torsdag 26. november 2009

On Mass Effect.



Well, once I passed 10 hours played I went from "meh" to "cantstopplaying", so finished this rather faster than I thought I would. I thought it would take 40-60 hours to play through, it was a bit of a "shock" when I finished it in under 20 hours in the end.

Mass Effect is pretty much an action rpg with a western world flavour, it is more story and character driven than being obsessed with grinding levels and items to get further into the game than eastern rpgs. It is also very user friendly - with menus that are easy to understand, no statoverloads on characters or items, and generally few places to get lost (and the places you can get lost it's no biggie and easy to get out of). Gameplay is mostly about 5 things: combat, dialogue, exploration, button sequence minigames and driving around in a tanklike vehicle. The story is very space opera standard, loads of races that will remind you of at least 10 others if you have read any sci fi or watched start trek or star wars or the like - one finds some kind of artifact on a world attacked by evil robots led by a traitor of the ones trying to protect the galatic peace and you have to stop him from either eradicating humanity or whatever else he has in mind. The story aspect of the game has that main plot, and some side plots that are entirely optional. You end up having a spaceship, and get to travel around in the galaxy looking around for your foe or sidequests, or just dither about hunting weird monsters or find resources for the human alliance. The main quest "worlds" are all different, and have loads of characters with an agenda, and it takes a while to finish the plots on them. The worlds the sidequests pan out are mostly small, have a couple of weird beasts on them and a generic building that houses bandits, terrorists, pirates or whatever else you are going to kill there. Generally however, on every planet you end up driving around in your vehicle some, go around shoot a lot on foot and talk to npcs a lot on main quest worlds, and not at all on sidequest worlds. Often making main quest worlds something you play when having a few hours to play, and the sidequest stuff is something you can finish in a jiffy (with the danger of wanting more, and keep playing after, however).

What I liked the most in this game was well, the design actually. There is simply no bullshit included. The combat is fun throughout the game, powers, the lay of the land, the foes, there is always some variable that makes it interesting even though a lot of it may be reused (the foes in particular). Even the zoning (mostly through taking elevators) is handled well - the characters in your party can have a weird discussion, there is newsfeed that can either include some Hamlet-joke (I still giggle when I think of that joke) or even some kind of "someone is in trouble there and there, we will be back with more" news flash, and then you can actually go there to sort it out if you want to! This in my mind is pure genius, who hasn't wished they could just go give some moron criminal you saw on the news a good trashing if you could? But most of all, the characters made the game. The biggest reward of finishing the main plot worlds to me was that all of the party members would have something new to say after, either about what you did, their opinion on the galaxy or whatever, that was often interesting. And sometimes throughout the game you have to have important conversations with the characters or make a choice about who lives or dies, and so on, and for once I didn't min/max depending on effiency needs and picked survivors and friends out of ingame dialogue. Simply put, most of the playtime was just..fun. Also, the best design bit is perhaps the choices you get to make. The most important one is actually that you can choose how much time you want to spend finishing the game; the main plotline really doesn't take a lot of time, but it seems one can spend forever to do all the optional quests, gather gear, get rich, level up as much as possible and so on. The other choosing bit is dialogue options - instead of the usual black and white (or at least very light gray and very dark grey) in rpgs, it's more interesting options. Same goes for party members - depending on what you do, some of them might like you more, and they often come with interesting comments too. Making a replay seem like a must, switching gender/class/background on the main character, pick other npcs as party members and choose other ways to do things during the story to see how it all pans out. Combined with doing sidequests you perhaps did not do last time, it is a game that should be interesting for a long while.

However, it is not perfect. At some points, it feels like you are trying to run a new game on an old computer (even though this was on a console), framerate issues, sudden stops for the game to load or save something, that kind of thing. It is somewhat annoying, but luckily it never happens at important bits of the game. The most annoying part to me however, like in so many rpgs, was the vehiclebit. I don't know why developers really HAVE to include some lame ass driving section in these kinds of games, and since the vehicle in this game also is even more annoying to control than usual, like how the turret often seems to shoot way off the aim if your vehicle isnt standing just the right way, and so on. At least the driving sections never lasted long, or at least had small breaks where you played "properly". By all means, I am all for putting in some variation into games, but some kind of puzzles or something instead I'd prefer over this.

All things said, this one does the bioware label justice, and is prolly one of the best rpgs I have played on a console/pc.

Rated:
Entertainment: 9/10.
Thought Provoking: 5/10.

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