Okay, I’ll admit I’m extremely late to the party. Heck, Stu’s already written up a page! But, I wouldn’t be the Casual Gamer if I didn’t have an Overly Delayed Video Game Review for you! (EDIT: This entry has been sitting as a draft for months. Sorry Nerdlush, maybe I need to change this to Overly Delayed Post For Overly Delayed Video Game Review…)
I’ve heard about these Mass Effect games for years from practically everybody who has ever played Tetris. See, I don’t have a lot of time for games so when I do play a game, I really want to make sure I’m going to get the most bang for my buck. Also, I really don’t like role playing games. Go ahead and call me a blasphemer but I can’t stand Final Fantasy. There’s something about standing around waiting for my turn to hurt something just seems… repetitive? Counter-productive? Boring? Lame? Anyway, so when Every Person To Ever Play A Game “dethp00l!!! You gotta play Mass Effect!! It’s the best RPG!” I tend to go “oh yeah, sure. okay.” And then go out of my way to not play it.
That is until I heard that Mass Effect 3 had the worst ending of all time. It was mocked endlessly on the internets and for whatever reason that was what got me interested in this freakin’ series… So, I took apart my Hackintosh, installed a new hard drive to dual boot with windows 7, and downloaded the game from Steam because that’s how I roll!
Starting with Mass Effect #1…..
Holy Normandy Spaceships, Batman!! This game is AWESOME.
First off, it’s more along the lines of an RPG like Fallout (which I couldn’t finish due to running around the game and being extremely bored between quests) where you… run around (IN SPACE!) and complete quests. (IN SPACE!) You get to design your player (Badass redhead with a shotgun, oh yeah.) and determine your own fate with your actions of being Paragon or Renegade. The first game is fast paced enough to where I was never given a chance to get bored, which if you haven’t figured out yet– is a common theme with me and video games. The second game I got bored towards to end when I realized I needed to scan an asston of planets for elements for upgrades, but that is entirely optional. For 99.99% of the time- you’re flying through space (SPACE!) and saving the galaxy.
You also get to decide your love interest. If I were to have any beef with this game, it would be the entirely optional love interest storyline. In the first game you can chose from someone of the opposite gender, or an alien Asari which… call me crazy, totally looks like a girl. So hot girl on girl action is in the game. No boy on boy action. In the game’s defense though, the alien with breasts and very human-female genetic traits is supposed to be asexual. I think. I got the impression that the species can mate with anything and collect genetic information… or something. No biggie.
The only thing that bothered me with the first game was having to drive a rover around on planets that may or may not have gravity. Driving around planets trying to ping things and uncover mysterious objects got old pretty fast. But I hung in there and finished with a full Renegade ending. (I blew up everything possible.)
Mass Effect 2:
I gotta say, I was really heart broken when the Asari wasn’t available for a relationship. I just needed to put that out there. Luckily, I was able to rebound with the Catmanthing (Garrus, for those of you who care about names) and I can truthfully say that Garrus is the love of my Femshep’s life. In this game I was far more interested in the romance options, simply because there were so many options. That being said, the options are really male-skewed.
For the male option you can chose to have sexytimes with these people (I’ll lovingly refer to them by their nicknames for the rest of this)
Or if you’re a girl you can tap the following characters:
Or lastly and very leastly,
And either gender can try and bang:
So once again, plenty of chick on chick action… no boy on boy action. And, the guys get to chose from various degrees of hotness, while the ladies get aliens with emotional distress. That’s totally not gender biased at aaaaaall. /sarcasm.
EDIT: Or you can bang your assistant. Because that’s healthy Captaining!
I was entertained by the ending. I was impressed that there was the option to have people die off based on how prepared (read: how many friggin’ planets you scanned). Unfortunately, I was too good of a Captain and everybody survived (I may have gotten drunk one night and decide to scan all the planets.) The only thing that I was bothered by the end of this installment was that okay- we get to chose our ending based on our actions… how much is really determined by the Paragon/Renegade actions? I don’t think there was much, because it didn’t feel like any of my actions (other than character death) really had any impact on the core storyline of the second game, except in one case where how many renegade points you had determined if you could kill the Blue Chick and gain her daughter for your team. Which really didn’t bother me, since the paths within the game with dialog and options were pretty nifty enough.
If nothing else, it feels so good to be in on all those jokes!
Next stop… Mass Effect 3!
The sole reason for playing this series. I’ll be brutally honest: I played through 99% of this game, and then stopped playing for a long time. Mainly because I didn’t want to end it. It was too good to have the wash of disappointment I knew was going to follow. Like all great things (Lost, Battlestar Galactica come to mind) there will be an end and no matter what the writers/producers do… it’s going to suck. there’s no way of ending a beloved story without disappointing your viewers/readers/games simply because everyone has their own idea of what the ending should be. Especially in the car of Mass Effect where your choices in the game are going to effect (in theory) what the ending would be. So this last weekend I took a big breath, put on my big girl panties, and finished the damn game.
