Mass Effect (360): COMPLETED!

At almost exactly 22 hours into the story, I completed the game. And it was a very good game too, even if there were lots of things I didn’t like about it (more on them in a minute). I won’t reveal any spoilers, except one: who’d have thought Saren would have turned out to be the Green Goblin? He’s even got the thrown explosives and flying surfboard thingy. I suppose the clue was in his face. See:

Green Goblin?

Anyway. The bad bits. Firstly, (and ironically, lastly) there’s the ending. After it, it really is the end – you can’t go back and complete missing missions and assignments. There’s no real plot reason for it either – although not everything goes back to normal after the end, certainly there’s no reason why most of the missions can’t then be completed.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the “point of no return” was well sign posted. It wasn’t, and not only that, it isn’t even the final mission that triggers it. In fact, once you land on Virmire in the game (a good 5 or more hours before the final showdown, on my play through) – that’s it. You’re locked into the ending without being able to complete most of the remaining quests. Yeah, so you might have a save before then, but you’re allowed so few save slots it’s likely you won’t, even if (like me) you were anticipating such an event.

Then there’s the graphics. They’re lovely. Only they jerk around like the whole game is on a bouncy castle. In some of the final sections of the game, there’s horrific slowdown, tearing, and graphical anomalies. Yeah, there’s a lot going on – but it’s supposed to be the nail-biting climax, not a wade through wobbly treacle. Thankfully, this isn’t a problem for most of the game, and it usually only happens in the Mako.

An exception to the graphics being lovely: the geth. Perhaps if they had more than two frames of animation between them, they’d be lovely too. Mind you, they were usually dead before they got close enough to see what they were.

And the lifts! Oh my god. Most tedious part of the game by far. Especially the one on the Citadel that takes you from the docking bay to C-Sec (why? What have C-Sec got to do with the docking?) – it takes AGES and unlike most of the other lifts in the Citadel, it can’t be skipped with a Fast Transport panel.

Item and upgrade management is also a chore. Especially having a limit on how many items you can carry. After every mission I had to sell everything – which takes ages – or lose new stuff, since when your inventory is full, any new items are automatically converted to Omni-gel. Yes – new (and usually, better) items; not old items you would probably sell anyway. Stupid!

Finally, the difficulty. Yes, I know I played it on Normal (I almost always play games on whatever their default setting is) and that there are harder settings. However, for the final 15 or so hours of the game I simply didn’t bother with weapon upgrades, improvements, and that sort of stuff as it was too much of a pain. Which meant I should have found it much harder, only it wasn’t. Every single fight was a pushover – even the final one.

But you know what? None of that really matters. In fact, the only one I can really complain about is the no-way-back ending. Everything else is just a minor irritation. The winning points are the story and the believable, deep universe the game is set in. Bioware have gone all out on making something more watchable (let alone playable) than most science fiction films. The back story, the way you slowly unearth the history of the races and the Protheans, the side missions and overheard conversations. A high point was the reveal of the Keepers’ role in everything – clever how they are there the whole time, but understated and underexposed, then suddenly it all makes sense.

I’m certainly hyped for the sequel now, especially since virtually all of my complaints with the first game have supposedly been dealt with!

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