Blog 590: Mass Defect

I have played, and spoken of the Mass Effect series many times before… But not for a while. I’ve only ever played Mass Effect 3 once (when the extended ending DLC came out, I only replayed the ending), but I can’t exactly dive straight into the final part of a trilogy, no sirree.

So, let’s go back to the beginning…

(Might be spoilers.)

Mass Effect

I’ve talked plenty about Mass Effect before, but that was a long time ago. Let’s try again, and see how much either my opinions have changed or I subconsciously repeat myself…

Why does Robbie repeat himself? Because he's a big stupid jellyfish!

Why does Robbie repeat himself? Because he’s a big stupid jellyfish!

No, no ratting on the poor old Mako this time.

No, no ratting on the poor old Mako this time.

The thing that struck me most, this time, was that Mass Effect really hates movement. Maybe it’s exacerbated by coming out of Shogo – Mobile Armor Division, which like all the best action games punishes stillness with death, but Mass Effect really seems like it wants you to sit around doing not very much.

It actively punishes you for moving. Want to keep shooting while moving between cover? Have some reduced accuracy, bro. How about enemies with instant-kill sniper rifles for being a second too long in the open?

No, it wants you to sit behind cover and poke your head over for tiny bursts. Which might be fine, but…

It also punishes you for sitting behind cover. (And you’ll inevitably poke your head up just as that slow-moving rocket is about to hit your face.)

This is evidence that the Green ending was planned all along!

This is evidence that the Green ending was planned all along!

Enemies have shields. Don’t rat on them for long enough? They come back and you have to start all over again.

And how about some Krogan warriors, or Geth Destroyers? They’ll charge you, just to highlight how bad melee attacks are, then the Krogan will use medigel to regenerate all their health while they are standing in your face.

I think most of my complaints come from me playing Mass Effect as an arena shooter when it clearly isn’t. I never pick my squad-mates based on their ability to remove enemies from cover and control the battlefield, I pick them on who I like at the time. If that means mostly Garrus and Tali but never ever Kaiden, then so be it.

Maybe that means I am actually playing it more as an RPG (in the abstract rather than statistical sense), playing as a character that really doesn’t like Kaiden. I’m usually a soldier myself, because I like shooting more than faffing with abilities (grenades notwithstanding), so I sink all my money into Assault Rifles and Sniper Rifles, with a bit of health and accuracy regeneration on top (and Charm, oh me oh my, all the Charm). The game is happy enough to let me do this, but combat is just a bit too fluffy to give it much clout.

I always find "Benezia's Power Level" unintentionally hilarious. Is "Over 9000" uncool yet?

I always find “Benezia’s Power Level” unintentionally hilarious. Is “Over 9000” uncool yet?

Then, of course, comes the Pinnacle Station DLC, where everything turns on its head. You have to be able to move around and soak up a lot of fire to win any of the scenarios, and the fast beat-down of a well-cooled Spectre Master Gear assault rifle is the only way to battle through (top pistols might work too, and shotguns help for the enemy charges, but snipers are completely out the window).

Okay, that’s optional extra content, we can’t go too far down that rabbit hole. (It’s not like I haven’t been there before anyway.)

Pinnacle Station is also less well known for its biting satire.

Pinnacle Station is also less well known for its biting satire.

Explosions are the one time when bloom works really well.

Explosions are the one time when bloom works really well.

Mass Effect is, as a whole, very floaty. I don’t mean just in the sense of the Mako’s funky suspension and blatant disregard for gravity, I mean in general.

Continuing to harp on about combat, the gunshots and impacts all sound very muted and somehow… soft. I’ve heard it said that the difference between a weapon feeling powerful and rubbish can be the sound it makes, and from my own experiences I’m inclined to agree — the dull roar of the assault rifle and the fleshy thwocks of unshielded impacts turn an unending hail of bullets into gently decreasing a sack of hit points.

Even walking around feels somehow muted, Shepard’s run speed being painfully sedate. Considering how much time is spent wandering around or, worse, waiting in elevators, the weightless movement doesn’t even give that any level of satisfaction.

Cerberus? Never heard of 'em. They definitely don't fly around in ships emblazoned with their logo, nor have huge space stations all over the place, no sirree. Just a minor black ops program, they'll never amount to anything.

Cerberus? Never heard of ’em. They definitely don’t fly around in ships emblazoned with their logo, nor have huge space stations all over the place, no sirree. Just a minor black ops program, they’ll never amount to anything.

The Verdict

So that’s my conclusion this time around — despite doing a mostly stellar job of delivering emotion and engaging highs and lows in its cinematics, Mass Effect‘s in-between parts (you know, the game bits) are conspicuously light and airy in comparison.

This time I didn’t bother being completist about all the uncharted worlds. This is the first playthrough I’ve ever done where I have not had infinite money… Not that I particularly needed it.

I do like Mass Effect, but there’s no denying that it’s got Issues.

Ah well, sequel time!

It wouldn't be a blog about Mass Effect if I didn't include this ol' chestnut.

It wouldn’t be a blog about Mass Effect if I didn’t include this ol’ chestnut.

Blog 590: Mass Defect

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