With all the Mass Effect news buzzing around, whether it be new features or straight fan-bait for the slump in productivity yet to come, it’s a game that one just can’t ignore. With its March 6th release growing near and the demo a little over a week away, everyone just can’t stop talking about Bioware’s critically acclaimed title.
Even I have been a victim to it.
Okay, so victim may not be the right word. How about Shepard-obsessed-fan-girl-who-can’t-wait-to-kick-some-Reaper-butt-and-stick-it-to-the-Illusive-man? Yeah, sounds about right to me. After all, victims don’t make songs about video games that cause them to turn into social recluses.
Aside from all the fandom that may go on involving the game, a request has been brought to my attention. Over the last week, I’ve been asked of my personal opinion on Mass Effect. As a critic, I was asked to look at it from a different stand point; the stand point of someone has never touched the series before. Even more recently, I’ve been asked why it’s so great.
Well, imaginary people who may or may not be reading this in the Old Spice guy’s voice, let’s look into this.
Mass Effect is not a perfect title
Despite its vast array of fans and followers, the game has problems and it’s not for everyone. It’s boasted as this Holy Grail of games and it’s simply not. I love the series but too many boast it to be a perfected mold of what RPG/shooters should be.
I can go into personal experiences with the series to explain this. My own indoctrination into this cult of a following was much like many others. Oddly enough, the first ME flew clear under my radar and not until a friend offered it to me did I even know what it was. It sat on the table for a few days until, out of sheer boredom, I started playing. Immediately, I started nitpicking at it.
The inventory was confusing.
The mechanics were messy.
The Citadel (despite how fun it is to say that) is like the Water Temple all over again.
It was downright glitchy…but for some reason, I kept playing.
Mass Effect is one of those titles with a lot of strong points that pull you in for the long haul. The inner workings that make it tick however, isn’t one of those points.
Now, I don’t want to rag on Bioware. They do good work and make amazing games but, if we can be honest for a moment; all their games have been a glitch-fest and possessed poor mechanics.
With these obvious issues, what makes the series so great?
Two things called showmanship and immersion.
When it comes to the question of what makes the ME series so great, it’s the little things in the way the story is presented and handled. It’s not about frame rate or game play. It’s the story and your place in it.
ME is all about cause and effect and the illusion that they both are in the palm of your hands. The game allows you to feel as though you are actually molding the world around you to your liking and preferences. Many games try to give the feeling of having a choice and a say in what goes on; ME just happens to be one that actually achieves this for the most part.
Having the ability to make Shepard your own and choose what type of person he or she may be is just the icing on the cake. Of course we know that there are only so many paths that Shepard can go but the great illusion that makes it seem endless is done very well. Even the most renegade player has a soft spot that can make a small situation different. Even the most pure player can make a morally unjust decision. Either way, when playing, you feel as though that small choice has some big effect on the outcome of the game. That small detail is what makes the story seem a lot more immersive than most.
Who’s this Shepard dude anyway?
A number of games allow you to make your character and go through the story playing them. Not many though allow you to actually feel like you are changing things in the world around to fit your play style. They don’t give you a choice of your characters background or attitude. Not that this isn’t a road that has been walked before but, not this well. You actually get to choose everyone’s immediate perception of your character. Thankfully, it’s not voiceless, pointy haired, hero with childhood problems that were never resolved. You have a personality and one that everyone takes note of.
For example, I can be a dick and everyone react accordingly instead of acting like it never happened after the exchange is over.
Your interview with Khalisah al-Jilani is evidence of that.
When meeting the reporter, who obviously is trying to get a rise out you, you can either:
A: Go along
B: Refuse to continue to interview
C: Falcon Punch her on camera
I think you know which option I choose.
Because of this, people react differently to you. When you run into her the ME2, she obnoxiously points out to you that you punched her…in the face…on camera.
It’s rare that developers decide to keep up continuity with things like that. It’s often that moments like this occur and everyone acts as if it never happened. Better yet, it pulls a Fable. You do something horrible and unforgivable but, after a few small good deeds, it’s forgotten.
Mass Effect is definitive about those things. Once something’s is done, it’s done. There’s no going back to change in.
…well, unless you load a previous save of course
A fun bunch
Aside from the story and its morality, the characters are another strong point that one can’t ignore. The colorful cast, aside from Shepard of course, keeps the story as interesting as your choices do. Their diverse backgrounds -ranging from Tali’s calm and timid nature to The Illusive Man’s questionable but noble seeming demeanor- can keep you guessing and make for some amazing character development between them and you.
Your crew is where a lot of things come together. Depending on your personality and the love interest or friends you choose, your interactions vary. Going after more than one character can cause tension as well.
Like most people, I’m eagerly waiting on Miranda and Ashley to go at it.
For those who have fallen in love with the Mass Effect series, it’s a on a different level than you do with most games. How else would you explain enjoying a game with elevator scenes slower than molasses?
ME is an experience that is shaped by the player. What you put into the game is what you get out of it. When you really dedicate yourself to your Shepard, the experience is yours alone and one that will leave a lasting effect.
Have I convinced you yet?
Are you thrilled to meet this Shepard?
Though I was originally trying to convince you of what makes this game great, I’ve realized that it’s just something one must go through on their own. As Disney as it sounds, it’s experience that is different for every player.
Is it enjoyable? Depends on how critical you are
Will you fall in love with it? Maybe
Will it give you something to do for at least a week? I think so
Will you look forward to punching reporters? Definitely
When it comes to the question of what makes Mass Effect such a great series though, it’s the fact that the story is your own. Though you may have similar games with others, you can actually explain how differently you did things how it ended for you. It’s the possibility that you game can be completely different from someone else’s that makes it amazing.
To close this, I would like to reiterate something.
As said before, I’m not claiming that Mass effect is for everyone, nor that everyone who plays it will fall in love with it. I’m simply stating my own opinion of the amazement of the series from my own perspective.
So, what do you think of the ME series?
Do you love it?
Do you hate it?
Do you want to slap Omni-gel on it and call it day?
Let us know.