Now Playing: Mass Effect (Xbox 360)

Even after seeing the game played in front of me by a friend back when it launched I still wasn’t convinced that Mass Effect would be any fun for me. It wasn’t until years later, and on the eve of the sequel’s debut, that I finally played it because Katy had 1) just bought it for herself and 2) told me to try it. Until Mass Effect I hadn’t enjoyed a single BioWare game, not because I’m some snooty ass, they’ve just never appealed to me. The combination of endless dialog trees, bountiful side quests and stat-heavy party management and combat just isn’t my thing. The last role-playing game I really enjoyed was Final Fantasy VII preceded by Lunar and Dragon Warrior before that. Maybe it’s a cyclical thing and every decade I get into one single RPG.

I guess I should start by introducing my particular flavor of Shepard; a Vanguard named Blaeth. She doesn’t care if you say it BlYthe or BlAYthe so long as you don’t talk about it for hours. Auburn haired with dark lips, she’s got a gaunt look that’s more supermodel than Grand Moff Tarkin only with a sweet scar from left to right across her face. I was going to play her as mean as possible just to spite the game but as I’ve gotten slightly more intrigued I realized she’s more like Elen Ripley. Tough, even ruthless, when it comes to the insincere and despicable but compassionate where others would turn a blind eye. That is, of course, until I get tired of listening to characters gab on about who-knows-what, hit the skip button and wind up fighting my former colleagues. Ah well, it just means more experience and gear for Blaeth Shepard and crew.

Of all the cast my thoughts most fall in line with Wrex's

Over 15 hours in I’ve decided to skip all the repetitive and time consuming planet grinding and focus on the story missions. I’ve also put the difficulty on Casual thanks to that first scene with the Geth Stalker where I died repeatedly as soon as the battle started. My enjoyment of the game is tenuous and though I keep playing it’ll only take one more battle as frustrating as that to send my Shepard into early retirement. The real-time combat is the big draw for me. If it were turn-based or more omniscient (where you command characters instead of controlling them directly) I’d have quit after the first fight. I don’t enjoy the ultra-micro-management of characters but here I’m free to play it like a third-person shooter. Although they get stuck and left behind a lot, the A.I. teammates are even smart enough to fight, take cover, use items and abilities without me having to do a thing. I loathed the “programming” of characters in Dragon Age; absolutely no fun! I guess I just assumed that Mass Effect played like Knights of the Old Republic or Jade Dragon and blacked it out in my mind. For that I apoligize to all who tried to get me into it over the years.

I’m sure that accounts for most of you reading this so I’ll try to keep these entries short from now on and wrap up here with some of my personal highlights so far:

  • Telling Joker not to infect anyone on-board with his obviously non-contagious illness
  • Killing everything with the Mako’s cannon
  • Hanging up on the Council when they get snippy about me killing everyone
  • Manually reactivating Mira’s Core and getting a triumphant Macintosh-esque fanfare
  • Using Throw, Singularity, Overdrive, Shotguns, Pistols, and Assault Rifles… simultaneously… on a single target
  • Flying, robotic, gun-headed, sentry swan bots!
  • Struggling over frying that alien queen or setting her free on Peak 15 (I’ll let you guess what I did)
  • Telling everyone to shut up and ignoring any dialog options that end in a ‘?’
  • Killing Geth
  • Admiring Wrex’s crazy head
  • Ignoring Kaidan in hopes that he’ll leave some day
  • Keeping everyone in line by ignoring them and never, ever trying to romance them

What are some of your favorite early-game moments? I know I missed a ton so fill me in on the most memorable stuff up to the Thorian encounter on Feros.

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  • Maxx77

    Oh man, where to start! First of all, yes, abso-freagin-lutely skip past all the random planets and just focus on the main quest. Being the OCD RPG gamer I am, I visited every single planet and followed up on every single quest I found on my first playthrough. I think I would have enjoyed the game 50% more had I stuck to the main quest. The planets are boring, the Mako is overly difficult to control, and the buildings you enter are all extremely samey. I read a comment somewhere about how it's a massive galaxy that's filled with the same 5 buildings. Truer words, never spoken.

    Aside from that, I hated the technical issues with the game. Not just the texture pop-ins or the super long elevator rides. I can get past those issues. What I can't get past is bad AI. You mention how you don't have to worry about your own squad, and for the most part that's been true for me (I should mention, I've beaten the game 3 times over). I just set them to constantly use their powers and don't worry about what they're doing second by second. What is bad about the AI is how the enemies behave. They are programmed to just rush straight for you. They don't take cover. They don't fight intelligently. They just run, right, at, you. I found that one time, an enemy made it all the way to my party. Not having the logic to know what to do once she actually reached us, she just ran around Benny Hill style. I thought she was my own Asari squad mate bugging out at first. Ridiculous, in a bad way. If anything, I'd rather have the AI programming applied to the enemies and have me micromanage my crew. That'd be more time consuming for me, but then it would more similar to how the game was originally supposed to work.

    Anyway, there's a couple of complaints and one slightly amusing story. I could go on but I'll stop. I'm not all negative on the first game. I loved the story overall. I really enjoyed playing it both as a good guy Shepard, and as a ruthless bitch Shepard. I also loved how deep the backstory was for all my crew, a staple of Bioware games.

    I won't spoil anything, but you might end up getting your wish with Kaidan. There's always ways to lose party members in Bioware's RPGs. He was my least liked character too. He was like Sten from Dragon Age for me. I never got to know either one of those guys. Never bothered talking to them any more than I had to. When I would see him in the ship, I'd just think “yep, you're a person who's in this game. Not gonna talk to you though. Where's that blue chick? I think she digs me…”

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