Some Incoherent Thoughts on Mass Effect (Given through Tears, Filled with Regrets) – Part 2 of 2

Mass Effect 3 – Beam Me Up Shepard!

You guys, I’m still processing this one.  My feelings about the prior two entries in the series were fairly uncomplicated, I think because they themselves were fairly uncomplicated.  That’s arguable, I’m sure, but it’s how I feel about them!

THE DECISIONS you have to make in Mass Effect 3, my lord.  My internal decision metric for my Shepard was pretty good by the time I got to the third game (especially because I had just finished the second game), so it didn’t take me long minutes of agonizing before I went for the storyline I wanted to go for.  Or thought I wanted to go for, that is! I know people who thought about it and tried to figure out the implications of the decisions, but I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to be surprised, goddamnit.  Was I ever, boy-o.

Opening scene, not my favorite (that honor belongs to ME2, forever and ever), but did a good job of setting the scene, I think.  I was actually very jazzed that you start out at Earth, but enjoyed the London scenes at the end of the game more.  I’m not too familiar with Vancouver, though would love to be familiar with it.  I actually like that military operations and the Earth Council or whatever that was was stationed in Vancouver, interesting future-choice, Mass Effect dudes!

Ok, brief sidebar, something that another Mass Effect player pointed out to me recently: why are there so few Asians kicking around in the ME universe?  There’s Kasumi, and I think you run into one or two more as side characters, plus there’s Traynor who might be Indian?  But yeah, mostly just many varieties of white person, though there were some face options that were browner than others when you go to create your character in ME3.  When I was discussing it with my friend, he referencedFireflyas a future universe that took the opposite track, which followed the projected dominance of Asian language/culture/race to its conclusion (or, advanced progression)l. Anyway, sidebar over, just an observation!  But seriously Bioware, where did they go?  Did World War 3 or 8 or whatever destroy them? Do they have their own colony somewhere?  Or did they just blend into the population somehow, are they not big space travelers?

Back on track, let’s talk characters.  I made some shitty decisions (see previous post re: Tali) and have not yet played any of the DLCs, and so my cast of playable part members was down to 5 rather than 7.  This is actually the part of the game that most angered me, not the ending or the lead up to it.  I was used to having at least 6 (Wrex, Ashley, Garrus, Tali, Kaidan, and Liara, in Game 1, minus either Ash or Kaidan in the 2nd half of the game) or 7-10 (Grunt, Thane, Garrus, Tali, Miranda, Jacob, Mordin, Samara, Legion, and Jack in Game 2, not even counting the DLC characters!).  So having only 5 (Liara, Garrus, Kaidan, James, and EDI, in Game 3, plus Mordin for a littel bit before he bites it) felt like a big let-down after the multitude of choices in 2.  Of course, I have my favorites in all the games (Garrus 4 life, also Liara my pretty blue biotic lady) and EDI was pretty great as a character and a party member, but I loved changing it up.  Granted, 10 (much less 12) was too many, but come on, at least give me 7!  Punishing me because I made a “bad” decision or didn’t shell out the extra monies for the DLC games yet – which I fully intend to do, by the way, but I am not made of video game money, dudes – seems like an unfair punishment.  I like that the decisions you make have consequences in this game and effects game play to some extent, but I don’t like that, in this case, the consequence takes away from the game experience WITHOUT adding anything.  It’s not like “OK, you made Tali mad, so you don’t get her, you get this party member instead!” but rather “Oh, you pissed of Tali? Sorry, you get jack!” (no, not Jack the biotic, jack like jack shit, nothing).  “Oh, you didn’t pay us extra? No Jaavik for you!”  Lame, man, lame.  I understand there should be perks for those willing to pay extra, but at least give me a full compliment of party members, and let those DLC ones be extra bonuses on top of the full compliment.

