Posts tagged with "space opera" - Faerye Net 2008-09-25T13:36:45+00:00 Felicity Shoulders Mass Effect Two: Asari Boogaloo 2008-09-25T13:36:45+00:00 2008-09-25T15:10:41+00:00 <p>So, we&#8217;ve covered the fact that <a href="" target="links"><em>Mass Effect</em></a> is probably my favorite game since <a href="" target="links">Nethack</a>. But one of my pals, Rock Star, bought a <a href="" target="links">360</a> and played through the game himself, so I&#8217;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&#8217;m sure they have plenty of sarcastic web comics and whiny forum posts that point this stuff out to them. However, I&#8217;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 &#8216;ish,&#8217; like Rock Star.) Who knows if story-loving <span class="caps">FPS</span>-players are even a useful demographic?</p> <p>So here are a few suggestions, most serious, and proposed titles (not at all serious) for <a href="" target="links"><em>Mass Effect 2</em></a>. Many of these suggestions are of the (probably frustrating) &#8220;you&#8217;re doing this well &#8212; but I want more!&#8221; 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 &#8220;<span class="caps">SPOILER</span>&#8221; and whited out &#8211; select to read if you like.</p> <ol> <li><b>Plot-fanciers like to change the world.</b> <em>Mass Effect</em> already does this. Hearing news broadcasts in the elevators about your doings and even yourself is awesome. However, a little more wouldn&#8217;t hurt. Specifically, if I don&#8217;t see a statue of <span class="caps">SPOILER</span>:<font color="white">Ashley (or Kaidan, if your Shepard didn&#8217;t give the Williams family their heroic redemption)</font> in <em>Mass Effect 2</em>, heads will roll. (Who am I to threaten? I&#8217;m Commander <em>effing</em> Shepard. (And so can you!))</li><p><br /></p> <li><b>We like our interactions to affect character actions.</b> In some ways, a more specific version of #1. <em>Mass Effect</em> does have character arcs and Shepard&#8217;s relationships with her squaddies do evolve. I&#8217;m not talking solely about the romance arcs here, but about things like winning Wrex&#8217;s trust and subsequently <span class="caps">SPOILER</span>: <font color="white">having an easier time getting him to stand down at Virmire</font>. 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&#8217;tcha think it would be nice to mark that in some way? Captain Anderson is not going to court-martial her for hugging. She&#8217;s Commander <em>effing</em> Shepard, after all, <em>and</em> she just saved the galaxy. The more personalized the squad members&#8217; reactions to things are (see &#8220;Don&#8217;t have a panic attack&#8221; in last <em>Mass Effect</em> post) the better. I know it&#8217;s more work, but it&#8217;s not <em>that</em> much more work.</li><p><br /></p> <li><b>Use your backstory to more effect.</b> <em>Mass Effect</em> has obviously been lovingly crafted &#8211; 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 <em>Turian</em> Council member haranguing Rock Star&#8217;s Jordan Shepard about <span class="caps">SPOILER</span>: <font color="white">killing the Rachni queen</font>. Umm. So, it&#8217;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&#8217; lives.</li><p><br /></p> <li><b>Animate some object interaction.</b> 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.</li></ol> <p>So those are my main plot-fancier suggestions for <em>Mass Effect 2</em>. Because I am a giver, I have also come up with several possible titles!<br /> <ul><li><em>Mass Effect 2: Now with 20% More Seth Green</em></li><br /> <li><em>Mass Effect 2: Kill More Things, Take More Stuff</em></li><br /> <li><em>Mass Effect 2: James Bond vs. Spectres</em> (I am officially too dorky to live.)</li><br /> <li><em>Mass Effect 2: Commander </em>Effing<em> Shepard Beats Up Everyone</em> (after the famous <a href="" target="links">xkcd</a>, suggested by Rock Star as the consequence of my not getting my statue from #1.)</li><br /> <li><em>Mass Effect 2: The Search for Liara&#8217;s Daddy</em></li></ul></p> <p>I&#8217;m a <em>giver</em>.</p> I love Mass Effect 2008-09-11T10:54:58+00:00 2008-09-12T10:22:02+00:00 <p>I have been playing <a href="" target="links"><em>Mass Effect</em></a>. Yeah, yeah, it came out last November and I didn&#8217;t play it &#8216;til August. I&#8217;ve never claimed to be hip or with it.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t really go in for Computer RPGs in a big way. I enjoy the occasional <span class="caps">CRPG</span> (last one I recall was <em>Neverwinter Nights</em> &mdash; like <em>Mass Effect</em>, by Bioware), but in general I find them too scripted, too limited, and, well, fundamentally based on aesthetics I don&#8217;t enjoy. <em>Mass Effect</em>, on the other hand, is based on an aesthetic I grew up in, one I can wallow in with great pleasure: <span class="caps">SPACE</span> <span class="caps">OPERA</span>. Yes, my friends, <strong>I have saved the universe.