Category Archives: Mass Effect trilogy

Mass Effect 3 Game Cover.jpg

82.5%

Platform: PS3

Genre: Role playing sci-fi 3rd person shooter

Setting: The Milky Way Galaxy in the future

Story: The concluding chapter in the story of your Commander Shepard (whether you made them male or female) and their fight to defeat the Reapers, a force bent on destroying all life in the galaxy.

Graphics: The best in the series. The textures on the clothes, especially, are approaching photographic realism (whereas the previous game had a more fantasy/sci-fi art look to it) but the custom face I built for my female Shepard looked more cartoony in comparison to the other characters.

Audio: Haven’t mentioned this aspect in my previous reviews, but as far as voice acting goes, I enjoyed it…many times I laughed at the jokes in the game or was moved by some scenes when I replayed various sections of the game looking to see what happened if I chose different options. To audio proper, some parts of the score brought to mind the work of Saul Bass, perhaps in Hitchcock films like Suspicion or Psycho…e.g. the parts with the violin (which both the game and the movies have).

Romance in the game:

Having chosen to let Kaidan die on Virmire rather than consummate a relationship with my female Shepard (because I found Kaidan so dull), I did finally consummate a relationship for the first time in both the times that I played Mass Effect 3…once with a male human character and another with the feminine Asari character. So…numerous options on that front…but I really would recommend starting this franchise from the beginning, not jumping into it from the middle or end.

Gameplay:

My first playthrough was on Normal on this and I got through it alright, although some of the DLC missions had extremely tough sections to get past…Insanity level. This is also the first game in the series not to have any small spacecraft for you to fly…it’s all done for you in cutscenes.

Good about the game:

I like how the game wraps everything up (this is without the Extended Cut DLC) but I haven’t had a chance to compare it to the Extended Cut version.

Also good was how some of the conversations played out. E.g. on the Omega DLC Shepard reminded Harrot of how he knew her, cf. earlier games where Shepard was always having to be reminded of how they knew people (or at least, I was! I played Mass Effect 2 first, when the official line was that the game in the series would never be released on PS3…which it later was). This kind of character knowledge (as opposed to the gamer’s knowledge) should be the default in games, I think…whether for conversation options or assumed knowledge for weapons and tactics etc…i.e. for the latter, games should clue you in as to what the right thing to do is, re weapon selection etc.

Okay, that example was for DLC…although I never saved some outcomes, there are some really poignant/tragic scenes which may happen in your game if you don’t have the requisite amount of conversational options, as per the previous games…Tali’s is particularly affecting. Basically, playing the “paragon” version of Shepard, I was emotionally invested in the characters and the story.

Bad about the game:

* The cover system can be very annoying…e.g. if I was under heavy fire in cover and wanted to get away…I seemed to get into cover nearby and not just free run away like I wanted to.

* The side missions can be broken if you don’t do things in the “right” sequence…and there is no way to know beforehand what that “right” sequence is…which brings me back to my earlier point about what the default should be re character knowledge vs the gamer’s knowledge. The photo quest was broken for me for some silly reason, which sucked…I didn’t have that problem on my second playthrough though.

* The load times.

* The load times when you want to replay a conversation to see different outcomes.

Intolerable about the game:

* The way that the game cripples Shepard in that section at the beam on Earth. On insanity it’s just enough to make you want to cry…the gameplay is radically different to the gameplay throughout the game and all previous ones in the series. Whilst it might be great as a cinematic technique, I have never felt so robbed by a game in all my life. It’s where my Insanity run ended and I haven’t completed the game as result. Just abysmal stuff from Bioware.

* The intolerable load times. Oh…did that say again? Let’s not forget the intolerable lack of save spots which forces you to replay over an hour of content up to a bit you might want to handle by itself. The beam section could have done with an opportunity to save, if you got past the first wave of enemies on your slow walk to it. It’s just crushing and soul destroying having to go through that section in all its agonising, nauseating gameplay. It really made me want to not play that section of the game. Which I acted on…by not trying to get past that section of the game on Insanity. It’s that bad.