Oh a happier note (but, ok, also a complaint) – I loved Eve.  Wrex is great (R.I.P./Retroactive Regret Numero Cuatro, sorry Wrex!), but generally I don’t like the Krogan as a race.  There are people I know who would tell me to get the hell out of their house if they heard me say that in their presence, but there ya go.  Eve might have changed my mind a little bit.  Strong lady Shaman, withholding babies to keep galactic peace?  Just awesome. Why did she not stick around, Bioware, why why?  Well, fine, she was in a fragile physical state after all that genetic tampering, ok.  I really would have been fine with her hanging out in the med bay chatting with me when I needed a Krogan sistah to talk to.  I know Wreav was around for awhile, but I did find I missed a Krogan presence somewhat, having one would have rounded out the team nicely.  They developed Grunt much more even in the brief scenes he was in, so it would have been nice to have him around for more of the game.

I don’t know, maybe all this withholding, the mostly-empty Normandy, all these constant, pathetic scenes where Shepard is asking old squad members to come back to the Shep fold – Thane! R.I.P. Thane (BIOWARE YOU MONSTERS), Jacob, Samara, etc. – is part of the atmosphere of the game?  I had written previously that the entire game felt like the days and weeks before you graduate college, one long goodbye, but you’re running around and trying to get everything done as soon as possible so you can make sure you graduate.  In a way, all the old cast members drifting in and out of your purview on the Citadel and in various missions feels like when your college buddies that had graduated already come back to visit. They have their own shit to do now, and they can hook up with you for awhile and catch up, but then they have to go back to the rest of their lives. Hell, Jacob is even settling down and having kids!  Feels eerily like your life in your 20s.  Luckily, Shep is perfectly happy living the single life and running around fucking up invading hordes.  When Traynor tried to pull that shit on me about the white picket fence and the house, I had to give her a non-answer and brush it off.  Given what happens to Shepard at the end of the game, maybe she shouldn’t have gotten involved with anyone…

List time.  Lots of random thoughts, not sure they’re ever going to come together:

  • I totally thought I killed Kaidan for good in the beginning of the game.  Wasn’t all that upset about it.  Would have rather they discovered a cure to Thane’s degenerative illness so he could rage on Reapers with me.
  • I ended up romancing Traynor because she was new, and therefore interesting, but I went into it thinking she was going to be another Kelly Chambers (well, a Kelly you could hook up with and who I hopefully would not kill), and that I could still totally rekindle my love with Liara.  Incorrect (Regret 17 or however many I’m up to).  Liara totally backs way off after you hit it with Traynor for the first time.  Apparently Shep is not allowed to be polyamorous or sleep around or anything.  Too bad… It was Liara I really wanted!
  • Ok, also, kind of regret telling Garrus that we were done.  He’s still my favorite character across all 3 games.  Love the cheesy things he says, adore the scene where you shoot cans with him on top of the Citadel.  I missed my last shot on purpose.  After breaking his armor-plated Turian heart, I couldn’t bear to take away his marksman pride.  Plus plus, I suck at shooting in “real life,” which I appreciate with much irony, given that Shep is supposed to be a hot-shot (literal and figurative).  I also thought it was great he tried to cheer everyone up all the time.  “You getting cocky now, T’soni?”
  • The “play fetch” aspect of the game was totally annoying.  Would have enjoyed some smaller, but still developed, side quests.  Also, could not figure out how to finish many of the fetch quests, which probably means a) I’m dumb or b) I waited too long and missed them.  If the latter, it would have been nice to know (maybe take them off the open quests list?).
  • Those fucking tiny Reapers that chase you across the star map!! Hatred.  So annoying, but also annoyingly easy to get around.  However, it beat mining shit.
  • Kai Leng is dressed like a corny ’60s superhero (Cato!) and makes me laugh.  Can’t take him seriously as a super villain.  But, he did kill Thane and Miranda, and so I will hate him forever.
  • Miranda & Thane’s deaths, gut-wrenching.  Glad Udina’s gone, however.
  • The taking of the Citadel, wonderful story decision, surprised it happened so quickly.  Would have almost made more sense to have it happen right before the end of the game, rather than do the extended London sequence.  Agh, but I really liked that too, I don’t know!  I want all the cake.
  • Joker and EDI together was sweet, but confusing.  Joker, she is made of metal and you have brittle bird bones! How does that work? Is EDI meant to have sex, like does she have the proper equipment?  I kind of thought not, but maybe she can mod herself?  Do she and Shep ever talk about THAT or are there some kind of human anatomy texts she can access via her super AI brain?  That’s a conversation I would have liked to see. Plus, how dare they play upon my fragile, barely hidden Joker love by having that conversation line about our possible relationship?  Joker is my type, people, except that I tend to have the fragile bird bones in any relationship I’m ever in.  Another Joker-thought, when you were walking around as him in the beginning of the game, I was so so worried about breaking him.

