I recently finished Mass Effect. Not the sequel. The first one. The one that was released back in 2007.
I was more relieved than anything when I saw the credits start to roll. The story was good enough to be compelling but the execution was a bit rough. I couldn’t tell you how many times I got lost playing this game. Not lost in the narrative, lost in places like the Citadel, trying to find the docking bay where I parked my ship with nothing to help me navigate but my pretty yet useless map. And the difficulty level was a bit underwhelming – playing the Infiltrator class I was able to walk though the game using only a pistol to ventilate my enemies. Between those two hiccoughs, I found this epic science fiction adventure became quite boring.
Lots of people loved Mass Effect; three years ago, at least, they loved it. If it came out today, I don’t think it could be embraced the way it once was. Does Mass Effect suffer from the complaints that some people have about watching old movies? I like old movies but I only the good ones. Bad old movies are generally very bad. I’m not saying that new is always better but I do think words like great get thrown around too much.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Fallout 3, the Fable series; these games feature protagonists that are virtually silent. This keeps the unnecessary chatter down and the pacing up. Tall talk trees can be just as frustrating as level grinding.
Despite those faults, Mass Effect is not a bad game at its core, just one in need of some polish. It apparently got that in the sequel and then some, but I’ll probably wait until it is cold outside before I dive back into the role of Commander Shepard.
And just so you don’t think I’m completely against speechifying in video games, I think the Hold the Line speech is one of Mass Effect‘s stand out moments.