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Mass Effect Retrospective Part 1

Today is the much anticipated release of the conclusion of the Mass Effect trilogy.  Mass Effect is my Lord of the Rings, my Star Wars, my Citizen Cane, or any other title that defines a genre.  I love it, in case I can’t stress that enough.  It’s what I look at to remind me of how great gaming can be.  So while I impatiently await for my copy to be shipped to me, I decided to do a little retrospective.  I plan to do this in two parts: the first to describe my experience with the game in terms of what my Mass Effect universe & my Commander Shepard is like, the second to describe how the game has evolved over the previous titles & what I expect from the final game.

I played the first Mass Effect with several different character builds probably a dozen times all together.  To reach level 60 would take at least three full playthroughs.  But the build that I’m basing ME2 & ME3 from is a red-headed female Infiltrator named Gabriel Shepard.  I can never resist using a sniper rifle.  I chose the Earthborn, War Hero background.  Maybe it’s just me, but I like making up little stories to explain things about my character’s background.  I imagine my Shepard having been raised in an orphanage which she took her name from (Gabriel being one of the archangels’ names & shepherd being common in church names).  And just as a side note, I almost always spell Shepard wrong at first because the town I live in has “Shepherd” in it.

I’m not going to talk about every single quest I completed in the first game, but instead focus on the major decisions & things that come up later in the second game.

Main Story Points: (Just as a general note, I played all games as straight Paragon)

  • On Feros, Shepard convinced Jeong to stand down rather than having to kill him, spared the colonists by using toxin grenades & spared Shiala
  • Romanced Kaidan
  • On Virmire Shepard convinced Wrex to destroy the “cure” but left Ashley behind
  • On Noveria Shepard got Anoleis arrested, took Liara with her to have a special dialogue with Benezia after the battle & let the Rachni Queen go
  • After being grounded on the Citadel Shepard told Anderson to go through the ambassador’s office to override lockdown (which was a great scene, by the way)
  • During the final battle, Shepard talked Saren out of the first part of the fight, where he killed himself rather than do what the Reapers wanted
  • Saved the Council
  • Nominated Anderson to the Council

Minor Story Points:

  • In the background specific assignment “Old Friends,” Shepard tipped the guard off rather than helping release a prisoner & convinced Finch to step aside
  • Although I wanted to, I did not punch Al-Jilani, but had a high enough persuasion rating to choose all Paragon Charm options that it made her look like, as Hackett said, a raving lunatic
  • During the main quest on the Citadel, Shepard spared Fist by not taking Wrex with her
  • Shepard eventually Charmed Verner to leave her alone (this bugged out during ME2)
  • After taking down several crime lords, Shepard convinced Helena Blake to give up her life of crime
  • After doing some missions for Kohaku & finding him dead, Shepard did not give the information to the Shadow Broker
  • Complete all side quests for crewmembers

In ME2 I again followed the straight Paragon path.

Carry-over from ME1:

  • Shepard met Shiala on Illium & helped her with another job for Zhu’s Hope.  I found this short quest interesting because there are three unspoken issues brought up.  The first two are that the daughters the Asari map vendor speaks about losing appear to be the Asari that worked the desk outside the Ambassador’s office & Nelinna, the Asari working at the Consort’s office.  The third is that it’s implied, at least from my understanding, that Shiala is interesting in bonding with Shepard.
  • Seeing Wrex as the leader on Tuchanka was very exciting.  For some reason Wrex reminds me of John Wayne, though I couldn’t tell you why.  Regardless, talking to him always makes me smile.
  • Ran into Parasini again on Illium & helped her with more undercover work.
  • Ran into an Asari on Illium who gave Shepard a message from the Rachni Queen.
  • This time Shepard got the pretty much yell at Al-Jilani on the Citadel when she tried to interview her.
  • Harassed Fist on Omega.
  • Was surprised to see that Helena Blake was working as a social worker on on Omega instead of a crime boss.
  • Due to a save bug, Shepard met Verner on Illium even though this is supposed to only happen if you’d pick the Renegade option in ME1.  But it’s a funny little mission, & hopefully Verner won’t show up again.  I might punch him if he does.

