Done Playing: Mass Effect 2 (Xbox 360)

I finally managed to get the cryptic end-game choices just right in order to unlock a specific Achievement and thought it was well beyond time to make my first (and last?) post on Mass Effect 2. Rather than attempt to pussy-foot my way around any spoilers, and with little interest in simply explaining how the game plays, I thought I’d put on my Something-to-Say hat and jab at a big idea for a little bit. I’ll take no credit for coming up with this as I’ve heard tentative whispers echoing the same sentiment since we all started working through the game, but I will throw my voice behind it: Mass Effect 2 could be the touchstone for a new generation of games.

I’m not trying to say fantasy and swords and swarthy English accents are going away, there will always be people passionate about making and playing RPGs like that. But the way Bioware has boiled down the traditional role-playing elements while whipping their shooter gameplay to a deliciously frothy consistency has yielded an experience that has me ready for more; a second playthrough, a new book, Mass Effect 3. That I — the guy whose RPG lust peaked and crashed with Final Fantasy VII — am anxious for anything I can get my hands on probably says it a lot better than anything I can put into words.

Beyond myself, though, Mass Effect 2 shows that you can mix role-playing games with more than just grid-based strategy as long as you tailor the experience accordingly. RPG fans don’t need the bro-heavy antics of Gears of War or the cruel challenge of Ninja Gaiden. Fans of those action-oriented games most likely don’t want a laundry list of sidequests or endless skill trees and gear to manage. Mass Effect 2 almost effortlessly combines the two while tapping into this modern age of mashups where spastically short internet media is subconsciously changing the experiences we enjoy. Eighty hours of gameplay is a great return-on-investment but most people don’t feel they need that exhaustive of an experience these days.

Boil it down and it’s not much different than aping Halo’s console-shooter controls, Kill.switch’s cover mechanics, or the ubiquitous good/bad morality system of half-a-million other games. It’s like Bioware took those little iterative steps for ten years, jumped into a time machine, and brought it all back to 2010. Instant evolution without all that tiresome waiting. I’m getting way over my head here but I wanted to put this out there so when Final Fantasy plays more like Brute Force than Blue Dragon (yeah, think about that!) I can say I kinda saw it coming.

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