* On the original ending of the game, the narrative and final choice options are just badly handled or opaque. It’s not clear who dies or how to identify the final options in the game…and it seems if you want to retry the ending you have to…wade through an intolerable amount of time replaying the game in order to do that. That sounds like torture. Ruinous to a game. As with the beam section, the thought of having to do this just makes me physically recoil from the thought of wanting to do that again.

Mass Effect 2

A human male soldier carries an assault rifle. On the right, a woman and a reptile-like extraterrestrial accompany the soldier. The game's logo floats above them, while the background consists of ruins on a planet with orange sky.

Score: 75%

[N.B. The following review was posted elsewhere c 26/07/2011. This is also the first game I played in the trilogy, due to the first game in the series being represented by the publisher as never to appear on the Playstation console.]

Console: Playstation 3

Genre: Role playing game/First person shooter

Setting: The Milky Way Galaxy in the future and selected planets and spaceships in there.

Story: You play an elite human soldier (Shepard) who must save the universe from a monstrous alien attack. This soldier commands an advanced spaceship and must recruit various humans, aliens and androids to take on a fearsome adversary which is attacking human colonies and leaving no one left behind to tell the tale.

Graphics: Excellent. Has a quality science fiction/fantasy art book look to it, but not as lush/realistic as, say, “Uncharted 2”.

Good about the game:

* You can upgrade the skills, weaponry and powers of those you recruit by gaining their loyalty. However, on first play through, it seems that sometimes you have to choose who to support…which means you may alienate other recruits. The system does have some depth, in that you can lose the loyalty of someone. Nobody on your team starts out as loyal, but that’s not to say they are hostile to you. At times, if you make a lot of alternative save spots in the game, you can go back to a point in time and try to gain a different outcome as far as interaction with your ship’s crew goes…but that can make no difference at times…which is a strength of the game (unless some game trophies require things be different).

* The gameplay and cinematic element is brilliantly executed in the mission concerning the sniper recruit trying to find someone he believes betrayed his squad…it’s like watching a movie…which you are creating right there.

* There are side missions which can increase the strength of your squad members…or they may just be a bit of fun…or perhaps there will be serious consequences to them in Mass Effect 3? * There is a sense of fun to the game, should you care to explore. E.g. some of the interactive advertising billboards are amusing. Conversations you have with team members can be intriguing too. I did find amusing some of the information on planets near the Krogan’s home world, as well as what some of your crew were reading, according to secret dossiers on them.

Misjudgements in the game:

* The PS3 version of the game has one glaring omission…you start in the middle of the trilogy. The whole point of the game is the story element, and the main gimmick of the game is that the choices you make in one game carry over into the next game, when you play that. It’s for this reason I am not marking this game as highly as I could.

* The PS3 version of the game does not have a booklet with game information in it. There is such a guide on the disc, but it is not accessible when you are actually playing the game, I don’t think. I would have appreciated having a booklet to glance at to familiarise or re-familiarise myself with gameplay or gameworld information.

* There is a bug in the game whereby if you get to close to something the game won’t let you walk over (like a hole or incline) your character is lodged in the air, unable to move…so you have to reboot the game! Other characters may float next to you by way of solidarity with your predicament.

* Unfortunately, I had an undesirable outcome once I accepted one mission…which is why I think I’ll replay the game…i.e. even though you have to save the universe, there’s no rush UNLESS you choose to take on a particular mission (IFF mission). The game does warn you that you can’t go back once you start the Omega 4 Relay mission, but I think that the IFF mission warranted such a warning itself…found myself sans nearly all of my crew after I dilly-dallied rescuing them. Since I read a cheat book, I know that it was possible to rescue more than I did by delaying their rescue.

