Mass Effect Two: Asari Boogaloo

Thursday September 25, 2008 @ 01:36 PM (UTC)

So, we’ve covered the fact that Mass Effect is probably my favorite game since Nethack. But one of my pals, Rock Star, bought a 360 and played through the game himself, so I’ve been thinking about the game a little more. There are, as Rock Star points out, some things wrong with the game. The looting and inventory management are a little too flimsy for the amount of lewt going through them, for example. I’m sure they have plenty of sarcastic web comics and whiny forum posts that point this stuff out to them. However, I’m not sure if they have a lot of comments from plot-addicted table-top-gaming English-majorish types like me (and, since I put ‘ish,’ like Rock Star.) Who knows if story-loving FPS-players are even a useful demographic?

So here are a few suggestions, most serious, and proposed titles (not at all serious) for Mass Effect 2. Many of these suggestions are of the (probably frustrating) “you’re doing this well — but I want more!” variety. Tiny spoilers (such as that you can save the galaxy in a game about galaxy saving) are contained. Other plot spoilers are preceded by “SPOILER” and whited out – select to read if you like.

  1. Plot-fanciers like to change the world. Mass Effect already does this. Hearing news broadcasts in the elevators about your doings and even yourself is awesome. However, a little more wouldn’t hurt. Specifically, if I don’t see a statue of SPOILER:Ashley (or Kaidan, if your Shepard didn’t give the Williams family their heroic redemption) in Mass Effect 2, heads will roll. (Who am I to threaten? I’m Commander effing Shepard. (And so can you!))

  2. We like our interactions to affect character actions. In some ways, a more specific version of #1. Mass Effect does have character arcs and Shepard’s relationships with her squaddies do evolve. I’m not talking solely about the romance arcs here, but about things like winning Wrex’s trust and subsequently SPOILER: having an easier time getting him to stand down at Virmire. More of this would increase engagement with the game (and replayability) for plot-fanciers. For instance, if you play the end of the game with the squad member Shepard has romanced, don’tcha think it would be nice to mark that in some way? Captain Anderson is not going to court-martial her for hugging. She’s Commander effing Shepard, after all, and she just saved the galaxy. The more personalized the squad members’ reactions to things are (see “Don’t have a panic attack” in last Mass Effect post) the better. I know it’s more work, but it’s not that much more work.

  3. Use your backstory to more effect. Mass Effect has obviously been lovingly crafted – its universe, not just the game. Random worlds have fun, interesting info attached to them. The codex entries are extensive. However, that can mean oversights seem more glaring. I overheard the Turian Council member haranguing Rock Star’s Jordan Shepard about SPOILER: killing the Rachni queen. Umm. So, it’s okay if you do it slowly with a genetically engineered disease? Seriously, the whole krogan backstory makes my head hurt and my I-can-fix-everything gamer-thumbs itch. I hope something happens with that in the sequel. There are also unprosecuted opportunities to tie in squad member history, like the Williams family honor. I like the increased richness the character histories offer, and this would reward us for taking an interest in our NPCs’ lives.

  4. Animate some object interaction. This is whiny, and perhaps less English majory than advertised, but it does sort of break the cinematic illusion when all props are handed off below the shot and we spend time chasing a McGuffin only to see the characters stare offscreen at it. If this is too much work, fine. I stop whining now.

So those are my main plot-fancier suggestions for Mass Effect 2. Because I am a giver, I have also come up with several possible titles!

  • Mass Effect 2: Now with 20% More Seth Green

  • Mass Effect 2: Kill More Things, Take More Stuff

  • Mass Effect 2: James Bond vs. Spectres (I am officially too dorky to live.)

  • Mass Effect 2: Commander Effing Shepard Beats Up Everyone (after the famous xkcd, suggested by Rock Star as the consequence of my not getting my statue from #1.)

  • Mass Effect 2: The Search for Liara’s Daddy

I’m a giver.


A big one for me — maybe more later: give sidequests narrative weight. Not just in the sense of changing or influencing events in the main narrative, but in and of themselves. And big steps towards that goal could be accomplished by making sidequests more tangible and less cookie-cutter: giving them unique maps, adding dialogue, etc. Every sidequest, as framed, contains at least a good enough plot seed for an episode of original Star Trek, but it doesn’t materialize when you just have to drive over the same retextured mountains to the same stupid science station and shoot the same stupid mercenaries in their stupid faces.

Indeed, sidequests could be beefed up, and certainly the maps could be more varied (perhaps they could even skin existing maps differently.) The ones that can tie into character background are interesting, and the unexpected is always good. Let me tell you, when a piratical dude steals my Mako I get engaged. And snipe him in the face.

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