Monday, January 13, 2020

Mass Effect 3

Well, I finished Mass Effect 3.  I’ve been vaguely aware since this game came out that people were disappointed with it.  I have to ask, what the hell is their problem?  This game is BY FAR the best of the series.  It completely blows all others away.  There isn’t even a question of competition here.  This is the game that I was expecting Mass Effect 2 to be.  Imagine my disappointment when it was Mass Effect 2 instead.

This is the only game in the original trilogy that actually feels like a story, rather than a collection of things that happen.  The whole thing feels sufficiently apocalyptic and epic in scope.  Even the side quests feel like they’re a part of the greater story, and serving the overall narrative.  Right from the beginning it starts off with a bang in the Reaper invasion of Earth, and you head through, resolving the conflicts of the people who have been with you from the beginning to pull everyone together to fight in the last battle to save all life in the galaxy.  I loved it.  Despite being the shortest game in the series—I didn’t even break 20 hours of gameplay on it—this was a GREAT end to a story that has been kind of mediocre up to now, if I’m being honest.

The combat and leveling systems are a step up from the previous games, and this is the first game in the series where I really noticed the music, which was really good.  My only real complaint is that the character and facial animations are horrible in this game.  It’s like they took a huge step backward from the previous game in that regard.  People make fun of Mass Effect Andromeda for the character and facial animations, but anyone who does must not have ever played Mass Effect 3.

I did not play any of the DLC for the game, though I did get the free extended cut.  I just didn’t want to pay double what the game costs to be able to play three stories that are probably pretty short and not worth the money.  If they ever cut the price on them, maybe I’ll pick ‘em up, but until then I’ve got better things to spend my money on.

Anyway here’s my rankings for the series, best to worst:

1.) Mass Effect 3 - The story, in my opinion, is the best of the bunch, and I liked the narrower focus on a smaller group of characters.  It gave the game the time and room it needed to flesh them out more than previous games.

2.) Mass Effect Andromeda - A very good open world game with a crapton of things to do, the best combat of the entire series, an interesting story, and some good characters.

3.) Mass Effect - Though the characters are pretty wooden and one dimensional, and the controls are pretty broken, once you get a good team put together with enough abilities, you can pretty much just overpower your way through the deficiencies in the gameplay.  While the story feels less a story and more a collection of random things that happen, it had a great villain, a pretty epic climax, and was a good setup for things to come.

4.) Mass Effect 2 -  Yes, that’s right, everyone’s little darling is my least favorite game in the series.  Why?  IT’S FREAKING BORING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Too many characters.  Not enough story.  The game doesn’t even have a villain.  It’s 5 hours of story, and 30 hours of playing psychiatrist to boring people I just don’t care about. While the combat, controls and visuals are better than the first game, the more I think about it the less I actually liked it.  For all the choices and consequences for those choices there are in the game, it just didn’t have a story to back it up with.

Okay, there.  Now I can say I’ve played the Mass Effect series.  Now people can stop harassing me about it.  I played your stupid games, now leave me alone!

Friday, January 10, 2020

Mass Effect 2

So, finished Mass Effect 2.  Right from the beginning it is a much, much better game than the first one.  It has a pretty awesome cinematic beginning, followed by a pretty good opening mission.  The combat is a vast improvement, the graphics and level design are a lot more detailed.  The controls aren’t a complete dumpster fire.  I mean, you can actually utilize cover without having to bash the cover button 73 times before giving up and just charging in guns blazing like in the first game.  The camera controls actually work correctly, and there’s no horrible vehicle or even worse vehicle combat.  Shepard has a lot more personality this time around.  Although, I think that might be due to my dialog choices.  The first game I played straight paragon, and holy crap was paragon Shepard boring.  This time I played straight renegade and I had a heck of a lot more fun with it being evil and ruthless.

