Presidents, Schmesidents…Helloooooo Long Weekend!

This weekend has been insanely busy, and instead of posting about it and getting caught up, I have elected to spend the entire day playing Mass Effect (the first one) and cleaning. Verdict: I still don’t know if I like it. Ok, I’m pretty sure I don’t like it but I can’t quite pinpoint why, especially when it’s so acclaimed. The fact that I had no problem getting up and cleaning the kitchen, taking a phone call from my mom–this doesn’t say good things for this game.

Leave it to me to tell you about the first game when everyone is shitting their pants about the sequel; I am nothing if not Miss Day Late and Dollar Short (hence all the buying of games from the bargain bin).

To start off, I loved Knights of the Old Republic. No, really loved Knights of the Old Republic.

No, REALLY loved it:

I found it engaging and compelling and just the right level of challenging. I actually completed the game, which is (shamefully) kind of rare for me–if I get bored or stuck or really frustrated, I move on. Anything hard to do isn’t worth doing, right?

Mass Effect feels like a watered-down version of Knights of the Old Republic to me. I should like it, all of the elements are there: space exploration, the opportunity to be Queen Bitch of the Universe, the guy who voiced Carth Onasi…I should like it. But it’s not there. For me, Mass Effect is like going back to that boyfriend you dumped years ago and for a while, it’s ok because it feels familiar, but familiarity doesn’t spark passion and it’s never quite the same as it used to be. Even the Elcor cribbing speech patterns directly from HK-47 made me wistful for the old game, not engaged with the new one.

So far, the story isn’t compelling. I’m supposed to STOP the killer robots from wiping out all of galactic civilization? A galactic civilization that I find highly annoying and wouldn’t mind seeing wiped out? Yeah, ok.

I also don’t like that the dialogue options that you’re given is never what Shepard actually says. Example courtesy shadowstitch:

> How’s it going? > I can’t talk now > Get out of my face

Shepard: “I’ll eat your children and fuck your mother.”

If I’m supposed to be in control of the conversation as the player, the option I select should accurately reflect the in-game dialogue, even if it’s more succinct in the options. When it doesn’t match, it feels like I’m being given an ‘option’ just to placate me as a player.

Switching between weapons in battle or between weapon attacks and biotic attacks seems unnecessarily complicated. I don’t like that you can’t switch between party members–what’s the point of having me level up an entire party’s worth of characters if I can’t control their skills and attacks directly? If Kaidan is the one with lock-picking skills, why is Shepard the one who picks the locks? If Wrex falls in battle, how is it that he is magically revived afterward, but if Shepard falls, it’s game over?

In a gripe that’s likely personal to MY game setup, entering the menu screens causes my TV to buzz horribly. In-game, no buzz, reasonable volume. Menu? It’s like the volume has doubled and it’s ALL buzz. Ugh. It makes me want to spend NO time looking at mission objectives, leveling the characters, choosing weapons and armor–I want nothing to do with anything on that menu screen.

I don’t like to think that I’m penalizing it for being KOTOR-but-not-quite, but I can’t quite figure out what merits it DOES have. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll put a few more hours into it and see if it picks up, story-wise, and draws me in. Otherwise, I’m calling this one a miss.

35 Comments Presidents, Schmesidents…Helloooooo Long Weekend!

  1. pretzelcoatl February 17, 2010 at 6:01 am

    I was wondering how it is since I’ve heard varying reactions, but I’ve never actually played the first one so I haven’t been too ready to get my own XBox right away and try it out.

    (Plus I got a bit sick of hearing about it. It seems like most of the gaming sites I go to, with probably 1Up being an exception, there’s one game that gets latched onto for features, reactions, etc. and that game hogs the spotlight until a new game takes its place. I heard about Modern Warfare 2 for about two months after it came out and then saw features bitching about how there were so many games which people didn’t buy. GEE I WONDER WHY)

    1. admin February 17, 2010 at 6:28 am

      I’ve heard the second one is actually better than the first, that they eliminate some of the more annoying things about the first one. But I don’t feel right picking up the sequel if I haven’t played the original.