As for the main quest, rather than writing everything out I’ll just say that I completed it on full paragon, using all paragon interrupts, successfully completed all loyalty missions & saved all my crewmates.

  • Probably the biggest decision, Shepard blew the Reaper Station up instead of handing it over to the Illusive Man & basically told him to shove it.
  • In the save file I’ll be carrying over, Shepard remained loyal to Kaidan.  And there better be a damn good payout in ME3 for that.  But I did have two playthroughs where Shepard romanced Garrus & Thane.
  • On Garrus’ loyal mission, Shepard intervened to prevent him from killing Sidonus.  For me, it was more a matter of preventing Garrus from going off the deep end than because Sidonus didn’t deserve it.  And we got to beat up Harkin, which was well-deserved, the creepy perv.
  • There was a strangely touching moment between Shepard & Garrus when they first met.  I know it was pure coincidence, but I read more into Garrus’ Archangel nickname.  Given that Shepard’s name is for an archangel, & Garrus’ embarrassment over the name, it seemed like he kept it in memory of Shepard.
  • On Tali’s loyalty mission, Shepard didn’t give the tribunal the evidence that Tali’s father was responsible for the Geth but instead gave a roaring speech about how Tali’s service record should put her above scrutiny.  This was one of my favorite scenes in the game, particularly the dialogue with Tali afterwards.
  • Shepard activated Legion & completed his loyalty mission by rewriting the Geth.
  • On Mordin’s loyalty mission, Shepard convinced Mordin not to kill his student & to keep the genophage cure.  This was actually the hardest decision for me in the game (as opposed to the previous mission listed, which seemed to bother others).  Although I was behind curing the genophage, the methods used to gain it made me question whether it was ethical to use it.  But in the end I decided the sacrifices had to be worth something.
  • In Kasumi’s loyalty mission, Shepard told her to keep the memory box.
  • In the Overlord DLC, Shepard freed David from Cerberus’ hold.  I found it strange that I got a message from the Illusive Man afterwards, since this was after the main game was finished & I’d just finished ticking him off.  But I didn’t care what he had to say by that point, either.

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll talk about how the gameplay itself has evolved over the past two games & what changes I’m anticipating for the third.

– GamerDame

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Demo Thoughts: Mass Effect 3

I really don’t think BioWare could’ve chosen a worse day to release their new Mass Effect 3 demo.  Not only was it Valentine’s Day (which really didn’t affect me because I have no significant other, & if I did they’d probably play video games as well), but it was also the same day that my dad was having surgery to remove his kidney.  I honestly completely forgot about the demo until I got home from spending all morning at the hospital & turned on my XBox to see the ad for the demo on the front page.  Talk about brightening my day.  So after waiting the required two hours for the demo to download, I eagerly jumped in.

I don’t have a Gold subcription, so I haven’t played the multiplayer.  This is just for the single-player portion.  I also don’t have Kinect, so I can’t speak for its functionality.

