When I finished Mass Effect 2, I was convinced I had just played the greatest game of this gen, and possibly of all time. Never before had I been so immersed in a game. The action was fun, the graphics beautiful, and, since I hadn't played the first game, a lot of my time was spent researching Codex entries and learning about the most fascinating sci-fi universe Iíd ever encountered. I felt like I was uncovering truths in some weird intergalactic library, making political moves that would stretch across solar systems, and banging a really hot Ausie girl. Life was good.
Of course, I couldn't wait for ME3 to hit. I knew the Reapers, like Winter, were coming. I wasn't entirely sure how I would deal with them, but I imagined it would involve scanning planets, using minerals to get updated tech, and taking my crew out on self-contained missions that told their own little stories. Well, I wasn't quite right. Firstly, while they streamlined the scanning process and the minerals were cut - we were left only with straight up space dollars. Right away, the integrity of the universe took a hit. From there you could buy upgrades, sure, but they didn't seem as important as in ME2 (a situation partly alleviated by the gun mods). And the missions just seemed more bland - the environments more cookie-cutter, the situations less fleshed out.
Needless to say, at first, I was disappointed. I don't see why I was surprised, though - the first sequel is usually the best one, but still. In so many ways, I could feel the rush, knowing that had Bioware had a bit more time, we could have got something truly special. That lingering feeling was distracting at times, as I kept trying to think back to ME2 and pinpoint why I enjoyed that game so much more. I played them at the same stage in my life, so nostalgia was not a factor. The gameplay was not changed (in fact, it was streamlined), so it couldnít be that either. It was the details. It was the absence of interesting and slightly-disturbing missions, like the one with Jacobís father or Jack in ME2; the lack of subversive narration techniques, felt most notably by the removal of Thaneís trippy double-talk; the feeling that I was playing COD, sci-fi style, and just preparing for the next big set-piece (a feeling which really hit home during the London mission). Something was missing, soul-wise.
And then there was the ending. I was already expecting the worst by the time I reached the game's climax, and without giving anything way, I will say that it came pretty much out of left-field. I spent ten minutes watching the end, and then another two hours researching it online. I was convinced something metaphorical was going on, and still am. Like many, I've also come to look at the whole game as an ending, rather than just the last ten minutes, which helps to alleviate the disappointment somewhat.
But I wouldn't blame my hype for the disappointment. After all, when I first played ME2, I did it because several publications were calling it the greatest XBOX 360 game of all time. It lived up to that title. Expectations are normal, and the fact that ME3 didn't live up to mine doesn't mean it's not a great game. It just means it wasn't one of the greatest of all time, like I expected it to be. Of course, I should have known better, considering that ME3ís short development time meant that, unless they were using Reaper tech, it would be impossible to deliver an experience on par with ME2. In fact, as Diablo III shows, waiting longer would not only have increased the hype, it would have resulted in a better quality experience. Win-win, I think. Thatís why instead of blaming hype, we should embrace it, build upon it, and give devs the time to deliver on it.
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