Mass Effect:
Nitpicks Part 2

 By Shamus Jan 13, 2009 37 comments

It’s unusual that I have to break up my nitpicks post into two parts, but Mass Effect has forced my hand and brought this punishment on itself. The game is not nearly as awful as these posts might make it seem, but it does have egregious flaws that need to be recorded and cataloged.

Loading Screens

The game is saddled with heartless, incessant, and tediously flow-breaking loading screens. Some are disguised as elevators. The game is just a jerk when it comes to squandering slices of time. For example, if you have a mission that calls for you to visit the Citadel:

  1. Bring up the galaxy map, set the destination.
  2. See a short but un-skippable animation of the ship going through the Mass Relay.
  3. Back to the map screen. Use the map again to direct the ship to dock at the Citadel.
  4. Loading screen.
  5. See a short but un-skippable animation of the ship pulling into dock.
  6. While not a loading “screen” per se, the game pauses for a few seconds while the word “Loading” appears.
  7. Exit the ship and choose your away party.
  8. Loading screen.
  9. Get in a mandatory long-ass elevator ride. (A loading screen, really. A long one.)
  10. Once out of the elevator, use the “fast” transit system to go to the right part of the station.
  11. Loading screen.
  12. Unless you’re very lucky, you’re going to have to hike for a distance to reach the person you’re looking for.

This adds up to a couple of minutes of semi-interactive waiting so you can have a fifteen second conversation.

Combat

Thanks Garrus.  Thanks so much for that.
Thanks Garrus. Thanks so much for that.
Combat is mostly satisfying, but marred by the enthusiastic retardation of your teammates. They constantly stand in front of you during combat, forcing you to move. Or they’ll take all the cover and leave you to stand in the open like a target dummy. Or, if you do find a good bit of cover and they don’t, they will stand right beside you, in the open, and “catch” incoming rockets so you can enjoy the blast radius. On higher difficulties, this is an express route to the game over screen. But even when they’re not in your way, they have cover, and they aren’t trying to bring about total team explodification, they’re still of limited usefulness. The AI on both sides will often shoot even when they don’t have a clear line of sight. I’ve seen teammates facing nose-to-the-wall, drilling the scenery in a vain attempt to hit the guy on the other side.

Combat taunts are repeated with a frequency capable of inciting madness. A firefight against human opponents will provide a chorus of the same two or three (dumb) taunts over and over again, as if the bad guys had a cliché-only version of Tourette’s Syndrome. “You must DIE!” Really? Enthralling. Tell me again. (And again.)

The weapons are serviceable, aside from the sniper rifle – which is bad enough to ruin Christmas. The weapon only has two zoom modes: Too Close, and Even Closer. Most of the battles happen in confined spaces where the sniper rifle is useless, or at a distance when you’re in a vehicle. If you really want to make enough use of the sniper rifle to justify putting points into it, you’re going to have to keep getting in and out of the vehicle (where you could just nuke the bad guy with the main gun) just so you can fiddle around and line them up for a sniper shot. Looking through the scope, your view bobs around like you’re shooting from atop a rowboat in a storm. While drunk. And being attacked by angry bees. Maybe in real life I might have this much trouble holding a rifle still, but I’m not a super commando from space using future weapons. I actually found the constant oscillation to be nauseating. All this, and the weapon overheats ridiculously easy. It’s actually easier and more expedient to snipe with the pistol. The assault rifle can clear an entire room in the space of time it takes to drop a single foe with the sniper rifle. An unbalanced weapon is one thing, but here they have perpetrated the greater sin of making it not any fun to use.

The rest of the weapons are serviceable enough, although they’re a bit homogeneous. Your starting assault rifle looks and sounds pretty much like the ubergun you’ll have near the end of the game, it’s just (maybe) painted a different color.

And whoever mapped the “talk to teammate” button to the same button as “run”, and then made both actions active during combat: You are a jerk and I hate you too. I got very sick of my teammates screaming at me that they were too busy to talk as I darted around the battlefield looking for cover. There is no reason to talk to teammates during a fight. Why make it possible to try?

And while we’re at it: A space commando that can run for five seconds before becoming helplessly fatigued? I’m a middle-aged asthmatic and I can do a lot better than that.

Loading Screens (Again.)