* The A.I. can be up and down…early in the game when I was hopeless at times, the female thief was brilliant in allowing me to complete a mission, or so too the Krogan character in another mission…I don’t think that I had the right equipment on me, so without my squad’s help I doubt if I could have progressed. The flipside of this A.I. is that on some missions they are nowhere to be seen…they abandon you to face enemies alone…e.g. in a room on a spaceship I was fighting a team of enemies and my two squad mates were outside. It would be good if they could help you defeat your enemies without needlessly getting themselves killed too…take cover, for God’s sake! * Oddly, I did find it awkward when one crewmate pointed out that I had asked the same thing before. Another crewmate complained that I was having too many personal chats with him…when I hadn’t spoken to him in a while! On the flipside, I liked that you could ask the same question again without such awkward comments being made to you…i.e. if you missed the import of something that was said, you could go back to take it in better.

General observations:

This is a quality game with an engaging story. The major drawback with the PS3 version of the game is that the gimmick available on other platforms (Xbox 360, PC) aren’t available to you (the element of your choices counting in later games). Replaying the game (you can get bonuses after completing the game a first time, as well as change your character’s gender), I found I had a sense of familiarity with the characters, not unlike those on other platforms get, who have played the first in the series. Although the game does have some bugs, it doesn’t significantly detract from the pleasure of the experience. High replay value. Potentially a 8.5+/10 game (on other platforms).

Mass Effect

MassEffect.jpg

Score: 67.5+%*

[N.B. A word of warning to potential buyers of this game: it’s possible that you won’t be able to finish the last few minutes of this game due to a glitch at the climax of the game. This is a known problem (definitely for the PS3 version but not sure about other platforms). It looks like those behind the game have no interest in fixing it, since the problem is years old (I did manage to complete this game…eventually…in the 2nd week of 2015). Not sure what % of PS3 consoles have this issue, but it manifested for me in the climactic fight…the game just slowed down, stuttered and eventually froze, requiring a reboot. Rebooting didn’t fix the problem either. My score does not take into account such aggravation or the feeling of being ripped off if you buy this game and can’t finish it, which means you can’t transfer your character information to the sequels. It might be case that the PSN version of the game may make overcoming this glitch possible, but I did have issues with even that, although I did make it through to the end of the game…it’s for that reason that I’m not taking this aspect of the experience into my score. It would have been impossible to give this a (good) score at all if I hadn’t of been able to finish the game.

Another note: I played the first game in this series years after playing its sequel first…due to Bioware insisting that the first game would never be released on Playstation.]

Platform: PS3, also on PSN.

Genre: Role playing sci-fi shooter.

Setting: The Milky Way galaxy in the future.

Story: You play an elite human soldier (male or female) who must save the universe from a monstrous alien attack. You command an advanced spaceship and have a squad of elite fighters who you take on missions.

Graphics: Very good. Has a sci-fi fantasy art picture book quality to the visuals. Having played Mass Effect 2 first in this series (‘thanks’ Bioware!), the character models aren’t as realistic looking as in that sequel.

Elements of the game:

Romance: I played as a female soldier. The unfortunate aspect to this RPG element for me was the fact that low-level flirting (if that) pretty much put my options on rails…i.e. I seemed to be limited to one romantic option. Other characters were ruled out by the game as potential romantic interests due to my character having imperceptibly (somehow) become BFF to a male character. This element is rectified in the sequel but it’s a pity it’s not a good system here…so, I got no trophy for Romance in this game! In fact, my choice on Virmire pretty much ruled out that possibility (seeing as the game does not have post-completion gameplay, unlike the sequel).

Mako missions: This is a military vehicle your spaceship drops onto the surface of planets and moons in order to investigate things…which usually leads to battles. Apparently some people have problems with this vehicle but I haven’t really explored their reasons for this. I didn’t mind this aspect of the game too much, apart from being annoyed by having to deal with heavy artillery or big, offensive robots. If you play by the game’s rules and you’re not very good at manoeuvring the vehicle whilst avoiding being hit by weapons fire and dealing out damage to those offensive weapons, then the gameplay will be frustrating. That’s because the game doesn’t allow you to save progress. So, you will have to reload from your previous save, if you play by the rules. I did rely on a workaround to this problem…which was nice. The sequel has much less Mako type missions and did prevent my workaround from the first game too…which is unnecessarily annoying on the developer’s part, I think.