</strong> And I enjoyed it, too.</p> <p>One of the most fabulous things about <em>Mass Effect</em> is&#8230;well, there are a lot of ways to finish that sentence, but I started it intending to talk about gender. While the default hero, featured on the cover and demo cut-scenes in all his stubbly glory, is Commander John Shepard, the player can also play pre-made Jane Shepard, or make a Shepard from scratch. Since all the in-game chatter refers to the protagonist as &#8220;Commander&#8221; or &#8220;Shepard&#8221;, you can put whatever first name you like in there, and the face-generating interface gives far more freedom than I&#8217;ve ever seen in a game. You&#8217;re stuck with the body of John/Jane Shepard, and there&#8217;s only one voice track for each, but you can run a pretty full gamut of human appearance. (I don&#8217;t recommend trying to make Shepard look like someone in particular though. I tried to make myself for fun and found that my top lip to bottom lip ratio is not an option and, for that matter, that my mouth appears to be narrower than the preset minimum. Sheesh!)</p> <p>Other customizations exist too &#8212; relatively minor, but it&#8217;s nice that your character gets to have a past, and you have some input into what that past is. Namely, you get to choose from three childhoods and three career moments as well as choosing your character class (from the fundamental mix of fighting, tk and tech spheres that the game uses.) Hell, if you&#8217;re female, you can choose whether your character is straight or gay. Sort of. In play. Let&#8217;s not get too far into the political implications or economic advantages of Johns being assumed straight and Janes bicurious, or other associated baggage, shall we? I&#8217;m doing my geekthusiasm thing right now.</p> <p>Moving on to plot and gameplay: the plot is suitably epic, with a few small twists. The plot really inhabits the gameworld, which is fabulous. Some questions about the setting are actually answered by the plot. In addition (and this is why plot and gameplay get one paragraph) the plot pieces are more or less nonlinear, part of the free-play part of the game. You can sit down and decide, &#8220;Hey, I feel like tackling more of the main storyline,&#8221; and zoom your ship over to one of the plot planets, or you can decide to kill things and take their stuff (mostly side-quest style) by exploring the rest of the planets. I like that freedom in time and space when I am playing a game. Conversations are handled by a <a href="" target="links">now famous</a> interface that allows you to choose the drift of Shepard&#8217;s response. Combat is real-time shooter (well, third person shooter) but allows you to pause to use abilities, command your squaddies to use abilities, and even look around/aim carefully. And last but not least, for getting around on forbidding planets, there&#8217;s an <span class="caps">ATV</span> (despite its armaments, I think &#8216;tank&#8217; implies treads) that is so idiot-proof I can drive it, even though driving in video games usually feels to me like one of those nightmares where I&#8217;m driving but can&#8217;t reach the pedals or see outside the car.</p> <p>A note on squaddies &#8212; they actually gave the secondary characters&#8230;character. If you care, you can gab it up with your dudes between missions, and occasionally the two squad members you can bring with you will interact (like on <a href="" target="links">the admittedly slow</a> elevators), which can be amusing. Tip for squad interaction: I think humans are chattier (must be that curiosity aliens keep remarking on) so one human and one alien squad member seems to be a good formula for fun. If you&#8217;re lucky, you&#8217;ll find a combination where they don&#8217;t get along well, and you can have some snark with your galaxy-saving. (<em>environmental noise</em> A: What was that? What was that? B: Don&#8217;t have a panic attack, I&#8217;ll protect you.)</p> <p>The last thing I want to say about <em>Mass Effect</em> here (I could go on and on) is that the atmosphere and production quality are both splendiferous. The music is really good, the voice acting is astonishingly good (Seth Green is my pilot? Armin Shimerman is on the galactic Council?), including, crucially, Shepard&#8217;s voice. (At least, the female Shepard. I have only played the male Shepard for a few minutes out of curiosity.) And wonder. They have remembered wonder, which is crucial for space opera. Stop running across a bridge in the Council&#8217;s space station and look up, at the lakes and parks curving away with the circular hull of the Presidium. Stop your <span class="caps">ATV</span> on a ridge on an alien moon and look up to see the vast scarred planet and eldritch star burning in the sky. Who wouldn&#8217;t want to save this universe?</p>