Friday, May 25, 2012

Top 50 Video Games: Number 9

Platform: Xbox 360
Absurdly Specific Genre: Chatting, Exploring, and Romancing...also Saving the Galaxy 
Difficulty: 5
Beaten: Yes

It's a fairly common story at this point, but it holds true again. This one didn't click for me the first time I tried it. There are a variety of reasons why, the Mako (thankfully removed in later games in the series) was unwieldy and annoying, the checkpoint system was dreadful (generally due to the Mako. One of the earlier planets featured a 10-15 minute long run in the Mako, only to be ambushed by a huge force while on foot... hope you enjoyed driving around the ATV), and the inventory was beyond ridiculous. I sort of understood the hype for it, but I just couldn't agree with it.

On the one hand: epic plot, great characters, fun gameplay, on the other hand... this piece of shit

Then I saw Mass Effect 2 on sale for $15 at the local game store and picked it up on a whim. Not wanting to play through it blind, I gave the first another try. The problems were still problematic (more than once, I got killed, cursing the fact that I hadn't saved for quite a while, and the autosave wasn't generous enough to do anything but send me back to the beginning of the level), but everything else about the game started shining. First off, the storytelling is fantastic, and the characters are excellent. The choices you make have weight (this becomes doubly obvious in later games in the series, but would be true even if this were only a standalone game). Shepard (a nicely obvious name) is a great protagonist, and you're able to craft the character exactly how you imagine him to be. Overthoughtful pussy? Abrasive asshole? Something in between? - totally up to you. I admitted in my writeup of Fallout 3 that I'm a conversation junkie. This game (and indeed, this whole series) is like talking porn for me. There's always someone to chat with, with conversations that adapt depending on how you react.

Pointless, you blue whore, just pointless.

As far as the storyline goes, the whole thing feels epic, without feeling forced. Saren makes for a good antagonist, and the Reapers make for an excellent switchout, without feeling like a contrived 'man behind the man' like some Final Fantasy bosses tend to. The final fight (which I won't go into too much depth about, since it's kind of spoiler-laden) is tremendous fun, and the denouement feels less like the end of a great game, and more like the start of an truly amazing series.

Come to think of it, that's exactly what it was.


  1. This is one series I could probably get into. Have you played the game Outcast? I wonder if that's similar at all. I had a hard time getting into that one, mostly due to the play control.

  2. If there's any criticism I can mark this series down for, it's that it can get repetitive if you're like me and have to do everything.

    Still, though, gripping characters, a real sense of dread, and a lot of excitement and effective mood.

  3. Yeah, the first game was the worst with that, in that every single side-mission was completely obviously cut from the same template. Later games corrected that part, too.