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Mass Effect 2 is *gasp* a Role Playing Game (spoilers)

I just recently finished playing Mass Effect 2. It was one of the best games I've played in quite a while, and it had surprisingly little to do with the combat, given that I'm an action/FPS/twich/skill gaming enthusiast. I liked the dialogue, the choices, and the consequences.

I was struck by the way the final mission played out. I felt it was an interesting setup. The game prompts you at several points to make choices about what team members to send for various tasks. It was Mass Effect, so I tried to give it some thought. What would I do? Nay, what would Shepard do?

I was prompted to choose a technology specialist to send to hack a particular door to allow another part of my team access. Do I send Tali? or Legion? Well, Shepard has fairly close personal ties with Tali; they have a bond of friendship. On the other hand, she just met Legion, and while she recognizes he shows signs of intelligence and sentience, his mannerisms haven't sunk in yet. He's still a machine to her, rather than a person. He's also a kind of hive mind of computer programs. Sending him to hack another computer sounds like a no-brainer.

Who leads the second fire team? Jack complains that she's none too pleased with Miranda being in charge, which forces the issue. I have to think about it. I want my second team to have a smart, capable tactician. That basicaly only leaves Miranda, Jacob, or Garrus, in my eyes. And of those three, Miranda is basically a genetically sculpted genius, while Jacob and Garrus are experienced (but not brilliant) soldiers. I choose Miranda to lead the second team. Jack doesn't react further. I have to wonder why. Oversight by the game designers, or did Jack just speak up to give me pause?

It's me, Jack. Crank up the crazy.

Who is my biotic specialist? Samara has impressed me thoroughly with her moral code of protection and her sheer power, whereas Jack is, frankly, still a little unstable. Her previous outburst makes me wonder if she'll have problems again later.

Reliable? Protective? Gee, I wonder.

Do I send someone to escort the crew back to the ship? Shepard doesn't know what is still to come; she can't risk a mission this big on her sentimentality. Plus, Dr. Chakwas has been nothing but brusque with her since their bonding exercise with the dranks. As a player, I realize this is probably due to budget or schedule or something, but immersion counts. Shepard found Joker hilarious and endearing, in part because he always had something funny to say to her; she would have gone to much greater lengths to save him. And Chambers... well, Chambers always seemed a little sycophantic to her.

Why you gotta be so cold to me, doc?

Some of this reasoning may seem a little petty, but these feelings seemed to develop organically as I played through the game. Just by my various interactions with the crew, the shape of my character Shepard took form. It's rewarding to be able to actually role play in a role playing game, rather than, say, just unravel your amnesia.

After all was said and done, I couldn't help but ask myself how much all of my choices mattered. Maybe Shepard thought the same things in her idle moments of introspection afterwards. You may be able to tell I put some thought into it. Did it matter at all? It turns out it did.

Game Informer managed to get some information from Bioware about the various branches of the Mass Effect 2 end-game.

End game flowchart. Click for full size.

It turns out if you don't pick wisely at some of the points, your people are likely to die. Shepard of course doesn't know anything about this, but as a player, I feel rewarded knowing that my dedication paid off. I don't like the fact that, had this article from GI never come out, I would have likely never learned of this. I don't know the right mechanism to convey this kind of information to the player, but especially for games that tout player choice, I believe it is enriching to know it.
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About knutafone of us since 6:45 PM on 03.01.2010

I'm a dad in my thirties.
I work for MS on the Xbox, making features and fixing bugs.
I have a cat and two dogs.
I sometimes make Twitter bots: 1, 2, 3

Groundhog Day: Wave After Wave, This Is My Ocean
Obscurity: Nobody has ever heard of Lemmings

Currently playing
Stephen's Sausage Roll

Dark Souls
Geometry Wars 2
Burnout Paradise
Rayman (original, Origins, Legends)
Tetris Attack
Metroid Prime series
Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3
Descent 1-3
English Country Tune
The Witness

Other places you might find me:
Twitch.tv livestream (PC indie games and Dark Souls)
knutaf on YouTube
@_knutaf on Twitter
Occasionally, I am part of a podcast
I watch a fair bit of anime.
I sometimes listen to music.
Xbox LIVE:knutaf
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