have a one-up on most of the other players in that I really use my biotic combos, which is another of the cool things about the multiplayer.
I’ve mentioned how much I love Charge, but I have yet to see anyone else use it. Do other players not realize how good this move is? It does massive damage, can teleport you across the entire battlefield (on certain maps, especially), and is an instant shield recharge. I mean, I pretty much view enemies as walking shield recharging devices. I run out of cover, take them on with automatic weapons and then charge them when my shield is broken. And if you pair this, as I do, with relatively light guns (I use a machine gun and an assault rifle) your powers recharge so fast that you’ll be able to Charge once every five or six seconds. It takes skill to use, so it’s not broken, but it’s still unbelievably tough. And if you do charge into a group, use full level Nova to murder everything around you, knock down the survivors, and run to hide for the five seconds before you get your Charge back.
On certain levels, Charge can instakill enemies even with full health, by knocking them off ledges. Cerberus seem to be the weakest against Charge, as two of their special forces (the Phantom and the Snipers) die in it from one hit, as long as their shields are down. It is less effective against Reapers, who tend to travel in large groups, though it is surprisingly effective against Brutes, which lock into attack animations and have trouble breaking them when you charge at them (basically leads to several seconds where they start a new animation that you can just pound on the damage). It is probably least effective against the Geth, who have Pyros and Primes, which you don’t want to get in close with.
Point is, I use my powers a lot and get right up and personal with enemies and most of the other players don’t. I don’t see too much power use in general, except from the really high ranking players. I listened to a couple thirteen-year-olds in one match chatting about how Mass Effect is “basically Halo with a different name” and I think therein lies the problem with most ME players. They think of this as Halo, where you run and gun and try to make shooter-style kills. The GOOD Mass Effect player won’t be confused by the fact that, dear god, you can have a third person shooter in a sci-fi setting that isn’t Halo, and they will use their powers judiciously and employ powered melee strikes fairly often.
Though, admittedly, the base model for the human looks A LOT like the Halo infantry.
Anyway, don’t think I’m going to let all this fun multiplayer distract me from finishing the game. I’ve downloaded Leviathan now, so that’s next up. And now that I’m getting war assets from multiplayer, I’m not making any more visits to the Citadel. Done with that shit. Instead I’ll be focusing on the final string of Cerberus missions and I think there’s only a bare handful of those before the ending. I estimate, with the DLC, that I’ve got between 8-10 hours left to clock. I’m really powerful now and am breezing through missions in about 15-20 minutes. So even that estimate may be high. But I do hear the Leviathan DLC adds a good 2 or 3 hours to the mix.
Hey! I found Ashley. Seriously, I’ve been looking for her for the last ten hours of gameplay. The map kept saying she was in the Observation Room. I’d wander in, look around, nope. No Ashley. Turns out she was passed out on the floor. I remember talking to James about that ages ago and then I simply couldn’t find her. Now I know why, but it means she’s been passed out for half the game. Literally the entire Quarian and Geth war and she just missed the destruction of Thessia, too. That’s kinda funny.
Finished Thessia. Wow, that was actually very emotional, not least because I’m in the relationship . And I kind’ve hate Kai Lang. He didn’t kill me or anything, but using a gunship to cover him sort’ve ruined my chances of decimating him with biotic power. Also, next time I play Mass Effect I’m picking a class which can disrupt shields. Dear lord.
Although the Vanguard class is actually still my favorite. How do I know this? Because today I tried multiplayer. My first thought? Hey, so that’s what that little map is for! I SWORE it was for the main game and I was going buggy trying to figure out how the Galactic Readiness wasn’t going up. Hilarious that it actually ties into the game slightly.
My second thought was, hell, this is A LOT of fun. And should that be a surprise? Since Mass Effect 2, the classes have been built to support each other. If you think about it, it’s actually made for multiplayer, since you never really get to see the classes interact in the main game. But when you get a soldier on the battlefield next to an engineer and then you have me running around as a Vanguard, Charging everything in sight, you start to see how the classes are made almost as if they always had multiplayer in mind. Or maybe it’s just that when you have solid, simple, game design, it always translates over.
I haven’t actually tried the deathmatch modes yet, so I can’t say how good I am at that. I am good at taking on enemy Waves, though I’ve yet to get past Wave 10 (hey, you can’t do everything on your own). I was matching points with players of a much higher level than me and came in second both rounds. Then I had to quit because I saw the afternoon turning into early evening.
Anyway, it’s a lot of fun and the simple weapon load outs and power uses fit together nicely to make the whole experience very accessible. The controls don’t get in the way of jumping in and playing, and that’s very very appreciated. Later this week I’ll try out death match and then I’ll get back to you on whether I’m actually any good.
I logged another hour, cause I got all my work done. Tonight was pretty droll because I was back at the Citadel. You’ve heard it all before, the Citadel is boring, blah blah. What I haven’t talked about before is how buggy it sometimes is, or at least seems.
