Mass Effect- Then And Now

Posted By | On 27th, Jan. 2011 Under Editorials | Follow This Author @Shubhankar2508


BioWare has always been known for making great games, but they have never gone through a time as good as the seventh generation of gaming. They have given out some great games, the best of which has to be their new Mass Effect franchise. In just (nearly) four years since its inception, the series has made a solid place for itself in the industry. It is recognized by everybody as not just a franchise of extraordinary quality, but as one of the best Role Playing franchises of all time.

Mass Effect 2 has been rated higher than most of the “memorable” games this generation, and has been cited by many to be one of the best games created- ever. However, that’s not to say the original Mass Effect wasn’t a great game.

No, Mass Effect was a brilliant game. When it came out in 2007, its fantastic story and Role Playing-centric gameplay appealed to one and all. The choice based character progression was better than in any other game before it, and overall, the brilliant production values all around just made it seem like an awesome high-budget space opera movie.

Not just that- the characters were memorable and likeable, and Urdnot Wrex and Garrus became my irreplaceable favourites. And with two badass villains such as Saren and Sovereign to boot, the game was all set.

Mass Effect did have a few flaws, however. The menu and the inventory systems were too clunky, the shooting mechanics and the cover system were all too unwieldy. The vehicle sections were just plain awful, and some other minor hiccups here and there somewhat tarnished what would have otherwise been a perfect experience.

Behold, one of the most badass antagonists of all time.

However, I, and almost everyone on this planet (and maybe even beyond) adored Mass Effect, and after the success it got critically and commercially, a sequel was but inevitable.

But when BioWare did announce Mass Effect 2 for the Xbox 360 and the PC, fear gnawed at me. Mass Effect had been such a raging success because of the impact it had on all those who played it. Sure, it had its own share of flaws, and it was not a small share to be honest, but it was nothing like anything we had ever seen before, and that was what made it so damn good. Add to that the fact that BioWare was cutting down on the Role Playing mechanics, which was what made the first game so good, and a general perception that Mass Effect 2 was being “casualized” and “consolized” was formed.

Moreover, how could Mass Effect 2 possibly introduce something to the mix that would make all gamers love it more than they loved Mass Effect? The very fact that it was a sequel to the 2007 super-hit RPG title made one thing certain- that it was restricted by the limitations of the first game, for most of the part, and that it simply could not have as huge an impact on the audiences. How, then, could it become a game better than its original? Would they just improve upon all the mistakes of ME1? No, no, they had to do something else- something more.

And guess what? They did. Mass Effect 2 came out in January 2010, and it came out with a loud, loud bang. Receiving perfect and near-perfect scores all over the board, with critics (including us) calling it the best game to have been released in a long time, it became clear even before its release that ME2 would go on to become one of the most legendary and memorable games of not just 2010, but this entire generation of gaming. Recently, it won a plethora of awards, including many from ourselves. We even named it our Game of the Year 2010.

Yes, Mass Effect 2 was more of a Third Person Shooter than an RPG. It was actually a TPS with Action Role Playing elements thrown into the mix, but everything Mass Effect 2 did, it did brilliantly, and without any hiccups. The shooting and cover mechanics worked exceptionally well, and seemed extremely polished and enjoyable even when compared to other true cover-based shooters such as Uncharted and Gears of War. The Role Playing elements had been stripped down heavily, yet they were still there, and they were deep enough to keep RPG fanatics interested in the game for the entire thirty-hour long campaign.

The character progression was better than any other game ever before, even better than Mass Effect. Choices made a lot more sense now, and had a larger impact than in ME1. With so many variations within the game, and each variation huge enough to alter the course of the entire game- no, the entire series- Mass Effect 2 truly felt like our very own adventure through the galaxy.

Importing our save from Mass Effect made the experience even better. All the decisions we had made in the first game carried over to the second, and they were given a lot of importance, making a game played with an ME1 save file an entirely different, and a much better, experience.

Mass Effect 2- the best game on the Xbox 360.

