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.
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.
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.
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.