Mass Effect 2: Cleared!

I finally did it. I finally finished Mass Effect 2. I can’t believe I never did a post on ME1. If I had to pick a favorite game, right now I’d go with ME2.

I put off the end for a very long time. My boyfriend harassed me constantly, asking me why I wouldn’t just beat it already. But see, I couldn’t just beat it – not that simply. Because…well, because then I’d have no more Mass Effect to play.

So instead, I spent time flitting from star cluster to star cluster, exploring every single world until my star map was littered with 100%’s everywhere. It’s quite possible that I did every side-mission (or definitely every side mission I detected.)

The reason I was so reluctant to finish might’ve had a few reasons… I didn’t want to lose any characters. When it comes time to make decisions knowing that there’s a possibility that they might not all survive, it makes those choices a little bit harder to make. I was anxious about matching the right people to the right tasks.

I think I said this about Bioware when I did my Dragon Age review, but I love that they have a small place in their hearts for us lady gamers. Fem-Shep was awesome, and I gotta give props to Jennifer  Hale because her voice acting brought the character to life in ways that wouldn’t have happened with many other people. She did a fantastic job – in both games.

So, I finally ran out of worlds to scan and I had to continue on with the suicide mission. And I’ll be damned if I didn’t regret pissing around after I got there. I kind of wish I’d just rushed into it after getting told off by my crew doctor. But, come on, Chakwas! I had loyalties to earn! I had weaponry to collect and ship improvements to make!

And I had a space hamster to buy.


Couldn’t very well rush off to my death without a cuddly, fuzzy wuzzy, now could I?

But aside from all of these tiny (awesome) details, this game is chocked full of entertainment. I love the battle interface. I’m not the best with FPS games, and while this isn’t really an FPS, I still have that “newbness” that comes with using a gun in a game. My aim is not that great really. And when I’m getting shot at from ten different directions, I am prone to panic and just simply die.

In Mass Effect, you have that “freeze” feature – where you can bring up the menu and it’ll momentarily pause the game while you select powers for your characters to use on specific enemies. I get a moment to say to myself, “Okay, don’t be an idiot. Take cover behind that crate, use a medi-gel, and then select some cryo ammo.” So in other words, I get a moment or two to strategize.

But the game play isn’t what makes this my favorite game, it adds to my overall judgment, but it’s not the main factor. I’m a writer, first and foremost. And I’m mostly a character-writer. I absolutely love to see people grow and develop in books and movies, and yeah, especially in games. I love to see a character’s introspection, but that’s often lost outside of novels. It’s harder to portray in movies and games. Not impossible, just harder.

Often people pay more attention to setting, costumes, special effects, etc. in movies and games. They tend to forget that the story is nothing without the people involved. Without the people you have a bunch of flashy lights and big booms and pretty landscapes. It’s the characters that bring all of this to life – it’s their reaction to it, their love or hate for it. Because, by extension, that character is you. Character is the best and maybe the only way of drawing you in and making you care.

When we see a habitat being destroyed, why do we care? Because we care about the beings it affects, the “characters.” If there are no animals or native people being displaced, do we still care that they’re destroying the land? Yes, sometimes, we do…and why is that? Because we personify the earth. We’re destroying “Mother Nature” or “killing” the planet. So this is my point…

And now to get back to Mass Effect – the concept of earning your crew’s loyalty was a brilliant addition to this game. That bridged the gap between characters building relationships through dialogue and gave us the ability to prove we cared about that relationship by going out of our way to complete a mission that mattered only to that one individual crew member.

When it was revealed that Legion had fused a piece of Shepard’s armor to his body, that was excellent character work. This tiny bit of dialogue made me like Legion a little bit more. When Jack asks you why you keep coming down to talk to her when no one else ever gave a shit, that was a glimpse further into the character. I  might’ve never otherwise taken Jack on my team, I didn’t much care for the character before that.

I have to admit though…I never got past the fact that Morinth looked like Janet Jackson to me. It kind of made me want to giggle each time I talked to her, so I had a slightly harder time getting into the story of that character.

I loved going round to each of my crew between missions and talking to them. I loved the tiny bits of their story they shared with me. What I didn’t like was how Miranda and Jacob were always too busy and rarely spoke to me. Pfft, I’m your Commander! Finish your work when I say finish it! I wanna chat, damn it!

The end of the game was one of the best I’ve ever seen. Not because of the game play, not because of some epic boss fight, not because of the amazing graphics… but because it wrapped up like a real story. There was this epic sense of closure…of going into the unknown -it was there for the characters too, not just the player who doesn’t know how the game will end. The characters didn’t know how it would end, they didn’t know if they’d live or die. How many games can you say have your character fretting over the outcome of their last mission? How many games give any attention to that at all?

Your characters are typically just asked “This is the way forward. Have you prepared?” and you answer, “Yes, let’s go!” or “No, I need more time to prepare” which really just means that you need to go to a merchant and buy more potions or better gear… It very rarely means that your characters are facing death and it’s actually affecting them – as if they might actually be frightened. It was such a simple touch, giving the characters those small moments to express themselves, and yet, for me at least, it totally changed the game for the better.

When I finished the game, I didn’t want it to be over. With other games, you beat the final boss and it’s like an achievement. You’re done. You’ve beaten it. And now, it’s on to the next game, your next conquest. With both of the Mass Effect games, I felt sad leaving. It’s an odd thing to say about a game, maybe, but it’s how I feel when I close a good book. I don’t want to depart from those characters. I spent time getting to know them, to care about them, to worry for them…and it’s a little like leaving a good friend behind.

All of this is why Mass Effect probably currently stands as my favorite game. At least, on PC – I think FF7 might still hold the slot for favorite console game. I cannot wait for Mass Effect 3. It will be epic. I have no doubts. I have faith in Bioware’s ability to churn out yet another fantastic game.

In the meantime, I’m playing Skyrim. And I should probably do a review on that shortly.

Skyrim is limitless but it’s missing one key factor so far. There are no relationships in Skyrim. The characters are generic, they’re the same old NPC devices as always. Might as well be a lump on a log with the ability to recite a few lines of dialogue. There’s very little interaction. But maybe this is because I’m coming off of Mass Effect… Perhaps after I play Skyrim more and attend to more of the Main Story line, maybe then I’ll be able to make a better comparison.

But for a closing, I’ll just say this: If you haven’t played Mass Effect 1 or 2…well, you should really try it out. Find the time to give it a chance – it really is just a fantastic experience.




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