Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sunday Thoughts - Mass Set Up Effect

So I just finished Mass Effect for the first time and I thought it was... pretty meh to be honest with you. I heard the second one is far better, and admittedly the last couple of hours were a lot better than the first 90%, but I was still a bit disappointed considering I had heard so many good things about it. Oh, and there will be some spoilers here in case you haven't played it yourself yet.

This happens every now and then. Something gets praised to the sky and back and I just don't understand why. It's not just a matter of something being good, but just not for me (like the Godfather movies) but sometimes I am starting to wonder if I've just played/watched/read the same thing as everyone else?

Without starting any major arguments, here are a couple of examples of so called awesome experiences that just were lost on me;

  • The Avengers - What a boring movie.
  • Steins;Gate - What is interesting about this anime?
  • SW:The Force Awakens - Not bad, but I have so many issues with this movie.
  • Half-Life - Not enough action and wonky platforming forced into an fps.
Also meh -

And then we have games like Mass Effect, where I'm not entirely sure if I'm just missing the point or if it is actually not that good, people just thought it was at the time for different reasons. The same way some shit movies win Best Movie Oscar, games can be praised when they're first released, only for people to realize that they somehow duped themselves into liking it. Some things just don't age that well, or only perform in the specific context of when they were released.

So what is my problem with Mass Effect? For one thing, it failed to make me care about anyone. The squad members are not so bad (except for the human ones which are gratingly boring). Some feel sorely cliché, like Joker, written straight out of a text-book "pilot-guy" model and most others fail to convey any kind of feeling, like Captain Anderson. Saren had potential to be interesting, but doesn't get enough screen time or character build up. When I was supposed to choose who was going to die out of Ashley and Kaidan it was basically just a coin toss to me. These kind of choices normally come really difficult for me, I almost struggle with choosing which Lemming should die for the greater good, but I did not manage to feel a drop of emotion pretty much throughout the game. I was also disappointed at the voice work, having heard that Jennifer Hale (who does FemShep) was supposed to be so good. I didn't feel like she was noteworthy at all (which could just as well be bad writing).

I chose Kaidan -

Interestingly enough, eventhough the people in the universe didn't interest me, the universe itself did. Especially towards the end, when you walk around the Prothean areas, and get to hear a bit more about the story (which I assume will expand even more in coming games), I was feeling like I was finally really getting into it. Before then however, it felt like the story was just one anonymous planet-area after another fighting the Geth.

Combat was one thing I really enjoyed about Mass Effect, which only led to the issue that there wasn't enough of it. I thought difficulty was fairly well balanced and I definitely couldn't just spray and pray my way through things. I had, unknowingly, chosen the Soldier class and decided to go with Tali and Liara to compensate for my lack of powers. They did so splendidly, tossing enemies through the air while I was shooting them down Duck Hunt style, and those moments were the definite highlight of the game.

I didn't feel like the story managed to pick up much momentum until the last couple of hours, as mentioned. This might've been in part due to me checking out the side-quests, most of which were alright entertainment-wise but badly implemented. It just felt so wrong to head off on some quest to find this and that guy for whatever reason, when the fate of the Universe was in my hands and humanity (and most other species) on the brink of destruction. I couldn't help but thinking "I don't have time for this crap!" whenever someone asked me to do something that wasn't directly linked to the main quest. I only did them because I knew the game allowed me to do so, the story didn't and it never felt right.

Mo mining, mo problems -

Because of this every side quest felt unhinged and unimportant in comparison to what was at stake in the main story. For every one I completed I just ended up thinking "What's the point anyway, we'll all die soon". This way it didn't feel like the side quests tied into the universe in a good way, but more like they were thrown in to give you something to do. And no wonder, since the main story is actually fairly short, or so it felt. Maybe if you take your time to do everything before you finish the story, it would feel more coherent - I will never know as I accidentally continued the story instead of going on a side quest, so there were many I never finished. I will forever wonder what that fan guy was up to...

I never managed to figure out what the mining on planets was good for either, but hopefully that will play a more important or completely different role in subsequent games because it felt pointless in this one.

All in all I can say it seems Mass Effect suffers from a fate common of the first part of a trilogy - the set-up effect (Force Awakens has the same problem imo). The game has got this entire Universe and massive story to set up, it doesn't gain any momentum until the end of it, where it is time for part 2 to pick up the stick leaving the first part feeling a bit bland. It makes perfect sense for Mass Effect 2 to be the best part, because story wise this is where the most action will take place (part 3 suffering from the wrap-up effect instead). I haven't played the other parts yet so we'll see if I still feel this assessment is correct at the end of it.


  1. I don't suppose you've played Jade Empire? If you have, I'm curious how it compares with Mass Effect.

    1. I have not! But it's actually on sale over at right now so I bought it. It looks interesting and I heard someone compare it to Kotor so it definitely sounds like something I could like. I'll have to get back to you on a verdict, once I get around to trying it.

    2. I'm about halfway through Chapter 3 right now, and while the graphics engine is showing its age, the story is pretty engaging. And telling a story about a Chinese-esque empire and society without resorting to anime graphics is very appealing.

    3. I agree, I looked at some gameplay videos and it looked appealing. Apparently it was a free give away from EA a while back so the bf already owned it, but I'll stick with my copy anyway.

  2. Zinn

    Great to see you back blogging, had quite a dry spell there. Always enjoy your wrok.

    1. Makes me happy to see you've stuck around! Yes, it took me a little while to get back to it. I realized I just needed some sort of theme to work around (my previous one was WoW and I was struggling to find a new one) and thought I could settle for gaming in general, as it's something I spend a lot of free time on and love to do. We'll see how it goes, but I love to write too so I'm always back sooner or later :)