Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Mass Effect

The game has plenty of tough situations
where there are multiple ways to handle things.
To celebrate the religious festival known only as N7 Day, I will review the video game Mass Effect which is, in my definitely not biased opinion, the greatest video game ever made. Set in the near future, humanity is a newcomer on the galactic stage, yet to earn the trust of the Space UN Security Council. You are Commander Jesus Shepard (first name, gender, appearance and personality are customisable), a bad-ass war hero on the SSV Normandy SR-1. After an attack on a human colony by a rogue Council agent and the mysterious robots known as the Geth, she has hallucinations dreams caused a strange alien artifact and the game revolves around solving the mystery that could change the galaxy forever...

But seriously, the story is engaging; you surround yourself in the world and become as much a part of it as you want to be. For many people, ME is simply a decent shooter. There's nothing wrong with that, but underneath that, there's a galaxy to discover. In this world, humanity aren't a galactic superpower. They're newcomers trying to earn their place, similar to humanity in Star Trek: Enterprise (in Mass Effect, instead of First Contact with Vulcans, they had a war with the turians). You represent humanity and as you travel the cosmos, you uncover the stories of the galaxy's inhabitants and you can change those stories forever. Outside combat situations, the game revolves around choosing dialogue options. The game has a dialogue system in which you can choose between Paragon, sympathetic and moral, or Renegade, be an arsehole. If you keep making Paragon choices or keep making Renegade choices, you gain access to dialogue options you wouldn't normally have, allowing you to convince others to help you or talk someone down. This system is clear, precise and allows conversations in the game to flow. The system is also where you make key choices that define the game. You can choose who lives or dies. Or you can defend the religious freedoms of the jellyfish preacher. I'm super cereal. The choices in this game carry on and affect the story of later games.

Chillin' on the moon.
One of the main inspirations of the game is obviously Star Trek. There are missions in the game that happen no matter what, but by exploring the galaxy you can see things and play missions that another player may have completely ignored. This creates a sense of exploration about the game that stands out. From your ship, you can travel to other star systems and you go to the planets in these systems, learning about their history, their structure (politically, astronomically and geologically speaking), even make one small step for mankind (as well as turian, asari, krogan...) and land on strange new worlds, travelling in the Mako, which for some unknown reason looks like one of those old Big Trak toys from the 80's.

Garrus' rebellious streak contrasts
his people's martial discipline and
"society first" attitude. He's also
just an awesome bro. 
This game oozes immersion and this immersion strengthens this game's greatest achievement: your crew. You may love them or hate them, but your squad-members are well-written, interesting and feel real. They give you a window into the game's universe and if they were aliens, a window into the culture, history and society of that particular species. A good example is Wrex, a krogan. Without Wrex, the krogan would seem to us to be henchman of the main villain and nothing more. Having Wrex on your squad gives them a personal story and shows the hardships the species had faced. Thousands of years ago, the krogan were decimated by a sterility plague created by the ruling races of the game, the salarians and turians. Wrex tells you how it destroyed their society and how krogan became simple soldiers of fortune or bouncers: trophies and not the great race they once were.

But the game isn't just serious story. The game is funny when it needs to be, especially if your character is a Renegade. Shepard becomes a sarcastic arsehole (like me in real life) and the game just becomes pure awesome. All in all, the game has balance and variety with the hope and humour of the personal elements of the story offsetting the annoying-as-fuck politicians and morally grey galaxy. You know, like in real life.

Even though Mass Effect is the story ever told by humanity, the gameplay is less than stellar. The game has a few immersion breaking glitches and the combat needed improvement, no matter how fun throwing singularities at robots was. Side quests reuse the levels, so you may be fighting through the same warehouse over and over again. It can get repetitive and it sometimes feels like the combat gets in the way of the story. If you play the game for combat rather than story, you are better off with one of the game's sequels or another series altogether.

Even with this in mind, Mass Effect makes you feel like you are the captain of the Normandy and is one of the most immmersive experiences I've ever had. Bioware have created a universe and characters people can invest in, in the same way people immerse themselves in Star Wars or Doctor Who. It's a great game.

No comments:

Post a Comment