And Then We Came to the End

Oh, the end, the “controversial” end.  The kerfluffle over the end of this game reminds me a lot of the kerfluffle over the end of Battlestar Galactica a few years ago.  My stance on the BSG thing was “Lame Lame Lame,” so I went into the end of this game expecting to be disappointed.  However, the lead up to the end of the game was so good, so filled with good feelings and desperation and overwhelming loss of hope, that I forgive the end of the game, I really do.  I won’t say that the critics are entirely wrong, because they’re not.  The very end of the game is heavily flawed! It’s true, ME nerds.  But, I refuse to let that ruin my experience of the rest of the game for me.

Ok, first, I’m going to give you a list of all the times I teared up.  I only cry at about 3 things: when people yell at me to my face, when I’m extremely frustrated, and when I’m having a depressive episode.  I do not cry at movies, and definitely have never cried at a video game.  Mass Effect 3 did not make me cry, but damn if I didn’t have to wipe away some eye juices that were threatening to overflow a couple times.

  1. When Joker drags himself out of his chair and told Shep it had been an honor serving with her.
  2. When Liara gives you the “gift” right before you dive into the final push towards the transporter.
  3. When Jacob tells you that you guys need to check out a bar in Rio, during the “last call” part. (BTW, Jake, we never met up for drinks last time, what’s up with that?)
  4. When Cortes dies in a firey shuttle wreck. (Apparently I was supposed to be extra nice to this guy? I confess, his whining annoyed me, so I didn’t talk to him a whole lot)

This is not many times, but it was a lot for me.  Those fights in the end of the game were so overwhelming and intense.  The designers did an excellent job of making you feel  abject, like the battle and the war was unable to be won.  I did figure out I could run through the enemies and get to the object of the particular part of the battle, without killing the multitude of enemies before or after, which kicked me out of my immersion for a second and ruined that feeling.  Ultimately, though, I’m glad, I was going to eat it hard pretty soon, if I hadn’t figured that out!

Now, the part where you’re all broken (and maybe not even alive? MAYBE IT IS THE AFTERLIFE? Ok, I make fun, but I think this is kind of a cool idea) and limping towards the Reaper transporter, and then suddenly one last fucking husk and one last awful Marauder come up to shoot at you in your beaten and bloody state? Unnecessary.  What was the point of that?  I guess because the designers thought you’d get bored on the way to the beam.  Not me, I was enjoying my leisurely zombie shuffle.

Everything else after that just kind of seems like a wash to me.  I’ve seen some pretty detailed break-downs of all the bizarreness found in the last steps until you get to the final confrontation with the Crucible (the gun with infinite bullets – which I didn’t notice since I barely shot it – and Anderson being there at all), but I love weird shit like that.  Mass Effect gets a little Red Room/Twin Peaks-y all of a sudden?  I’m on board!  Sure, maybe Shep was being indoctrinated, but what if she were just dying already, and hallucinating?  What if she just imagined Anderson being there, of leading her to the end stage of her mission, because he was her mentor and a strong presence in her life as a solider, and she craved someone strong to lead the way?  The mind can invent things at times of stress!  Don’t tell me you wouldn’t be stressed at that point.

Left, right, middle, blah blah blah.  As I mentioned in the previous post, the way I played the game, I came out 50/50 in terms of Paragon/Renegade, so I didn’t get the middle path.  How very un-Buddhist of you, Mass Effect.  The one thing that actually annoyed me most was, since I had EDI in my party on the final push to the transporter, how did she get back on the Normandy?  Riddle me that, Bioware.  I know why they made that decision (Joker + EDI = marriage of organics and machines, omg), but still, an annoying little stretch.  Ok, that’s it, done, time to go read some books, you guys!

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