Mass Effect:
Nitpicks Part 1

  By Shamus   Jan 12, 2009   50 comments

As promised, I have compiled my gripes with this game into a single, easy-to-access (and also easy to ignore) list of problems, complaints, issues, and little grievances.

I do this ostensibly as a sort of armchair game design and analysis, but in the case of Mass Effect I’m doing it also as a form of catharsis. Some of these flaws truly grate, and served to yank me out of my entertainment for a helping of petty annoyances at regular intervals. I will not feel like justice has been served until I have unpacked the full list. This will take two posts.

I have tried to arrange my complaints in order from the trivial to the traumatic, but this is an imprecise process at best.

This is spoiler-free, aside from the sections blocked in red.

Dialog

Whoops.  I thought ‘I have to go’ would mean that I want to leave.
Whoops. I thought ‘I have to go’ would mean that I want to leave.
Games in the past have used the same obviously-a-white-man voice for your character, regardless of what skin tone you choose. Mass Effect does not overthrow this tradition. The voice of the Male Captain Shepherd has the passion and depth of Ben Stein reading from a list of random numbers. My first time through the game I was male, but his voice drove me to abandon the way of the Y chromosome in subsequent playthroughs. (Which totals four. (So far.))

In the past, dialog-driven games have offered you a bunch of possible answers and left you to read each and every one of them, looking for what you want to say. This is a lot of pointless skimming if you’re just looking for the one that boils down to, “How much will you pay me for killing ten rats?” This breaks the flow of conversation, and all that prose eats up a ton of screen real estate. Mass Effect has a much better system, where you’re offered a very short summary of your answers, and the option to select it appears while the other person is still speaking, letting you get your answer ready before it’s your turn to talk. When it works right it provides a smooth conversation with lots of options that doesn’t require a lot of reading and doesn’t obscure the visuals. You choose your intent and tone, and the dialog flows naturally. Wonderful.

But there are places where the summary doesn’t match what you actually say, and others where the tone isn’t at all clear. When I see the option to say, “What do you want?”, I can’t be sure if my character is going to say, “Can I help you, sir?”, or, “What do YOU want, anus-face?” They’re usually arranged in order from “nice” to “jerk”, but there are still times where you still can’t figure out what’s going to come out of your mouth when you hit the button. And there are plenty of rail-roadish moments where all of your possible responses are variants on the same stupid question or offensive remark.

On the dialog controls: The A button selects dialog options from the list. The X button skips the currently spoken line of dialog. This much is good. But then some savage idiot made it so that the X button also selects dialog, so that as you skip past spoken dialog, the menu can appear and grab that button-press, causing you to blurt out whatever was highlighted. There is no reason in the world for it to do this. We already have a key for select. Why make the skip button also perform a select? Madness.

Most importantly, when I choose the “kill this guy” dialog option, it means I want to blast him in the face, captain Malcom-style. It does not mean I want to verbosely announce to my enemy my intent to kill them, then wait for them to get in the last word, and then wait patiently for them to get ready. (And they always get in the last word, thank you so much writers.)

Inventory

Everyone must carry one of every possible weapon, even if they have no training in that weapon. It’s impossible, for example, to not carry a sniper rifle. This brings about eye-crossing weirdness, like the fact that if I want two party members to trade shotguns, I need a third shotgun to act as a placeholder.

The game gave me a good bit more inventory busywork than I was able to enjoy.

Mini-Game

Time to press a button!
Time to press a button!
All non-combat actions, from hacking to lockpicking, are abstracted away as little button-pressing minigames. It’s a quicktime event, but they show a picture of the button pad during the exercise. This is very important if – like me – this happens to be the first game you play on a particular console. My full rant against the over-use of quicktime events in games will have to wait for another time, but for now I’ll point out that without a picture of the pad, quicktime events are first and foremost a test of controller knowledge, and a reflex test second.

But problem here isn’t that it’s too easy or too hard (which will vary depending on who you ask) but that it’s just not very interesting. It was only a challenge in the sense that signing my full name is a “challenge”. It’s something you are required to do, but it is not stimulating. If I had to sign my full name every time I wanted to (say) access my stapler, then on a busy day I’d probably just conclude I didn’t want those papers stapled together in the first place. This is exactly how things played in in the game. After a while, I was passing up locked containers because I didn’t want to have to break the flow with momentary tedium.


