Recently, Jonathan Drama’s brother, the esteemed Quintus Dellius, has been borrowing the Mass Effect series from me to play through. This simply opened up some old memories and wounds that I will probably never get over, in which like the revolutionary before me in Martin Luther, I shall dictate my grievances against the series in the games to follow the original. I first encountered Mass Effect about three years ago, when one of my friends told me to play the first one, and then subsequently the second at that point in time. The first Mass Effect is truly a masterpiece of its time. Although not a perfect game, the only things holding it back in my opinion where the smoothness of interactions and the graphics, which for a 2007 release were quite stellar. The second one I delved into shortly after the first, and I honestly stopped playing it about an hour into it, and had to pick it back up some time later to force my way through the beginning, like it was Assassin’s Creed. The third one I preordered way in advance, and was so excited for the release, only to be let down on the third day of playing it by the worst ending in any game I have ever played. For this week, I’m going to simply delve into Mass Effect 2 with my vitriol of the third to follow sometime next week. Fortunately, not everything in the sequels is bad (I did play through and probably will play through the series again), but to me they didn’t deserve the critical acclaim that was given. And here’s why.
Mass Effect 2
To me, the franchise ends right after Commander Shepard gets spaced. I’m dead and gone, see ya later, end of series. I get on with my real life, because my hero is dead. Which leads me into my first issue with the series (first title included). I hate that you can totally customize Commander Shepard. You shouldn’t let him be a her, or look like Samuel L, or have any first name you want. Because then the hero of the story is the gamer. And I don’t want a hero to be some moron who thinks the Mass Effect 3 ending was awesome. Give me a stock John 117, and then we’re golden. I like the customization, don’t like that “you’re the hero, save the galaxy!” Some kids don’t deserve to be heroes.
Secondly, Cerberus. Not only does the name make no sense (why did they decide to make them such a prominent factor in the game when they don’t even explain why they’re named after the three-headed dog that guarded the river Styx?), but Commander Shepard is totally okay with listening to the delusions of a terroristic mad man? Cerberus is a terrorist group. It would be like Iron Man dying and being brought back to life by the Ten Rings, and then after an explanation by the Mandarin on his world view, fighting for the Ten Rings. Whaaaaaaat?! IRL, Shepard puts a bullet into the Illusive Man’s brain and blows terrorists to kingdom come like George HW.
Thirdly, Miranda Lawson. In my second Marvel reference, the truth about her is just like Tony Stark puts it when arguing with Steve Rogers. “Everything special about you came out of a bottle.” She’s a petri dish, a science experiment, a robot. Genetically engineered to be the best at everything, looks, intelligence, combat, etc etc etc, she is nonetheless an immensely insecure character despite how she should probably have built-in protocols for security. What a freaking boring backwards character. The only reason they put her in this game was to give the fanboys a fantasy of something they’ll never have in real life. Especially because god forbid, they couldn’t include Ashley Williams again.
Fourth, the cover-up. Apparently, there was a massive coverup by the Council and Citadel government on how the attack by the Reaper Sovereign in Mass Effect was just a super big Geth ship. This is some straight up Michael Bay storytelling right here. Other than you know, the millions of people and government officials that were present on board the Citadel, not to mention the sophistication of recording devices and Reaper debris everywhere, there’s going to be a lot more evidence than any futuristic government can cover up to show that this mega attack that held entire fleets at bay is something a little more than Skynet robots burning down the house. Simply lazy storytelling.
Fifth, Harbinger. What a lame-ass villain. All this dude does is sit there and spew threats against you, and use this Collector General to speak. It’s not even clear that Harbinger is a Reaper, you just think he’s the general because that’s all you see. And he’s simply all talk. I delay his plans, kill thousands of his minions, and he continues to talk smack against me. Like bro, just shut up you haven’t beaten me yet. It’s like playing your little brother in a racing game. You’ve trounced him ten games in a row, and he’s always saying “again!” or “next time!”. Just no, I will own you every day. He’s got nothing on Mass Effect’s Sovereign, who was a pompous one cyborg assailant taking one for the team like a boss. The conversation you have with him on Virmire is just mind-blowing. You actually fear threatened and mystified as to what Sovereign can actually do. Harbinger is just Stewie Griffin saying “mommy” over and over again. Just shut up and go away, I’ll deal with you in my spare time.