The demo seems to be mostly the same as what gaming journalists have had access to minus one level.  The demo starts at the very beginning.  The beginning is likely what players without an import save will have to do to create a new game.  Starting a new game begins by choosing “the type of experience you would like to have.”  This is the much talked about Action/Role Playing/Story aspect.  It’s actually a bit more straightforward than it sounds.  Action has the conversations play out as cutscenes, rather than letting you choose every dialogue.  Supposedly this will be a blend of Paragon & Renegade responses.  Role Playing is the “traditional” setting for people who’ve played the previous games.  Story has simpler combat.  Also, with Action & RPG, you can adjust the combat difficulty.  There are five levels available in the demo: Narrative, Casual, Normal, Hardcore & Insanity.  Of course you get to create your Shepard.  This highlights the slight change in graphic style, similar to the differences between ME1 & 2.  There are a few more options when customizing, such as a couple new hairstyles & colors, but otherwise it’s the same as previous versions.  And just a note, the new default FemShep hair style isn’t available if you want to customize your appearance.  Then you select your class (I always go with Infiltrator because it’s the only class with perks to sniper rifles).  Next comes the Psychological Profile.  This includes the birth & career highlight story, but now comes with a third step: combat loss.  The demo has three options, Numerous/Kaidan/Ashley.  Numerous refers to if everyone didn’t survive the suicide mission from ME2, while the other two refer to the choice you made at Virmire.  Again, importing a character from ME2 will likely skip this part.

The single-player demo has two levels.  The first is the opening level where the Reapers begin attacking Earth.  Shepard has been relieved of command, but due to their experience, is being kept around as an advisor of sorts.  But barely a few minutes into the game, the Reapers appear, forcing Shepard to flee on the Normandy to try to rally the other species to help.  The second level is a some point later in the game where Shepard has to save a fertile Krogan female from Cerberus while on the Salarian homeworld.  Liara & Garrus joined me, but both Wrex & Mordin were involved in an NPC manner.

The Good & Bad:
+ Controls are the same as previous versions
+ Movement is more dynamic
+ Melee attacks are actually useful
+ Powers can be evolved in different ways
+ Shepard can use any weapon
+ Grenades!
– Normal movement slower than before
– Weight capacity?
– No radar
 

Overall, the changes made are improvements.  Shepard seems to be more agile now, being able to role to the side during combat, move around corners while remaining in cover, can sprint for longer & jump over gaps.  Probably one of the best changes is the melee attack: it’s actually useful.  Tapping the B button does a quick melee bash, or you can hold it down to charge your Omni-blade.  I used this several times during combat, mainly because they refuse to give me my radar back so I’d walk around a corner & into an enemy.  There are also new powers for each class.  All classes have Fitness, which increases health, shields & melee damage, as well as a passive class skill that can increase the amount of experience earned, your reputation, etc.  The new powers are Sentry Turret for Engineers (allows you to set up a turret), Nova for Vanguards (lets you destroy your shields to harm nearby enemies) & four different types of grenades.  I, for one, am glad to see grenades back in the game.  Although they’re powers, they don’t have recharge times, but you do have a limit capacity.  The leveling system is similar to ME2, with one exception; each skill has six levels & at level four you get to choose between two different upgrades per level.  For example, at level six I can either upgrade my Infiltrator’s Tactical Cloak to give me extra damage with my sniper rifle or allow me to use one power without losing my cloak.  Another improvement is that it appears Shepard can use any weapon now, rather than being restricted by class.  During the second level, Infiltrator Shepard had a pistol, machine gun, assault rifle & shotgun.  This does not seem to carry over to your squadmates, as during the same level both Liara & Garrus only carried two weapons.

Although minor, I do have some problems with the demo.  One is that Shepard’s regular movement speed is much slower than before.  This is hardly major, but it is noticeable.  This may be to make up for the increased functionality of the sprint.  The other concern I have (I say concern, not complaint because I didn’t actually get to see how it functions) is that Shepard now has a weight capacity.  Because I couldn’t access my inventory, I can’t say what types of items you’ll be picking up.  But I did get a weapon upgrade.  ME2 didn’t have an inventory, but I doubt BioWare is bringing back the ME1 inventory system.  We’ll just have to wait until the full game comes out to see.

Supposedly Microsoft is going to drop the Gold subscription requirement for playing the multiplayer component as the release date gets closer.  If that happens, I’ll probably test out the multiplayer then, even though I don’t plan on playing it with the full game.

Mass Effect 3 is just right around the corner.  I just hope there are no holidays to delay my pre-order delivery like with Skyrim.

– GamerDame

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