Mass Effect

I know this metaphor has been done before (and by vastly better writers than me), but it’s so very apt for Mass Effect. It’s like an abusive relationship – you stick with it for the occasional flash of happiness, but you have to go through so much shit to get to it.

Starts off slow. Gets even slower (that fucking Citadel! LOL it’s huuuge). By the time you’re allowed to actually properly play the thing (flying round galaxies, looking at planets and shooting things), you’re ready to be put into a chemical coma. It’s at this point that you realise the game has been very clever – it’s been reducing your expectations so that when you put the hours in and find something worthwhile, you remember that instead of the hours of repetition you’ve put in.

So, in order to fit with this experience, I won’t bore you with detailing the endless clicking on planets to find collectables, or the fact that there’s only two player classes worth playing as, or the occasional awkward mission introductions, or the fact that all the planet expeditions are boring as fuck, or that Deanna Troi is fucking useless in a voiceover booth (goodbye, suspension of disbelief!), or that the game is generally bugged to fuck, frustrating as fuck in places, and fucking fuck annoying too.

What I will discuss is where it goes right. I’ve only put twelve hours into it (only! I’m on the second plot mission! Although I did choose to scoot around the galaxy all day, so it’s my fault), but up to now I’ve found the additional characters on your team to be pretty damn good (Aliens! A slightly schizo telepath thing fella! A racist woman! More aliens!). Their AI in a battle is hopeless, but the voice acting and animation is absolutely spot on. The characters you agree with are slightly annoying, and the ones you don’t agree with are quite likeable. It’s all done really well. Makes you think, kind of.

Like I said, instead of doing all the plot stuff, I’ve been exploring instead. There’s a couple of interesting side missions you can find that involve traps and nastiness and they are generally of a high standard. I found one, though, which is just genius. I’m gonna spoil it, so fair warning.

There’s a ship you find in space, which is dead. A couple of life signs, but the crew of twenty is mostly gone. No response from the communications thingy. So you go aboard. No-one home, the place is pretty much empty. You find some ships logs, and learn that one of the crewmen was in an accident, and was in a coma. His girlfriend, an L2 telepath (which you learn much earlier in the game can sometimes be erratic and unstable), didn’t take the news well. The doctor decided after some time that the crewman wasn’t going to wake up, and went to switch off the life support. So you hear all this and think “awesome, some crazy bitch killed the ship!”. You go round a corner, and there on a bed is a guy hooked up to a life support machine. Soon as you get near, the girlfriend appears behind you screaming loud as fuck and shooting and telepathing (whatever the word is) at you. No choice – kill her. She dies. And then you’re left with her boyfriend on life support. You can switch it off, or you can leave him on it for as long as it lasts. I switched it off.

Interestingly, the game doesn’t mark you as being “good” or “bad” for switching it off, or leaving him. it’s completely up to you, and there’s no consequences either way. The girlfriend showing up scared the shit out of me. That was awesome. But then making a decision, and realising the game makers had the intelligence to not have any repercussions for either choice made; that was a bit of sensitivity you don’t see often in games. No right or wrong answer. That was the standout for me.

Based on that, and the fact that I want to see what happens to the characters, I’m gonna persevere with the rest of the game. Maybe even buy the sequel. Bioware =classy.

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