Given the copious and diverse loading screens, I thought I would return the favor and cover this issue twice.

Noveria was particularly cruel when it came to elevators, sometimes requiring two or three elevator rides between each step. The initial section in Port Hanshan is a four-stop quest that requires seven elevator rides:

Once you arrive, and go through the normal docking-at-a-planet loading screens and cutscenes:

1. Elevator
2. Administrator & assistant
3. Elevator
4. Lorik Qui’in
5. Elevator
6. Elevator
7. Data from Lorik’s office
8. Elevator
9. Elevator
10. Garage pass from Lorik.
11. Elevator
12. Exit facility

Also notable is the absurd and glacial elevator in the middle of your ship, the Normandy. (Imagine replacing all the steps and ladders on a warship with a single shared elevator. While I would not put it past a government to make a blunder like this, it does interfere with the fiction that your ship was built by the best and the brightest.) It’s a pointless time-sink.

Mako

No trees. No grass. Just a two-color blanket of unnaturally jagged terrain to bounce over on your way to wherever it is you need to go.  (Which will invariably be on the opposite side of the biggest, roughest, most pain-in-the-ass mountain.)
No trees. No grass. Just a two-color blanket of unnaturally jagged terrain to bounce over on your way to wherever it is you need to go. (Which will invariably be on the opposite side of the biggest, roughest, most pain-in-the-ass mountain.)
The sections of the game where you drive the “Mako” – the all-terrain space-buggy – are by far the worst. Outside of the linear driving sections on the five main plot locations, the alien worlds are otherwise featureless unadorned terrain. I wrote a terrain engine a couple of years ago, and I managed to not confuse the end product with a “game”.

The terrain generation system they used was much too noisy. A good terrain should not reveal the polygon size to the user. Little pyramid-shaped spikes and pits populate the terrain, and it’s obvious that in this universe, erosion is a phenomenon unique to Earth.

The Mako, despite its tank-like appearance, handles like a golf cart running across railroad tracks. The gun can’t aim as far up or down as the reticule leads you to believe, which leads to a lot of situations where you seem to be drilling an invincible foe with gunfire. After a few seconds you’ll realize that they are a couple of inches above or below where you can actually aim, and you end up fussing around and looking for a hill so you can angle yourself to take the shot. (While they pummel you with impunity.)

The planets end up being boring to look at, annoying to travel on, and frustrating as a place to fight. So much for the awe and grandeur of space exploration.

Overall

The central problem with the game is the amount of time you must spend just getting to the gameplay. For every five minutes you spend in combat or in dialog, you’ll spend twice that walking, driving, loading, riding elevators, watching unskippable animations, and fussing around with the inventory. You spend more time getting to the fun than having fun.

That’s it. I’m out of rotten tomatoes to fling at this game. Next time I’ll get into the parts I loved.


201737 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.


  1. Stephen says:

    The sniper rifle is really awful to start, but becomes good once you’ve maxed the skill and gotten one of the higher-end guns. At that point, when crouched or behind cover, the drift is nonexistent and you’re one-shotting anything short of a Krogan.

    It’s still only situationally useful if you’re playing an armor-wearing character that can just clear a room with the assault rifle, but when it’s useful, it’s really useful.

  2. Maiven7 says:

    Thank you, Shamus, I now have the exact phrase I’ve always needed to describe Helpful NPC AI wheresoever it rears it’s enthusiastically retarded head. It’s like Christmas all over again! n.n

    City of Heroes, I’m Looking At You.

    There were any number of times I would cheerfully use my companions, including Liara “Glass Cannon” T’soni as little more than short-lived setup-and-meat-shields for the first wave of hellfire from a dense group of rocket-wielding robots. Then I would retort with something silly like the sniper rifle before slapping my ‘friends’ with the On Your Feet button.

    I have to say I was fond of the sniper rifle if only because when it got going good it brought me the satisfaction of one-shot-one-kill rampages, occasionally melting my opponent directly into goo with the right ‘ammo’ loadout. Because somewhere along the way Bioware went to the Fallout 3 School of Radiation Effects, and I can’t fault them for that. I really can’t.

    Admittedly, I did give up on outdoors sniping when I made the glorious discovery that the Mako A. Had a nuke and B. Was a sniper. A sniper nuke.