      I don’t visit too many gaming sites, or really read any game magazines anymore. I’ve got a subscription to game informer but since they switched the paper to that crummy zine-print feel, it’s actually tactile-y unpleasant to read it. I dunno, I feel out of the loop a lot but the hype machine previews rarely accurately reflect the actual final game experience, and reviews I don’t tend to find all that helpful in determining whether I’d actually enjoy a game or not. I’d like a way to strip the information I want out of those game resources so I don’t have to deal with all the bullshit that goes along with it–just a title, basic description, release date, so I know what’s coming out, when, and from there I can figure out if I’ve got an interest in it or not.

  2. mastergode February 17, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Basically, I totally agree with you. Ironically, KOTOR spoiled me for so many games, including KOTOR2. =(

    I liked ME1 just fine when I played through it the first time, but when I played through the second time, I realized that all of the choices that I made were pretty much entirely immaterial, and the conversations were basically on rails.

    Interestingly enough, the decisions you make in the first game pretty much don’t affect anything in the first game, but do influence what happens (mildly) in the sequel. I’m expecting that the third game will have a fairly large disparity, based on what you chose in the last two games.

    So basically, I felt like ME1 was subpar, and while ME2 was far, far superior in terms of gameplay, the plot was basically a giant waste of time and just a bridge to the third game.

    1. admin February 17, 2010 at 6:37 pm

      KOTOR2 spoiled KOTOR2–the different developer and rushed release killed what could have been an amazing sequel. But entire plotlines disappeared, a whole killer robot factory stage was cut out…it really was incomplete. Supposedly some team of (fans? I guess?) is working on a mod to tie up all the loose ends in the game, making it the first act of fanfiction I can approve of.

      I don’t want to have to put 80+ hours into ME 1&2 for my actions to finally have an effect. 🙁

  3. robot_mel February 17, 2010 at 9:48 am

    I enjoyed it. Though I also missed HK-47! The last game I played by them was Jade Empire, and I think it was better than that. I liked the different aliens, the big quest levels were fun. Though I thought the side quests did get a bit same-y after awhile. But like you I didn’t really get sucked into it. I found that after an hour or two of playing I was done for the day. I finished it about a month ago and am starting to think about going back and playing evil, though it really doesn’t seem like evil is going to be all that different.

    1. admin February 17, 2010 at 6:41 pm

      I haven’t played Jade Empire…yet. It’s sitting on my shelf, waiting for me to feel motivated.

      I guess I’ll give it a little more time to see if it comes to a satisfactory conclusion–I’m playing evil, so we can fill each other in. 🙂

      What I really want is a game called HK-47’s KILLBOT RAMPAGE, like Duke Nukem only snottier and with robots blowing away people.

      1. robot_mel February 17, 2010 at 6:48 pm

        What I really want is a game called HK-47’s KILLBOT RAMPAGE, like Duke Nukem only snottier and with robots blowing away people.

        I would SO play that!!!! Hey baby want to go kill all humans?

        1. admin February 17, 2010 at 8:20 pm

          Clearly we need to write letters to Bioware as the Team of Mels, begging for more killer robots.

          1. robot_mel February 18, 2010 at 9:29 am

            Yeah, I mean I’m guessing like all video game companies they’re wanting to increase their appeal to the female audience. And what’s more appealing than killer robots?

  4. vurumai February 17, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    KOTOR was an amazing game. If I had played Mass Effect, I’d probably feel the same as you about it.

    1. admin February 17, 2010 at 6:43 pm

      KOTOR may have ruined me for a lot of games. I’m surprisingly OK with that.

      1. vurumai February 17, 2010 at 6:51 pm

        Didja play the second one?

