More on Mass Effect 2

Right, seeing how I can’t seem to focus enough to get the comic arranged proper at the moment, I’ll try to channel my mental disarray into something else and hope it helps the storm disappate. In this particular case, with my vast amount of praise for Mass Effect 2 already over with, I’ll move on to another matter that’s been on my mind since Dragon Age: Origins and is further replicated in Mass Effect 2; I’ll try to keep this post largely spoiler free so it should be safe to read, but if things slip, my appologies.

I’ll admit this is likely going to be one of my more pettier gripes, but this is something that actually got to me in Dragon Age: Origins as well, and while not a new issue by any stretch, it’s one that comes into existance not by a decline, but rather by improvement. David Gaider, lead writer for Dragon Age, once mentioned on the forums that with Dragon Age he noticed that one of the reactions people were having to the characters were that as characters grew more authentic to people, their expectations of them similarely grew along with it. As computer-controlled team members become less like rabid attack dogs with snippets of dialogue and more like real people you care about, you start expecting to be able to talk to them about more things.

More simply put: I want my character to be able to be insecure. Sure, fine, stalwart hero of the land saving everything, but there’s some tough choices and obstacles in there sometimes; there’s only so much weight a single person can carry. So not only am I saving world/galaxy/backyard shed, I’m also the rock an entire team huddles to when the storm comes. Where is my rock?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not asking for heroes that are mewling wrecks throwing angst parties at every given opportunity, but I wish there was an opportunity to talk over a tough decision, a difficult moment or whatnot, even if only for a supportive slap on the shoulder. It was probably the one most fulfiling moment of the romance with Kaidan Alenko in the first Mass Effect for me – the part where he‘s the one to tell you “It’ll be alright.”

There were some decisions made in Mass Effect 2 that I knew wouldn’t float down well with some party members. Sure, they trust my judgement so I’m free to do what the hey, but when my first reaction is to go to that person and want to explain what I did and why – wanting them not only to trust me, but to understand me – and not having the option to, it can be a tad jarring. Of course, I acknowledge this is a rather petty gripe since being actually able to do things like that is somewhere between rare and unprecedented, but it’s still something that stuck out to me. There were times I wanted to talk; times where I’d love to have not only their idle thumb but their approval – or even their disapproval, just some reaction to what I was doing outside of their own little narrative sphere.

Of course, I know why things are the way they are – there are definite limits to how far you can push a narrative; if everything can branch off of everything, you quickly end up with an infinitely complex narrative – there’s only so much you can do, both narratively and in terms of game design. On one hand, I’m amazed at just how extensive and variable some narrative and dialogue elements are, and how much work has gone into trying to make it a memorable experience. On the other hand, every so often the feigned reality shatters by stand up evidence that it’s still just a game, and there’s still very constrained limits to what you can and can not do.

I remember a point in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic where Bastila Shan asks you whether or not you find it difficult to stay on the Light Side of things – it gives you a number of answers and you have an option of speak of your burdens, but it’s entirely contained within Bastila’s narrative sphere – her question isn’t about you, it’s about her own issues – her own burdens, her own failings. There’s a reason for this design to be as it is, and even the earlier mentioned moment with Kaidan where he (or another love interest, depending on your pick) comes to your character in her time of frustration and adversity is contained within his – or someone elses’ – narrative sphere.

Even so, it’s a rare situation where another character lends a shoulder, and while it’s not something that should happen constantly, all the time.. it’s something I wish could happen slightly more often – atleast with those characters my own character has stood with, fought for and sacrificed for simply because she considers them her friends. Or in the very least, if my character does something difficult – something she knows they might have trouble accepting – I’d like for her atleast to be able to talk with them about it; she doesn’t have to succeed in making them understand, but sometimes I wish she had the option of trying.

In Dragon Age: Origins it was very obvious with Alistair sometimes – now make no mistake, I really liked Alistair, he had some really good writing and voice acting behind him and I definitely count him as among the high points of Dragon Age. On the other hand, though – if you look at it, it’s pretty obvious that very much of Alistair’s dialogue is about him – it’s about his difficulties with his past, his issues that he hasn’t overcome yet, his insecurities, his internal conflicts. In Dragon Age, your character generally will by default have their own recent tragedy to deal with – I don’t mind that he needs time to deal with his baggage or that he needs help dealing with it, but my character accumulated quite a bit of it too in a very brief amount of time and I think she’d like someone to help her sort through it.

Shepard is in a different situation – he/she has already gone through a whole lot and will generally already be ready to face the dangers up ahead. Still though, with how so many of your team members in Mass Effect 2 seem to be allowed to drag significant amounts of baggage around and then ask you to care about it, it’d be nice if they asked how you were once in awhile – in the least in a way that’d let you answer honestly and talk things over. Shepard is tough, sure – he/she pulls through where most others falter, that’s why they succeed. But I wouldn’t mind if there could be the occasional kink in the armor.

