Monday, May 4, 2015

"It's a Video Game!" - The Mass Effect Trilogy

So, what does one get when they combine elements of Star Trek, Star Wars, Starship Troopers, Aliens, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, and everything in between? It’s possibly one of the coolest trilogies around. Today, I’ll be looking at the Mass Effect Trilogy, so sit down and lay back. This’ll take a while.

Where can I begin with Mass Effect? I guess I’ll start at the beginning. I didn’t know crap about this trilogy before March of last year.  All I had heard about it was it was good and that its third game had a crappy ending.  I had finished up a new game called Watchdogs. The game itself was fine, but it didn’t have any replay value for me, so I decided to trade it in at Gamestop. Since I got a sizable amount back for it, I looked around for something that might be good. I saw the Mass Effect Trilogy for a pretty cheap price, so I got it. The rest, you might say, is history… also, the helper there was pretty cute. I think I saw her at Hastings in Murfreesboro.

Anyway, here’s a little info for the uninformed. Mass Effect was released on the Xbox 360 and PC’s (it got ported to PS3 much later) in 2007. It was developed by Bioware who was responsible for games like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, and Dragon Age. It takes place in the somewhat distant future (2183) in the Milky Way galaxy. You play as Commander Shepard, an Alliance soldier who you make your own. Mass Effect 2 was released in 2011 on all consoles while Mass Effect 3 was released in 2013. For this review, I decided to play through the whole trilogy again in order to give it a better look and see what trouble I could really get myself into.
My Shepard’s black and looks like he’s trying to do his best Captain Sisko imitation.

Mass Effect
In the first game, you have to hunt down Saren, a rogue Spectre who’s joined in allegiance with a synthetic species called the Geth. You go around in an experimental ship called the Normandy and also get to explore different worlds. You can also interact with different races and cultures.  When it is revealed that Saren is actually working for an old, powerful, sentient machine called a Reaper, the whole Milky Way galaxy is put at risk and the Normandy must save the day.
I don't know what's better: working for a giant machine or having Marina Sirtis (she's the voice for Benezia) over your shoulder.

I don’t think you’d be shocked by me saying that I really like this game. I didn’t know what to expect with it. While I’ve heard that the games were good, I didn’t know how good until I played it. First off, I really like the universe it takes place in. It’s an immersive universe full of different alien races, different worlds (sort of), and different situations. I also liked the story in that it’s infused with action, politics, ethical dilemmas, and even romance. You get to build a team of pretty cool characters like Garrus, Liara, Tali, and Wrex.  If you’ve ever wondered how it would be to play James Kirk or Mal Reynolds, then this may be for you.

I like that you get to build your character from the ground up with backstory and ability set. You can also play your Shepard (male or female) however you want them to be. They can be either the nicest person in the galaxy or “a real douche.” Personally, I wasn’t that horrible, but there were times I dipped into the dark side of the Force. Your decisions on what you say influence what others think about you. They also have some unforeseen consequences in the game and later games which is really cool.

The gameplay is pretty good as well. It’s a third-person shooter, so you'll be shooting a lot of folk. Your abilities do vary on which career you choose. You can upgrade your weapons, your abilities, and your armor throughout the game. The effects and overall look of the game looks good as well. The designs and overall look of the places and people look well thought out. The level designs for most missions are also good.
While I like this game, I do think it has some shortcomings. They’re more like annoyances than outright dislikes. Most of the side missions tend to have a uniform look to it all. You land on a pretty desolate planet and you have to go to a complex that shockingly looks like most other complexes. There may be a box in another area, but you get the gist. You’d think that the planets would have some diversity to them, but no. Most of them are barren and not really diverse.

 I also wasn’t a big fan of some of the controlling. I had to use R2 to shoot and that was pretty weird. It was especially weird when I went back to play this game. Luckily, they fix this in the later games.  I’m also not a big fan of the MAKO which is basically a land rover/tank. Targeting with the thing could be tough, but it was cool to drive around on planets.  Unfortunately, you could get stuck as well. Who knew Star Trek: Nemesis would probably influence something? Other than those qualms and a couple of others, this was a good game.

Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2 takes place a few months after the end of the first game. Then, it skips ahead a couple of years. Without spoiling too much, Shepard gets taken off the grid for those two years. When he resurfaces, a rogue human black-ops organization called Cerberus asks him to help their organization. It turns out that humans are being abducted from colonies in the galaxy by a race called the Collectors. The problem is that the Collectors may or may not be working for the Reapers. Shepard (with a new Normandy) is ordered to put a team together in order to fight this new threat. They may have to risk it all in order to stop the Collectors.
Yep. It's from an earlier playthrough. I never found out what was under the mask. I'm not counting that photoshopped pic in the third game either.