        1. admin February 17, 2010 at 8:22 pm

          I played it up until I made a foolish party choice, got stuck and my options were either lose two hours of playtime (curse my lack of saves!) or walk away in frustration. My xbox made the choice for me by shitting the bed. I’m going to eventually play through on 360, but it’s not as good as the first one. 🙁

          1. vurumai February 17, 2010 at 8:34 pm

            Few things are as good as the first one.

            Like two polar bears fighting on a trampoline.

          2. admin February 17, 2010 at 11:20 pm

            When I’m a hojillionaire, I will make two polar bears fighting on a trampoline happen. In international waters.

          3. vurumai February 17, 2010 at 11:53 pm

            If you’re very lucky you might see that this weekend. 😉

  5. confusednazgul February 17, 2010 at 6:04 am

    But Garrus!

    1. admin February 17, 2010 at 6:13 am

      What about him?

      1. confusednazgul February 17, 2010 at 6:23 am

        He’s the best. D:

        1. admin February 17, 2010 at 6:29 am

          I haven’t had him in my party too much so I really don’t know what his deal is. What makes him the best?

          1. shadowstitch February 17, 2010 at 6:33 am

            He’s the ultimate space cop badass, for one… the lawmanturian who is willing to go above the law to right wrongs and get justice… he’s like Space Bronson.

            …but he’s no Tali.

          2. admin February 17, 2010 at 6:37 am

            Pfft, why would I want a cop in my party if I’m Queen Bitch Fuck The Universe?

          3. confusednazgul February 17, 2010 at 6:38 am

            He’s an ex cop who gradually becomes the goddamn Batman. That makes him the perfect sidekick to Queen Bitch Fuck the Universe!

          4. admin February 17, 2010 at 6:40 am

            Batman would NEVER be content being the sidekick. That guy took down Superman, fer chrissake! More than once.

  6. morlith February 17, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t like Mass Effect. Especially if you went into the game expecting the same experience as another awesome game (says the guy who hasn’t played KOTOR yet). I agree if the story doesn’t grab you, then there’s no point. That’s the whole point of the game, really.

    Have you played Fable or Fable II? I dunno if you like fantasy games, so I’m asking.

    1. admin February 17, 2010 at 6:05 pm

      I cannot say enough good things about KOTOR. You should play it before the graphics get even MORE dated. 🙂

      I watched my roommate play Fable and it didn’t really tickle my fancy. Molyneux’s ideas tend to be better than Molyneux’s realities.

  7. lady_sotha February 17, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    Mass Effect 1 is an okay game, coming from a gamer who has played just about every RPG out there for any system. KOTOR it is not, and constantly comparing ME 1 to KOTOR will always break your heart. Kaiden is even whinier than Carth, you don’t get a human hating robot, and your romance choices are extremely limited and, frankly, are designed for 14 year old fanboys (or Capt. Kirk.) The main story line is extremely short for an RPG, and if you want to power level and explore everything it is very repetitive. Find planet, land on planet, drive around in the stupid Mako until you explore every last inch of said planet, get out of the Mako and explore the mercenary/space pirate/geth/random crazy people base that you found, kill their leader, repeat.

    Anyways, even with that many complaints, I still say go for it and play through at least the main story. The main mission and your party member’s backgrounds and personalities are pretty entertaining, and the gameplay is smooth enough. Worse comes to worse, a walkthrough and just play it for the story and the characters. And stop comparing it to KOTOR. =-)

    1. admin February 17, 2010 at 8:32 pm

      It’s hard for me NOT to compare it to KOTOR when it’s the same style game by the same developers and they use the same voice actors! It’s like holding a band up to the standard of their past work, you expect them to achieve at least as much if not more in the same style, otherwise if they’ve hit the pinnacle of what they can do in that vein, they should branch out into other areas so that they’re not constantly disappointing on every level.