    There is nothing and everything right with that. I hadn’t giggled so madly since I first received the Dark Energy Gravy-gun in Half-Life 2.

    Of note: If memory serves, the Mako’s scope bizarrely obviates much of the need to find a convenient slope to perch on, as it didn’t seem to be bound to the same arc of fire.

    As for Shep getting fatigued five seconds into a sprint, about the only justification I could offer is that that powered armor is in no way motor assisting. So she’s carrying the full weight of an armored space-suit and all her guns, at all times.

    But I believe the Codex may well scram that theory. My X-Box is a paperweight right now, and I never picked up the PC edition because I am now stupidly poor, or I’d check it myself.

    Oh, serviceable weapons and magical discoveries: The shotgun is a rocket launcher. This is another one of those things I wish I’d known five minutes into the game, because the shotgun might’ve seen a bit more use had I realized the ‘shot’ could be converged and condensed into a blastwave of doom.

    I actually didn’t mind the elevators too much as I tended to swap teammates a lot. Rather enjoyed the assorted loading-screen banter they’d throw around based on who I had out.

    Oh, and listening to the newsy gabble about the wonderful and horrible things I’d done in the game up to that point. Everybody loves knowing the universe loves and/or fears them.

    That made up for the elevators, and they never seemed too abysmally long for my taste. But I’m known to be a horrifyingly patient and sedated gamer at the weirdest of times. I mean, as long as I have something shiny to look at or something going on, dull as it may be, it’s more than a big block of LOADING…LOADING…LOADING. Hell, Lucasarts got me with Afterlife’s loading bar. I would deliberately make it load stuff just so I could see what it would say.

    The elevator on the ship failed to bother me because I’ve worked in a shop with a freight elevator that covered about that much space in about that much time. It was emphatically not in a hurry.

  3. Hotsauce says:

    A nitpick of my own: “phenomena” is plural. It should be “erosion is a phenomenon…”

    /No grammar for you!

  4. Shamus says:

    “phenomena” is fixqed. Thanks.

  5. Factoid says:

    I can’t agree enough about the terrain. It was my biggest peave. No errosion and no plant life whatsoever, unless of course it’s embedded in the ground texture. I guess there are one or two worlds where you might run into some floating spores, or maybe one of those gasbags you saw on Eden Prime…I think I even saw an animal once, but found myself wondering what it was doing in this rocky wasteland with not so much as a puddle of water for 20 kms. Apparently space creatures subsist entirely on texture algae.

    The elevator in the midship was entirely pointless. I understand they went all out with the modelling on the Normandy, but they could have done a better job optimizing so that the entire ship fit into memory. Throughout the game you traverse MUCH larger areas at similar detail level without a loadscreen halfway through. I really hope that in the sequel they make the Normandy all one area.

    They could even make a little dialog tree to “hang a lantern” as the writers would say. Just something where the chief engineer NPC mentions to Shepperd how he installed faster servos in the elevator because it was driving him nuts being that slow.

  6. qrter says:

    I loved that I was some kind of captain/commander type with a mission to save everyone and I still had to buy my own equipment, from one of my own officers on my own ship, if I wanted.

  7. Tom says:

    I’m enjoying reading your thoughts on Mass Effect, and many of the content-related gripes are the same ones I’d have, but I played the game on PC and had a totally different experience with the interface. For instance, I loved the sniper rifle and used it almost exclusively. Occasionally I’d use the pistols for stuff that moved around a lot, but I never fired an assault rifle the whole game. It was also pretty easy to order your allies to specific cover points on the PC, taking advantage of the ability to pause and issue orders.

    My biggest complaint is that the central storyline is presented with such urgency that I ignored a lot of the side quests, with the vague notion that I’d get to them later. Except that the game ends with the last mission of the main storyline. I’d have liked the opportunity to fly around the galaxy a bit more afterwards.

  8. Dr Jones says:

    The Mako was the most annoying part of the game for me as well. Not just the handling and the terrain but I had to wonder why I was driving to the other side of the map to survey minerals when I was supposed to be saving the galaxy (do we not have people to do this?).

    I was not against the elevator in the Normandy. I always assumed that the idea was that it went to other floors in the ship such as crew quarters but my character just did not want to stop there. It would have broken the immersion more for me if I had been going up flights of stairs from the bridge to the engine room with apparently nowhere else on board.