6. Loyalty Missions. I understand how they’re supposed to have a bearing on the game, but if I’m supposed to be speeding around the galaxy trying to save human colonies from being raided by the Collectors, then I am quite sorry, but your little daddy issues, or ghosts from your past are gonna wait. You’ve signed onto my crew, for my mission, to follow my orders. And that means saving lives as fast as possible. To make things worse, the game is gonna punish me if I don’t hasten to my overall objective, by making my squad worse? Please. More bad storytelling. Do not create a game that’s a race against the clock when I can dilly dally for whatever amount of time I deem necessary to take care of personal issues my crew might have. We’re all big boys and girls, sometimes some things don’t get resolved in the name of the greater good. Like saving humanity.
Seventh. My squad. In the orignal Mass Effect, I had a hard time choosing my squad. Granted, Tali Zorah never joined my squad because she’s a space Jew that doesn’t have anything to offer, but I still had some great characters like Ashley Williams, Urdnot Wrex, Garrus Vakarian, Liara T’Soni. In the sequel, you have Garrus Vakarian. The only other two squad members who I would use either come in the DLC (Kasumi Goto) or last in the game (Legion). Grunt deserves to stay on ice the whole time. Jack is a weak attempt at making a character more than one-dimensional. Miranda is a robotic petri dish with a body like Kate Upton. Jacob is Kanye West without the talent or T-Swift disses. Mordin Solus is horrific in fights, and a motor mouth that doesn’t fully develop as a character in this game. Samara (or Morinth) is simply biotic cleavage. Thane Krios is a frog that does cartwheels in combat. Tali just likes to complain about her life trying to get Shepard to hit on her. And, if you know anything about Zaeed Massani, then you’re an idiot for actually talking to him. The characters are flat, and the game tries to force you to get to know them.
Eighthly, the removal of my inventory and the addition of ammunition. Granted, some of the Spectre gear from the original had ludicrous rates of fire and power, but if there’s one thing I hated it was scrounging for silly little heat clips and sitting there having to reload my gun and worry about ammo. There was nothing wrong with the original system, so why change it? And without a massive inventory like in the first installment, the game is inching toward a shooter than a true RPG. I liked picking up megatons of equipment and reducing all the garbage to truckloads of omni-gel. I liked not having “ammo powers” and being able to use a different type for each gun along with different mods for each. It’s an RPG, the more and the bigger, the better. Gimme my options!
Ninth. Electronic Arts. Which meant, at the time, online passes. Which got you access to the Cerberus Network, which has now been deactivated. Which means that even though the game was released only three years ago, there are some DLC that you can no longer get. It wasn’t necessarily good DLC, but neither were the maps Tombstone and Desolation for Halo 2 which were download only and are irretrievable. Doesn’t mean I don’t want it for completeness of the game’s sake. Also, EA ruins studios and games (see Pandemic Studios). I have no doubt that they had a hand in the demise of Bioware.
Ten. Fuel and probes. Why did they think it was a good idea to add fuel to the game, and the little mini-game that was hoping you didn’t run out of gas as you traversed systems? There was really no point other than to add a completely arbitrary problem to the game. And probing planets for resources and to find things might have been the worst idea possible. Who thought it would be fun to sit there and spam probes at planets for resources? It was way cooler to find a planet that you could land on in the Mako, and explore all around it by yourself running across random things and events on your way.
11. The little things. I loved being able to walk around the Citadel and the Presidium in the first one. Now my Citadel experience is reduced to the boring Wards? Give me a break, let me explore some more! Also, massive amounts of loading screens. When I just want to change floors on the Normandy, loading screen. When I go through a door, loading screen. It used to be an elevator ride or something instead of a loading screen, which felt like I was actually still playing in the game, not sitting and watching some screen with a spinning wheel of death. The races that they added to the game are also pretty dumb. Vorcha? Total space trash that contribute nothing but cannon fodder to the game. Drell? There are so few of them they don’t even have an overall impact on the game. Usually, when you add things into a great game, you want them to be improvements, not detractions.
As much as I didn’t like this game, I still own it and will probably play it again at some point in time, whenever I decide to make a run through all the Mass Effects. EA had a hand in the downfall of what would’ve been a great franchise, and one of the best space operas ever told, not simply just in gaming. They fixed a lot of the problems with the Mass Effect 2 for Mass Effect 3, but that didn’t stop the third installment from having its own smattering of issues. But, I’ve already gone way too in-depth and ranting/raving on this topic, so Mass Effect 3 will have to wait for another time.