The sequel also improved on all other mistakes from the first game. Vehicle riding was removed altogether, and so was the inventory. Leveling up and the menus were made more streamlined. Galaxy exploration became easier, and as I mentioned before, the shooting became perfect.

The highlight of the game, however, was none of this- it was the story and the characters. Mass Effect 2 featured a brilliant sci-fi story that blew us all away with every new step, every new twist and turn. It felt like a true feature film with a dramatic story. However, the story wouldn’t have been half as good if it weren’t for the characters involved in it.

Character progressions had never been as good in any game as it was in Mass Effect 2. ME2 revolved around building our team and gaining their loyalty for a suicide mission. If the team members aren’t loyal to Commander Shepard, humanity’s fate is all but doomed. This worked out better in ME2 than we could have imagined. With each character having two missions devoted just to him/herself, every single member in our team is developed brilliantly. Some characters stuck in our memories for a long time, including the likes of the Salarian scientist Mordin Solus, or the Drell assassin, Thane Krios, or the tank bred Krogan, Grunt.

The dialogue was crisp, the dialogue choices unforgettable, and every moment in the game was something that would stay with us for a long time.

It all came together to deliver what was a brilliant experience, and the best Xbox 360 game we have played till now. Mass Effect 2 is an unforgettable game, and does everything it does perfectly, except for the planet scanning, which wasn’t a big issue anyway.

And now, BioWare are ready to deliver Mass Effect 3. Is it going to be as good as we all want it to be? Can it really live up to the awesome Mass Effect 2? Or can it do the impossible, and actually outdo its predecessor? We have not seen much till now, but from what we have seen, Mass Effect 3 looks epic. At the same time, a lot of things are bothering us, which make us think that ME3 might not quite be the game we want it to be.

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There are several reasons- as we have stated before, BioWare are currently working on three games, and were working on four some time ago (Mass Effect 2 PS3). And all three of their games, namely Dragon Age II, Star Wars: The Old Republic and Mass Effect 3, are huge titles, so they will be concentrating equally on each of them. Not just this- they’ve also been working on add-on and downloadable content for Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2. Does this mean that Mass Effect 3’s quality will be diluted in the process?

They also said that Mass Effect 3 is built on a new engine. And they developed this new engine and the entire Mass Effect 3 in just two years? Will it be developed in time for its Fall 2011 release date? Or will they rush it, screw it up, and release it on the date no matter what? Or will they delay the project after all?

And if they do make it in time for the Fall release, and not mess up the game (somehow), they’ll have a lot to live up to. It’s a monumental job, developing a sequel to a game like Mass Effect 2. Not only do they have to improve upon the few mistakes of the second game, they also have to introduce some new stuff to keep things fresh, and to have as much impact.

There are several things we want Mass Effect 3 to do and not do. First of all, by the looks of it, majority of the game will be set on Earth. I hope the phrase “looks can be deceiving” means something here. If BioWare go the Halo 3 way, and set Mass Effect 3 completely on Earth, or even for the majority of the game, they will have raised a lot of eyebrows. Mass Effect 1 and 2 felt epic because of how expansive they were- they featured an entire Galaxy, and we were free to traverse any planet, any cluster we liked. If that isn’t involved in Mass Effect 3, it’ll be a series downer.

We want BioWare to retain the Third Person Shooting and the brilliant cover mechanics, but we also want them to introduce a few more Role Playing elements. We want ME3 to be something like a cross between Mass Effect 1 and 2.

There are a lot of things that we want in Mass Effect 3. We listed them out in our feature some time ago, so be sure to check it out here.

But it’s BioWare after all, and they cannot mess up. Especially a game like Mass Effect. But we don’t that yet, do we? We’ll just have to wait a year more to find that out.

What do you expect from Mass Effect 3? Do you think it’ll be better than Mass Effect 2? Will it truly be BioWare’s best yet? Or will it be a huge disappointment? Can BioWare overcome the trilogy curse, somehow? Tell us what you think in your comments below.


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  • Okay, I was annoyed by some of the claims made in this article, but thankfully a point made at the end seemed to redeem it somewhat.