      I’ll plug away at it for a while but I’m really not getting all the acclaim for this game. 🙁

  8. pezking124 February 17, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    I haven’t finished ME2 yet, so I’m attempting to post this without reading any of the comments above to avoid any spoilers. That being said, I apologize if I repeat a point that’s already made.

    I can certainly agree that Mass Effect isn’t for everyone. Playing KOTOR definitely primed you for the sort of experience you’ll find in this particular package, so you probably haven’t found any gameplay or storytelling elements that are particularly new or engaging. But for the layman who didn’t make that journey (namely, me), there were things to love about it.

    Personally, I thought the story was pretty good, but then I love me some science fiction. It may be that you haven’t played enough of it to get to the juicy bits, or maybe it’s just not a tale that appeals to you. Either way, we can agree to disagree (you bitch).

    Admittedly, I haven’t played Mass Effect since it came out in 2007, so my memory on some of the details are a bit rusty. With the sequel, however, the dialogue tree may not exactly relate exactly what Shepherd is going to say word for word, but you can pretty much expect the gist of it. Top right option is your “nice” answer, bottom right your “mean” one, center option neutral. So while the option in the bottom right of the screen may say “I don’t think so,” you can pretty much expect Shepherd to actually say “Fuck you, motherfucker.”

    I agree 100% on the combat issues. I found myself being drawn into the game, having a genuinely great time, and then all of a sudden there would be a fight scene and I would just snap back to my couch and think “how did they get this part so wrong?” and try to work my way through it so I could get back to the story.

    That being said, it should be noted that pretty much all of Mass Effects faults are fixed and even improved in the sequel. Combat, weapons upgrades, weapon management, squad orders, etc. all work very well. Also they took that ‘pay money to crack a safe’ option out, something that baffled me in the first game. But if the first one didn’t wow you, the second probably won’t either.

    Also, I will say I will never get tired of the conversation mechanic wherein you can pick what Shepherd says ahead of time and so the conversation never lags, just flows along. That is greatly entertaining to me and keeps me coming back for more.

    1. admin February 17, 2010 at 11:36 pm

      I probably haven’t played enough to get to the juicy bits, I’m only ~5 hours in, which is why I do feel it deserves a little more playtime consideration before I write it off for good as boring.

      I’m shocked at how they could have gotten combat so wrong when it’s what makes the game a game. Otherwise, sell it as an interactive movie and strip out the awkward mechanics, Bioware! The safe minigame/pay money thing is weird, too, especially as compared to KOTOR–your character either had the skill to crack into the safe automatically or you could pay in stims, but it didn’t take nearly as much to get into locked areas as it does in ME. What is particularly awkward is that they don’t give you an opportunity to learn what it is they want from you on the safe minigame BEFORE locking up plot-advancing things inside, so if you bomb the minigame, you’re stuck liquefying nearly all your stuff getting into those first locked trailers.

      At what point would you say the story starts to get juicy?

      I have heard that the sequel is a vast improvement on the first game but I don’t feel right playing a sequel if I haven’t given the first a shot.

  9. gray_jedi February 19, 2010 at 1:14 am

    Oh jeebus, KOTOR and KOTOR2 ate up a significant portion of my life. (And I apparently got both endings of KOTOR2 – yay broken game?) I fear that when The Old Republic MMORPG finally is released, I may never see the sun again.

    1. admin February 20, 2010 at 9:52 am

      hahaha at least you didn’t have to play through it twice, right?

  10. robotdevil February 20, 2010 at 4:59 am

    So I was catching up on LJ out of boredom and I read this.

    First I wanted to ask, “Will you marry me?”

    Then I figured it wouldn’t be prudent. So… wanna get coffee? With this random internet stranger with the two opposable thumbs?

    1. admin February 20, 2010 at 9:52 am

      Yeah, that would be nice. 🙂

    2. admin February 23, 2010 at 2:56 am

      You ask me out and then delete your LJ? It would have been ok to just say you changed your mind…

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