20201050 comments. It's getting crowded in here.


  1. Kel'Thuzad says:

    So you’re going to say why you love it at the end?

    Yay!

    *grabs popcorn*

    They never did well with the inventory. I always had maximum omni-gel because I would melt things down. I never needed to sell things, because I had loads of cash.

  2. Josh says:

    What’s a quicktime event?

    Wikipedia: “It allows for limited control of the game character during cut scenes or cinematic sequences in the game, and generally involves the player following onscreen prompts to press buttons.”

    So… something like an interactive cutscene?

  3. Sydney says:

    “What’s a quicktime event?”

    ^ It’s sort of like a mini-game. While something goes on in the background, an instruction appears on the screen.

    So, for instance:

    You are playing Army Man X. In a cutscene, Army Man Y sneaks up behind you, grabs you, and puts a knife up to your throat. Then, “Press X To Not Die” shows up on-screen, and if you do so fast enough, your character Judo-throws the bad guy and the cutscene resumes. If not, you get your throat slit, and get a GAME OVER.

    Note that you aren’t actually fighting the bad guy with the control stick and the combat-specific buttons, you’re just fulfilling an arbitrary reflex test for…what reason, exactly?

  4. MintSkittle says:

    I didn’t have any problems with the dialog wheel or the lockpicking/hacking mini-game.

    The inventory, though, was fairly overwhelming at first. After I got it figured out, it was fairly smooth sailing here.

    The only thing I found strange is how much inventory I didn’t buy. Aside from medigel/grenade upgrades, armory licenses, and the Spectre gear, I didn’t buy anything.

  5. mark says:

    I liked the button mashing. either it was easy or I was good at it. I happily believe the latter. :)

  6. Maiven7 says:

    The Dialog issue seems to be a case of Your Mileage May Vary…I can’t remember any instances where dear ol’ Shep popped off with anything too drastically different from what I wanted her to say.

    Except, of course, when I was trying to skip dialog and she started talking without any prior consultation. Eventually I just started waiting for the dialog wheel to show up. It was safer that way.

    Can’t really say much about the inventory. I didn’t…excessively mind the Everyone Carries Everything bit, because everyone came equipped with their own placeholders for weapons they couldn’t use. I just never bothered to upgrade those unless and until it became useful for them to do so. It was silly, but bypassable.

    The greater sin was the Bottomless Backpack nature of it, since I don’t remember them ever addressing the standard issue power armors of the ME universe as coming equipped with vector traps. It wound up being both more busywork and frankly economy-breaking, inasmuch as ME has an economy.

    Breaking a million credits is another one of those things that happened entirely by accident fairly early on because I’d topped up on omni-gel and still needed to clean out inventory. By the end of the game, I was set up to be permanently rich for my second play through on the same character as I was able to spec out everyone with the top-end of everything, even if they didn’t need it.

    This is amusing, but not something I expect or necessarily approve of in a game like this.

    And the minigame.

    Oh yes. The minigame.

    Never mind my initial complete and embarrassing failures through the fine art of not knowing it was going to pull that crap, nor the apparent disconnect between my controller and the screen. Far worse is that once I came to grips with it the first time, it never, ever troubled me again.

    About the only thing it ever did was get longer. But once you’ve got the timing down, it’s completely trivial. Every time.

    Forever.

    Whether you’re cracking the lock on a locker or rewiring bits of the Citadel itself. They mixed it up with another simple, un-timed puzzle all of what, once?

    A missed opportunity, one feels. A whole LOT of missed opportunities. The triviality of the act actually led me to never bypassing anything…there was no reason for me not to loot each and every box of everything anywhere I went, ever.

    Which ensured there was little to no reason for me to look back once I’d raided and looted a given region.

    I remember System Shock having a fairly unique set of hacking/rewiring puzzles that were different based on exactly what it was you were doing (ie: rerouting power for a force-bridge, or bridging a signal across a circuit board.)

    They required you to think about what you were doing, and you couldn’t apply a solution for one problem to a completely different problem. What ever happened to that?

  7. DNi says:

    That’s your only problem with the inventory system? I would have thought the 150 item limit and the girth of item drops you get from enemies, combined with the user-unfriendly menu would have been the annoyance, which force you to take twenty minutes at a time to convert useless junk into omni-gels.