    Team members running in front of me and shooting scenery was very annoying though. I would have preferred to be able to control them individually or be able to actually take control of them myself like you could in KOTOR.

  9. Dys says:

    Always seems strange to me that people do main quests. It’s been drilled into me by more RPGs than I can think of that when deciding what to do or where to go, you first figure out where the game WANTS you to go, and then walk the other way. I don’t think I missed any planet or any quest first play through.

    The sniper rifle is more powerful than any other gun, per shot. It is however only useful when you absolutely max accuracy.

    Loading screens are a thousand times more irritating on a PC, where you just know it could hold the whole area in memory if it were allowed. Loading screens in PC games are almost always traceable to X-Box ports, which is one of the reasons I hate the things. (PC fanboy, yes. sue me.)

    I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this, but killing things in the Mako halves your xp gains. Once I realised this, I made damn sure to kill everything planetside on foot. Even tanks. Even the sand worm knock offs. Soften them up with the Mako’s cannon, and then finish them with your guns. You will level many times faster.

    Oh yea, and erosion is a weather phenomenon. No atmosphere, no erosion. The planets are too arbitrary though. I spent most of my mineral hunting daydreaming of a purchasable orbital mineral scanner. Since I maxed my credits around halfway through the game.

    I never did finish the game on the hardest setting. Keep meaning to go back and do it.

  10. Spider Dave says:

    You know, I’ve heard the combat complaint more than once, and yet, I never experienced it myself. Myteammates usually just die somehow out of my field of vision.
    Also, I’ve got high enough skill with the sniper rifle to use it like a shotgun in a pinch.

    Loading screens were my biggest peeve. Well, more elevators than loading screens.

    The mako would have been more fun if it wasn’t so dang bouncy, and if I could figure out a practical use for the jump rockets. But you’re right, the scenery could use work.

  11. Nixorbo says:

    I didn’t discover the secondary gun on the Mako until my second playthrough.

  12. Krellen says:

    City of Heroes, I’m Looking At You.

    We just call those helpers “Fusionettes”.

    On Mass Effect:

    The Mako sucked. It was, hands down, the worst part of the game. The terrain, likewise, sucked.

    However, I cannot get entirely behind the planets being “Boring to look at”. There are at least a handful of planets I thought were absolutely beautiful. It’s unfortunate that the beauty was entirely tied up in the sky and horizon, however.

    The Sniper Rifle was horrible to use before you got a fair amount of skill in it. Once you did, however, it was very useful – as other have said, it single-shot most things, shields or not. And equipped with the Photonic rounds that ignore most of shields, it makes a handy way at high difficulties to take out anti-vehicle towers without getting the Mako blown up (or dealing with aiming/dodging in the Mako, for that matter.) It’s much easier to position yourself such that rockets and the like can’t hit you while you can fire back than it is to do the same in the Mako.

    Taking down a Geth Colossus without the Mako is a practice in patience, but you do get a few thousand extra XP for your trouble.

  13. JKjoker says:

    Thats all you have to nitpick Shamus ? what about the fact that the badguys refuse to tell you their plans since “you wouldnt understand them” which leads me to believe not even ppl at Bioware have a clue why they want to destroy the universe

  14. Joe says:

    Yeah, the Mako was very annoying. Especially since it got dropped by the Normandy. Any particular reason the Normandy couldn’t fly to where I need to go and drop me right there? And the jump jets were apparently sufficiently powerful to return the tank to orbit, but not enough to get me out of a small valley.

    Also, if you’re going to procedurally generate terrain, why not procedurally generate all of it? Why is there the big red wall where the game says ‘we got tired of generating random terrain, so we stopped doing it’?

    And yeah, the sniper rifle was pretty annoying. Which is a big shame, because I really like playing a sniper. Halo’s was much better, and even it wasn’t that great. I do remember that the one in Splinter Cell was interesting: It was wobbly enough to be almost useless, until you pulled the left trigger (which was how you “held your breath” to steady the shot), at which point it became very useful and accurate (until you ran out of lung capacity).

    Anyhow, very good posts Shamus. It’s definitely reminding me of all the things that annoyed me about the game. So now I’m anxiously anticipating “dessert”, where you remind me of all the things that were good about the game.

