In all my years of gaming, I have experienced the shallow universes. I cannot stomp on my homely needs from videogames, dudes to kill and somewhere to go. Once in a while though, a game teaches everyone that games can be as diverse and different from each other as any other medium. More so in fact. I have flirted casually with the RPG genre, I even spent almost a whole year in Oblivion, only to realize that it was actually kinda sucky (we’ll get to that one). Fallout 3 was too grey for my liking, Borderlands got very repetitive way too quickly… I just couldn’t seem to find the right game. BioShock, Shadow of the Colossus and the Hitman series all showed me what games are capable of… then something happened. Last year in August I decided to check out all the hype their was around this massive RPG called ‘Mass Effect’. My friends had played it, every 360 owner in the world had played it, Patrick Talbert (over 400 hours of it) had played it… and yet I didn’t expect anything. I expected an RPG with its head in the clouds, a terrible combat system, some sort of way over the top complex equipment system, where I would run out of space every five seconds.
Needless to say, I was very surprised.
Depth is a hard thing to come by in the games industry, only a few genres can really capture that essence. FPSs seem to think that the deep waters mean a substantial multiplayer part, but BioShock changed all that, and depth can never be found in some other genres. Racers for example, I commented on this last week, should never be blamed for not having ‘depth’, it is not their purpose. I had been spoon fed RPGs and whatnot for the past billion years, so to find myself absolutely awestruck by Mass Effect came to me as a massive leap in videogames. When I mentioned how good it was, my friends all laughed at me and told me I had missed out “Big time.” I can’t blame them. I only rented it for a week too, and didn’t play any DLC until about a week ago today, it was a narrative that, for me, was in real time. A major plot point would happen for each of those days I had it. I’d go to school, come home, eat, Mass Effect, write, sleep. Repeat and rinse until the finale came on that Sunday night. Those gaming highs and lows, those chirps and quips from my Krogan wondermasters… it all felt so… deep.
What grabs my attention, and gets me in deep is the way it is all exhaustively detailed. Every character will politely talk about their backstory, origins, and maybe allow you to help them fix their inner turmoil. After every major plot planet, your crew will have something new to say. It is like one huge diary, in your real mind, the inner workings of characters are slowly being exploited. At some point of the game, you need to keep your wits about you to save a key member of the group. Another point has you having to sacrifice one of your party members, for the greater good of mankind. The last few hours of the main quest are a sheer highlight of the game, delving into the intensity of the both the combat and story. The story eventually intersects, and it becomes a race against time. I can’t even begin to delve into it, it is so richly detailed and vast that if I were to explain it, I would only be chipping a small part of a golden hunk.
Combat was supposed to be a let down for me, since some RPGs just sacrifice it for the sake of pacing. However, it never feels repetitive or easy, you’ll constantly dispose of enemies but you’ll more than often go near the deathly hallows. Shepard (you) and your party can keep dishing out biotic powers, which is all handled by a nifty click wheel or you can hotkey some of the actions. This allows you to carefully plan out your battle, choosing which enemies to take down and which ones to save for later. Usually I let my squad deal with the largest foe, and go for the rest of them myself, since I have nine billion health and the best armor in the game reserved for me. Another thing which I thought would let me down would be the way equipment is managed. Yes it is tedious, having to constantly melt old equipment into Omni-gel or keep making sure you just didn’t melt/sell your uber weapon, but it gets so deep you can’t help but like it.
The dialogue choices are the most fun. You can be a downright awful disgrace to the human race (rhyme!) or be a saintly saint to your species, which I pretty much was. I can’t being nice to people in any moral choice game, but more than often I’ll go a bit down the wheel. On the right side of the choices, the lower you get, the more eviler or neutral it becomes. Sometimes I think “[KICK IN THE BALLS]” might be better than “I LOVE YOU.”, although that never actually happens. A better example was on the actual DLC for it, Bring Down the Sky, DLC SPOILERS AHOY I had the choice of either slaughtering the Batarian scum, or letting him walk free. If I launched into battle, he would detonate the charges and kill all the hostages. I toyed with myself for a bit (that sounds wrong). This man was a threat to the universe, but I wouldn’t sink to his level… but he could do this elsewhere. Needless to say, I was in a bit of a pickle. DLC SPOILERS AWAY! If you missed all that, I was tasked with choosing either letting a particular character go, to save some people, or killing him, but letting the people die. Was a very tough choice, I hope the decision I made carries over to the second game.
Speaking of which, I am a little peeved off that a few party members won’t return. Only one of my key favourites features in the sequel, Garrus, but my Krogan buddy Wrex doesn’t even show up to the party. Me and him, we were like brothers, we had a bromance. I can hear his voice now… “If I die in here, I’ll kill him.”… or talking with Garrus in the elevator… “I was losing sleep over the Turians not having enough respect from the rest of the galaxy.” It’s too bad that we have Grunt now. Not saying Grunt will be a bad character, he certainly looks interesting, but Wrex and I were just right for each other. Also, I boned the alien chick, if you’re wondering. I kind of liked Liara, she seemed to be shy and small, I wanted to show her what humanity could do, and show her what I can do. With my virtual little Shepard…