    Omni-Gels, by the way, make the button pressing mini-games go away.

  8. krellen says:

    Inventory meshes into mini-game fairly easily: get rid of your excess inventory by making it Omni-gel, then use Omni-gel to bypass the mini-game.

    I just play the mini-game, but I’ve got enough console experience (if not 360 experience) that a few button pushes are just a brief exercise.

  9. Anaphyis says:

    The question isn’t easy or not, but immersion breaking or not. And I never encountered (semi) quicktime events outside God of War (and maybe Indigo Prophecy to some degree) where they could get away with it as these minigames are pointless exercises of button matching and reflex and especially setting wise a wall banger. If it is that mundane to break into a computer terminal, they should get cryptographers and security consultants instead of spectres. (And, considering other things going on in the station, that may be ESPECIALLY wise). You have a hacking stat anyway, you have things to hack, so why not simply leave it with a >= check and be done with it? You cannot replicate the real experience anyway (fallout 3’s lockpicking was nice though) so a repetitive minigame serves nothing but padding the game and building up annoyance.

    The hacking gets especially grating when ME’s immersion level is already at it’s lowest: In the cardboard cutout map o’ grates shooting generic enemy after driving the mako through a generic environment (though the skybox rocks.)

    At least you can circumvent this with gel, which gets pretty inflationary later in the game.

  10. krellen says:

    God of War did quick-time events right because God of War was the one that started the trend. Before God of War, every game did not have to have quick-time; now they do.

    Game manufacturers decided it was the quick-time events that made God of War great (not entirely untrue, as they were very well done there), and thus including quick-time events would make their games great.

    Now would be the time for me to link back to Shamus’s post a few days ago about the birdman fallacy.

  11. Magnus says:

    I have to say I detest “mini-games” in my RPGs, system shock almost gets away with it because they did them well, and you could choose alternative character types which allowed you to get by in a different way. The main reason behind the hate is simple, you have a statistic for how good you are at hacking/lockpicking etc., so why should you have the mini game aswell?

    You’ll be glad to know that in the PC version the dialog problem still exists, I thought it was PC only, since the left mouse click is both “skip” and “select”. Glad to know they annoyed us all! The other gripe for a mouse user is the radial menu, which was obviously designed for ease of use with a 360 controller, rather than the mouse, because selecting the option you want was slightly tricky at times, when the number of options was high.

  12. Factoid says:

    They fix the minigame in the PC version. It isn’t amazing, but I’d say it’s comparable to the enjoyability of the lockpick minigame in Fallout 3.

    The deal with the dialog is that each slot on the dialogue wheel always represents a certain tone of dialog. If you want to say something mean you select lower left, if you want to say something inspiring and/or insightful, select upper left. Etc… You can really move your way through a conversation without ever reading the dialog tree itself.

    It was hailed as a revolutionary system, so I knew about it going in, but I was surprised that the game never really explains it to you. You don’t really need to understand it to play the game, but it makes more sense if you know because of the sheer number of times you have two choices that are basically the same on the wheel, but have much different meaning when selected.

  13. potemkin.hr says:

    @Magnus:
    I agree with you, I hate mini-games in RPG-s (although I LOVE kotor’s pazzak :D )

  14. You know how the wheel works, so that up is the nice and down is mean, right? That’s the particular genius of the system to me, such that you never have to worry about whether your words are going to come out sarcastic or nice.

  15. Lukasa says:

    This is probably the only advantage of owning ME on PC, which is that some of the more annoying stuff got an overhaul. We have a similar issue involving skipping dialogue, but it’s far easier to navigate around the inventory screen with a mouse than it is with a controller.

    Also, we got a different minigame for unlocking than you guys did. Don’t get me wrong: it also rapidly becomes easy and pointless, but it isn’t a quick-time event, which makes it better.

  16. Pederson says:

    I found the inventory system deeply aggravating. I’m a packrat, so I tend to hold on to anything and everything I can. There’s a limit to how many items you can carry (an invisible limit; you only find out about it when you reach or get close to it), but I’m at a loss to explain exactly why, given the reach of nanotechnology involved, weapon and armor upgrades aren’t simply a set of schematics, with the upgrades themselves being manufactured from all that Omnigel I had on hand by the end of the game.

