Dane. Designer.

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More Mass Effect Ranting

I’m caught in the midst of a paradox. On the one hand I love Mass Effect for its depth and the fun that can be had in its rather expansive world.

On the other hand I hate its inventory system (you auto-pickup and auto-equip loot; exciting…), the outrageously unbalanced boss fights (never any medi-kits around, hardly and room to breathe and gather strength), the inflexible squad system (you can’t switch squad mates, and they’re quite stupid) and the lethality of the combat (two, three hits. That’s it).

Spoilers abound: For those of you playing, I’m currently level 24 and battling Benezia after having talked to her. Getting through her three tiers the first time around was bad enough, but having to fight her again is just downright painful. Not only is the arena confined and uninteresting, providing largely no cover to breathe behind, Benezia and her commando squads gladly take me out with no more than two or three hits, and I have no medi-gel (because there is none to be found anywhere…).

I’ve currently got Ashley and Liara with me. I figured Ashley would be good in a fight and Liara would be good to have with me on the Benezia mission (them being mother and daughter). But Ashley dies constantly, and when given orders to use ‘Carnage’ on a target, most often tells me that the target is out of sight… And then I have to move her?!

Liara is quite good, though because of the layout of the room, lift, throw and all the other biotic powers don’t actually do much except up close. Oh, and she too dies constantly as well.

It’s as if the designer wanted this room to be as useless to the player as possible, ostensibly because it would be ‘fun’ somehow. To whom, I’m not quite sure.

Attacking Benezia directly seems to have no effect, though it’s all a bit unclear. However, attacking her henchwomen drains her of power… Ehm… Why? How?

Often, Ashley might be engaging an enemy geth sniper (those guys are hella annoying, and not in a good way), but all her slugs go straight into the floor, or some other piece of geometry between her and the enemy.

In the end, the boss encounters become repetition exercises. Every time you figure out one more step in how to deal with the oncoming enemies, until after 10-20 times of having rewatched the same cutscene and played through the encounter, you get lucky and perform the required action in the right sequence and with the right timing.

In case it isn’t clear to everyone yet, this game shipped half a year too early. And what’s worse, seems to have kept and improved on only about half the experience BioWare has with making RPG’s, having traded the other half in for an entirely irrelevant inventory and trade system.

And not that I want to be all pessimistic here, but the story and the universe are pretty standard fare, really. Everything you’d expect, nothing you wouldn’t… At least so far. And as much of the potential and the expectations they do meet, they also fail to impress in terms of surprise. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that some of the scenario’s are downright cliché‘d.

And I could live with some of these things, if I thought games were treated like the software products they are, and updated over time to meet their full potential. Unfortunately that’s probably not going to happen, and Mass Effect will remain a mostly great game, with spikes of ‘FFS!’ throughout.

PS: I’ve gotten past the second fight with Benezia. The trick was to change from my handgun to shotgun, pause and have Ashley carnage-shoot her with her shotgun, load Liara’s shield up (she can’t do anything to Benezia with biotics AFAIK). Then carnage shoot her with my shotgun, charge her and pump her full of lead until she died from it. This might take me down, but once she died, I was resurrected, and I could fight the Asari commando’s in ‘peace’.