Archive for the Mass Effect Category

Mass Effect 3

Posted in Games, Mass Effect with tags , on May 3, 2014 by pieman70

And so, dear Friends we come to the final part of the Mass Effect trilogy.  Many of the choices you make will have consequences here and one way or another the fate of the galaxy and the reapers will be decided once and for all.  No pressure.

As always, this article will contain Spoilers.  Avoid until you play Mass Effect 3 and also if you haven’t played the first two games.

The game follows the same format as the last two, a third person shooter with RPG elements.  The game kicks off with Shepard facing a court martial after being suspended for a period of time. I initially thought this was for joining cerberus in the previous game but it seems to be due to the events of the Mass Effect 2 DLC “Arrival” which culminates in Shepard destroying the Batarian Mass relay, and most of the system, to slow down the reaper advance.  During the court martial the reapers attack earth En Mass and, with the help of Anderson, now returned to military life apparently, Shepard escapes on the Normandy while Anderson remains to co-ordinate resistance on earth.  Your mission is to unite the races of the galaxy and find a way to defeat the reapers.  In your way are the reaper forces, mercenaries, Geth and a more aggressive and amoral Cerberus.

As always there are tweaks to the gameplay.  These are less major than previously, there is a larger selection of weapons and armour, essentially bringing back the system from the first game, however they have kept ammo types as standard which is something.  In the game there is now jumping, but it is used as an action, similar to vaulting cover, rather than an unwelcome foray into platform games that tends to happen.  There are also occasions where you can take control of turrets and mech suits.  Outside of combat the system is pretty much unchanged, Paragon and Renegade interrupts remain but I have to say I found the conversation options less ambiguous.

The scanning of planets has been altered again.  Now you enter a system and have to set off sensor “pings” to find supplies, objects and sometimes reinforcements for the galactic fleet or parts for the Crucible (A device that may defeat the reapers)  this is actually pretty tense as the reaper alertness only resets after a mission.  I found myself barrelling the Normandy through systems, pinging madly, pursued by reapers, trying to catch that last object.  It really adds to the tension and the feeling that the reapers are unstoppably marching through the galaxy.  Any player will be hard pressed not to jump every time the loud horns sound heralding reapers arriving in the system.

And so, to the most important part; the story.  This is always the strongest suit of the mass effect series and this one doesn’t disappoint.  As stated previously, the story involves Shepard trying to defeat a full on reaper invasion and liberate Earth.  To do this you have to unite the council races to commit assets to the fleet that will free earth and to the crucible project.  A prothean device that is the key to defeating the Reapers.  Through this and some side missions you will bring your crew back together and encounter all of your surviving allies from previous games.

The story can almost be split into three acts.  The first involves recruiting the Taurian fleet to your cause.  To do this you must persuade the Krogan to help the Taurians fight the reapers on their own world, and to do that the Krogan want the Genophage cured.  The second involves you intervening to stop the war between the Quarians and the Geth.  Finally you have to take the fight to Cerberus before launching the assault to re-take Earth.

Each act runs the theme of victory at a cost, be it the bittersweet cure of the genophage at the cost of Morden’s life or the freeing of the Geth and the return if the Quarians to their homeworld at the cost of Legion’s life no victory comes free.  The game does do a great job of building you up over the first two acts, between the main stories and the side missions, and despite the losses of some friends along the way you feel invincible.  You regularly achieve the impossible and you feel like an all conquering hero.  By the end of act two you feel lime you’re going to give the reapers a good thrashing.  Quickly kick the illusive man in the nuts and back home for tea and medals.  Act 3 brings this crashing down when you loose the Asarii homeworld to the reapers while searching for a prothian archive.  It really helps to take you down a peg.  It also adds to build up a villain called Kai Leng, a dark mirror of Shepard working for the Illusive man, as he is responsible for you failing to get the archive and loosing the Asari homeworld in the process.  There is also another worthwhile point before we reach the endgame.  The Reapers are hard.  They have minions which you fight normally, but when an actual reaper shows up it is properly terrifying.  You actually down 3 over the course of the game, but each is such an achievement you never feel the threat diminish.

Procrastinating from the end game a little more, I was given the choice to re- kindle your romance with Tali or Ashley (or indeed start a new one). I chose to stick with Tali and I’m bloody glad I did.  You are rewarded with some lovely moments on the Quarian homeworld and a romance plot that feels genuinely affectionate.

