I was going to do a post today about what I think of my first two days spent with Mass Effect 2 (here’s a hint, I really like it). Instead, I’m going to save that for another day and focus for now on the game’s morality system. As was true with the first Mass Effect, morality plays a big part of your galaxy spanning adventure. Oftentimes in conversations, of which there are many, you have the choice of making Shepard respond with a positive, neutral, or negative tone. Choose the “good” answer and you win positive karma, which builds you into a Paragon. Choose the “bad” answer and you lose karma, sliding you towards being a Renegade. Choose the “neutral” response and, well, your disposition doesn’t go anywhere.
I mostly don’t have any issue with this system of interaction. I like being able to play out events in different ways to get every possible outcome. What I’m not big on is the fact that you’re incentivized to go Paragon or Renegade. On my first play through of Mass Effect 2, I’m going the paragon route. I choose to earn those all important karma points every chance I get when having conversations, automatically picking the “good” response as soon as it appears. The problem is, that’s not how I would really behave in real life. Out of the three possible responses, the good choice sounds too namby pamby, the bad choice sounds too hateful, but the neutral choice… that one usually sounds just right. You earn nothing tangible by choosing to play it down the middle, though, so it’s really a non-option. That’s a real shame.
What I think I’d really like is a conversation system that’s somewhere between what this game has, and what Dragon Age offered. The choices were much more varied in Dragon Age, and much more ambiguous. Shades of good and evil, paragon or renegade, were much harder to define in that game. That said, the efficiency of getting through conversations in real time in Mass Effect is something I would hate to lose. There’s a lot to be said for an RPG that lets you talk without having to stop and read through multiple sentences of text.
In any case, my Shepard will finish this game as a good two shoes. He’ll then immediately relive his adventure, choosing to be the galaxy’s biggest jerk. I kinda can’t wait to see the hilarious consequences of Renegade Shepard’s actions. Paragon Shepard can be kind of a bore at times.