It’s not really buggy. It’s just that the game doesn’t always erase the names of people who aren’t in the area. Like Barla Von, the Shadow Broker’s Volus who tells you about some Shadow Forces on some planet. I saved the forces waaaay back when but didn’t return to the Citadel with them until Act II (post-Krogan storyline) so Barla Von disappeared. But his name didn’t! Every time I enter the Commons, the map tells me he’s standing next to the bank.
Another example was running into the Elcor ambassador today. He gave me a mission on Dejunna, the Elcor homeworld, but it never appeared on the world map as a glowing light, the way other missions do. Turns out this is because it isn’t a real mission—it’s just another scanning thing. But you wouldn’t know it from the cutscene conversation you have with him. I eventually had to look up where Dekunna was. My favorite forum answer? Next to Matatta. Ha.
Anyway, so it’s not that the Citadel is buggy, it’s just… lazy. Sloppy, unclear, design. But then, that whole aspect of Mass Effect 3, what I very hesitantly call the war effort “mini-game,” has been pretty sloppy. Like I finally got caught by a Reaper ship today and it was… underwhelming, to say the least.
This is in direct contrast to the story missions, like Thessia (where I now am) which is not only beautifully rendered, but brilliantly executed in terms of design. Also, I was surprised how much they worked Javik into the cutscenes. It’s like he was meant to be in this mission all along.
So tonight’s session was actually kind’ve awesome. I had to play the final Geth mission twice, due to an ambiguous conversation choice. Which meant that I finally got to witness first hand how different the scenarios can be based on a choice.
First time through the mission took me a while. I died A LOT on the Geth Primes and even more on the Reaper. I felt silly about that last one, but I honestly couldn’t figure out how to dodge it’s laser beam. I would dodge in one direction and it would just follow me. I couldn’t tell, visually, what the beam was doing so I actually had to go online and find a FAQ to figure out that you dodge once to the left, once to the right and… that’s about as complex as it is. I still think it’s a pretty dumb fight. As for the Primes, that was because Tali and Liara aren’t nearly as good a team in this game as they were in Mass Effect 1. I think Liara had more biotics there, and maybe Overload as well. Also I was poorly equipped, bringing the wrong weapons to the fight.
The ambiguous choice came at the moment where you decide who is going to live: the Geth or the Quarians. I saw a Charm choice that said “Rally the Fleet.” Charm choices usually break the game in your favor, letting you do crazy good actions that save both sides. However, “Rally the Fleet” felt ambiguous to me. I really didn’t want to kill the Geth and that certainly sounded like a call to arms. So I didn’t choose it. I accepted the Geth’s decision instead.
As a result, I got to see a whole scene where the Quarians are wiped out, Tali kills herself (that was a shock), and then the Geth join your side. Though Tali’s death was fairly powerful, I wasn’t satisfied with the way it played out. It didn’t feel like it fit my Shepherd, so I decided (again after checking a FAQ) that I had to go back and try that other choice (the only time I’ve changed a decision in the entire series).
Going back through the mission was way easier this time. I brought Garrus along and switched to my explosive sniper rifle, the Krysae. I progressed so quickly through the level that the game actually glitched and left Tali behind for about half of it. She wasn’t dead, she was just… not there. All of her options were blanked out, too.
Anyway, I beat the entire mission without dying once, this time, and I did it in fifteen minutes. Speed run. And I used the charm option, which led to a much more emotionally satisfying scenario. Even Legion’s death was more satisfying, as he and Tali had a chance to make amends and say goodbye (now that she wasn’t wracked with grief over her fleet). Shepherd’s talk to the fleet was exactly in keeping with the character I’ve built (who has emphasized the power of personal choice in almost every major conversation), and of course you can’t beat seeing the Geth and the Quarians share the world they were both born on.
Also cool was that even the after mission conversation changed and noting how much the tone was affected. The game developers really nailed the mood of both scenes (though admittedly, they are fairly obvious moods to guess). With Tali and the Quarians dead, the conversation with the Asari councilor felt more like a pep talk. Shepherd was silent and brooding, even as she was being congratulated for winning over the Geth. With the triumphant scenario, Shepherd took control of the conversation, saying what the councilor had taken as lines in the other scene and basically leading the conversation to its conclusion. Two different Shepherds, really, and it was great to see the game conform to what any player would be feeling in those disparate scenarios.
So the session went on longer than I would’ve liked, but in the end it was well worth it to see the differences.
I’m back to playing, yes, though very limited amounts each week because of school, work, and a big film project. Tonight I actually clocked about two hours, but I think a third made it onto my save simply because I kept having to take phone calls about a script and from work. But it did feel good to play again. Especially since I hooked up my headphones and so was finally able to turn up the sound and turn off subtitles (I’m a very conscientious neighbor).
Those Reapers ships really can’t do anything to you. I’ve never let them catch me, but I hear it just leads to a critical mission failure. That’s… a little lame.
I did the Legion Geth server mission tonight, and also rescued the peace-loving Quarian general, whom I always liked (and whom I thought had died, so it felt good to save him). The Legion mission was great and I picked up on some hints that this Legion may actually be one of the original Quarian Geth. I have no idea if it’s true, but it still sent a tingle down my spine. And I enjoy a tingly spine. The clues were in the continual mention of a “unit one” Geth, and the sniper gun that was first used against the Quarians being Legion’s model. Strikes against it have to do with time and the amount of Geth that died in the original Quarian assault.
