Reviewing the Mass Effect Series: Mass Effect

I wanted to to a huge play-through of the entire Mass Effect series for a few months now. You see, I have a strange habit of replaying games approximately three times in a row. The first time is to just play through it to enjoy it. The second time is to pay closer attention to the story. The third time is to make absolutely sure I didn’t miss anything.

Wrex to Kirrahe: You look weird

Wrex to Kirrahe: You look weird

I’m treating this play through as my third one. It’s been awhile since I played through it. Hell, according to my save files, I haven’t touched Mass Effect 1 for over a year now. Wow… you know, I decided to look at my Amazon page to see when I purchased it. June 13th, 2010. I spent $9.99 on it. Yep, $10 for one of the greatest games of its generation. It was about three years old at the time, and there was a nice sale. Yeah, I love Amazon.com sometimes.

Dear lord, I get sidetracked easily. Focus. Gotta focus. Anyway…. I’m going to be assuming that you have played through this entire trilogy and are familiar with all the basics. so if you have no idea what “Krogan” are or the importance of N7, then go and purchase Mass Effect. It’s a good investment and I believe in supporting good games. It encourages the company to keep on making games that you like!

All I want to do is this. First, look at gameplay. For the first time, I’m playing Mass Effect on the Hardcore setting. I was told by a friend that it was really challenging. Turns out, she never beat the game on Hardcore… and I can see why. I barely was able to beat it. And I learned quite a bit about the gameplay. All the flaws stand out when they end up killing you… a lot. After looking at game play, I’ll make some observations about the story of ME-1 in context of the trilogy. There won’t be some sort of in-depth analysis of anything. Just fun things that I picked up from the narrative. Finally, I’ll give some concluding remarks.

Gameplay

Yes, I am using a joke from the Bob Newheart Show. Going old school, yo.

Hi. I’m Larry. This is my brother Daryl. This is my other brother Daryl

I played an Engineer with the play through. It was the first time playing one, and with the Hardcore setting… I figured I’d have a difficulty time. I wasn’t sure how difficult it would be. So, let me say this.

AI HACKING F**KING SUCKS!

The AI Hacking is broken in ME-1. I lost count of the amount of times the Geth choose to attack ME rather than the enemy when I hacked them. Nothing’s worse than hacking a Geth Destroyer and then having it charge you and stomping a mud hole in your ass. For whatever reason, the geniuses at BioWare thought that it would be a good idea to have hacked Geth just attack the nearest target rather than the f**king enemy. If you manage to hack a Geth that’s pretty far away and that Geth has other enemies nearby, that might be pretty good. It is sort of a crap shoot, as I once hacked a Geth Sniper, only to have that sniper blow Shepard’s head off.

Yay!

They are jerks.

Saren and his army of jerks

Saren and his army of jerks

And why the hell is Shepard so out of shape? Seriously. I am friends with a few military guys. They can run the mile in like six of seven minutes. These guys have endurance like you wouldn’t believe. Yet, Shepard gets winded after running forty feet. And someone has to be shooting at him in order to get him to run in the first place. What kind of out-of-shape unmotivated protagonist is Shepard anyways?

I'm only going to run down there if there's a gun-wielding Twinkie shooting at me.

I’m only going to run down there if there’s a gun-wielding Twinkie shooting at me.

And there was something I noticed with how the Mako was programmed. It was like the game designers who were programming the Mako were completely different from the game designers who programmed the environment. That’s the only way that anyone can justify why the Mako performs so badly in the game. It was doing freaking backflips on me. Backflips!!! It was flat-out terrible programming on BioWare’s part.

But you know what… despite off of it, I still remember what it felt like when I first played the game. The mechanics, though dated, were still intuitive to me. I could still use a pistol and take out enemies that you’d normally need a sniper rifle to kill. I could defeat Saren without breaking a sweat. I still get chills when confronting Sovereign on Virmire.

Damn it Ashley! You had only one job!

Damn it Ashley! You had only one job!