Also, I should mention the extra colour you pick up on as you travel around the citadel, be it an alliance soldier wanting to change assignments as her brother has joined cerberus or the salarian who finds out his new armour was bought from his friend selling her car, combine this with catching your engineers snogging below decks (not a euphemism) and the universe seems fully fleshed out.

So, to the end game, the invasion of Earth.  Starting from a lovely cut scene of the combined citadel races, plus the Geth vs the reapers you are quickly thrust into a ground assault through the streets of London.  In the middle is a short break where you catch up with everyone, featuring a touching scene with Garrus, and indeed a general feeling of the positive impact you have made in the lives of all these people.  However it was at this point I got the distinct impression old Shep wasn’t going to make it through this one.

The final mission initially continues the battle through London as your forces push towards a transport beam to the citadel, now under reaper control and in earth orbit, and being the last piece of the crucible.  This culminates in a really hectic battle as you try to defend missile launchers poised to take down the reaper guarding the transport beam.  Once downed a mad dash to the beam begins.  I took garrus and Tali with me on this.  Representing both the people who had been with me from the beginning and my in game best friend and girlfriend.  Half way along this dash through exploding vehicles Tali is hurt.  There is a heartfelt goodbye as the Normandy picks her and Garrus up for you to go on alone.  It is at this point where things take an unexpected turn and indeed where I suspect the controversial part of the ending begins.  Caught in a large explosion shep comes to burned and bruised and you take control and limp to the beam.  Yes, the end game eschews combat for talking.  I love it.  Your final confrontation with the illusive man is verbal, there is some real pathos as Anderson dies next to you and then you finally you activate the crucible and are given three options.  Destroy all artificial life, which will kill the reapers, but also wipe out the Geth, Edi and of course yourself.  Control the reapers, which will still kill you or option three use your half artificial form as a template to make all organic and artificial life part organic, part artificial.  And of course die in the process.  This was my choice, and I found the ending both hopeful and satisfying, and the memorial service on the Normandy for shep and Anderson may have made me shed a small tear.

Now, to address some of the criticism, the lack of a boss fight and your character dying, frankly get over it.  I’m sure some would have preferred an ending where you kill the reapers and waltz off to victory but I thought the direction the game took was more interesting and original, and worked better.  Second, the criticism that in a game where it stresses choices having consequences everything boils down to a choice of three endings, first what the hell did you think, that they’d programme a thousand different options for every combination of events?  For starters, we know that while choices influenced events through each game only 3 or 4 transfer between games.  Also, look at the game as a whole, your choices counted.  Was a character dead?  Who trusted you?  Just because the ending doesn’t represent every conversation tree doesn’t mean each choice was for nought.  I thought the ending wrapped up the story and left a hopeful note for the future.

So, to summarise, a barnstorming story, good gameplay, were there any issues?

Well, I wasn’t too happy with adding the complexity back into weapons, and instead of being able to keep a heavy weapon at all times those were now things you pick up at certain points but drop if you select a different gun.  Finally, a rather minor point but worth mentioning.  During the game you meet the crime lord Omega from the previous game on the citadel.  She is in hiding after Cerberus took over the Omega satellite.  You run a few missions and she says she may ask you to help when she re-takes Omega.  I wondered when this mission would appear and it never does. Turns out the Omega mission is DLC which I felt was a bit of a swizz.  I don’t mind DLC adding extra to the experience but to have a section highlighted only for it never to appear feels a bit like a cheap in game plug for DLC.

Overall though this is a fitting end to the trilogy.  The story grabs you and the gameplay entertains.  Highly recommended.  As I have said previously, I am developing an itch to re-play all three games.  I may get the DLC first and comment on the differences when I manage to do that.

Mass Effect 2

Posted in Geek Stuff, Mass Effect with tags , on April 17, 2014 by pieman70

Continuing my review of the Mass Effect trilogy I will now cover Mass Effect 2.

As before I will be revealing spoilers for this and the previous game.  If you have not played or finished both Mass Effect 1&2 I would advise you to go no further.

There is no real need to describe the mechanics, gameplay largely follows on from the first game with some differences I will cover later.

The game begins explosively when an alien ship attacks the Normandy, ultimately the Normandy is destroyed and Shepard is killed rescuing Joker.