  15. Dustin says:

    One thing to note re: the sniper rifle.

    Experience gained inside the Mako is something like one half to one third the amount you receive on foot. If I saw a group of geth in the distance setup for an ambush, I’d hop out of the Mako, snipe the group, then jump back in and continue on my way. Easy XP. Yeah you can just blast ‘em with your Mako, but how are you going to hit level 60?

    Question for you, Shamus. On your 4 playthroughs, did you pick different classes such as Engineer, Soldier, etc or play as one class?

  16. Krellen says:

    JKjoker: I thought it was a nice break from the typical villain monologuing where they inexplicably explain everything to you.

    Also, AI or not, it was a machine; ultimately, what it was doing was executing its programming. It’s possible that the Reapers themselves didn’t really know why.

  17. Hotsauce says:

    “phenomena” is fixqed.
    You did that just to make me cry, didn’t you? ;-)

  18. Shamus says:

    Dustin: My playthroughs:

    1. John Shepherd, default soldier guy. Neither good or evil. Sort of hurried through the game.

    2. Nova Shepherd, paragon soldier. Really went through the game and did every sidequest I could find.

    3. Nova Shepherd, total renegade. Started at level 50-ish, ended level 58.

    X. Violet Shepherd, Biotic Adept. She made it all the way to Ilos, but then I quit once I got all the achievements I was after.

    4. Nova Shepherd, starting at level 58, I was just going to play until I dinged 60. I ended up going through the ENTIRE main plot, and ending 50k XP short of level 60. Those last couple of levels take AGES.

    X. Nova Shepherd, starting at level 59. Played until she exposed Saren, which made her ding 60. Game goes on shelf now.

  19. The Werebear says:

    @JKJoker

    Your enemies never have a need to explain their reasoning to you.
    SPOILER! Do not look if you haven’t played and still plan to!!

    Saren holds you in contempt most of the game, and doesn’t even bother until he is so screwed up by indoctrination that he really doesn’t have any goal than save everyone by betraying them, and that’s not even sticking well in his brain anymore. Benezia suffers from the same thing. And the BBEG takes the contempt to a new high, considering you so worthless as to not even be worth continuing taunting.

    END SPOILER

    Anyway, I actually enjoyed the Mako sections, even before I discovered the zoom on the cannon. The good part is killing all but one little Geth trooper with the guns, then running that one down and repeatedly hopping on him with the jump jets. Or hitting an Armature or Colossus and and dragging it around under your mighty wheels. And I can’t help but giggle when doing donuts around a thresher maw while firing a cannon point blank into its face. I will admit that trying to drive that thing down a corridor is like attempting to thread a needle with an anchor cable from the USS Enterprise, however.

    No, what bugged me the most about the game was the Prothean Vision near the begining. It’s a disjointed blast of pain from a broken piece of 50,000 year old alien technology, but Shepard buys everything in it strongly enough to yell at the three people who run the Galaxy about it and deliver snarky threat/warnings. IMO, the council was right to call Shepard on overreacting, and telling him to focus on Saren. He’s got no way of tying any of that together until he finds some other people to confirm his theory much later.

  20. Tizzy says:

    BTW, do these games get playtested? Do they get feedback on these things? I mean, playtesting is not just about finding bugs! The load screens might be unavoidable (w/out a serious overhaul), but unskippable repeated cut-scenes and lousy inventory management should be easily detected and fixed.

    When I listen to dev commentary for Valve games, I’m always impressed to see how much attention they pay to playtests. And you must admit it shows.

  21. lebkin says:

    @Shamus
    “X. Violet Shepherd, Biotic Adept. She made it all the way to Ilos, but then I quit once I got all the achievements I was after.”
    Stopping because you’ve got an achievement? Welcome to the Xbox 360 era. You’ve not truly lived until you play for achievements. I recently replayed all the way through Mirror’s Edge a second time simply to pick up an achievement I missed.

    Also, I was going to write a post about how all these flaws really aren’t that bad, and that there are excellent ways to work around them in order to have a wonderful experience playing the game. Then I realized that I am a complete fanboy about this game, and considering the 150 hours I’ve put into it, I can’t really accurately or realistically critique it.

