The prodigal son returns

28 11 2007

I’d say that I’m sorry for missing my posts last week, but frankly, I’m not. Despite my cohorts desire to take pot-shots at me, I do have the upper hand on him. See, I just finished Mass Effect today. By finished, I mean I completed it beginning to end, devouring every crumb and morsel of side quest I could stuff my optic nerves with, and after a little under 30 hours, it’s finally done—as far as my first run through is concerned, at least. I thought I’d lay out some thoughts. There’s to much to here for a full review to do it all justice, and many of the verdicts I would present would be fairly academic. I mean the game looks, sounds, and plays like immaculate conception—except for the Mako, is the unwanted step child.

I’ve always been one to suggest that video games have the capacity to be incredible storytelling devices. I usually point to Amy Henning—who just worked on Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune—and the Legacy of Kain series as an example. Assassin’s Creed does this as well, in small part, by making its environment fresh, immersive, and drenched in historical accuracy. I enjoyed in thoroughly. Don’t trust Jastrick’s opinion on the matter—he is constantly adapting his “game breaker” criteria to mask his inability to play games that aren’t called Halo.

Mass Effect, I’m proud to say, joins the very small club of games with exceptional stories. Every detail is laid out for the player, whether through dialogue, exposition, or a helpful codex that updates itself with both interesting and benign information for you to absorb. Plenty of games, films, books, and tv shows have attempted to create fully realized universes that are convincing, but most fail. There are few shows like Firefly, for example that proves the authenticity of its universe through the actions of its characters. Mass Effect is similar in this way, because the story, the characters, and every alien race all feel real. They have real concerns, real hatreds, and real loves. Putting aside the irony of the idea that all alien races would have very human emotions, it all works really well. By the end of the game, I couldn’t wait to a) play through a second time, to see how the story and interactions would change depending on my shifted morality, and b) see how the promised downloadable content meant to bridge the this story to its forthcoming sequel would play out.

If there’s one complaint I have with the game, it’s…well, it’s not really a complaint with the game so much as a complaint against Microsoft. I honestly feel that within the next year, they are really going to have to force developers to make games with hard drive as a necessity. There’s just far too much random in-game loading and texture pop in. Seriously, not since Halo 2 have I seen this much texture popping. With the depth and scale of a game like Mass Effect, caching would have been an incredible asset that would have quelled a lot of the frame rate issues that spurt up randomly.

That being said, I’m going back to it.






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