I’ll Miss You, Mass Effect

I’ll miss you, terrible user interface.

I’ll miss you, obnoxiously long elevator rides.

I’ll miss you, Mako that refuses to bow to the laws of physics.

I’ll miss you, inconsistent cover system.

I’ll miss you, unnecessarily complex armor choices and upgrade system.

I’ll miss you, Mako cannon inexplicably unable to depress enough to hit a target anywhere near you.

I’ll miss you, automatic melee that throws me off in combat.

I’ll miss you, clumsy combat mechanics.

I’ll miss you, sort of one-dimensional characters that laid the foundation for incredible growth over the course of the series.

I’ll miss you, sheer terror of driving across flat terrain, waiting for a thresher maw to attack.

I’ll miss you, random series of button mashes that somehow recovers artifacts.

And, 33 hours later, I’ll miss you, Mass Effect. For all your shortcomings and all the improvements made in Mass Effect 2, you made me fall for you just as hard the second time around.

Elevators, Makos, and a Damn Big Universe

I pumped 51 hours into my first Mass Effect playthrough. I explored the galaxy. I rescued hostages. I brought down Cerberus’ horrific experiments. I saved all sentient life from the Reaper vanguard, Sovereign.

I swear to god 30 of those hours were spent in elevators or the Mako.

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You start the game at the Citadel, the interstellar hub of politics and trade. The Citadel has about 225 kilometers (140 miles) of habitable surface area and those damn elevators make you feel every meter of it.

mass_effect_the_dating_sim___elevators_by_xxzoezluvzxx-d6x5iho  mass_effect__meanwhile__in_an_elevator______linear_by_roachgrace-d52u2n0ku-xlargeYou get the idea… sometimes for a full minute while the game loaded your destination.

If you left the Citadel and explored one of the galaxy’s many planets, you weren’t much better off. Standard Alliance protocol seems to demand your Mako insert anywhere but near your destination, requiring long drives over or around often impenetrable terrain. Add technology to salvage or minerals to survey, and it would not be unusual to spend 15 minutes just driving around each of the roughly 30 planet one can explore.

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I finished my second playthrough in 33 hours. Knowing what I was doing minimized elevator and Mako time to the point where it didn’t seem quite the imposition it did the first time. That, however, doesn’t make my first experience any better.

Then again, I’m sure an apology is necessary. As tedious as all that crap was, it was directly responsible for hooking me. Continue reading

Mass Effections: I Am Not a Hero

At their core, video games are mechanisms for people to play out their hero fantasies. Most of us don’t get the chance to be the sort of hero we grow up revering. The guy who charges a machine gun nest to relieve pinned down comrades. The gal who rushes into a burning house to save someone else.

We all want to be heroes and video games make for a painless way to “prove” that we are.

Some games give you classic heroes. Their honor, courage, and nobility are all that’s required to stack up a pile of corpses large enough to save the day.

Other games give you anti-heroes. They save the day by amassing an equally impressive pile of bodies, but through the POWER OF SARCASM.

Others still feature reluctant heroes. They require a catalyst, usually an attack on something or someone they love, before they save the day via a pile of corpses.

Also common are unlikely heroes. They are just an average Joe or Josephine; a common person who must create an uncommonly large pile of corpses to save the day.

At the root of it all is the belief that we would be heroes if only given the opportunity.

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Mass Effect lets you be your own sort of hero. You can be the product of a spacefaring family, a poor Earth orphan, or a survivor of a colony wiped out by slavers. Although I am of Earth, the colonial option sounded closer to my agrarian roots.

You also get to choose your backstory. You can be the sole survivor of a mission gone wrong, a war hero who single-handedly repelled an invasion, or a renegade who ruthlessly completes the mission regardless of cost.

Without a personal connection to any of them, I picked the war hero.

We all want to be heroes.

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I don’t have the physical courage necessary to be a hero.

That doesn’t make me a total coward. I probably have intellectual courage. I don’t settle for easy answers and I’m not afraid to question my beliefs, even those most cherished. That takes courage.

I have moral courage most of the time. I usually can be counted on to do the right thing. However, I’m also practical enough to choose my battles. Heroes don’t fight the good fight only when it’s easy or convenient. I could stand to improve in that regard.

I do not possess physical courage. Brave a storm of gunfire? Continue reading

Mass Efflections: Introduction

In July of 2009, I wrote a piece about the “10 Best Video Games I’d Played.” It wasn’t a bad list, but four and a half years later, little would be recognizable.

Black Ops II has replaced Modern Warfare. Splinter Cell: Blacklist is up there somewhere now. I’ve played enough Operation: Flashpoints, Gears of Wars, Halos, and Batmans to know that only Fallout 3 and Eternal Darkness would remain on that list today.

There is one other similarity, though: A Mass Effect game would occupy the top spot. In fact, the Mass Effect series would occupy three of the top four spots, with only Bioshock: Infinite making me think twice about a sweep.

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My first Mass Effect playthrough was pretty predictable. I played as a male Shepard, making sure to go paragon on everything. My initial Shepard was super nice, as are pretty much all of my Action RPG characters.

I romanced Liara in Mass Effect. If I had to guess, I was drawn to her innocence in a cold, unforgiving universe. Or something like that. Sadly for her, I moved on to Miranda Lawson in Mass Effect 2 because Yvonne Strahovski. I don’t think I need to explain more, although I’m sure I will later.

This time, the rules are simple: Continue reading