    Okay, for starters, the character development in ME2 SUCKS! Not everyone is happy that, just because Mordin is a cool character on the surface, that Samara and Miranda have nice bodies, and that Garrus and Tali can finally be screwed by their furry fans, it automatically means ME2 has good character development and interaction. The fact that every single character is an objective, both in how you acquire and later placate them makes the game feel ridiculously artificial. Samara has no place in the “plot”, and neither does Tali for example. They just occupy interchangeable roles. Its all very well and good giving these characters well written surfaces, but if their place in the plot sucks. Maybe that was forgiveable in the days of Baldurs Gate, but one of the ways I think Biowares storytelling evolved was weaving those excellently written characters intricately into the plot. Simply picking them up (optional), talking to them (optional/possibly denied if no romance is undertaken) or running their personal errand (optional) doesnt strike me as good character development. 2 static arguments that are easily solved by the games ridiculously railroaded morality system is not the kind of character development Im looking for. Instead of solving two static arguments by being goody/assy enough, I would have rather their personal issues become a factor. Like Wrex in ME1, when youre in the think of a deadly mission, let what you have or have not done for these characters, or what you have or have not done for yourself (invested in making Shepard a charismatic character, not just a combat one) decide the outcome.

    Ultimately, the claim that ME2s choices mean anything is also total garbage. Youll influence the “tone” of a cutscene. Nothing more. The game plays almost exactly the same, no matter what choices you make. Or what class you choose, but Ill come to that in a second.

    The other points that irritated me?

    “The Role Playing elements had been stripped down heavily, yet they were still there, and they were deep enough to keep RPG fanatics interested in the game for the entire thirty-hour long campaign.”

    No, it doesnt. I dont think being forced into the games intrusive TPS system satisfied me as a player wanted a good portion of RPG out of his “TPS/RPG” *HYBRID*

    “Importing our save from Mass Effect made the experience even better. All the decisions we had made in the first game carried over to the second, and they were given a lot of importance, making a game played with an ME1 save file an entirely different, and a much better, experience.”

    Okay, play the game again, come back and this time dont blatantly lie when you write about it. Any self respecting gamer will admit that the carryover of decisions from ME1 to ME2 was absolutely PATHETIC. All it did was alter who walked on screen for 2 minutes to shaft you. Exception being Wrex, who gets a cameo that is somewhat positive, but a pathetic little cameo all the same. The council decision just changes who tells you to get lost, and saving the rachni just gives you a 5 minute message delivered by a character in person, rather than by e-mail which most other choices are carried over to.

    Thankfully though, those glaring, unrealistic comments aside, I was at least gratified to see a “best of both” for ME3 approach put forward at the end. Like it or not, there is plenty that needs taking from the series first act and put into the makeup of ME3.

    I mean a coherent plot that takes centre stage would be a good start, rather than a main story consisting of little more than side missions that leads to an anti-climactic end mission. And theres plenty of other things to take to. Add stuff like that with the visual presentation improvements, the interrupts, the more fluid shooter combat (but not the shooter missions and TPS combat level design that ME2 is divided into mind).

    Before I end the rant, Ill just say that despite agreeing somewhat with the final note, I would never agree to a stupid multiplayer component in ME3. To much has already been given to turn this series into a run off the mill shooter. There are enough of those titles on the market already. Keep Mass Effect as Mass Effect, becuase if ME2 hasnt done enough already with its shooter oriented design, ME3 multiplayer will definitely turn this into “Gears of Mass: War Effect”, and Bioware can think again if Im paying for that kind of garbage.

    • You bring up a lot of good points, especially about a huge “fuck no” to a multiplayer portion of the game. Yeah, the choices from the first game didn’t really transfer well into the second, but keep in mind, Bioware could be planning to develop them more into the third. The rachni wouldn’t have really served a purpose in the second game’s storyline, but when shit starts hitting the fan in the third I’m sure they’ll play a more central role if you chose to save them.

    • @ Murv

      Couldn’t agree more. You know what’s up.

    • @Murv

      Couldn’t have said it better myself.

