I'm a gamer from the 90s who was raised on games with cute characters in them, both the genuine, heart-warming kind and the cynically designed ones.
But despite me mostly being a Nintendo fanboy it was probably the holy trinity Final fantasy VII, Tomb Raider and Resident Evil that truly got me into gaming.
Now I play anything as I'm open to anything.
Favourite game of all time? probably a toss up between Mass Effect 2, Persona 4, Metroid Prime, Killer7 or Resident Evil 4.
Weíre drawing close to the release of what may be the finest game of 2012. Much like how Mass Effect 2 was released early in the year yet still managed to be many peopleís game of the year despite the impressive competition that would follow, we have another year with a Mass Effect game released in the first quarter. Will the same happen again? Maybe, who knows! To me, that very well could be the case as much as I donít really want it to be.
Oh, and the following may have potential plot spoilers.
Let me be honest with all you early on. Iím usually into pretty weird games and enjoy the sensation of dropping an obscure game in a conversation amongst friends to keep them quiet while I explain why itís so often. I have a brief sense of coolness before they call me a loser and/or a wanker, and rightly so, and then push the conversation to more normal games. But Mass Effect is my connection to the masses. There are a lot of popular games I like, but very few of them I love; but Mass Effect is a series I love.
In preparation to Mass Effect 3 I decided to go through both games again and set up an alternative story to the one I have already set in motion. In the case of Mass Effect 2 I also had all the DLC bought during sales that Iíd yet to go through. On top of that Iím reading the three novels, too. Iím halfway through the third one. Theyíre okay; real trashy and noticeably written to a strict deadline but they have some nice touches and I love the universe so Iím nicely entertained by them.
So Iím pretty in touch with the series to really enjoy ME3.
The original Mass Effect I finally saw the end of last year after playing it on and off for over six months. Thatís not a game Iíd recommend anyone go back to, itís quite a mess. It made me kind of sad that a game that means a lot to me is quite unplayable now. It always had its numerous faults: the loose and unsatisfying combat, the repetitive side-quests and environments, the graphical bugs, those uncomfortably long elevator rides, the list goes on. But it didnít matter at the time because it is such a rich universe to take in. Iíd walk around the Citadel talking to anyone whoíd listen, like an attention starved old man, just to hear their stories and if I could help in some way. I liked to take these stories and apply my own ideals and morals to them that would change the trajectory of the story slightly; I liked leaving my mark on this space opera. I also liked seeing if I could do 360 degree spins in the Mako while airborne.
Since Iíve gone through Mass Effect so many times the experienced is faded, familiar and the gameplay alone just doesnít stand up now.
But enough about the original; I want this to be about Mass Effect 2. Itís safe to say the action parts of the game hold up better than ME. Itís not the most satisfying third person shooting and will never hold a candle to games dedicated to that genre but itís quite a fun attempt at it. Both my ME2 play throughs were with using a Shepard that used biotics: one a full blown adept and the second a vanguard. I had more fun as an adept with the range of biotic powers you can use; lifting, flinging and warping the poor souls that would oppose me, though thatís not to say the charge plus shotgun combo wasnít fun to use as a vanguard. Itís these little touches that make it fun, I couldnít imagine playing ME2 as a straight soldier.
This is a Bioware game so the main attraction is the story and the characters, though in this game there isnít much story. Some bad stuff is going down at the Omega relay, so go deal with it. Thatís pretty much it. This is why I like ME2, it has a conventional video game type plot but where it shines is in the characters. Love them or hate them, they will get some kind of emotion out of youÖ apart fromÖ Gary? Andy?.. Michael? You know, the one who looks like Kanye West? I could look his name up but this makes my point; heís very forgettable.
I really like the focus not on a crusade to save the universe but primarily to convince a varied bunch of characters to come on a mission they very may not come back from. In trying to gain their loyalty you end up getting involved with them on a personal level. Saving the universe is obviously a noble act but itís just something I canít properly conceive in reality, the universe is a massive thing, but the small problems the crew have that need to be dealt with to gain their trust are more relatable; something I can conceive more.
Iíd like to see more games that are more low key and personal. Persona 4 is another favourite of mine and I like it for similar reasons; itís about exploring the anxieties of people. And Chibi-Robo, a quirky adventure about helping a family through rough domestic patch. Theyíre all weirdly, cosy little worlds to be part of.
But back to ME2, though. Reading the novels along with playing really gave me a different stance on Cerberus. They were nasty people in the first game but were depicted to be morally grey in the sequel and when I played it first I was won over by them. I figured what they did was a little wrong but Ďfor the greater goodí like the Illusive Man often says; I thought he had a point regarding all the questionably ethical things you do. But all of ME2 is from their perspective so give real credit for the gameís writers to pull that off, to draw you into the world and blinker you to situations that are plain to see. After reading the novels you really see them for what they are and not at all worthy of sympathy. The whole universe is impressively constructed.
Oh, and one final thing. I still didnít manage to do the final mission with no-one dieing. Miranda and Legion ate it the first time and Samara croaked on my second go. I really donít know what Iím doing wrong. Maybe a third attempt is due.
So Iím looking forward to where me story ends with Mass Effect 3. Roll on March!