Mass Effect

January 14th 2012

Before X-mas I bought Mass Effect 1 to play, mainly becasue my X-box save games all went caput and I wanted to play something interesting. I was also able to pick it up for about £5, so bargain for me and I jumped right into it. I dont have a huge amount to say about Mass Effect 1 to be honest - it is a great game but as I played it after I had completed ME2, my experience was slightly impacted. So, rather than do my usual notes on a few different elements of the game I loved,  I've decided to go for a few thoughts on what I thought was interesting about the game, specifically in relation to ME2.

1. Very much its own game, but not without problems....

ME1, as far as I am aware was released relatively early on in the Xbox360 life, but it does not show at all. The visuals are superb, voice acting excellent and the concept of the game incredibly well executed (a role playing sci fi epic where your choices and decisions genuinely matter). I loved it - every minute of it, but some elements felt half baked, under developed or just filler.

Specifically, the sections where you drive around barren planets in a buggy are a pain - the graphics are often superb, but here the game design is lazy at best and cheap at worst (drive here, check this, go to next way point and fight a monster). They dont detract from the overall game experience, but they are so in contrast with the high quality story / combat that they feel 'tacked on' to lengthen the game. And, talking aout combat, man do they make it harder than it has to be...

The combat is part 3rd person shooter, part cover based, part squad control and part "use biotics" (think magic / powers). THere is alot going on and they dont quite manage to pull it off, but you do forgive the game for trying so much, even if it is very glitchy and extremely clunky. It is, on occassions, almost as if the designers werent really sure just what they should make the game excellent at and instead went for a hybrid approach that comes very close, but falls just short.

2. It is its own game, but feels like a trial run for ME2

The game has its own plot, decisions, dilogue but as I had played ME2 and knew what could really be done, the game almost felt as if the developers were testing a load of ideas for the inevitable sequel. I know that I am probably saying this only because I had completed ME2 before this, but at least one person I know gave up on ME1 because it felt inacessible and tough. The game is not really, but the menu system, inventory management and clunky combat dont make for a fluid 3rd person RPG or 3rd person shooter.

With that in mind though, I actually think I enjoyed it more because i had played ME2 before this - I knew they could do so much better - and after 3 hours of playing I was engrossed in the story and able to ignore the problesms. Interesting, becasue I always felt like I was forgiving the game because it is worth perservering with as ME2 is that good. Make no mistake, when you do get into it, it is a superb game that really engrosses and exites in equal measure.

3. My one big mistake...

Because I played ME2, I decided to play ME1 on the easiest difficulty level. I almost NEVER do this with games as I enjoy both the challenge of a tough game and the satisfaction of become excellent at it.However, I never really got to this point in ME1 as I was effectively breezing through even the toughest bosses. Around half way through, I realised that this was a massive mistake - the game is definately good enough in its own right to warrent a proper play through and I didnt really get this.

However, this did mean I completed it relaively quickly and moved straight on to my 2nd play through of ME2, and boy did I enjoy that. In fact, I would go as far to say that I enjoyed my second playthrough of ME2 at least as much as the first as I was able to appreciate the in-jokes, see my decisions of the first game echoed in the sequel and appreciate the breadth of the plot of both games. All in all, I absolutely loved the second play through and felt like I was exploring a new game afresh, not merely repeating a great experience on an old one.

So, in summary, I strongly recommend playing both ME1 and ME2, in no particular order. When ME3 comes out, no doubt it will be an epic experience and enhanced by the time that I have already put into both of its sequels, and by the end of the second, all I wanted was more.

Two truly great games - superb story, great action and a fantastic cast of characters. The fact that ME2 goes toe to toe with GOW on the action, Red Dead on the story and other big hitting RPG's on the character development is testimony to just how far the games concept had come.

Enjoy them both, at least once, probably twice...