11 July 2012

"It's the end of the world as we know it"

...and I feel fine, fine.

Now I too have finally brought commander Shepard's mission which started way back in 2007 in the first Mass Effect to a conclusion. It took few months before Mass Effect 3 hit the bargain bins. I was afraid to buy it full-price because of all the nerd rage the game received upon its release. Silly me, you shouldn't believe everything you read, especially in message boards...

I would be lying if I said I enjoyed every moment in ME3. To me, Mass Effect 2 is a perfect video game, arguably the best in the trilogy. I won't go into detail as to why as you can easily read all about it by clicking the tag "Mass Effect 2". In pure comparison though, why is the new, supposedly more advanced graphics engine actually worse? Where is the beautiful dynamic lightning which lit up the scenes so effectively in ME2? Now lighting is flat, making most of the scenes visually undramatic. Cut scenes aren't of a movie quality anymore in terms of direction, "camera work" and editing either. Sometimes they are too video-gamey for their own good, meaning stiff compositions and awkward movement. And the PS3 version I played is horribly choppy and glitchy in places, just like some bad PC game. And the sloppy analogue sticks of a PS3 controller doesn't help in some of the shittiest fights!

Those were the main technical issues. And then the missions. In ME2 they were intriguing and diverse, offering a wide variety of approaches and situations. In ME3 most of the missions play out like glorified shooting galleries, even the most important ones. The worst of the bunch were N7 missions played in drab multiplayer maps. Characterization was better in ME1 and ME2, new faces introduced here aren't as deeply written or that ambiguous either. Yes, they are interesting but something is missing, especially when part of the conversations aren't presented as a cut scene dialogue but as flat lines in the environment. And why didn't they keep any of the ME2 cast as squad members here? Sure, they all have bigger or smaller cameos or even important triggers here but I would have preferred some of them having a squad member status. For me it wasn't the same in the field without Kasumi and Jack. I'm happy though that Kasumi, despite of her DLC status, makes a fun cameo. But we have Garrus, you can't find more loyal friend and brother in arms than him.

 Though not playable, Mordin has one of the bigger roles of ME2 cast here.

Oh, along the line there was one encounter which marked the first time in Mass Effect series that I have laughed at it. Not that kind of laugh "oh, how funny scene" (there are those, some of the lines between characters you can't help but laugh heartily at) but more like how unintentionally laughable it was. But a good asset to the war effort nevertheless!

The start of the game is really dire. It almost makes you not wanting to continue. But it's Mass Effect so you have to play it and it does pick up the proverbial pace the farther you advance. The scenery gets more beautiful and grand, and the events start to make even the player nervous, not forgetting poor Shepard herself (I have always played fem-Shep and always will) who has unbelievable odds against her and an immeasurable burden on her shoulders. The romance aspect is tender and touching (at least with the person I chose), played out in various scenes thus having more importance here than ever before. Previously you practically just got laid and that was it and you were free to end the relationship and start hitting someone else. In ME3 the romance is to last.

 Even Shepard needs some comforting words.

And then the beginning of the end starts. Most of the mission Priority: Earth is a drag; endless battles repeating themselves one after another. It almost wears you out, but in a sense that literally puts you under Shepard's skin. Doesn't it never end? But when you start making the final stretch for that infamous beam of light, it all plays out perfectly from there on. A stellar way to end nigh perfect series.

The huge flak Bioware received from the endings themselves was plain unnecessary. It really blew out of proportions. The way I see it Bioware's solution was gravely misunderstood by the gaming public. From what I have read the main reason why players rebelled so loudly was that they claimed the choices you make during ME3 don't play a role in the endings. Wrong! So very wrong! In fact, everything you do either increases or decreases Effective Military Strength. The more EMS you have scored, the more satisfactory the ending of your preference will turn out. I'm not going to argue about different endings as to which of them is the best or which the worst because there are none such things. It's all up to you. Each ending has their own justifications, their own rights and wrongs. Don't forget, we have a choice! A choice to choose an ending we want (more or less). That's the only way Bioware could do it and it's way better than some predetermined conclusion which arguably would lead part of the players unsatisfied. And I can't stress enough how big an impact the choices you made in ME2 have in ME3. For all newcomers to the series it's more than recommended to play the previous games first (well, if you have PS3, you can only start from ME2). There are so many variables between the games it's bewildering!

You wouldn't believe it by my red eyes and crackling skin but I'm a good gal here...

The most important factor in recent "Extended Cut" DLC is that it lowers some of EMS requirements for certain consequences which is good for those who don't want to play multiplayer to rack up the EMS score. Storywise it doesn't add anything so important you couldn't live without. Oh, the new refusal ending! It's so completely pointless I think anyone who chose it must curse it afterwards.