      One other point I want to add…

      The whole “streamlining” experience and load screens really took away from the immersion of the game. In ME1, you always docked your ship and walked off it. Yea the loading in between and the elevators was annoying, but at least BIOWARE put on interesting music or Radio Tidbits. Now, we have loading screens instead. I’m STILL WAITING, but the immersion is gone. Big Miss in my book.

      Also, thanks for raping the citadel Bioware. What was possibly the coolest city in all of RPGs became a streamlined level that lost all its soul. I realized that people wanted more cities and towns to explore, but by raping the citadel and putting in 3-4 towns the size of Noveria from the first game is kind of missing the point. We wanted MORE cities to explore LIKE the CItadel… not a couple of rooms here and there with some NPCs here and there.

      The vastness of ME1 was gone in ME2. I’ll admit the combat functioned better, but I still missed the RPG elements in ME1. I also think the stripping of the inventory was a major miss. The ME1 inventory interface was terrible, thats for sure, but I didn’t want the whole system stripped, just an easier to navigate and equip screen.

      Anyways. ME2 was still a good game, but I hope BIoware recognizes some of the things that made ME1 such a great experience was missing in ME2.

  • JD

    ME2, on PS3 at least, is so buggy it is not quite unplayable, but very unenjoyable. I’ve encountered numerous clipping issues (falling through the ground, walking up invisible inclines to float over nothing) and various system freezes (loading is notorious for this).

    I really wish I could get a refund.

  • @Murv

    Congratulations, you’ve actually managed to decrease the IQ of anybody who reads your post. I award you zero points and may god have mercy on your soul.

    Nowhere in your rant did your argument amount to much more than “I hate ME2 because it’s less RPG-ish than ME1!!!”. Look buddy, I love RPG’s as much as the next guy, but ME has ALWAYS been mostly a shooter. This aint no Deus Ex, son. Get over it. If you want an RPG, go do what I’m currently doing (playing neverwinter nights 2 and doing a co-op playthrough of the whole Baldur’s Gate series).

    All of your other critiques of the game, while facially valid, are nonetheless preposterous because no other game IN EXISTENCE has managed to accomplish the things you’ve asked for. And despite the fact that ME2 has come the closest of any game so far, you still criticize it for failing to live up to those insane standards.

    • @Ballin

      Dont worry, you can find cream for that butthurt fanboy.

      I know I absolutely teared ME2 and its dumbed down, shooter oriented, linear level bullshit design for tards like yourself to pieces, but the hurt in your fanboy ass will fade eventually.

    • @ ballin

      Also two can play at this game. You’re just another twat that likes to instigate arguments with people who are passionate enough about gaming to criticize developers when they resort to lazy game design in an effort to print more money. If you’d actually read the whole comment you’d be surprised to find that it wasn’t a hateful “It’s not the same” post.

      Oh and Adam Sandler movie quotes aren’t funny if you just shoehorn them in without being clever about it. So go back to being satisfied with stagnating gameplay and paying out the ass for DLC that should have been in th game in the first place, Chad Warden.

  • I have to agree with Murv.

    ME2 left a TON to be desired. There were no RPG elements to the game and everything felt very repeated throughout the whole game. The “mining” concept was horribly executed and insanely boring, the combat felt meaningless due to no loot and Exp being practically pointless.

    There wasn’t many times where I really thought “Maybe I should explore this whole area” because I knew nothing of value would be there.

    I really have no idea why everyone loved this game so much. More fanboy kool-aid I guess. The only reason this franchise is anything more then a foot-note in gaming history is the massive lack of RPG’s on console these days, when there is no competition its pretty easy to win the awards for top game…

  • I played though a good portion of the PC version. The cover and aiming mechanics were so poorly ported and clearly designed and optimized in every way for console play.

    I found myself repeatedly turning the difficulty down in order to progress though what should have been and easy fight just to compensate for clunky mechanics.

    The reason I eventually stopped playing what issues with the difficulty of the game, it seemed at any given setting I was either walking though levels ignoring enemies completely or risked death from even the most trivial of opponents.

    NPC combat AI issues were also a factor. The AI would rarely follow my commands and often stand out in the open or beside large cover and get shot to death without any regard to self preservation. I spent many missions alone or short handed because my team would charge headlong into a turret or boss.