Funny how that got flipped around on us. I was waiting for it to happen, but now it really seems like the Quarians were the instigators of the war and not the Geth at all. I’ve actually always rather liked the Geth, though I will admit I wasn’t sympathetic until late in the second game—the first game sort’ve beats into you the notion that they are bad news. Getting killed by them hundreds of times helps.
The Geth bring up a very relevant question in our own society. As a student of transhumanism, I have been very interested lately in various projects centered around the creation of AI in our own world. Top of the list right now is the team put together by Google to build a functional AI, and it’s headed up by Ray Kurzweil, often considered the father of modern transhumanism and a leading expert on artificial intelligence. There’s a lot of other projects, too, some of them military, others simply driven by market desires. For instance, IBM recently put out a message saying that, based mostly on market forces and consumer desires, computers will be able to use all five humansenses (sight, smell, touch, taste, sound) within five years. And we already have created computer programs capable of creating new program code (in order to self fix bugs and better their own processes)—and the crazy thing is, we can’t always comprehend the new code, it’s written at such an advanced level. In fact, sometimes the code is compressed so that only another program can uncompress and understand it, not a human being. You can read all about self-modifying code on Wiki.
As we start to consider a world not only within our lifetime but within the next decade or two where computers could become another species that we co-exist with, many of the scenarios that Mass Effect uses for plot and dramatic purposes become actual philosophical and social questions. Are we on the cusp of robotic evolution? Certainly. Absolutely. No doubt. Are we on the cusp of robotic revolution?Some people think so, and it’s beginning to feel a little negligent to simply say “only time will tell.” That phrase becomes less useful when the “time” in question is right around the corner.
Started the Quarian missions. Tali is back on the team, meaning I once again have everyone from the first game on my party! That feels good. Maybe, for old time’s sake, I’ll tackle the later missions with Tali and Liara again. I’m leaning more towards Garrus and Liara, though.
Legion is back, too, though I’m a little sad not being able to actually have him on the party. Didn’t expect to, but he’s probably the character I miss the most as far as actual in-mission goes. Him and Kasumi, for her invisibility and stealth attacks.
Not too much else to say. Today was a two hour session, but really I only enjoyed the second hour. The first hour was spent—take a guess—running around on the damn Citadel. I ultimately realized that what bothers me about that so much is that there isn’t any GAMING going on there. I might as well be pushing figurines around a table. Running to one side of a map and pressing the “talk” button and then doing it again on the other side of the map does not count as gaming. When I start thinking about Banjo Kazooie or Super Mario Brothers, when I start regretting giving away my N64, that’s when I realize I’m yearning for an actual game.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate some downtime. There’s also comes a point in Super Mario Brothers where I begin to feel completely uninvested. I may love Contra, but I don’t think about it in between sessions the way I do with Mass Effect. World building is important, but there gets to be a point where I might as well be reading the codex. Setting has to be worked into gaming and carefully designed to fit around it and be integrated with it, not dominate it. And Mass Effect 1 and 3 both got it wrong. Mass Effect 1 with it’s Mako driving stages (which tried to do integration but just did it poorly) and Mass Effect 3 with these ridiculous fetch quests which (a) make scanning so simple I ask myself why I’m even doing it and (b) make you continually return to a central hub for no good reason.
I think the trick is simple. When designing a goal in a video game, there has to be a challenge associated with completing that goal. If achieving a goal is as simple as walk to unobstructed point a, then you might as well just hand it to the player and skip the interlude. There’s no purpose in dragging it out. That doesn’t mean I want to play a hacking mini game every five steps. What it does mean is that I would prefer to actually have to fight to recover some of these fetch items, or to play a more interesting meta game involving space flight.
Because, really, what is this BS with the Reapers flying all around the galactic map? They never catch me. They pose no real threat unless I’m playing with my eyes closed. And for as much emphasis as they put on this war room and map, there really isn’t any meta game going on here. It’s like they designed it to look like a board game, maybe risk or Twilight Imperium, but in reality it is just a linear counter for how close you are to being able to finish the game with a victorious ending.
If there was an actual game going on with all this stuff, where these fetch quests then led me to gaining fleets and resources that I actually had to place around the world map in order to hold back the invasion so I could, you know, go off and save the Quarians—that would be cool. I wouldn’t mind all the running around, then. But no. It’s just filling up a meter.
I mean, what makes a fetch quest actually work? It’s being able to USE what you get out the quest! For instance, getting a bad ass sword in Elder Scrolls, or a new Esper in FFVI, or the ultimate hammer in Super Mario RPG. When a fetch quest fails, it is because you don’t get to actually do anything with the gained item. It’s why EXP can never satisfactorily stand in as a reward in most older Final Fantasy games—the leveling system isn’t usually robust enough to make you feel like you are using what you got. But when you get a new sword or armor, oh man you feel like it was worth it!
I want to be able to USE what I get in Mass Effect 3, to actually put it into action on some kind of global board, to show me an immediate effect in pushing back the villains of the game.
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