Mass Effect 3 concludes one of the greatest trips in science fiction in a bravado that will have you thinking and reeling long afterwards, even though all the details don't make sense no matter how you twist your brain around them. But hey, it's science fiction! And it doesn't come much better than the Mass Effect trilogy.

Nerd gamer: Hey dude, why didn't you mention anything about Kai Leng, you know, the kick-ass cyborg ninja villain who's like so cool, huh-huh?
Me: Because he's the biggest coward in the whole galaxy as we knew it and who I wouldn't have even mentioned hadn't you asked it. Even though I enjoyed the every second of finishing him off with a renegade interrupt!


NePaul Wilson said...

Haha I've been waiting to see this review for quite some time now, now that it's here. I have to agree with all my heart with this line "The huge flak Bioware received from the endings themselves was plain unnecessary."

People blew all of this WAY out of line to the point it got to a simple witch hunt instead of constructive criticism. In regards to the ending of the game, I knew going in that there was no way, NO possible way, that Bioware could ever make the ending that I desired because there are simply to many variables to account for. That being said after I beat the Reapers, I quickly went to work on writing and illustrating my own ending. In a story as massive as Mass Effect, there is no canon or what happens on the screen, there simply your imagination.

I think the gift of imagination is greater in Mass Effect 3 than any of the others and it's to that degree that I applaud Bioware, had they simply spoon fed me all my desires I don't think it would have been nearly as heart breaking a conclusion (for example in my ending Liara and Kaiden go back the Citadel to search for Shepard, while the rest of the Fleet searches for survivors, since yo know, it's the BLOOD Citadel with thousands of people on it, and Shepard rises from the ashes as he did in the first Mass Effect etc).

I do respect Bioware's endings and I think they did an amazing job with Mass Effect 3, but like I said sometimes you just have to add your own two cents. Also I agree, I wanted my Grain effect back to really get that 80's-90's sci-fi feel.

All in all I think you gave it an honest review and I appreciate reading it!

P.s. I liked Kai Leng, granted he was cooler in the books, but I guess that's what happens when you get your knee caps shot out by a Anderson.

Shunichiro said...

While I was content with the ending I picked up, I agree there's more to it than the game or any other "official" ME story, be it a book, a comic or whatever, could offer.

The fact that you play your own Shepard goes beyond the scope of the game and it goes on to show Bioware has managed to create characters and a universe which live on their own terms. Your Shepard lives in your imagination and you have hundreds of stories and additional characteristics for her (or him) and her brothers in arms. And there are thousands of these stories combined as each intelligent individual - who don't just blast their games through without thinking - will have their own unique stories no one else has, unless you share them in forums or somewhere else. Which brings me to my point and that is I demand you to share your storyboard for your own ending!

As for Kai Leng, I thought his battle tactics were extremely cheap, not something you should boast about like he does. As soon as you get his shields down, he scurries back like a scared rabbit and calls for adds. Doesn't dare to go one-on-one against Shepard... which, of course, might be because Shep is faster and tougher than katana ;)

NePaul Wilson said...

Well taking Bioware's ending for what it was worth, it was open ended, even more so with the extended cut. All of the endings leave a feeling that there is more to the universe. Either with Shepard becoming god-like, Shepard still being alive, or Shepard ending all diversity between all species and essentially making everyone a god. I personally was a fan of the refusal ending due to the fact it opens a whole new dimension to the world of Mass Effect since it would technically reboot the whole series (while it would be devastating living with the fact all Shepard's friends and loved ones have died, I like to play around with the idea that Shepard was put into stasis similar to Javik and would awaken in the next cycle to fight the Reapers once more). Of course like I said before I made up my own ending so I wouldn't go with any of these.

Well I think part of what makes Mass Effect such an amazing series is how much of your own imagination feels in the gap. They never reveal exactly what technology was used in the Lazarus Project to bring Shepard back or what fun adventures they had after the destruction of Sovereign. With my ending Shepard is still alive and there are a whole lot of new adventures I had planned (plus the banquet to hold for defeating the Reapers where the Asari councilor got drunk, but that's another story). I think it's the first time in a Mass Effect game where I don't care to buy the DLC regardless of what they release because I'm so content with what I already have, I feel from here on out it's all the stories I make and even within the game.

I even had an idea for DLC that would take place through the major events of the game where you directly confront Harbinger on numerous occasions. I wanted the Reapers to play such a larger role other than just being an opposing force, I wanted Harbinger to really try to push Shepard's buttons and even a final confrontation with him.

I just have some rough sketches, but I'd more than happy to show you them when I get a chance to scan them or at the very least show you a rough outline of what I had in mind.

Well he certainly the Kai Leng he was in the book, fast, acrobatic, and well, a jerk. Having killed Aria's daughter when she was stunned and could not fight, using a child as a shield. I think picking fights then running away when the opportunity was best was fitting for the character.