Saturday, June 29, 2013
Top 10 Games of the Seventh Generation Consoles - #4: Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3
While I thoroughly enjoyed the original Mass Effect, the sequels improved upon the gameplay and storytelling significantly. The first game provided a glimpse of the greater universe that you actually get to explore in the sequels, and while there are certainly elements of BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic that inspired the Mass Effect games, the homeworlds and cultures of the Asari, Turians, Krogans, Hanar, and so on feel strikingly original.
These two games run incredibly close for me. While neither is perfect, they both have their strengths and weaknesses that ranks them at approximately equal quality in my eyes. Mass Effect 2 was more reliant on shooter mechanics, but offered a greater host of side missions and squad members. Mass Effect 3, though more focused on reaching the end of Commander Shepard’s story, brings back many traditional RPG elements absent in ME2 and offers fewer squad members that, while specialized to one role or another, are more adaptable than in the previous installment.
Above all else, what impressed me most about the two games was the weight of your decisions and how it impacted the manner in which the greater story unfolded. The original Mass Effect forced you to choose one human squadmate to live and the other was left to die, but these were characters that I frankly could not have cared less about. Sure, there was the romance subplot, but it only offered two options per gender. Mass Effect 2 rectified all of this by including loyalty missions – sidequests that would earn Shepard the trust of his squadmates. Opt not to complete a loyalty mission and there’s a good chance your pals might not survive to the end of the game. As for the romance subplot, there were significantly more choices available to both male and female Shepard, each of them arguably more interesting and involved than those offered in ME1. Mass Effect 2 required much more time and attention than the first game, but it also gave a lot more back. It was a game that allowed you to play however you wanted, and your decisions would carry over to Mass Effect 3. The characters you allowed to live would appear in Mass Effect 3, potentially offering you assistance in your fight against the Reapers, while those who died might be mentioned in dialogue, but were otherwise nowhere to be seen.
The Mass Effect sequels are phenomenal spiritual successors to the Knights of the Old Republic titles as well as the original Mass Effect. Gone are the clunky periods of exploring uncharted worlds in the Mako, gone are the repetitive landscapes and underground bases - all replaced with planets that exude a sense of adventure. While BioWare’s love for space operas like Star Wars are clearly visible in the art and story direction of Mass Effect, these games host their own lively universe - one that was equally creative and engaging. Whether Shepard is investigating a string of disappearances on human colonies, securing the last hope of curing the Krogan genophage, or helping to beat back Reaper forces from one of the moons orbiting the Turian homeworld, each quest is uniquely exciting.