Pointless Nonsense

Posted in video games by Bill on October 30, 2013

me1Just shy of 6 years after its initial release, I’m playing Mass Effect because it and ME2 were on sale for $5 each in a bundle on Steam. Since I’m not a particularly regular gamer, I don’t have a lot of basis for comparison, but it plays a lot like Fallout games, especially the recent ones (though given that this game out before Fallout 3, I guess it’s more that they are like Mass Effect than the other way around). It mostly plays as a very dialogue/story heavy RPG, navigating conversations with NPCs to acquire quests and advance plot and learn background info and all that, and then every once in a while there’s a short combat situation. And I’ve just hit the first real dungeon type thing. But much more time is dedicated to questing stuff.

They give you a third person view, which is actually pretty nice for the running around questing parts, but I struggled badly with the fighting early on. Part of that may be by design, I’m told that all the classes suck until they start to advance in level. I don’t like that you choose your class cold, with very little understanding of what the choice means. I think I chose well based on my general play style, Vanguard supposedly excels at close-range combat with shotguns and melee, and that’s certainly how I’ve always played FPSes, but I still don’t like it for combat. I spent the first few hours of combat parts dying a lot and spending my time hiding with a pistol trying to pick people off, making me wish I’d chosen a sniper class. But the shotgun skill takes a while to develop, and now that I actually have it at a decent spot, I’m doing pretty well with it.

The story is good enough, set a few centuries in the future, where humans have acquired technology for interstellar travel and are trying to fit in as the new guys in a long-established galactic community. Most of the fancy tech people have was recovered from some ancient super-advanced people who were wiped out millennia ago. You play the first human up for membership in the elite soldiers of a big alliance of races, and also someone who gets a crazy vision from ancient tech. So lots of politics, prophecies, that kinda stuff.

One of the real strengths is the voice talent. Keith David plays the captain of your ship and kind of a mentor, Marina Sirtis is a villain, Seth Green is your ship’s pilot, the evil leaper’s hologram from Quantum Leap is your ship’s doctor, Armin Shimmerman is one of the members of the council, and even the voices I don’t recognize do good work. The only voice I haven’t been completely satisfied with is Shepard, the main character. His voice actor is generally good, but for whatever reason it takes me out of the game every time his Canadian accent reveals itself (mostly on “out” and “about”). You have an option to chose a female protagonist at the beginning, and now I wish I’d chosen to do that. Actually, I’m not sure if there’s a way to switch genders mid-game. I should look in to that.

Probably 90% of the game so far has been running around talking to people, traversing dialogue trees, and peacefully resolving quests. But the main story is interesting enough, the little side stories give the illusion of plot progression, and it perfectly appeals to that nerdy instinct to tinker with stats and armor and weapons and things (not only do you have a choice of classes, choice of how you spent points along a skill tree, choice of weapons and armor, but also weapons and armor and ammo have slots for upgrades, so you end up with tons of options to fiddle with how your character works). So it is definitely engaging enough to keep me going to the end.


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  1. brandonmc87 said, on October 30, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Just played it recently myself. The story and sci-fi world impressed me, but almost everything else was either a nuisance or a disappointment. I just wish the combat was a little more complex. Unlimited ammo and no rewards for headshot left it feeling watered-down.

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