Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Mass Effect, I Tried To Love You
I had 5 sessions with Mass Effect, got maybe 20% through the game, and I feel I gave it a somewhat decent if not my best effort, but in the end, despite the technical issues, it was the slow game pacing, mediocre gunplay, and horrific vehicle controls that prevented the game from getting its hooks into me.
I also have a backed up pile that includes Devil May Cry 4, Condemned 2, Okami Wii, Ratchet & Clank, Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros, all sitting there begging me to play them right now, as well as my Burnout 3, Virtua Tennis 3, Civ4, and various XBLA, NES, and SNES addictions to tend to, so it not that easy to squeeze in a 50 hour RPG. Mass Effect has beautiful graphics, cool characters, and the story seemed interesting. But lately, my main requirement for a game is that it has an immediately addictive gameplay mechanic, and in Mass Effect I just could not find it.
Having played through Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2, and Bioware's epic masterpiece Jade Empire, I can honestly say this game, while not bad, certainly was disppointing given my previous 3 engagements with the developer. The game starts out incredibly slowly. Your character moves incredibly slowly. The protracted dialogue sequences, often well voiced, well written, and well animated, all move incredibly slowly. You get my drift. This isnt a fast game, and in fact its turtle like progression is one of my main complaints. Darth Mikal, who has beaten this game, says its not really that big a game, but because it moves so slowly, it takes a really long time to play.
I agree with Darth on a number of points, another being that Mass Effect is not a true exploration game. Endless Ocean is an exploration game. Mass Effect is actually very linear within the confines of its branching storypaths. Forget actually exploring any planet that you land on. There is nothing to explore, just go along the path they have pre-designated for you. If you attempt to explore, you will likely enter one of the games massive glitches, or possibly just crash the 360.
The technical issues, both in the graphics engine and the physics and game world, were particularly troubling. Let me describe the unfortunate sequence of events which caused me to actually give up on the game. After aquiring my ship, I went to Feros. Apparently they were being attacked by aliens, although this was the last possible thing I expected. You would think that the priority would be for me to clear the aliens from the mining colony, but the colonists had different plans. They wanted me to fix some leaky pipes. Thats right, I got on my spaceship, flew all the way to another galaxy; the hero is here to save to planet and they want me to be a fucking janitor. Wow. OK fine, I guess its all part of the tradition of RPGs: before you save the world, you must rescue this kitten first. Before you save the Universe, you have to fix a septic system.
So I did their dirty work, and was on my way. Now, I had to get into my vehcile, called the Mako, and clear out the rest of the planet. Let me tell you about the Mako. It is, in the words of Ikaruga addict md galaxy, "the worst vehicle in the history of videogames." Thats not a small statement. The Mako makes the hovercraft from Army of Two, or the armored transport from Gears or War, look like a race modified Bugati. Im not sure who designed the physics or controls for it, but I sencerely hope for humanity's sake that person does not reproduce. It cant drive straight, and it cant really turn well either. Get stuck against a wall, try to back up, and prepared to be amazed as the tires spin forwards. To call it similar to the patrol vehicle from the 1982 classic Moon Patrol is to insult the developers at Williams Electronics. You have more control over your vehicle in that 26 year old game than you do in the Mako.
Im a videogame vehicle junkie. The first thing I do in any Halo match is go jump in the Ghost, Warthog or Mongoose and start running people over. Moon Patrol is one of my favorite arcade games of all time. So to say that the Mako was a disappointment to me is like saying Jessica Alba is "kind of cute," or Neifi Perez "isnt a great hitter." Its quite an understatement.
So I got out and walked. Yes, just like I would do if my real car was broken and undrivable, I got out of the Mako and proceeded to walk the rest of the way to my mission destination. And I walked. It was a long way. Finally, after killing everything in sight, which happened quite slowly due to the poor accuracy of my weapons, and the fact that I was playing on Veteren (for which there is oddly no achievement), I entered a large indoor area. At the end of a small hallway, my party stumbled upon a large defensive robot. I bolted from the room and my party members, with all their tri-core xenon powered AI, stood there and got blasted in the face at point blank range and died. I was able to shoot the robot in the knee while it shot the top of the doorway in front of me, for about a minute straight, before it collapsed. Quite an exciting fight. Thats another drawback to Mass Effect: the shooting sucks. It gets better, but not by a huge margin. And there is a single, lame melee animation. If there is anything I've gotten from Army of Two or Virtua Tennis, its that multiple animations for the same or similar player actions add an incredible amount of depth and realism to a game.
Finally, I killed the stupid robot. There was a chest in the back of the room. As I opened the chest to find absolutely no quest items or other valuables which a huge robot might be protecting, I turned around and found myself unable to move. My party members had gotten up off the floor and trapped me in between the robot corpse, and the chest. Apparently, this type of environmental object glitch is quite common.
At this point, after talking to several people about my concerns with the game, and realizing none of these problems were going to go away later on, I decided to just turn it off for good. I dont really have any regrets either, even though everyone I know who played through the game liked it. There was a lot to like about Mass Effect, but the slow gameplay, endless technical issues, choppy framerate, bugs with the AI and the environment, and the totally undrivable Mako, were enough for me to put it on ebay and never look back.
As a bonus for those of you have that have been reading my blog, Ive decided to link to a couple of versions of Moon Patrol in honor of the Mako. The first is a budget flash version that should be playable on any computer, while the second is a full remake of the game for the PC by a Dutch guy called Shinobi. This remake is excellent and would easily command 400 Microsoft points on XBLA but its available for free on Shinobi's website. It works with any USB controller or the 360 controller if you have the Windows Wireless Receiver. Check it out!
Moon Patrol Flash Version
Moon Patrol Full Remake by Shinobi