I know I’m jumping the gun here, but really this is all that’s important about this game. The gameplay to the previous ME is similar (although you no longer have to scan planets, thank fuck) and the core of the game is essentially rallying the troops to take out the big bad Reapers. You still get to nancy about the galaxy and see a lot of friendly faces from previous games, and still make the same amount of paragon or renegade decisions and okay- to sidebar, I’d like to say that this go around I really tried to be paragon. I really did! But then the reporter came around and I knew I had to punch her in the face the second the little red mouse flashed on the screen. It was all downhill from there. I also gotta say that the sound design of this game (all of them were great but this one in particular) had simply amazing sound design. I felt so immersed in this world that most of the time it felt like I was in a movie.
The romance in the series- I have to tip their hats to them- finally got a little equality. If you play as a man, you can finally have a gay relationship with your crew mate Steve or with your old crew member Aidan from ME1 (if he didn’t die). This is pretty huge since I can’t really count more than five other games that have had gay relationships, let alone allow feature a “fade-to-black” kind of sexy scene.
Or, if you want to go heterosexual you can bang Dat Ass, Maskface, Crazy, and … Ashley. (If she didn’t die in ME1)
But if play as a woman you can have relationships with: Samantha (who?) or my sweet, sweet Catmanthing.
So it’s still not totally gender balanced, and you still can’t have a relationship with Wrex. (Poor Wrex.) Both teams can also have a go with the blue chick, your assistant (lol), some news reporter (not the one you punch in the face), and Kaidan (he swings both ways! Yes!)
And now the ending- if you don’t want to read spoilers STOP NOW. Seriously. I’m going to reveal the whole thing.
The reason why the ending is so offensive is that you’ve just spent 100+ hours playing a game where you were deciding your own fate only to come down to one big meaningless ending where none of your decisions truly matter because you get to pick which ending you want. I am willing to overlook the bad writing of using the mysterious Star Child from the meaningless mini-levels where Shepard has to walk around in dream world (almost as annoying as scanning planets) as a Deus Ex Machina voice of the Reapers, but it’s that my action had no true ramifications in the game. I shouldn’t’ have had a choice of ending based on what spread of points I had. But that’s not all that’s wrong with the ending….
I picked the red ending, which I assumed was the renegade ending. You destroy everything- including yourself- and the Earth survives, the Reapers die, and your crew (what’s left of them- again, depending on how good of a captain you are… I only lost the blue chick, which was sad since she was my ex-girlfriend from ME1, but I was still dating Catmanthing in ME3 so it wasn’t sad-sad.) end up weirdly on a jungle planet aaaand… the end. I sat there thinking “that’s it? I die a noble death? Pft. The cut scene was relatively small and had a tremendous sense of emptiness and lack of writing. Why was the Normandy flying through space? If they landed on a jungle planet with all the Mass Effect warps being destroyed, are they stranded there forever? Poor Joker! Not to mention the weird “Grandpa, tell me another story!” epilogue that also had zero ties to the rest of the series. With a heavy heart, I restarted my last save and went through again, this time selecting the blue paragon ending. AND THE EXACT SAME THING HAPPENED. Shepard grabbed the lightning rods and died, the Reapers went away, everything gets destroyed and Joker lands on the damn jungle planet. Nearly 99% of all the animations are the same, sans for the blue color instead of the red color. Now I am pissed: cheap writing, cheap game mechanics AND cheap cut scenes!
Obviously I wasn’t alone in this rage and Bioware, being the kindly company that they are, decided to release an extended DLC ending that I was too lazy to play through again (because the last ten minutes of the game consist of Shepard slowly limping around and I Ain’t Got No Time For That!) so I youtubed the endings. And found out there were TWO OTHER ENDINGS. Four endings total! This only triggered a new pet peeve of mine: demanding that I replay a game. No! Bad programmers! The only re-play ability I want is in multiplayer features. I may be alone in this boat, and I accept this, but I really don’t have the time to play a game over again to get the full ending of a game when I’ve already played 100+ hours on something. Just give me all the good things the first time around!
The extended endings were better- got more animations that were different from each other, plus voiceovers that give us a little more information about the choices we made in the final moment (not the previous 100 hours… no, I’m not going to give that up) and it’s better-ish. And then there’s the additional two endings. One is so completely nihilist, I really wish I could have selected this the first go around: Shepard says “fuck y’all” and lets the Reapers kill all civilizations and the cycle beings again. The other secret ending, the “synthesis” ending is technically the ending that the game creators would like you to achieve; however, in my opinion is really worst ending of them all because it goes completely against one of the major themes of the entire game. That theme being the message that “every race is special and we must work together and use our specialness to overcome the evil computer species!” and in this option you have the option to combine your DNA into the reaper-machine DNA (still by offing yourself) and then all alien species and all computers share DNA and everyone becomes the same thing and glows green for some stupid reason.
It also is a complete cop-out to everything you’ve been trying to achieve for the last 3 games/100 hours. It’s always been “Reapers are bad! Destroy all the Reapers!” and with the Star Child who tells you “it’s what we do. get over it.” the answer should still technically be “destroy the reapers.” This ending allows everyone to live (except yourself) by disregarding galaxy unity by essentially creating one giant borg species. In this ending I feel if the best ending for the Reapers since they will not die in this ending, in addition to achieve their mission (as provided by the Star Child) to eradicate chaos.
So now that I’ve finished I can truthfully say yes: the ending sucks massive Elcor balls.
But playing the game and getting the full experience (okay, not so full experience since I didn’t get all the endings….) was worth the anguish of the last five minutes of the series. Five out of five tentacles!
Coming up probably sometime next year: The Last Of Us!