    Nothing in the inventory ever stacks, and sorting within equipment levels appeared to be either nonexistent, random, or totally arbitrary, making finding this or that specific item a real joy.

    Man, did I ever hate the inventory system by the end of that game.

  17. Colonel Slate says:

    Yes, I’ve played both versions of Mass Effect, on the 360 and on the PC, and all in all, the PC version was much more worth it. It seems like it was made for PC more than 360, but that’s due to the over haul, and with steam having Mass Effect, it’s much more worth owning ME for the PC

  18. There are several places in the game where you get the same line *regardless* of what dialog choice you make. If it’s the same line, just have the dialog wheel pop up with “continue”. Don’t give me a choice that isn’t a choice.

    I have to say, I do like the places where they pared it down to the absolute minimum you needed to know to choose between options. I think there’s one spot on Noveria where the “ending a quest” dialog options are:

    Thanks.
    Okay.
    Payment.

    Is that a perfect condensation or what?

  19. JB says:

    From what I read, Dragon’s Lair had to be the ultimate quicktime event.

  20. Robyrt says:

    I’m surprised the inventory doesn’t get a fuller measure of your ire there. It’s a pain to navigate, especially considering that the only inventory item you might possibly want to change more than once an hour – the mods on your characters’ primary guns – are the most difficult to get to and the hardest to set up.

    Say what you will about Too Human, but its “auto-drop my worst gun when my backpack is full” option turned an awkward inventory into smooth sailing. If only Mass Effect could have done the same.

  21. JT says:

    Are there distinctions made between memorizable & random quicktime events? The hacking ones in Mass Effect were (IIRC) random, while the ones used for “boss-finishing” moves in SW: Force Unleashed were the same sequence and therefore if you missed one you very likely would hit it the next time because you could recall the sequence.

    For that matter, the quicktime events in Force Unleashed had another thing going for them – the individual button-presses had meaning. That is, when it flashed the “jump” button and you hit it, you would do some huge jump; when it flashed the “lightning” button and you hit it, you’d hit the boss with lightning; when it flashed the saber button and you hit it, you’d either throw the saber at the rancor’s nose or do the big slice-an-AT-ST-bottom-to-top move; when it flashed the “push” button and you hit it, you’d crumple the AT-ST into a ball.

    Those two things (memorizable & meaningful) probably go hand-in-hand.

  22. Danel says:

    I’m pretty sure God of War didn’t invent the Quick-Time Event, though it may have popularised them. I’m pretty sure the name itself was invented for Shen Mue, but it possibly predates that – it’s not really that different from the awful “interactive movies” dead-end of the Mega-CD era.

    In theory, the Quick-Time Event provides a fascinating and dynamic compromise between normal gameplay – which can unfortunately consist of the player making constant mistakes – and uninteractive cutscenes. They allow the player to involve themselves in the most dramatic and action-packed sequences, drawing the player even further into the game’s world! – except of course that they’re neither as fun as proper gameplay, and don’t even allow you to sit back and watch awesome action gymnastics because you have to focus on a tiny postage-stamp sized area in the centre of the screen.

    To be fair, Mass Effect doesn’t really do that – it’s Quick-Time Events are more of a mini-game attempting to make lock-picking more interesting. It doesn’t work. Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy was lousy with it, though.

    The most infuriating aspect of it all is that the Quick-Time Events in games usually only take place in the awesome and action-packed cutscenes that you wouldn’t usually mind watching anyway. You still have to sit through the dull ones.

    The business with them carrying one of every gun is – presumably – so Sheppard can threaten someone with a pistol in a cutscene, even if you prefer to use sniper rifles. Still fairly silly, though.

  23. Scourge says:

    I get reminded of the fanfiction someone wrote called “The bore effect” or something similiar.

    “So, what can you do?”
    “I can hack things with my omnipad and make people fly.”
    “So you are carrying around 4 weapons which you can’t even handle?”
    “I.. ehm…”
    “What about you?” *turns to the brother*
    “I can handle all 4 of them!”

    It was entertaining to read.