    Though one general note about unskippable cut scenes: they often exist to hide loading screens. Not that this makes them excusable, but I’d rather see an animation that a loading screen. Mirror’s Edge has a great compromise, where in cutscenes it says in the upper left corner that it is loading the level. Once the level is loaded, it replaces the text with instructions on how to skip the cutscene. Definitely a model that should be copied.

  22. MintSkittle says:

    On the elevator rides, I would occasionally ride them several times back and forth to listen to the party members chat with each other.

    Already mentioned, the sniper scope drift gets better when you put enough points into it. As an aside, I used the pistol as my primary weapon for the majority of the game.

    As for the Mako, it was frustrating at times, but I wasn’t bothered all that much by it.

    Maybe I’m just easy to please when it comes to RPGs.

  23. Magnus says:

    Re: the elevators (or “lifts” as we brits call ‘em) on my rather outdated PC, I got a pause when I entered the lift, then had to deal with the lift then another pause before I could leave the lift.

    Also, I got the DLC after completing it, thinking I’d just continue my game, and then I find that you have to do it before the final missions? Annoyed me so much I haven’t played the DLC yet, and doubt I will (moved on to other games).

    SPOILERS!!!

    I was also annoyed by a couple of things…

    when you kill the Aliens… sorry Rachni, it talks about genocide, but I got a couple of extra missions with them in as side quests, so I obviously did a terrible job at killing them off!

    There were a couple of missions that I thought would gain me something a bit extra, but I think only gave codex entries if anything at all (other than XP/credits), one of which was the “scan the keepers” mission, which resulted in no extra dialogue, and neither did some of the find X of Y missions (salarian tags other collectable stuff on planets.)

  24. nilus says:

    Did you install the game to your hard drive or not? I am wondering if the load time is better now that you can do that since last time I played that feature was unavailable

  25. R4byde says:

    X. Violet Shepherd, Biotic Adept. She made it all the way to Ilos, but then I quit once I got all the achievements I was after.

    [Start ProphetO'Doom]
    NOOoooo! Shamus! Reclaim thy soul! Squander not the precious moments of thy life upon meaningless achievement points! Dost thou not perceive!? ‘Pon that path lies only madness and death! Would ye risk exposure of thy very soul to the fires of damnation! I am disappointed *Sniffles pitifully while wiping a single tear away.* Methought you better than that!

    Fellow acolytes of the ‘Way of Shamus-ism’(TM) let us rise and save our master from his own completionist foibles. Arise I say!
    [/ProphetO'Doom]

    Just kidding -mostly- are you gonna pick up Bioshock for that shiny new Tool of Satan, erm X-box 360?

    As an aside, why is it called a 360? I thought the marketing mentioned something about moving in a new direction, wouldn’t a 360 degree turn put you right back where you started?

  26. Shamus says:

    Nilus: I installed it to the HD right away, so the whole time I was aware that, as bad as it was, it could actually be even WORSE. Cringe.

    R4byde: To be fair, I wasn’t JUST doing it for the achievements. I also wanted to play as an Adept and see how the Biotic powers worked. But by Ilos, I’d gotten the idea, and the achievements, and I’d already seen the ending 3 times, so I didn’t have a lot of motivation to do it again.

  27. Joe says:

    Shamus: While I agree with your nitpicks, I also can find them in lots of other games. This is nothing new. Poor ally AI, loading screens are part and parcel of the 3D combat genre. Especially FPS, but this is an RPG (riiiight).

    Anyway. Mass Effect’s single glaring problem for me was the Mako. 1. While I could drive nearly 90 degress straight up, the slightest nudge driving at top speed flipped me. 2. There was NO instruction in the Mako’s operation in game. (Was there?) I see other gamers who have replied also didn’t discover the cannon on the Mako. I was killing sand worms with the machine gun. Very scary.

    This nitpick is perhaps, the one unique one to Mass Effect. And its possibly just because they were trying to be ambitious with vehicle combat without duplicating HALO.

  28. Colonel Slate says:

    See, I have the game for the computer, and I actually enjoy the mako, and the some, not all, of the planets have trees and other type of foliage, things that make it look habitable, however, most of the planets are not habitable if you read the readout that it gives you about the planet before you are randomly dropped off in the middle of FREAKING NO WHERE. Other than the being dropped of in the middle of FREAKING NO WHERE, I enjoyed the mako, the controls were easy to use and it was extremely responsive, just like driving in BF2 or any of the Call of Duty Games.