Gameplay: I played this on “Normal” difficulty. Perhaps surprisingly, some of the early missions seemed quite tough to get through, as far your character dying or having members of your squad die. Can’t say that I got to grips with the squadmate placement system, which is something that I eventually came to grips with in the sequel. The sequel at least has an in-game tutorial on how to use the system. Early on in the game I felt like one of those NPC victims to be rescued by the hero…pretty useless. The same feeling occurred to me in Mass Effect 2 but I transitioned into a competent hero in that. It did make me wonder if I would make that same transition in this first game.

Intolerable about the game:

* That all these YEARS after release, it’s STILL possible to be unable to complete the final battle in the game which will prevent you from taking your saved game and importing it to the sequel. Demonstrates utter contempt for quality control by the company.

* Bioware treating gamers with contempt by not releasing the series in chronological order for Playstation gamers.

Good about the game:

* It’s a believable simulation of a galaxy teeming with advanced alien civilisations. If you wish to immerse yourself in this universe, you are provided with a database which provides information on the species you encounter and their history. The Mass Effect universe is perhaps the most satisfying world in which to inhabit. Already I feel I have a sense of this place, with its alternatingly warring and co-operating alien species, such as the Krogan, Turians, Salarians and Asari. It’s for this aspect of the game that I find it a “must play”.

* Not having played online shooters and thus having good twitch reflexes against nimble, deadly opponents, I have to say that I appreciate that you can pause the game as you initiate targetted attacks on enemies. Bring up your weapons display and you can pause the game while you switch your weapon. Bring up your ‘powers’ display and you can pause the action whilst you choose options available to your type of soldier…e.g. hurling a deadly fireball at an enemy.

Not so good about the game:

* Squadmate A.I. I literally made a point sometimes to lock them out of an area in some encounters so that they didn’t die. In other words, I felt that “team” really needed an “I” in it. Just “I”! It’s maddening how you direct them to a particular spot behind cover, say, then they start following you around instead of staying put. Some squadmates are even more annoying…they’re spooning you as they walk right behind you! Sheesh! Getting your gun out and firing it may help discourage them from doing this.

* Navigating on foot in some places. This could be a real pain, as I found it easy to get lost or have no idea where to go. Great examples of badly disorientating locales are Feros as well as the even worse tunnels of Zhu’s Hope. To be balanced, however, I did find one urban space where I had a good sense of how to get to various places in it. That was for the city on Noveria.

* On the Mako missions, often I’d be firing at the big mechs etc, and they didn’t take any damage at all. The ability to damage them seemed random, as far as targetting them. This gave rise to a workaround…getting out of the Mako and just destroying the mech with my squadmates!

* Taking a while to work out how to set the default weapon for your squad.

Remembering how you did that was also annoying.

Could be more intuitive in other words.

* Some bugs in the game, like in-world objects being highlighted so that you can interact with them…and they don’t interact because you already interacted with them but forgot about it. Or the game giving you the impression that you haven’t been to a place before when you actually have…i.e. your Journal isn’t updated to note that you’ve already been there. The Journal also once marked me down as having done something which I still needed to do.

By the by:

Amusing cutscene with Emily Wong due to the fact that there was a bug, which creaating a shadow under her nose and lip…giving her a Hitler mo!

General observation:

I’m currently playing the final instalment in this series. Whilst I can’t say that the gameplay for the series is great or that there aren’t annoyances, it’s definitely worth playing the games because the world is so immersive and believable.

* I didn’t actually write down a score when I made my notes on this game  many months ago. It’s definitely a Pass score. Worth playing in other words. My score of 67.5+% is just what I’m guessing I would have scored it at the time.