  24. Tryss says:

    I remember Penny arcade made a joke about the minigame and how it’s really not a good deterrent for theft:
    http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2007/11/14/

  25. Factoid says:

    I believe the Quick Time Event was invented back in the arcade days, but as a modern concept (and I believe the name itself) QTEs really hit it big in Shenmue for Dreamcast.

    It’s become the thing to criticize in games these days. Just as with any gameplay concept they can be done well and they can be done badly. I thought the QTEs in Force Unleashed were sort of in between. It was stupid that you couldn’t ever fail at them, but at least they made sense and correlated to the actual game controls.

    God of War has probably the best QTEs of any game I’ve ever played. Shenmue had good ones as well, but it relied on them far too much and all you ever really did was run fast and dodge things, but that’s more or less setting-appropriate for that game.

  26. krellen says:

    I didn’t say God of War invented quick-times (I tried hard to avoid saying that, actually), just that it started the trend of “every game needs quick-times”.

    God of War had good quick-times, and that led in part to its great success, so the birdmen said “Ooo, quick-times are popular, let’s put in quick-times so we’ll be popular!” without actually figuring out why God of War’s quick-times made it popular.

  27. Viktor says:

    Yeah, quick-times can be good if done well. They allow the game to make you do cool things that would be too complex to let you do normally(except God of War, where awesome was commonplace). The thing is that they have to make sense. Moving a character down a hallway filled with lazers would be tough with traditional controls, but can be great with quicktime. The key is though that the buttons on-screen should be prompts for stuff you are already doing. If ‘A’ is jump, then in any quicktime if something is coming at your legs you should press ‘A’. They’re just usually so poorly implemented that they’re a detriment to the game. After all, why bother with quicktime for lockpicking when Splenter Cell:Double Agent does it so well?

  28. Zel says:

    I usually like QTE, probably because I’m a big fan of rhythm games, and the mechanism is very close : you have to push a certain button in a certain time frame.

    However, in any context other than rhythm games, I find it awful. Fahrenheit, and God of War to a lesser degree, are perfect example of what is wrong with it. During these sequences, you have to focus your attention on the next key you have to hit, which means you don’t get to see what happens in the meantime. If you try to watch the (usually cool) on-screen action, you’re very likely to miss the next input and fail the whole sequence.

    As for ME mini-games, I played it on PC and had to think for a few minutes and search the net to remind me of what the hacking/lockpicking game was. It’s basically a circular labyrinth, you start on the outer ring and have to get to the center in ~10 seconds. There are static and moving walls, if you get hit by the moving walls you have to start again. It’s ok as far as mini-games go (better than Bioshock’s tubes at least), but the random pattern of the labyrinth sometimes provides no possible path to the center, or a clear line to the exit.

    What I didn’t like was that as the lock became harder, the mini game got harder AND you needed a high level of electronics/repair just to attempt it. Either do one or the other, but both don’t make much sense. I mean, what kind of an expert am I if the only benefit of my high skill is that I can try. If they want to keep the mini-game, they could have made the game very hard without skill and get progressively easier as your skill went up. Or they could have put more focus on the character’s skill (instead of the player’s skill) and ditch the mini-game altogether, automatically opening the lock once your skill is high enough (no % chances please, quicksave/quickload defeats the purpose of this entirely). An added advantage of the latter is that you save your player the hassle of constant save/load until he finally succeeds.

    Inventory was a pain on PC because you only see about 10 items at a time on the list, and can’t select multiple items at once for “omni-gelification”, which results in lots and lots of clicks… The naming convention of items was also strangely confusing, in the sense that more often than not an “X mark II” gun/armor was better than another “Y mark V” gun/armor. Considering how many different weapons there are, the manufacturer’s name seems to be the best clue (apart from analysis of stats) when guessing a weapon/armor’s power.

  29. Veloxyll says:

    I’m surprised there’s not more complaining with the economy. by the end of the game I had almost 5 million credits, and yet, even before I got the SPECTRE weapons, there was NOTHING at all for me to buy. I spent more money on Medkit and Grenade slots than on armour or weapons. Well, not counting the 500,000 I blew on the Explosive rounds upgrade for giggles (+500% heat generation & shotguns = instant overheat!)

    Also, no word on the ending? :O

  30. Rick says:

    It’s been a few months since I played through ME, and that was the PC version, so here’s my recollection:

    Dialogue: I don’t really remember, but I don’t think I had any problem with it. Put this down as “I think they fixed it in the PC version.”