Ultimately, where am I going with all of this? Not sure; like I said, to a point it’s an issue that comes into existance out of believing characters are real, not just blank constructs made to follow orders or hand out subquests. The more believable they are, the more we expect out of them, and the harder it’ll be to live up to those expectations. Personally, I’d love to see more towards that end, but I also understand the significant investment it represents in time, work and resources, ultimately for content few might even see. BioWare have a whole lot of work ahead of them tying a whole lot of ends together with Mass Effect 3, with several starting points that are ultimately going to be unique for each player.

It’ll be interesting to see where it all goes.


12 Responses to “More on Mass Effect 2”

  1. 1 Shadowmarth
    February 13, 2010 at 14:55

    One of the more interesting things about ME2 for me was, the fact that i felt down by one of the choices on my path towards the end.

    As it was my first run, i felt i was making the most honest decisions i would make in those situations. At a certain point i had two people loyal towards me, however they were not happy with each other.
    As captain i had to settle the arguement, but upon seeing both paragon and renegade both greyed out, i had to side with one or the other. At that point i lost the loyalty of the one i didn’t help.

    Thinking this might affect the survival-chance of that person, i thought it would be a good idea to talk things over, but yet again greyed out paragon/renegade.
    In retrospect i changed my playstyle, going from balanced choices to more full paragon-choices.
    But because of this, i lost another chance for a loyal member. Doing the loyalty mission for a more renegade character again i saw a greyed out paragon choice.

    In the end, it made me think more about what effects my choice would have.
    To imagine a game would have that kind of effect, that alone makes it one of the greatest games of all time to me.

  2. February 14, 2010 at 23:44

    It’s indeed a bit sucky you cant make more choices you would make if you were your character or have a shoulder to cry on.
    During my playthrough’s on KOTOR i’m actually sad nobody went to comfort me when Bastilla got captured, since everyone in the party knew how close we were.

    In the dark ending i felt heartbroken when i had to kill Zaalbar and Mission since they were with me since day 1, because in-game i didn’t have a ‘mercy’ choice, being letting them and Carth stay on the planet.

  3. 3 Shaela Wyndstalker
    February 17, 2010 at 19:52

    I only played ME1 recently, played it trough twice, and will do about 3 more times, just to see some possibilities. For the record tough, i was never the bad guy, it is really hard for me even to stay neutral, and this will kill me someday (yes i am talking about irl πŸ™‚ ). In ME1 it was obvious for me, that i don’t just take care of my teammates. I wanted to understand them more. And it was pretty smooth with Garrus, Liara, Ashley and Kaidan…Wrex on the other hand was the character, with whom my good intentions have gone horribly wrong. Wrex ain’t the type who wants to be babysited, he was straghtforward, alsmost like Kreia or Mandalore in a few ways (telling little bits of his past, almost like a mentor, sharing years of experience with you). He was a tough nut to crack, but on Vermar, everything was solved. In a good way…at least i want to think in a good way (SPOILER i haven’t shot him SPOILER).
    But Tali…Tali seemed so distant to me, like being there and not being there at the same time. Her dialog options were screwed up, since it was not about her, but about her culture, the migrant fleet etc. Don’t take me wrong, they were GOOD infos, but these should have been in the encyclopedia or something. Nevertheless Tali was my favorite, along with Garrus.

    Now back to the topic…being a really good guy, is not an easy task in the endgame. If you haven’t finished the first one yet DON’T READ ANY FURTHER MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
    Now…the pinnacle of the game was the dialog between Shepard and the fleet, where they asked Shepard, if the fleet should attack Sovereign and save the Council, or let the Council die, and focus on Sovereign, or just fuck the whole thing and go home. And to be honest, i’ve spent about 10 minutes thinking about the results. Letting the council die will put the galaxy into turmoil, since with leadership dies order. On the other hand a new council would be elected which would restore peace pretty quickly. The human fleet destroys sovereign with minimal casulties, and they will be the heroes of the galaxy, gaining influence, but many enemies, since they’ve let the council die.
    Letting the council live would result in the destruction of the major part of the human fleet, many many casulties, weakening humanity’s strength in many ways. It would allow pirates and raiders to prey on now unprotected colonies, and human colonization would have been hindered for decades, until the fleet regains it’s full strength. But humanity would gain a council membership, along with some shiny new human specters etc…

    It was one of the greatest moments in my gaming-life.

