Replay Values: Mass Effect 1 & 2

It’s been a good minute since my last post and I’ve a good reason for it: Life.

Yes, between the flu, a four-day migraine, a console issue, and work, I had zero time to dedicate to writing. However, health issues are now non-existent, the console issue is worked out and work…is still work. In any event, while I was hacking up a lung, I did manage to run through Mass Effect 1 and 2 again, this time helping my poor sister up her gamerscore by dropping some games she’d never touched before onto her account. I know right…how could my sister, basically an extension of my own awesomeness, not have played Mass Effect? I honestly don’t know what to tell you.

Too right.

Too right.

So I set about creating her very own FemShep, complete with icy blue eyes and regulation bun. I’d only played Mass Effect as a biotic once, so I decided that my sister’s Shepard would go through the entire series as a Vanguard. Needless to say, it’s a ton of fun, though I love my guns and soldier Shep forever. Since the only relationship that ever actually made sense and had some actual chemistry to me was Liara, my sister’s Shepard would also be romancing the feminine asari, despite the fact that she (my sister) is in fact straight. I couldn’t stand Kaidan, and I just didn’t want to ruin the awesome bromance that FemShep has with Garrus. Anyway, without further adieu, let’s get to this Replay Values.

I received Mass Effect as a very belated birthday gift (or an early Christmas gift, depending on how you look at it). The individual who gave me the game knew that I loved to write and that I appreciated a great story in any form. At the time, my personal life was pretty crazy so Mass Effect sat on my TV stand for a few weeks before I actually got around to playing it…oddly enough, I picked it up when I had the flu. Bioware knows what it’s doing, folks. I knew that they were the makers of KOTOR, and I loved that game like no other, so I was excited to see what they had to offer with Mass Effect, especially since your character now had a voice. The muteness of your character/Revan in KOTOR was disconcerting to me, since I’m an auditory and visual person, so I work better with sounds. If you didn’t know by now, I ended up falling in love with Mass Effect. I ran two profiles at the time, MShep and FemShep. You might wonder why I did that. Well, I like hearing what each voice actor does with the words they’re given. I’m a dynamic reader; when I read aloud, I go all out, I change my voice, my tone, everything, just to reflect what the character on the page is feeling. Bedtime stories with me are epic. Nothing grates on my nerves more than when someone is a static reader, just monotonous and making it sound like a chore or job. When this happens in a video game, it’s even more irritating, and so if there is an option for a different main character, I’ll tend to play both until I decide to stick with the one that’s most engaging and draws me into the story. As I started my sister’s game, it made me think back to hearing Male Shepard for the first time and practically falling asleep. Male Commander Shepard was voiced by Mark Meer; no offense, Mr. Meer, but your Shisk and vorcha voices in Mass Effect 2 were actually better than your Shepard in…all of them. I stopped playing that profile after finding Tali and switched over to start FemShep. And Jennifer Hale. And what a freaking difference. Anyway, on this play-through for my sister, Jennifer Hale’s passionate and intense Commander Shepard was as great as she was the first time around, but there were so many things that made me laugh…and made me curse.

Many people had complaints about the complete erasure of the inventory system for Mass Effect 3, something I never quite cared about until this replay of ME 1. Now I think they’re completely justified. I think my crazy hyper excitement levels for ME 3 blocked out all the wrong (besides the ending…nothing could block that out) and so I didn’t pay attention to the missing inventory system until now. It’s funny to admit that when, while playing Mass Effect for the first time all those years ago, I distinctly remember yelling “I have too much stuff!” at my XBox, as if it was the reason I couldn’t cycle through my ammo upgrades fast enough. For the record, I’m a bulk seller, in that I will accumulate the maximum amount of stuff before unloading it all on some unsuspecting salarian merchant. As I said before, I’d decided to romance Liara while playing my sister’s character. Everyone remembers the fuss made about the love scene in Mass Effect; it almost broke the Internet, after all. And really, for what? Because two feminine characters were doing the horizontal polka. Now, two games later, we have male Commander Shepard romancing Esteban and unless I was living under a rock, there was little to no outcry. You see? It really does get better. That’s the power of visibility and some serious growth, not just as a company (on the part of Bioware) but as a community (on the part of gamers). There are still the usual trolls who don’t seem to realize that it’s not a forced romance option, but it’s easy to ignore them when there’s more positive than negative swirling around. This is what it’s all about.

For real.

For real.

So my sister’s Mass Effect legacy reads like this:

  1. Made sure Wrex survived Virmire.
  2. Left Kaidan behind because really, that guy’s annoying.
  3. Romanced Liara, because love is love, ya’ll.
  4. Saved the council, because sometimes diplomacy rules above all.
  5. Convinced Saren to shoot himself, and then disposed of his resurrected form

Now it was onto Mass Effect 2, or as I affectionately refer to it: Mass Instances of Skantily Clad Women Surviving Uncountable Injuries. There were some great strides made in Mass Effect 2, functionality being one of them. Shepard stopped doing this odd tick where one of her eyes looked to be closed half the time, a buggy little twitch that I’m glad got sorted out. The doors actually opened when I wanted to and hallelujah, elevator rides did not go on forever like those awkward ones in a hotel where you’re not quite sure what you smelled. We don’t even have to discuss the aesthetics of the characters themselves; I’m lookin’ at you, Miranda Lawson.

G'day indeed.

G’day indeed.

You know how usually, the second movie in a trilogy is just this weird trip to Awkwardland, where you know it was made just to bridge the gap between the WTF moments in the first one and the WTF moments in the last? This works pretty much the same way with games. Like, I remember one vivid moment from say, Gears of War 2, but beyond that I can’t quite wax philosophical about it. Gears of War 3 now, well…I don’t think anything beyond “WTF” actually left my mouth. For me at least, Mass Effect 2 was the exception to that rule. Even though it was a continuation of Shepard’s story with the Reapers, it felt brand new when I first played it and that in essence is what drew me in, starting with the first 8 minutes of the damn game. The Collectors, Cerberus, Liara’s transformation from sweet and innocent archaeologist to flat-out sadistic information broker..everything combined to drive a new story that was really the continuation of the old story, thus making it feel like an almost completely new story. Playing it with a completely new character this time around made it seem even more refreshing and engaging, and so not like a sequel.

So you can understand what I mean when I say that playing these two games back to back on my sister’s account just made me even angrier at Mass Effect 3’s ending. -_-

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