    Inventory: Yep. Out of four BioWare games I’ve played, only Jade Empire had a good inventory system, and that’s because there wasn’t much stuff to manage anyway. (KotOR’s was okay.)

    Mini-Game: Judging by the screenshot, this was reworked in the PC version. The PC version wasn’t much of a challenge either, but it was vaguely interesting.

  31. Kristin says:

    Oy, the mini-game… For some reason, there is a disconnect between my keyboard and my computer, ONLY FOR THAT GAME. So when I press a key, sometimes the thing will acknowledge it properly, sometimes it will overacknowledge (and cause me to lose) and sometimes it’ll just ignore me.

    I hate the minigame, and it hates me.

  32. Thomas says:

    @ 31, 28

    The PC minigame was basically Frogger, wasn’t it?

  33. Rick says:

    I wouldn’t have thought of it as such, but yeah, it is.

  34. JKjoker says:

    i tried the instant overheat explosive shotgun as well, but a bug caused my weapons to lock up in overheated state 1 out of every 2 times i overheated forcing me to restart the game so it had to go -_- (pc version)

    also, the console minigame looks a lot less annoying than the pc minigame, i solved that damn minigame so many times i dont want to ever see it again, i wish for a “you solved the minigame 500 times so now its auto-overridden” achievement, you could get it before you finish the first planet

  35. UtopiaV1 says:

    I prefer the hacking minigame for the pc, very reminiscent of that safe cracking game that i got when i was 12 and i booted it from DOS. (can’t remember for the life of me what it’s name was)

    Also, I love the dialog options for Mass Effect, cos of ONE mistake i made near the beginning (not really my fault, which is why it’s so goddam funny)! Anyway, I was talking to a maddened survivor of the raid Eden Prime (not spoiler, it happens 5 seconds into the game!), and one of my options was to tell him to be quiet… at least that’s what i thought. Shepard knocked the mans lights out! I mean bloody hell, i choose points in intimidation, but it’s a bit hard to intimidate someone when they’re unconscious!!!

    Anyway, so far so good Shamus, keep it up!

  36. Spider Dave says:

    I think the inventory is up there on my list of annoyances. Inevitably in inventory games, I manage it religiously for a little while, and then once I’m good enough I stop.

  37. Sam says:

    Your point about the different buttons being used for the dialog and the accidental choosing of an answer you didn’t necessarily want to choose reminded me of another game that did something a little similar: Riviera the Promised Land for GBA. There were moments during my first playthrough where I would be hitting the A button to make the text pop up immediately instead of waiting for it to scroll, and there would be a dialog box that pops up wanting a yes or no answer from you. But I was concentrating on making the text fly by that I accidentally answered yes several times where I might not have wanted to answer that way. It was very frustrating, because I was trying to keep all of my party members happy (it’s an RPG/somewhat of a dating sim but not really), and skipping past the dialog box made some characters very disappointed in me. Never got around to finishing that game…

    Also, I agree with the “generic white guy” voice problem. Hearing that voice out an Obama lookalike was just strange.

  38. Karizma says:

    The excess of inventory bugged the boogers out of me. Mass Effect seems to have “Swords in Rats Syndrome.” Make people drop stuff less. I want to blast men in the face, not scavenge every corpse of every womp-rat (yes I’m intentionally mixing scifi universes, bite me).

    Make me want to BUY armor and weapons. Further, I wish there was a BIT more balance with weapons and armors. Imbalance would work if the player was offered little for free. But the truth is that I walk around with twelve suits of armor, not counting my four krogan suits, the two turian suits… hell I might as well put Joker in one of them white and pink ones. Rant over.

  39. errolian says:

    Nobody seems to have mentioned the elevator rides yet. Step into an elevator, go make a drink, make dinner, phone a friend, play Minesweeper for a while and come back to find you have still not arrived at your destination. In a setting where reaching out across Galaxy’s is no problem, is it too much to ask that the elevator ride time is more realistic?

  40. Luvian says:

    The elevator rides were the loading screens. They didn’t want to have to take you away from the game for the loadings, so they made them that way instead.

    What you are really complaining about are the long load time.