    I actually discovered the cannon before I found the machine gun, I think all in all, besides the DRM death that is Mass Effect on the PC (which can be totally removed for non steam versions of the game) Mass Effect all and all was made for the PC not the Xbox, just so many things that you can do with a keyboard, and not a 360 controller.

  29. Kennet says:

    The Mako can zoom?

    [Later]

    The Mako can zoom! Why, oh why, didn’t anybody tell me this sooner!?! Now I might just have to play it again to try it out.

  30. Derek K. says:

    There was alien life! There were monkeys on one planet that stole your bananas!

    That was the achievement planet. You saved there, loaded the game, and used all powers then killed all monkeys. Load, repeat.

  31. Kyle says:

    I agree with everything you said, but I still love Mass Effect.

  32. Shamus make sure you play the DLC at this point,
    I unfortunately got the game so early and finished it, so I had to play through it again to be able to access the DLC content.

    Also, make sure to not loose your savegame(s).
    I made sure my last playthrough I made consistent choices I felt good about (as far as my vision of the character goes) because Mass Effect 2 should take your choices into concideration so that certain things will not be the same.
    (The council, the earth rep, party members still alive, etc)

    Also (and I’m unsure if this will affect anything or not but I hope so),
    on a certain planet with a plant “being” and a Asari pod girl (not easy to avoid spoilers here), after she gave me the ability to understand a certain language of old, I decided to get rid of her, as the knowledge was to dangerous to be left unchecked.

    Watching her kind of understand, get on her knees with her back against me and hands on her head while I pulled the trigger was…oddly appropriate to the story and the “dark” side of Shepard as a Spectre (achieve the goal by any means) in my playthrough. I do wish my companions would have reacted a bit more to that one, but maybe they where to shocked to say anything. (or agreed?)

    Obviously the best course was to ensure nobody knows or understand the old language. (my Shepard should be the only one left alive that understand it)

    And as I’m a sucker for romance in RPG’s, I’m really looking forward to ME2 and how the romance with the Asari will continue. Having read the two novels, I know the author (who is the one who pens the game story as well) seem to like family relationships. I would not be surprised if Shepard became a parent and that could lead to a side quest in ME2 or ME3.

    So I really hope they take advantage of the savegame game states, no idea how much/what they are tracking, but it’s possible they tracked every choice made by a playthrough character, it’s what I would have done. (you need to reach the end and final choices for this though)
    So they could potentially make ME2 change based on anything you did (or didn’t do).

    So those of you planning to play ME2 (or suspect you might), make sure to play to the end with satisfactory character choices for “your” Shepard that you would feel comfortable starting with in ME2.
    (I now many tend to play through “out of character” just to “do everything” but that might not jive so well RPG wise when the game stats is carried to the sequel(s?).

    KoTOR2 had a nice way of carrying the game state over, by asking questions about your character (in KoTOR) that your new character remembered having heard.

    But with Mass Effect, BioWare said they would use the actual save game. I truly hope other game devs does the same, it would certainly make episodic games more interesting. (I consider ME1, ME2 and ME3 episodic in that they tell 3 parts of a story arc)

    Shamus, about the dialog interface, I agree, it could have been made clearer.
    I just had the minibrainstorm that maybe, just maybe if it had been subtly color and lighting tweaked it would be easier.
    Slight lighter green tint for Paragon choice, blue for neutral and slight darker red for Renegade choice,
    and make sure exhausted dialogs, sub trees and entire trees when fully explored was “hidden”. Otherwise I really liked the dialog wheel, I feared they’d ruin it (personally I thought KoTOR was ok but), luckily it’s pretty ok.