I can honestly say that I love this game. I’ve played through this game three times to prove it. A lot has been improved from the franchise’s previous outing. The gameplay is pretty awesome. You get more maneuverability as well as new abilities to play with. You also get a big variety of weapons to use. We get to see more of this universe. We get more diversity in how different planets look and operate. The level designs and overall feel is just better. You also get to import your data from the first game which is really cool. You also can do this for Mass Effect 3.

The story is also really good. Instead of focusing so much on the big fight with the Collectors, most of your time will be dealing with your team. In order to gain their trust, you’ll have to go on different missions for them. While most familiar faces return for your team (Garrus and Tali), you get a lot of new characters to mess and interact with. A lot of them like Mordin, Samara, Thane, and Jack were pretty diverse and interesting.  You also have to deal with conflicts within the team. While you have dialogue to adjust your character, you also get quick-time events to help push you to either the side of the angels or the side of the demons.
Shepard: Okay, who wants to die for me? Don't raise your hand at once!

Then, there’s the suicide mission. Basically, you have to go to another system and it’s possible that you and your team may not make it back alive. You can make it back with all of your team or you may lose most of your team. It’s all about how you play the game really. On my first playthrough, I only lost one person, Mordin. It’s possible to have everyone survive (I did on my second playthrough), but I’m not telling how to do it. You got to figure it out for yourself like I did.
While there’s a lot to love about the game, there are some annoying things as well. While the team is pretty diverse, you’ll have one or two people who don’t bring much to the table (I’m looking at you Zaeed!). Also, some of the loyalty missions tend to have the same feel in that you’re basically doing something related to a member’s family. The Hammerhead (the replacement to the MAKO) is a bit annoying since it’s a pretty weak land vehicle. At least it regenerates its health and you don’t have to use it much. You’re also confined to certain places on planets. The big world aspect is gone but at least everything’s closer. Overall, this game is awesome.

Mass Effect 3
The final game in the trilogy takes place six months later. Without spoiling anything, Shepard is out of commission for those six months. He’s brought back when the Reapers show their mechanical faces in the galaxy. They attack all of the main races and double their efforts on Earth. In order to get help for Earth, Shepard reassembles most of his team and tries to unite all of the major races in the galaxy to face this big threat. Shepard also has to deal with Cerberus since it’s revealed that they have plans of their own in dealing with the Reapers.
Best team in the galaxy.

As usual, this game is on par with the previous two. I’m not in love with this game as I am with Mass Effect 2, but it is still a great game in its own right. The gameplay is the best it’s ever been. Shepard is a freaking beast in the battlefield. You get new, cool abilities and you get even more maneuverability. You also get newer weapons and the ability to upgrade your weapons again. Mass Effect 2 took that away for some reason. You also get to see pretty much everyone you’ve encountered in the trilogy like former teammates and other non-playable characters. The added multiplayer section is actually pretty cool.

The story is pretty good for the most part. The whole galaxy is at war with the Reapers and you have to do all you can in order to save everyone. You have to broker deals and try to end hostilities between different races. It’s all pretty interesting and everything can go one way or another. You also get to see some of your former teammates have some awesome moments. There are also some deaths that may make you want to have the tissues around. The Reapers were pretty terrifying as villains and Cerberus proved to be an interesting threat as well.
If you’re wondering why Tali is on the memorial… I messed up on my last playthrough. Big time.

While there is a lot I liked about the game, I do have some complaints about it.  I don’t like that you get to play with a lot of your squad from ME2. Everyone on your team is either from the first game or new people.  While it was cool to hang with your teammates from ME2, I wanted to have them on board. Some levels can go a little too long. While I liked the gameplay and level design, most of the missions didn’t need to be really time-eating. I also don’t like the lack of a final boss in the game. Still, you do get to risk it all against all by fighting all of the Reaper forces you faced in the game.

I might as well talk about the ending to the game. I won’t spoil what happens. Besides, it ends on how you play the game. A lot of folk were mad about the ending. Personally, I think that it’s an okay ending. It pales in comparison to the endings from the other games. If you are going to play the game, make sure you download the Extended Ending DLC since it adds more to the original ending. Personally, I don’t know why they didn’t include the extended stuff in the actual game when it was released in the first place. It just seems weird. Still, the complaints don’t kill the game for me. It’s still a pretty good one and a nice ending to this awesome trilogy.


Overall, this is a fine trilogy to play and own. As for my favorite game, it’ll have to be Mass Effect 2. I really can’t say which is my least favorite since all of them are so close to perfection. I just had a lot of fun with the second game. I don’t know where Bioware will be taking the next Mass Effect game. I doubt they’ll use the same characters in the new game. It could be a prequel or it even could take place in another galaxy. The possibilities are endless. Well, “I should go.” Peace, God Bless, and don’t blow up any galaxies.
Don't worry, I don't dance this bad.

No comments:

Post a Comment