  • Mass Effect 2 lacked a lot of RPG elements. In my opinion, Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest is the best RPG franchise.

  • @Murv

    As was stated earlier by another like minded reader, you offered exactly zero in terms of stating anything other than opinion. It’s one of the best selling, highest praised games ever released. No, it isn’t your typical RPG, but you are playing the role of Commander Shepard, crafting him and the world around him as you see fit, interacting with NPC’s and whatnot.

    Frankly, you’re just one person with whom a few others agree. Most gamers enjoyed ME1 and 2. If you look at the very first RPG’s you’ll notice that the only difference between the ME franchise and let’s say D&D is the system of combat. They chose an over the shoulder 3rd person shooter as the best way to handle this, and frankly, it was a good chose. Ranged attacks are the way to go considering this is a SCI-FI series, and you don’t want those randomized or state based in entirety knowing you have a perfectly good reticle.

    Just stop trying to make yourself feel better by bashing on a perfectly good game online in the hopes you’ll get yourself a pat on the back from a handful of other people.

    • Everything I stated about the game is fact, not opinion.

      You just dont like it because it brings the game into the cold light of day.

      Im sorry if you dont like it that ME2 is divided into crappy, linear shooting galleries.

      Im sorry if you dont like it that ME2s so called “plot” is just a series of “pick me up” and “run this errand” side missions forming no cohesive whole.

      Im sorry that you dont like someone pointing out the RPG elements were shoved aside.

      These things about the game SUCK.

      Just because you feel ashamed for being the type of moron ME2 is designed for, dont take it out on those who had tons of stuff they liked about the Mass Effect series ripped out.

      This isnt even factoring in the general pissing all over the lore, the bonehead magic science, and glaring plotholes present in ME2 either.

      Simply put, as a Mass Effect game, ME2 sucked ass, and was designed for morons.

      As a run of the mill TPS with cursory RPG elements thrown in as an afterthought, it manages pretty well for itself though.

      Deal with it.

  • murv is right on point. ME2 is no ME1. hopefully ME1 wont still be the best of the bunch when ME3 comes out as well.

  • Pingback: Mass Effect: The Best RPG Franchise Ever? | Frankenstone's Blog()

  • @ Murv

    You just tried to restate the same garbage you did before… geez you’re a moron. Go play more FF14 or whatever japan just crapped out. I guess the millions who loved it were wrong huh?

    • Everything aside, just because millions of people bought the game doesn’t mean that millions of people loved it. You’re not gonna know if a game is good until you actually play it and see it for yourself. Think about it.

  • @murv

    “Everything I stated about the game is fact, not opinion”

    Let’s examine that…

    ” The fact that every single character is an objective, both in how you acquire and later placate them makes the game feel ridiculously artificial.” –Opinion. It may be formulaic but it’s a different formula to ME1 and enhances the story in it’s own way. You don’t mention what RPG game you like, so I’m going to assume it’s so not in any way formulaic or contrived- as if that exists. Does every single interaction need to be like a choose-your-own-adventure and swing the entire plot? I don’t think so.

    “I dont think being forced into the games intrusive TPS system satisfied me as a player wanted a good portion of RPG out of his “TPS/RPG” *HYBRID*.” — Clearly opinion. One that 90% of people who play the game have disagreed with.

    ME3 will tie up more loose ends in the plot I’m sure – ends which were likely intentionally left loose.

    • Pathetic.

      You are forcing YOUR opinion on a blatant FACT about the game.

      Listen. 90% of the games plots revolve around long cover shooter missions where the objective is “find the character”, or “run my errand”.

      You can dress them up, but thats the basics.

      A contrary example would be ME1. Try as you mean, getting down to the basics all the main plot worlds until the games finale are “find piece of the mystery to stop Saren”.

      The important thing to notice is that ME1s mission objective works together as one whole, playing a part in the story.

      ME2s mission objectives net you one more expendable goon for the mission, or a more effective expendable goon for the mission.

      ME2s plot is a busywork sidestep, so that there is less for them to “tie up”, as you put it in ME3.

