Monday, March 5, 2012

I'll have a Mass Effect with a side of fried brain.

Yeah, the title of this post pretty much sums up how I felt last night just before going to bed, having finally completed playing Mass Effect for the first time. I know, I know, it's a little odd that I haven't played it until now, but until my friend Chris convinced me last week to play it, I had simply passed it up. I must say, it's a wonderfully detailed game, and I definitely enjoyed it overall, but my god, does it have a lot of information packed into it. Hence the title of this post. To be honest, I'm still not quite certain just how many of the missions and story lines are actually relevant to the final product itself, but at least you aren't required to do everything just to get an understanding of the plot in general. Doing the side missions can give you small additional details to sort of flesh out the story line, but it isn't necessary to understand what the game is about.

Game mechanics-wise, I would have to say that it's fairly well done. There were a few times where I found myself getting highly frustrated, such as the time where there were small cut scenes during what would equate to a boss battle (which, if your character had been knocked down just prior to said cut scene, would cause your character to glitch afterwards and not be able to do anything until killed), but overall there weren't too many issues.

One thing that definitely sticks with me, and is probably more of a pet peeve thing for me, is the lack of a consistent auto-save on Mass Effect. It does have an auto-save function, but the few times it actually saves for you are when you land on a planet, or during crucial parts of the storyline, which really don't happen as often as one might think they would. I would have liked if, at the very least, they had implemented an auto-save function that activated whenever you were on a load screen, because, considering how often you are flying between planets and star clusters or enter a building, which subsequently activates a load screen, it would make sense. Now, I know part of the mantra for a gamer is, 'Save often', but to have to stop and save every five minutes gets to be a little tedious, especially for a game that has as many things to do as Mass Effect.

Another thing that struck me was the nearly-useless thrusters on the Mako, basically the Mass Effect equivalent of a Bradley or other similar vehicle. Supposedly it's supposed to be used for getting over rough terrain, but there are a few problems with it. For starters, it doesn't last long enough. At most, I think you can get maybe 2 or 3 seconds of flight time with it, which, considering the type of terrain most of the planets end up having, isn't enough to really do much. Even the times when it is enough, there is the issue that the thrusters will push the vehicle in whatever direction the top of the vehicle is facing, since the thrusters only shoot straight down from the bottom of the vehicle. Meaning that if you are trying to go up a slope that is, say, 60 degrees, you won't go forward and upwards when activating the thrusters (even if you do have decent momentum prior to activation). You will end up flying backwards and upwards, because that is the direction the top of the vehicle is facing. Now, while this may follow real world physics (momentum not-withstanding...), it comes off as rather poor implementation of something that would otherwise be very useful. Hopefully this has been changed in the second game, which at the current moment I'm not sure when I'll have a chance to play.

Other than those two (well, I suppose three technically) points though, the game was quite enjoyable. The combat was easy to get into, the varying abilities you get are also easy to use and fun to play around with in different combinations. I do think that the cover system could have been different, which I believe I read somewhere has been addressed in the second game of the series. Story-wise, I think it was very well done. The people who made this game definitely wanted you to feel as though you were actually part of the story, and that every action and decision you make has an impact upon how things play out. You have this entire galactic community, with different species that actually have backgrounds, culture, even reasons behind how and why they act and think in the game's present day. You even have planets that, while you may not be able to land on them, sometimes have little tidbits in their descriptions that hint at a larger, hidden story. It makes you feel as if the story came first, and the game was built around the story, rather than the other way around. I, personally, am one of those people who does tend to like games that have a well thought out story, and I wish more games would come out like this. That's not to say that I don't enjoy my fair share of shooter games, or just straight up pure destruction, but every now and then it's nice to find a game that actually tries to give you more of that immersive experience.

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