Jump several years later and Shepard is revived by a militant, pro-human group called Cerberus, who were encountered as antagonists ins side missions during ME1.  The base you are being revived on is attacked and Shepard has to team up with Cerberus agents Jacob and Miranda. In this sequence there is an interesting scene where you are interviewed regarding key events of the last game.  This was to allow people who were not importing a Mass Effect save game to set up the required history for the current game and does show what decisions actually carry over.  Namely, who you romanced, Did wrex survive, who died, did you rescue the council and who you recommended as the human council member.  Basically 5 decisions.  Take note here because I will re-visit this in te next game.  Anyway, basic plot is that human colonies are being attacked by a race called The Collectors, who are abducting the colonists and vanishing.  The Alliance is not taking action and the citadel council don’t believe the near legendary collectors are involved so Cerberus are going to deal with the problem independently leading Shepard into an uneasy alliance.

More on the plot later, first I will talk about some of the gameplay tweaks.

First, the MACO tank is gone.  Planets still have to be explored for side missions and to collect resources for upgrades, but this is done from orbit.  To explore systems costs fuel and probe that have to be bought, and I couldn’t call planet scanning interesting but it is strangely addictive.  Do a mission in a system and you may find an hour slip away as you scan each and every planet near the relay.

In the main part, guns now have ammo, so clips need to be collected, but are universal for all weapons.  There is also the option for a heavy weapon, different types of which become available through the game and require separate ammo.  There is also limited melee combat.  The weapons upgrading has been massively simplified.  Ammo upgrades are now gained through your character levelling, so you can now swap in ammo types mid combat which adds a good strategic element.  The weapons now get one upgrade through the game and a second upgrade can be found on one weapon later on.  I actually preferred this, possibly because I’m not a hardcore RPG player and so hunting for the ideal combination of ammo, weapons and enhancements holds little appeal.

Finally the conversations have been tweaked a little, the wheel is still there but it isn’t always obvious which answer will be paragon and which will be renegade.  In general I like this but at times you pick an option which seems reasonable only for Shep to say something really evil on occasion causing much shouting at the screen.  There are now also paragon or renegade interrupts where a mouse click can force a paragon or renegade action which I quite enjoyed.  As always decisions made have plot consequences.

To the plot, this game is very well written.  It uses familiarity from Mass Effect to really involve you in the characters plot.  For starters each squad member has a loyalty mission, an optional quest to aid one of your team mates.  Again this helps in the final mission and nets extra upgrades.

There is also a neat bluff.  The video that runs if you leave the start screen up shows only the new characters like Jacob, Grunt etc but none of your previous crew.  You even meet Tali on your second mission but she doesn’t join.  At this point I really thought my previous team mates would only appear as characters to talk to and I would be dealing with an entirely new crew.  Accepting this I went to start gathering my new squad, first trying to find a vigilante codenamed “archangel”. As you hear more about him he sounds faintly familiar.  When I finally realised that Archangel was Garrus I took on the mission with renewed enthusiasm and finally meeting him genuinely felt like meeting an old friend.  While ultimately Garrus and Tali rejoin your crew you will meet everyone who survived and each reunion is emotional and satisfying.  The new characters develop and, partly thanks to the loyalty missions you will bond with them as well.  In fact the Loyalty missions are worth a mention in themselves.  Each character will ask you to do an additional optional mission.  In the game this makes them more likely to survive and unlocks some extras, but it works narratively as well.  You are working for Cerberus and need your crew to be loyal to you, not the organisation.  Ultimately only Garrus and Tali join your squad and there is a lovely moment on teh citadel where they joke about the long lift rides of Mass Effect and start trading banter.

Overall the game is a vast improvement on Mass Effect.  The tweaks to combat mean that gameplay is enjoyable and no longer something you tolerate to see the story.  Voice acting is of the usual quality, and the pacing works well.

As for my specific path, everyone survived the suicide mission and I destroyed the collector base.  I also preserved the geth heretics.  Finally for romance, after being dumped by Ashley for joining Cerberus there were several options.  Eventually I went for Tali.  It was odd how involved you get in the story.  Initially thinking of who I would romance with my new in game single status I was surprised when I realised Tali was an option.  It was like having a good friend who you suddenly see in a different light. Made for a much more satisfying sub-plot than the more basic romance of the original.

On DLC I actually didn’t net much but you don’t seem to miss much.  Apparently much of the DLC can be done after completing the game which Seems fair.  I do consider this run done for now but may run through all 3 with all the DLC at a later date.

So, we end on a cliffhanger with the reapers on their way we will see how Mass Effect 3 goes.