August 6, 2012

Mass Effect 3 (Day 2)

In the beginning of the game, I was under the impression that there was a single goal: to destroy the reapers who were hell-bent on universal destruction. Obviously, I was completely wrong. Of course things can’t be that straightforward. I’m not sure how far into the game I have progressed, but I believe that humanity is involved in at least five other wars not including the reapers. There is the war with the alien machine race created by the Quarians called Geth, the war with the corrupt human renegades Cerberus, the war with the Quarians over moral rights for the Geth, the war with the insect like race called the Rachni, the war with the gung-ho Krogans and intelligent Salarians… I don’t know, maybe common sense is a foreign concept to many, but if I knew that Reapers were going to disintegrate all organic life, I would pick my fights with a little more restraint. Most of the time, I feel that Commander Shepard has an exotic baby-sitting job. You are forced to try and get help from various Council members, alien or human, which doesn’t seem very hard. Unfortunately it is, because they all have their petty little squabbles that they think are more important than the destruction of the universe. 100 year long disagreements are prioritized over whole racial extinction.

I wouldn’t care about such politics except that the game forces you to. Like I said in the previous paragraph, I figured that I would be fighting reapers and saving the galaxy like some dashing intergalactic Zoro. However, I found myself on the more diplomatic end of the war, convincing politicians to join the mutual cause to survive. You would think that the statement, “aliens murdering and killing us all” would be a winner but no. I have to engineer a cure for a disease, recruit rogue aliens, save politicians, and settle a dispute between non-reaper robots and organics. Talk about having a lot on your plate. But it seems like it’s all the wrong stuff on your plate — like ordering a single delicious filet mignon and instead being given several servings deep fried chicken. It’s still good, but not quite what you ordered, as well as a greater chance of a heart attack.

But look at me babbling nonsense like a confused baby foaming at the mouth. I haven’t even mentioned the combat. Like Silent Hill 2, the combat is not the main focus of the game. No, the story and plot hogs the spotlight in Mass Effect 3. Contrary to Silent Hill 2 however, Mass Effect 3’s combat system is thankfully much better than a person with dislocated limbs trying to dodge bullets. Mass Effect 3’s fighting is very fun and enjoyable with a great variety of weapons and biological abilities to choose from. For some reason, normal bullets in the game have a strange new ability. Instead of just passing through targets leaving enemies dead and riddled with holes, bullets in Mass Effect 3 tend to cause their targets to explode on contact. Unrealistic sure, but extremely satisfying when you snipe an enemy’s head and watch its entire body decorate the general vicinity. Shepard seems to lug around a massive amount of firepower. While fighting you can choose from a type of sniper rifle, heavy pistol, shotgun, semi-automatic, and assault rifle. You also have biotic abilities aka superpowers that you can use to take down enemies and teammates with their own guns and powers to help you out in sticky situations.

The only thing I don’t like about the game’s combat gameplay is the ridiculous amount of time you have to spend behind walls while everything tries to gun you down. Indeed, Mass Effect 3’s cover-based combat systems are the pillars that hold up the fighting. Your character’s armor doesn’t seem to be able to take much punishment so unless you want an air-cooled brain from all the bullet holes, you had better stick to shooting from behind walls. Shepard seems all too happy to oblige as navigating around chest-high walls is akin to trying to drag a cat into a running shower. Your character will automatically stick to cover once you get within two feet of the chest high object, and trying to detach yourself from the wall in the heat of battle is difficult when you seem to magnetically stick to them. Many times I would find myself having trouble walking through a door due to my character automatically taking cover behind the walls next to the door. Trying to traverse the battlefield while enemies try to rip out your guts is almost impossible when you accidentally stick to the wrong side of a wall. By the time you are able to get off of it, your enemies will have been able to arrange a funeral for your already dead corpse.

But on the off chance that I find myself on the correct side of the wall, fighting enemies in Mass Effect 3 is very fun. I just wish there were more opportunities to dish out the pain. I understand that the game’s core is the story and plot, but takeaway too much gameplay and the game becomes a movie. Don’t get me wrong — I love the story, and I think it’s beautifully written with fantastic voice actors to liven it up. But even though the story is fabulous and deserves the player’s utmost attention, I think that the game could use a bit more combat. Cut scenes cannot be skipped and dominate the majority of the game, leaving less time to shoot aliens. Unlike Silent Hill 2 where I longed for the cut scenes so that I could stop dealing with the horrible controls, Mass Effect 3’s combat is great and should have more time to bask in the glow of the spotlight before the story shoos it off the stage again.

Image Credit: BioWare

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