  41. Zel says:

    Having played on PC, I don’t remember particularly long loading times during the elevator rides. There was usually just enough time for a radio announcement of my recent deeds and I would have arrived. Still, I guess having to read data from the DVD didn’t help the 360 in this area.

    I remember the permanent overheat lock mentioned above, forcing you to restart the game (changing weapons didn’t help). When faced with enemies that overheat your weapon on purpose, it’s not fun at all. It’s been a while since I had the game, maybe it’s been patched by now.

  42. JemyM says:

    My largest complains about Mass Effect are the terrible inventory system, the cheap “middle part” and the dumbed down dialogue system.

    The Inventory System is really one of the worst I have seen in modern history. I have tried to compare it with older games but yet haven’t found an inventory system more frustrating than ME. First of all it’s dumbed down from previous bioware titles such as KOTOR. It lacks the amount of inventory slots the old one did, and basically “more damage = better”. Optional ammunition was pretty much a choice between “bonus dmg vs organics” and “bonus damage vs machine”. Selling off useless stuff had the problem that to be able to get a good overview of what you had in your inventory you pretty much needed an extra notepad. I was keeping a copy of my inventory on my laptop because scrolling through a looong list to do stuff like finding the three highest-damage “bonus dmg vs organics” boosters took a lot of jumping back and forth. If I only wanted 3 (one per character), and I had like 2xIV 3xIII and 1xII (meaning I should keep 2xIV and 1xIII) and then I had to browse back and forth to find them all, complicated further by stuff changing names at higher levels.

    Then we have the Middle Part as I call it, where Bioware wanted to copy Oblivions terrible scaling system, offering us with a “great amount” of generic, computer generated design, which you quickly realized was just the same stuff over and over again. Yes, it made the game significally longer, but the game would have also been significally better for me if they just skipped that part entirely. Computer generated design does not equal and will never equal real man-made design, the one that made previous bioware titles so great. The only exception to that I ever saw was Space Rangers II.

    Finally, the Dumbed Down Dialogue Design, where the game pointed out “reply this if you are nice” and “reply this if you are rude”, so if you wanted to pump paragon points you could in theory macro through all your dialogues. The game mostly skips the greyzone, which really means that the only two options of character development you got is “black or white”. There are no choice between “discipline/code” vs “freedom/pragmatic” like the chaos/law system of D&D. There are no other great questions debated, except for a minor quest regarding amniocentesis.

    Furthermore, neither black or white fits the role that the game wants you to have as the captain of Normandy. The paragon are willing to break code and waste resources to be the ultimate “nice guy to every one, including villains” on the edge of being blue-eyed and naive. The renegade put up a psychotic explosive bipolar behavior that wouldn’t made him/her trusted by anyone, yet they end up with the trust to be “last hope of humanity”. The dialogue choices also run with Christian ethics on sexuality meaning being “bad” leads to more sex and being “good” means refraining from sex.

    There’s very little in terms of moral choices and deep philosophical questions in ME. This isn’t Planescape Torment. It isn’t Mask of the Betrayer. It’s a streamlined sci-fi game with an interesting story and a decently fleshed out world, but gameplay itself sucks.

  43. Tomas says:

    I agree with Veloxyll about the economy. I was very excited when my savings first exceeded a million credits, imagining that I would soon be riding a brand new speeder-bike (or something). But that turned to an equal amount of disappointment when I discovered that weapons and armor are about the only thing you can spend money on, and that that pile of money would continue to grow no matter what I did.

  44. Geno says:

    The PC version’s mini game is so much better.

  45. K says:

    I liked the dialog system.
    I hated the dialog.

    Often it was incredibly railroady (Yes / Acknowledged / Ok), and when you try out different choices, the character actually says the exact same line. Also, the lines were all written for an asshole white guy. If you wanted to play as a friendly person, of even just not insult people all the time, you had a huge problem. “Kill all the eggs” – “No, don’t do this” – Choice: “I have to / It is necessary / I will enjoy killing them”. I DON’T WANT TO KILL THEM?!

