Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Day BioWare Had A Mass Effect On Me

Every once in a while there's that one video game that comes along and blows you right out of your gaming la-la-land when you least expect it. Sometimes, it's less noticeable when you play a string of fantastic titles in a row, like I did in the summer of 2009 (aka my MegaTen Crunch Time) until you look back and realize which ones were more brilliant than others. Everyone knows the Shin Megami Tensei series to be near and dear to me, and so far I haven't been able to find an SMT which tops SMTIII: Nocturne in my eyes. But with nearly all of them being quality titles, I can't complain.

Then there are the times where something shows up after a dry or mundane spell of gaming. Twice now, it's happened to me a year after the game originally was released. The second most recent time was Persona 3. I'd kinda fallen out of gaming (save a little God of War II) due to school, work and other stuff. With all the interest I had in the previous Persona games, I hadn't ever actually played any of them. I meant to buy the original Persona 3, I really did. But it slipped my mind and... well, you all know Atlus and their short runs. But when Persona 3: FES came out, I bit the bullet and grabbed a copy the week it came out. Despite being at RPGFan even then, I knew nothing of it other than its popularity. Granted, it wasn't an expensive investment ($30) and I was.. fairly loaded back then. That game was ridiculously immersive and I fell in love.

The same thing happened again earlier this year. I was never into WRPGs. They always seemed boring back in the day. Admittedly, I had no way of playing Mass Effect 2 until the PS3 port in January. But I can't for the life of me tell you just why I suddenly wanted BioWare's latest (at the time). It wasn't when the game was announced for PS3 (August 2010). It wasn't when it won tons and tons of accolades (GOTY 2010 awards, and PILES of them). In fact, it was somewhere in the middle, when I was compiling my Amazon wishlist and randomly suddenly decided 'you know what? I actually really want this game.' And I don't keep huge wishlists. Around 20 items max, of what I want the most - usually in gaming and blu-rays.

Once again, I knew next to nothing about Mass Effect 2. It was popular. It was BioWare. It took place in space, the subject of my studies. (Which is usually irrelevant - I'm not into Star Wars, Trek, etc.) Sure I wrote a couple of stories on DLC, but what the heck did I know? So, I pre-ordered it. I wrote about it, defended it from people who whined about things that were included just for the PS3 version.. and I waited.

The wait was worth it. I even pimped it out to a friend who shares a lot of Call of Duty love with me, a day after I cracked open my copy. She bought it on a day we met up for coffee, loved it of course, as did I. Moreso than Persona 3, it is immersive, a sum of many well-executed parts. I wish I could tell you my favourite thing about it. But I can't. There's so much there from the character interaction to the main storyline to all the little details like NPC chatter. There's the music that only got better near the end. Oh and I suppose the Paragon/Renegade alignments were pretty fun. Choose the renegade options as a female Shepard, and Jennifer Hale comes off as a flawless bitch.

My ability to put Mass Effect 2 down for two and a half months was no fault of the game itself in any way. Admittedly, I got stuck at one point due to some minor bug, but this wasn't something to turn me off from ME2's world. It was more me getting caught up in an intense semester, and others like Call of Duty made it much easier to relieve stress, especially in a multiplayer forum. But as I said, Mass Effect 2 is immersive. Here, from the first several hours, I knew would require a lot more attention than just picking it up and shooting Russians/Viets/Cubans/zombies for a couple hours; more than I could give it at the time. I wanted to be able to really enjoy it.

I guess I have a pretty good gut instinct when it comes to games. Again, ME2 didn't let me down even when I went to finish it.

There is a downside to all this, though. I fear that a masterpiece would spoil me too much for other games. Other RPGS? Other WRPGS? BioWare games? Mass Effect 3? In the case of Persona 3, I feel it partially ruined Persona 4 in that both were so long and so similar and I played them back to back that I was simply burnt out on the calendar system by the end. But that's different. In a sense, I do worry about Mass Effect 3 and that it may possibly not live up to admittedly high expectations, especially after the response to Dragon Age II. But I also have to keep in mind that this is a trilogy which was planned as such from the start, and the DA and ME teams are different.

All that aside, Mass Effect 2 may well have just ruined me in general, as opposed to encouraging me to play more BioWare titles or WRPGs. Why is that? It had a rare magic and charm that I've not gotten from a game for a while. Will I see that again anytime soon? Certainly I won't go seeking consciously for something to top ME2, but I can't help but feel that other titles will disappoint me for a little while to come.


  1. Great entry, Liz! It's aways great when games have the capacity to just wrap you up! Glad you found a rare gem for you - and it really shows in your write. AWESOME.

  2. Now, you MUST write something about Mass Effect 3 !