But with all of the improvements over the first game, I still found myself a bit disappointed by it.  I suppose that’s what I get for listening to everyone tell he how great this game is, and how it’s the best thing Bioware has ever made, and blah blah blah.  There are 4 story missions.  4.  That’s it.  4.  And they’re all pretty short too, ranging from 30-45 mins each.  What do you do for the rest of the game?  Well, you go gather characters, survey planets for resources, upgrade your ship, and then you go spend a good 20 hours of the game playing psychiatrist to all of your peeps.  Some of them are pretty good.  I quite enjoyed Kasumi, Jack, Tali and Mordin’s.  I think the best part of the game wasn’t even originally part of the game.  The Liara DLC was probably my favorite story of the entire game.  It has a lot of cinematic chases and fights, and tells a great story.  Why couldn’t the rest of the game have been like that?  But most of them range from mediocre to adequate.  The problem with this game is that it has way, WAY too many characters.  And even though each of them has an introduction mission, and a story mission to earn their loyalty, there’s just so many of them that if you’re not regularly using the characters, they might as well be invisible for the rest of the game.  I don’t know how anyone else does it, but in games where you choose a team from a group of characters for each mission, I tend to find a few favorites, and only use them.  From all that I heard about this game before playing it, I expected this huge epic story, and it wasn’t.  It just felt like I was running around babysitting instead of taking part in a big, epic story.  It wasn’t bad, but I still kind of liked Mass Effect Andromeda more.  My brother about dropped dead when I told him that.  You’d think I’d just murdered his children and pissed on their graves by his reaction.  I’m sorry, I just don’t find running all over the galaxy doing glorified side quests to be very fun or interesting.  In any other game I’d have just skipped a good 30 hours of my 35 hours of gameplay, but I wanted everyone to live at the end.  I’m not much of a side-questy kind of guy. Also, I really, really dislike the leveling up system.  Rather than getting xp from everything you kill, you get a certain amount of xp for each mission, that usually does not equal what you have to do to get it.

So yeah, it was okay, but it doesn’t live up to the hype surrounding it.

Also, I started playing Mass Effect 3 today.  Anyone out there complaining about the character and facial animations in Mass Effect Andromeda, have y’all played Mass Effect 3?  HOLY CRAP!!!  Hypocrisy much?

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Mass Effect

So I've now played through the original Mass Effect.  And, uh, Mass Effect Andromeda is kind of a better game.  Anyone that says otherwise is probably looking back through nostalgia goggles.  The top three criticisms I see against Andromeda is the story isn't as good, the characters aren't as good, and the facial animation/graphical glitches.  Please.  Anyone saying that Mass Effect is better than Mass Effect Andromeda, go back and play it.  The characters are not really all that fleshed out.  I kept talking to them, trying to get some personality out of them, but all they do is speak entirely in exposition, and never feel like actual people.  Shepard is a piece of wood without a personality.  And the story feels more like a collection of side quests rather than an actual story.  It does have a pretty cool ending, and the villain is better than the one in Andromeda.  I ran into way more graphical errors and glitches in this game than I ever say in Andromeda.  The facial animations are pretty good even by today's standards though, so there is that.

Anyway, this game is just not very fun to play.  The controls are pretty broken.  Oh, you want to turn the camera to the right?  You can't do that, there's a wall 12 feet behind you blocking the camera's movement, so sorry.  The combat is kind of bleh, again, I don't really like shooters all that much, which is why I've avoided this series until now, but the combat in this game is really, really clunky.  Where it kind of grew on me in Andromeda, I was constantly fighting the controls in this game to do even the simplest of things.  It makes a game that would otherwise have been okay just a chore to get through.  And omg, the freaking mako.  Just, holy crap, the controls on that thing are sooooooo freaking broken, so are the physics.  The thing feels like it weighs nothing as you attempt to drive it around.

This is the shortest Bioware RPG I've ever played.  I finished in less than 23 hours, and I did every side quest that came up, and surveyed every planet. 

The variety of planetary environments are pretty imaginative, but the actual maps themselves are all pretty copy and pasted.  The planets that are story related are a lot bigger with a lot more to explore, but at the same time, all of the imagination is pretty much gone from the environments.  Kind of a sad little trade off there.

Anyway.  I didn't hate the game.  I enjoyed the story well enough, though it did feel less like a story and more a collection of things that happen.  Like with Andromeda, this game kind of feels like a big, glorified prologue to a more interesting story to come later.  If you can get past that terrible controls and not very enjoyable gameplay, the story isn't bad, but holy crap, I can't believe anyone ever bothered to pick up the second game on release after playing through this thing.

So yeah, my probably unpopular opinion: Mass Effect Andromeda is a far superior game to the original Mass Effect.  Playing them back to back as I did really illustrated how much better the gameplay and all of Andromeda was.  I'm glad I played this one, and I'll be happy never to play it again.