Ah, the Elcor. As I’ve mentioned in our Mass Effect 3 series, I’m sad they didn’t get more focus in the later games. In Mass Effect 3, I think you talk to one.
Please note: 25 minute episode, and not one shot was fired. There’s another 15 minutes of non-combat on the end of the previous episode. That’s a long time to go without killing anybody in an action game. And of course, if you hung around to do all the little Citadel side-quests you could end up going even longer. Compare this to the section in Mass Effect 3 where we rescued the Primarch’s son, and it felt like the game was throwing long combat sections at us just to kill time and stall the plot.
Having said that, this change might be a winning design choice. I know a lot of people complained that the Citadel section was “too long and boring”. This is a tough thing to judge. If players are getting restless, does that mean you need more combat, or does it mean the story itself is too slow?
Some people don’t like the talky bits constantly interrupting their shooty funtime. Some people get bored with too much combat unless it’s moving the plot forward. But sometimes “the combat went on too long” really means “the combat is too simple and one-dimensional”. And sometimes “there’s too many long cutscenes” means “the plot was stupid and I didn’t care”. I’d hold up Homefront as an example of the former, and Resident Evil 5 or Final Fantasy XII as an example of the later.
Obviously your mileage may vary, which is probably why these complaints come up so often. It’s impossible to get the story vs. gameplay balance right, because everyone has different tolerances. And even if you do get it right it might seem wrong because one or the other isn’t polished enough.
In conclusion: I’m glad I’m a critic and not a developer.
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People fault EA for being greedy, but their real sin is just how terrible they are at it.
Mass Effect 3 Ending Deconstruction
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The Gameplay is the Story
Some advice to game developers on how to stop ruining good stories with bad cutscenes.
Quakecon Keynote 2013 Annotated
An interesting but technically dense talk about gaming technology. I translate it for the non-coders.