Sometimes a game just clicks. However, this was not the case when I decided to play through my two Mass Effect games (1 and 2) that I picked up during a Steam sale some time ago. Even knowing that the first game would be a little rough due to its age, I decided to go through them in order. You may remember hearing me talk about that plan when I was still contributing to MMORPG.com’s Game On Podcast.
I’d heard a lot about the Mass Effect series. The games seemed to have a huge following, and I loved the idea that events from one game could carry over into the next title. But Mass Effect 1 never really hooked me. I enjoyed the character interaction, but the story seemed slow to get going and I never really figured out how to navigate myself around the galaxy once it opened up. After a few nights’ worth of play sessions, I found myself driving around in a physics-defying moon patrol car wondering if I was even on the right planet for the mission I’d been handed. After that night, I never launched ME1 again. I took a small break from gaming altogether and when I returned, it was Elder Scrolls Online that beckoned and not Mass Effect.
Fast forward a few months. Still enjoying ESO, but starting to remember how annoying MMO’s can sometimes be, I decided to go ahead and install Mass Effect 2, the much heralded sequel to moon patrol madness. ME2 starts with a bang, inserts a bit of mystery, and then sends you off to assemble your team of super soldiers. I was all in from the get-go. I felt like Nick Fury, putting my team together before the ever-nearing final battle.
Some would say that Mass Effect is a squad-based combat game. That’s probably fair, as certain aspects do remind me of the Rainbow Six type of strategic combat. But more than half of the game is probably dialog/cutscenes with NPCs, similar to Life is Strange and with consequences that can affect outcomes within the game and beyond. I found that these interactions are what really brought the game to life for me. Not only was the feel vastly more cinematic/dramatic, but I really grew to care about (or not care for) characters with recurring roles. So much so that after I’d lost some of my squad members in the final mission (thanks to choices I had to make), visiting their empty quarters on the Normandy ship evoked a true feeling of loss. I thought about replaying the final mission from one of my saved files, but somehow that just didn’t feel right. I made the choices, I should have to live with it. And perhaps that loss will serve as a motivation going into Mass Effect 3.
I have only a few gripes about the game. For one, there are some things that you can mess up without realizing it, and the game just lets you do it. For example, I purchased a biotic upgrade for my Shepard, and selected one that I’d already purchased (and forgotten about). The game gave me no warning, just let me waste my resources on it for a 2nd time. It was my dumb mistake, I get it, but a warning box would have been nice. Also, I didn’t realize that starting Legion’s loyalty mission would trigger the events leading up to the end of the game. True, you don’t have to go to the Omega Relay right away, but putting it off in favor of more intergalactic exploration means almost certain death for my abducted crew, so I felt like I was forced into the suicide mission before I was ready. I would have liked to have done a few more side missions, maybe beefed up my squad a little more first. Again, a warning dialog box would have been nice.
As far as my future with the Mass Effect series, I’m looking forward to ME3, and am keeping my eyes open for a sale. Granted, it’s only $20 ($30 for deluxe), but that still seems a little steep for a game that’s now five years old. If I see it for $15, I’ll probably bite. I’m not sure if the deluxe version is worth another $10 or not. If you have an opinion on that, let me know! I’m also interested in the latest installment, ME: Andromeda. But that one’s going to have to come down quite a bit for me to spring for it. I’ve toyed with the idea of giving ME1 another shot, since I understand the game mechanics a bit more, but I think it might be difficult to jump back in time now that I’ve seen the future.
At any rate, I finally see what all the fuss is about. Count me as a Mass Effect fan!