Mass Effect

August 5, 2008 – 5:24 am

This is a post about a computer game. I’d be interested to know what anyone who reads it thinks of it, especially if you do not play games. Have I made it sound interesting? Have you ever heard about it before? I have tried not to reveal much about the story but maybe it is too vague.

Today I plan to talk about one of the games I have been playing. It is an adventure type game where you take on the role of commander Sheppard a soldier in the human Alliance military. Set in a future where humanity has joined with various other galactic species and is finding its place amongst the other races who mastered space flight hundreds of years ago. As you play the game you find out more about the history that shaped the galaxy you are currently exploring usually by guiding your character to talk to other people or reading computer pages. The history for me was very interesting to investigate, and had a cyclical nature to it. The first races were peaceful but soon discovered a hostile race, a warrior race then came to the rescue but turned on the peaceful races. A new militant race beat down the warrior race and became an important police like force. Humanity was initially seen as a hostile threat and a couple of generations later is when you are introduced.

The mechanics of the game are similar to past games from the same company, a character you can create picking from a variety of skills, combat skills, technical skills and biotic powers (think telekinises). You can customise the appearace choosing male or female for your character too. My originally named Geoff Shepard character was a male who specialised in biotic powers.

Starting the game you head up a three person squad investigating a mysterious attack on a human colony, the attack is ongoing and you are soon attacked by a some of the Geth race. This is a race of artificial intelligence equipped robots who overthrew their creators and evolved in secret and have only now begun to spring up around the occupied areas of the galaxy. All quite mysterious but carrying on through the mission we discover an ancient artifact from the ancient civilisation that apprently created a lot of the major space stations linking the galaxy together. This is the sort of thing that makes me think of the Stargate television series but if you never watch that its basically the same idea, the stargates were made by ancient races and I suppose is a neat way to bypass any ownership of this giant space motorway system.

After this mission you basically get called a liar and to prove your story you get to explore the centerpiece of the galaxy. A huge space station called the citadel where the government is based and you can interact with more of the alien species. You also flesh out the crew who you can continue exploring the galaxy with, you get to include one of the Turian race (militant police race), one of the Krogan (warrior race) and a Quarian (the race that created the Geth).

The game lets you choose the direction that interactions should play out so you can make your character interactions take on a helpful, neutral or aggressive tone in the majority of conversations. When I first played through the game my conversations were typically aggressive but as I was enjoying exploring a lot of my actions were quite helpful. Basically I was acting like a jerk but still helping them out whereas I could have been acting like a jerk and not help them either. During this early exploration my squad consisted of the Krogran warrior and the Quarian since I was most interested in these two races. When I came back to the game after a long break I carried on taking the Quarian with me but chose to take the Turian with me instead of the Krogan for no particular reason.

My break from the game was due to a couple of reasons. One was that I had a lot of new games around the same time, just after christmas. The second was that the game felt like it was going to end too soon. Once I left the citadel I was presented with a quite surprising number of locations to explore and I duly set out without too much of a system to explore everywhere I could. Simple survey missions on planets would return information on minerals or artifacts found and on every system there was a planet I could land on and drive around in my tank. This just seemed to get quite repetitive, quite fast. Despite a very strong start to the game with the initial mission and Citadel exploration and a couple of primary missions the secondary missions just dragged out the game. After coming back to the game I completed another primary mission that actually progressed the main story and that inspired me to finish off the game.

Once I finished the game thanks to the achievement system I immediately started another game from the beginning. Choosing this time to play as a more helpful character but also limiting my exploration of the galaxy to completing missions only.

In summary the story that unfolds and the character interactions and detailed history that can be investigated are very impressive and really draw my to the game. The unfettered exploration of the galaxy is not as interesting as it could have been there is no reason why those who want to explore shouldn’t have been rewarded with more detailed environments and further character interactions. The game is meant to be followed up by a sequel which I will definately purchase as I am interested in exploring more of this fiction.

Another game I have been playing recently also has a strong story driven pull but this one is interspersed by tetris style ‘battles’. I might talk about Puzzle Quest more after I have played it more but the basic premise is matching coloured jewels to beat a variety of mythical opponents, orcs, trolls and the like.

One last note, I found a blog and after reading the last few posts I have been working through the archives. It’s a shame that http://virgin-slut.blogspot.com/ has stopped posting as a lot of the posts I have read are very interesting and well written.

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