      That is not opinion. That is stating an observation based on facts.

      If you think you can deny that ME2 is made up of the same basic objective played out over a series of completely disconnected side missions, youre delusional.

      Same applies to trying to deny the game is broken into linear shooter missions.

      Obviously yourself and Diamo are too obsessed with Bioware to realise the mediocre crap they just spewed out.

      Like I said, youre clearly exactly the kind of dumbass ME2 was designed for.

  • @ everyone

    I think I have to agree with Murv on this one. I enjoyed ME2, but not quite as much as the first iteration. They are both decent games. I don’t play many games in general, because very few feel worth it to me, so when I say that I felt like the levels in ME2 felt confined, I mean that I, a casual gamer, felt like I was watching someone else’s story rather than creating my own. Approaching combat scenarios, it felt like someone else’s tactics were being forced upon me and I was not at all free to think naturally and creatively about how to approach said tatical situation. (I think that is what people are referring to as the “shooting gallery” feeling)
    The depth of the universe created by ME1, and the frank plausibility of it, is what got me hooked in the first place. Sometimes when playing ME1, I would read/listen to the codex for hours learning about the history and cultures. I would do this not only because it was interesting, but because I would get into my character and think “Okay, so if I’m going to save the galaxy, I better know more about what I’m saving.” Whatever way things are, the thing that bothered me about ME2 vs 1 was that the immersion was lost, and I’m not just referring to the loading screens. Galaxy travel, to me, felt more thrilling in the first one. It was like: “Oh I think I’ll go there now” and off you went (with beautiful animations along the way). It felt like an true adventure, not a game. Although in ME2 galaxy travel is more realistic, with having to make sure you’ve got fuel. I think that it detracts from the grand operatic feel of exploring the galaxy and following a wonderful plot as it winds throughout the stars. Mainly because, if you are the commander of the mission, you really shouldn’t have to focus on the actual operation of ship and fueling up, that’s why you have a crew of people you can trust who are there to do those tasks. Similar case with mining. Plus it always bugged me that in both games you are working for people with vast resources, who are entrusting you to save the galaxy, and yet they aren’t inclined to give you proper resources and equipment so you can focus on your job.
    Also, again this is opinion folks, it felt like ME1 was built for PC first, allowing full use of the platform and then streamlined for consoles, whereas ME2 felt like it was built for consoles and then merely ported to PC. It could not have taken that much effort for them to allow full customization of the keyboard map, or graphics options more specific than low, med, and high. The utilities are already there, they just needed a front end UI, which isn’t that hard (/opinion). Yes the vehicular travel was god awful in ME1, but eliminating it also eliminated random surface exploration of worlds. I can’t tell you how cool it was to travel to a planet via the star map, select a world, read it’s description (however generic), and deploy a team to the surface. You could get out and walk around and I’ll be damned if it isn’t something like the feeling the Apollo astronauts must have got when they walked on the moon, with only your small team and rover on the surface of a barren rock knowing that all that separates you from the the rest of the galaxy is a thin layer of atmosphere inside your suit or clinging to the surface of the world. But I digress.
    I remember way back before ME1 came out, and they were doing a sneak peak chat with the developers where they made a point to say that they were trying to give the gamer a way to create their own story. To feel that the Normandy was their ship, that its crew was their crew, and that they were just part of a whole galaxy of possibilities that could be explored. That is what *I* think is missing from ME2. ME2, an awesome augmented cinematic experience, but it was missing my imagination, and you know what? That matters.

  • yodathe3rd

    i really agree that the mass effect series has been awesome. the first one i really didn’t care for as much as the second but loved the better RPG leveling of the first game. In the 3rd game i have heard the combat is even better then 2 so i can’t wait to see what bioware is going to throw at us with dragon age 2 earlier in the year then mass effect 3 later which is awesome. GO BIOWARE!

  • I got a message from a friendo regarding this:

    http://img10.abload.de/img/211qvyuvdcl.gif

    “This is Commander Shepard and this is my favorite trolling thread on the Citadel”

    See ya, haters! Go back to play D&D in your basements!


 

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