The choice mechanic in the game was pretty interesting. Yeah, no matter what the choice you made, most events turned out the same way. But… it still felt different. Sovie would still die at the end, but the choices that were made felt like they mattered. That’s what blows my mind about the gameplay. The choices seemingly don’t bear that much of an impact on the results of the game, but they really feel like they do… to the extent that the playthroughs feel different depending on the choices made.

Story

The first Mass Effect game creates the context to understand the entire story. It’s the game that introduces us to the galaxy, the aliens, and the conflicts that lies there.

Like the Keepers. We’re told in the first game that nobody ever understood them. Vigil explained to us how they were there to make sure nobody would ever learn that the Citadel was actually an inactive mass relay.

Sup?

Sup?

Vigil said something very curious about the Keepers. Sort of a throw-away statement that I admit missing until this playthrough:

The Keepers are no longer directly controlled by Sovereign or its ilk. They evolved so they only respond to the signals emitted by the Citadel itself. When the Protheans altered the Citadel’s signals, they broke Sovereign’s hold over the Keepers…. The Keepers evolved in an unanticipated direction. Non-organic servants like the Geth would be more predictable.

It starts at about 59 seconds in. The important part is what I put in bold. At least, I think it is important. Work with me for a moment. The Keepers receive signals from the Citadel. We aren’t told what the signals tell them to do, or the nature of them… only that they receive them. This is very significant, as it begs the question of why the Catalyst (which is part of the Citadel) didn’t do anything at all during the first game.

I would have saved Sovereign, but eh. The Superbowl was on.

I would have saved Sovereign, but eh. I’m a jerk

Or did you guys notice how many times Shepard came across forms of mind control? Indoctrination was a biggie. But there were two others. The Thorian was able to control others with spores. The Thresher Maw queen was able to exert its control with a strange biotic/mind control power. That’s a pretty big deal, since I’m betting most others in that galaxy never encountered any! This won’t be important till looking at the third game, but keep this in mind. Shepard probably has more experience with mind control than the entire galaxy.

While I was playing through the game, I started to really appreciate how mysterious the galaxy actually was. I forgot about how some planets had lingering mysteries that were begging to be solved. Like Farcrothu‘s moons… they were sculpted about a half million years ago. What do they look like? Who were those aliens? Or the planet Quaji. There were originally strange alien carvings when the Alliance originally scanned it (only visible on ultra violet lighting). Is that from an ancient alien race? If so, are they still around?  Or what about Ploba? There could be a mega-structure deep within that planet! It could be a huge super-computer. Maybe a hidden base from a technologically advanced civilization that was using the planet’s core for power. There’s so many unknown that are floating around on dozens of planets. I forgot how rich in potential the galaxy was!!

Concluding Remarks

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The first Mass Effect was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. It does not hold up well at all. The battle mechanic isn’t very good. The game freezes. The loading screens takes forever. There were so many planets around that it started feeling like a chore going to each one, landing on there and driving around. And the Mako. Sweet f**k, the Mako. That was frustrating. Some of the fights felt more like a chore than anything else. Get shot. Lose shields… retreat for 30 seconds to wait for shields to come back. Or if the Mako’s shields fell, wait 5 minutes before continuing with the battle. So yeah, there were serious flaws and the game really doesn’t hold up well.

There are still great things about this game. The story is weaved together masterfully. Every race feels real. You can understand why they are the way they are and their place in the galaxy. Every interaction you have will make you feel like you’re participating in this complex and dynamic world. Your character, your Shepard, felt real because the world was so lovingly created that it felt as real as this one.

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2 comments on “Reviewing the Mass Effect Series: Mass Effect

  1. Mass Effect (1) was a great game and it is a point in the favor of story in the story vs mechanics argument. Especially in the case of a RPG most gamers will over look poor game mechanics if the story is well written and executed. Combat, the Mako, and planet exploration can be tedious in Mass Effect but because the plot, story and lore are so rich I doubt there is a fan out there who would skip any part of this game. Great game and a great way to start off a franchise.

  2. Pingback: Reviewing the Mass Effect Series: Mass Effect 2 | Press Start to Begin

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