    Next, Renegade choices are more often than not utterly lunatic, but to make up for that, dialog has no meaning in this game at all. In the end, you will have to accept the quest go shoot some bugs and then either instul the questgiver some more or not and get your reward. There is only ONE SINGLE interesting dialog in the game, against the evil spectre before the bomb goes off. All other dialog should be skipped.
    The christian ethics thing also bothers me to no end. Why do you have to be bad to have sex? Can’t we all agree that sex is *not* evil? It’s hundreds of years in the future, but concensus is that sex is evil? Even nowadays that is not correct, since only (some) christians think so, which is not even the majority of earth population. But enough religious debate.

    They actally managed to avoid the pitfall of “good vs bad” everywhere else: It’s not good vs bad, it’s two defined alignments. Paragon vs Lunatic.

    When I played Mass Effect, I was immensly pissed by how much potential there was and how they messed up. And all the fanboys calling it the Best RPG Evar don’t make this better, because it clearly is somewhere in the “passabe / mediocre / ok” area. I blame the graphics. ME is really pretty, and that is what counts most for fanboys nowadays.

    Also, horrible inventory system.

  46. Picador says:

    When I see the option to say, “What do you want?”, I can’t be sure if my character is going to say, “Can I help you, sir?”, or, “What do YOU want, anus-face?”

    This is a problem in a lot of games, but Indigo Prophecy (which, like you, I really liked for about the first 40%) was by far the worst I’ve seen. It used (and may have invented) the “choose while they’re still talking” system for smooth conversation, which was a clever idea, but the mouse-gesture interface and the single-word summaries combined with the time pressure meant that you had about 500 milliseconds to read four words and try to figure out what each one meant before making a weird mouse gesture to choose one of them. This resulted in 1) not paying attention at all to what the NPC was saying, and 2) almost never having any idea what you were actually choosing to say in response.

  47. Krellen says:

    On the dialogue:

    My second playthrough was a militantly pro-human character; I ended the game nearly equal in Paragon and Renegade points. I never once felt my Renegade choices were “Lunatic”; they were rampantly pro-human, for the most part, and often anti-corruption (I had a hierarchy in my head: honest human > corrupt human > honest alien > corrupt alien > Krogan (the game spends a lot of time, especially on high difficulties, making you hate all the Krogan that aren’t Wrex. And I ended up shooting him, too.))

    This character spent the entire game at odds with the Council – growing frustrated at their refusal to listen to him, annoyed with their denial of resources and aid, and irritated with their steadfast denial of the Reaper threat even after he had completed many tasks and uncovered many clues of them. So when the final choice came, it seemed natural that he would let – nay, encourage – the Council’s death. They were blind fools that couldn’t see the truth, and the galaxy needed humans to protect it.

    My first playthrough was a very nice, Paragon-y woman, who also never particularly felt out of character. Except for the part where you absolutely cannot, no way, negotiate with the Thorian. I had max Charm at that point!

  48. Tizzy says:

    I LOATHE mini-games, especially in adventure game. Others crave the variety, and welcome the distraction. Surely, it should be possible for games to satisfy both camps. Akin to your multiple difficulty sliders you suggested for Prince of Persia, except we’re not only talking about difficulty any more but just customizing your game experience. Such customization was unthinkable in the Dark Ages (1980’s), but now?…

  49. Jeff says:

    I was on the PC, the latest patch available, with a pretty sweet rig.

    The elevator load times weren’t notable, I tended to hear the (sometimes interesting) news blurb, and then I’d see my destination coming up.

    Load screen IN my ship was annoying, since the quartermaster restocks every new system (or was it planet?).

    Never got the overheat but or endless elevator rides… just saying. Do people not patch? Or did they fail to patch it? Did have to turn my SLi off though, iirc. That was annoying, but it still ran fine on a single GeForce9800GT.

  50. JDintheOC says:

    You don’t play Mass Effect 2 – It plays you. You’re like a cow in a chute, prodded in the direction the designers want you to go. I have a new PC with Win 7 and I cannot get the Bypass mini game to work. I’v even looked on You Tube and am playing the game the same way and still cannot get either game to work correctly. I find the two alike symbols, click one untill a green spot appears and before I can drag the spot over to the mating symbol, the spot disappears halfway there. Once I had two symbols very close to each other and when I managed to get the spot over the mating symbol, nothing happened. The other game basically doesn’t work either. To make matters worse, in some areas it seems I can’t continue unless I complete the game. I’m ready to go back to Oblivion.

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *

*
*

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!