    Instead of the odd choice of text they could have gone with actions and thoughts like:
    (not likely) for example to a question by a NPC
    *shoot him* for well, you know.
    (laugh friendly) and so on.
    As far as response choices go, those would have worked much better than the ones currently in ME1. (waves at BioWare, Hi, Freelancer here, plenty of ideas, will work for internet connection and food, call me, I never sleep) *laughs*

    But seriously, there are a few rather odd things, but luckily BioWare won’t have to redo that much for ME2,
    it’ll be the same engine, reuse of most texture and art, obviously some additions, but mostly improvement and MORE STORY, I’m so starved for good story games these last few years, and ME is a breath of fresh air in that respect.
    (mumbles something about Ragnar Tørnquist kicking Funcom in the rear so he can work on Dreamfall 2 ASAP *sigh*)

    I’d easily rank KoTOR along ME, they can’t be directly compared, but BioWare certainly got two gems in those games there. I did a review (my first) some time ago on my site, and if it hadn’t been for the things I pointed out there, ME would have gotten a perfect score from me.

    PS! The soundtrack ain’t halfbad as background music when programming either.

  33. Tyrel Lohr says:

    I might have missed this in the posts thus far, but one thing that I thought worth mentioning in relation to the Mako and planetary driving portions of the game is that what Bioware did in Mass Effect is more or less a “logical” modernization of the same activities that were carried out in old sci-fi adventure games like Starflight or Star Control II. In both, you land your vehicle and roam around an ugly textured planet in search of minerals, ruins, scattered bits of plot, or what have you. It is just a 2D minigame converted to third-person 3D.

    Overall, I didn’t mind the Mako driving component — but then I played exclusively on the PC, and I have heard that the Mako controls were worse on the XBOX version of the game. I will admit that the planet sizes were probably larger than they needed to be, although I only had a few cases where I got really sick and tired of driving when I was hunting down “extra” things on the maps. But I enjoyed doing mining missions in Starflight, too, so I can understand why some people would find it extremely tedious.

  34. Fosse says:

    I bought this game on Steam and just finished playing it a few days ago. I had fun, but I’m not sure if I’ll play another character through or not.

    The minigame is slightly less annoying, but no more appropriate. You navigate a little arrow through a series of concentric rings with moving obstacles. It’s Frogger in a circle. I would rather just have a skill check. It was especially annoying to have to use the minigame to “survey” minerals on planets.

    About dialogue. I hated it. Shepard was constantly saying and doing things that I would have never had her do if I had understood the choices. Fake choices were everwhere. Sometimes you might be able to choose, for instance, “Why” and “Where,” but the answer would obviously be the same for either when she’d say, “Why are you doing this, and where will you do it?”

    I don’t mind, if a cinematic approach is the goal, that I didn’t control every single word out of Shepherd’s mouth. I’d be okay if I only made one or two choices per conversation, as long as they mattered and I understood what they were.

    It seems things are a bit different between the 360 and the PC. In the PC version the Charm option is always in the upper left, and colored blue (or grey if you don’t have the skill points needed to use it) and the Intimidate is red and in the lower left (similarly greyed out if you can’t use it).

    I played an Infiltrator and was disappointed at how little the text description of the class matched my play through. Sneaking is impossible, there was no secrecy. The tech side of characters has only to do with what powers she had in combat.

    I was constantly exasperated when the game would seemingly present the option to talk my way out of a situation (goons in the club in Citadel, the crooked cops in the office later on), but their cohorts would just keep on fighting me all the same, opening fire before the person I “charmed” even had time to say goodbye.

  35. Jeff says:

    I’m just posting to laugh at the console.

    The AI on the PC never bothered me, so they must have fixed that. Loading screens too, for most people.

    The Mako is annoying as all hell, but on the PC you can adjust it’s health, weapon damage, and (perhaps more importantly to some people) xp%. (Normally, any kills with the Mako is only 50% xp.)

  36. Taellosse says:

    Out of curiosity, is there any intention to write any more in this series? You wrote about all the things wrong with the game (and, for the most part, I disagree with none of it), but you spent little time discussing why you like the game, as you’ve done with others. I got the sense reading these posts that there was more in store, but it’s been about a month since, and you seem to have moved on to other games. Just wondering.

  37. JB says:

    Tyrel Lohr: You hit the nail on the head. I caught the Starflight comparison the first time I played too. I guess us old timers just have a little more patience than these young whippersnappers. ;)

    Back in my day we flew around in wireframe Vipers to procedurally generated planets to buy low and sell high from a text menu listing of possible goods- and we liked it!

    (“Elite” for those who don’t get the reference.)

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