  4. 4 Shaela Wyndstalker
    February 17, 2010 at 19:54

    Oh yes ,i’m sorry for the faulty grammar, english is not my mother-language. Feel free to correct my mistakes πŸ˜‰

  5. 5 Luklan
    February 19, 2010 at 02:56

    Something that scares the hell out of me upon seeing all these posts… (I haven’t been here in a few weeks)… My imported character from Mass Effect 1 is… Kate Shephard.

    With reddy-auburn-y hair down to the shoulders. And green eyes. And… And…


    Fortunately the differences end there. Where-as your Kate shoots things in the face with a variety of weapon choices, my Kate shoots things in the face from across city-scapes with her Anti-Vehicle Sniper Rifle (Seriously, that’s what the description of the sniper rifle says!).

    Anyway, I do like all the things you’ve done in the first mass effect that carried over to the second one, even if it was just in mail form. It just adds that whole ‘what you do has an effect’ feeling, and it’s really important in RPGs, especially RPGs that go into Part 2 and Part 3, as Mass Effect is planned to. I didn’t get the exact same feeling from KotOR2, but you didn’t transfer /all/ the information either, just male/female and light/dark.

    As a note, this is not a game you really can play from the start of ME2 and not import a character. It really isn’t. It’s a duller, emptier experience (playing through a second time at the moment, with a ‘new character’). It’s kinda annoying, having played through with all the awesome… And now it’s … Too quiet. The basic idea is that you did none of the sidequests, and made all the renegade choices, and now here’s Mass Effect 2 *Ta-da!*

    As far as dialogue goes, I find that I agree with you quite a bit. It’d be nice to be able to explain your actions to the party members who go ‘Woah wtf?!’ at your actions, even though it doesn’t really seem to have an effect in the long run. As you said though, it’d be nice if Shephard had someone to talk to in regards to Shep’s own doubts and worries.

    Even if it’s just EDI.

    • 6 Nhani
      February 19, 2010 at 11:52

      Well Kate, that is, my Kate, has no problem with using a sniper rifles – they’re actually her second most used weapon, it’s just that she uses assault rifles so much more.. If they’d let me pick two weapon specializations rather than just one, she’d pick up the Widow, but since this is not possible.. the Revenant and its 80-shot capacity thermal clips is the way to go. Still, the possible likeliness amuse me – while I’ve seen several other female Shepards with the same hair, I’ve never seen one quite with her face before. I actually find it oddly strange to look at youtube videos from other people’s playthroughs and there’s suddenly this stranger wearing her voice and talking to her friends.

      And I’d imagine – I never tried making a new game completely from scratch; having played the game first with actions from the first game carrying over, I think it’d be much less of a game. I think that might even be worse with the third game, considering the additional variables and parameters involved.

      I actually would’ve loved it if you could rant to Chakwas or Kelly or somesuch. That said, I miss having Kaidan around; not just because Kate keeps a picture of him in her cabin that I imagine she sometimes stares longingly at when no one is watching, but because he was one of the few team members in the first Mass Effect that seemed to be more about.. well.. you. I mean sure, all your team members tell you about their past – largely because you bug them to – but apart from the telling, it’s mostly about what they want.

      It’s fair and understandable of course since you’re essentially asking them to go to fire for you, but I found Kaidan different in that he didn’t need to be “fixed”, he didn’t need to have unfinished business taken care of or anything like that – he tells you of his past because he doesn’t want you to end up like Vyrnnus. With the romance added to that, Kaidan really did strike me as the only shoulder Kate really had to lean on through the first game. I wish the second game would’ve had something similar.

      And yes, I know I’m rambling.

      • February 22, 2010 at 20:45

        I wonder if most if any people who play ME2 even stick with their romanced relationship rather then shagging Miranda/Tali/Kelly/Bishop.

        • 8 Nhani
          February 23, 2010 at 12:36

          Some definitely do – I for one did, obviously, though there seem to be some degree of support for both Kaidan and Ashley on the BioWare forums, so I’m definitely not alone. I’m getting the slight feeling though that female Shepards seem a little more likely to remain loyal – mostly due to disinterest in Jacob/Garrus/Thane. Looking at the forum atleast, I’m getting the impression that people are finding the love interests for male Shepards overall more interesting.

          • 9 Larsey
            April 6, 2010 at 12:09

            Hey Nhani. I dont really know but. When i started playing Mass Effect and saw the default Female Shepard along with Jennifer Hale’s voice acting it automaticly reminded me of Hani. I dont know why it just is so. I just think she and default Female Shepard is so alike

  6. 10 arzevel
    February 20, 2010 at 20:00

    hey Nhani, update on tali on my third play-through i discovered the gender of your shepherd does not matter the women can do the romance thing with her, boredom is an evil, evil thing

  7. 11 Smerup
    March 2, 2010 at 13:51

    Same on you Nhani πŸ™‚ – now you made me go buy ME2 – damn – so little time and so much to do.

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