Thursday, January 5, 2012

Mass Effect: Revisited and Dissected

Not so long ago, though it seems a lifetime, I replayed Mass Effect. I wanted to have the "perfect" save game for the upcoming ME3 and so I decided that the best thing to do was just replay the whole two first games.

When you come back to a game you love you take it with a pinch of salt brought on by detached perspective. That's what happened to me and I found a completely new set of things to love and hate about it.

Let's take one of the trailers.

Now, if you've played the game you'll notice a few things aren't quite right with this trailer. Noveria isn't actually in such a dire need for help as it may sound here. In fact, most of the people in Noveria are having drinks at the hotel bar or busy with their corporate espionage shenanigans. At best, Noveria has a slight bug problem in a remote research facility and this problem is being kept very much on the down low. None of those big mushroom clouds the trailer starts off with. Besides, you have to stop by Noveria eventually, its a mandatory storyline development. Another thing is that Caleston isn't actually an important place in the game. I'm not even sure it is explorable (although you can survey it in Mass Effect 2). It may just be one of the N planets that you go to to complete sidequests you stumble into. So what can we deduce from this? Noveria is making a big fuss over very little and Shepard has decided to go off and drive around his Mako for a while before actually heeding that overly dramatic distress call. But I'm just nitpicking

While we're at it let's discuss the Mako: without a doubt one of the sorest points of the game. Many rose up against its impossible controls and the usefulness of the thing as a vehicle. To be truthful, the Mako handles like a drug-frenzied baboon thrown off a gelatinous cliff tied to a bungee cord. You don't get much satisfaction from driving it. In fact, if you attempt to actually drive it you will most likely end up belly up in a ditch on a remote planet followed by a Game Over screen because Shepard is all about saving the galaxy and not hauling his ass out of a turtled vehicle and righting it. God forbid. The best way to get any handle on the thing is to simple turn its nose to where you want to go and keep pressing forward without any attempt of steering it whatsoever. In most cases, you'll get there, minus a little vehicle health.

The story is exactly as I remembered it, meaning it's good. Characters (except the two semi-optional ones) have enough depth that you can really get to like them or not at all. For instance, I love Wrex but I could do well without Liara and her 160 years of stuck-upness.

The human companions (the aforementioned semi-optional) are, for the most part, negligible. Ashley has that whole bigot thing going for her but, for personal reasons, that was never my thing so the gut-wrenching moment of deciding who lives or dies was made pretty easy. Kaidan, well... Kaidan is just the guy, like the one you'll bang because he's the only guy there. The voice casting helps, making him a bit more loveable to all things straight with a vagina. Males unexceptionally hate him because they hated Carth. And Kaidan is Carth, minus the stuttering, we all know this. He was put on this earth to please us little Carth groupies.

The whole game has a very distinct feel due to, in great part, the soundtrack. After listening to it out of context I realized it has much of the Blade Runner about it and although I was initially resistant to the song that plays during the credits, I eventually became a fan. Imho, it's so cheesy it works. And who can not love the sheer epicness of the main theme? To be honest, I only realized the piece's true worth after wrapping up Mass Effect 2 and heard the Suicide Mission adaptation of it. But it's going on my top ten favorite instrumentals of all time.

But, in the end, for me Mass Effect lost some points on the whole elevator business. Not elevators in general, mind you. I kind of like it when my companions banter. In fact, I spent a lot of time in Dragon Age finding banter trigger points so I could pass over them frequently just to hear the dialogue. No, my gripe is with that very specific lift I like to call  the TLX 008 WXM AT. In that one single place I would have preferred a loading screen.

There's more I could say but the game speaks for itself. All things considered, not the best of games for a shooter lover but a solid title and a good jump-start for bigger and better things.

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