on Nov 24, 2010
I know people are always throwing the word “cinematic” around, but check out the camera work in the conversation with Aria. This is a pretty good example of how to make a game feel like a movie without yanking control away from the player and making them watch something canned. It lets the designers show off the set design, it lets the author give their characters the proper visual weight, and you get to keep playing the game.
Let’s expound on the small exchange when you enter Omega, because it’s a great example of what I’ve been on about in the last few episodes and it’s too long to fit into the episode:
So you come back from the dead, possibly with a new face, and are given a new, more upgraded stealth ship. And then some criminal thugs are able to identify you, personally, before you even land. And it’s not even a big deal to them. “Yeah. We knew it was you, Shepard. Yawn. Whatev.” It’s stupid little contrivances like that that just needle the crap out of me. Now, the purpose of the conversation is clear:
1) Send the player to Aria for the quest hook.
2) Establish that these people know who Shepard is so that we don’t need to waste screen time explaining it to them.
3) Be a little bit of a jerk to the player to set the proper mood for the rough and hostile Omega.
4) Establish that, even before you meet her, Aria is knowledgeable and well-connected.
You could have done all of these things without introducing the preposterous notion that someone recognized Shepard despite the fact that she was:
1) Many kilometers away, in space.
2) Wearing a new face.
3) INSIDE of a stealth space ship and not hanging out the window.
4) Believed (known) to be dead for the last two years.
5) Flying under the flag of her known enemy.
Now, I know some people are going to want to jump down to the comments and wrangle a bunch of justifications that can make this work. Or at least, make it fail slightly less. But that’s not the point. The point is that you’re suddenly yanked out of a story when it stops making sense. What? Did that guy just claim he recognized me before I landed? Even if you can sort it out later, it still breaks immersion. And even if I can swallow this, Shepard should have had some sort of epic “WTF!?” moment. This is exactly why the concept of lampshading was invented.
The thing is, this is something that BioWare is usually really good at. They’re great at anticipating player objections and heading them off. Or even using them against you. It’s the reason I love BioWare games. (I certainly don’t play them for their deep, complex leveling mechanics.) If this were a game from some other company this would barely register an eyeroll from me. And if we saw a story like this in a game from id Software, I’d be delighted, because it would represent a massive increase in quality. But this is a sequel to Mass Effect, and I continue to view it through that lens.