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Finally Played The Mass Effect Trilogy: My Thoughts

So, I've always owned the Mass Effect trilogy, but never played it. The bad taste that the third one had left in everyone's mouth after the 3rd one always worried me. However, with the announcement of Mass Effect Legendary Edition 3 months ago, I decided to sit down and play the original trilogy all the way through (the first 2 on steam, the last one on Origin with DLC). The first one was released in 2007, the second in 2010, and the third in 2012.

To explain, the Mass Effect trilogy is a 3rd-Person Cover Shooter RPG set in a sci-fi future Universe with aliens. It's effectively Star Trek meets Star Wars meets D&D meets Real Life. There's really nothing much like it. The first game is very RPG focused (with multiple skills and class requirements and limitations) while by the third game it is more action focused (with only 5 skills, each with only 6 level ups, and no class and weapon limitations). Here is my opinion of the games. (Also I apologize for the length of this post, my friends stopped listening to me talk about these games and I needed to put my thoughts down somewhere).

This will be a long post, so I'm posting summaries right here:


Mass Effect:

Play if you really like Choice-Based RPG's and love sci-fi.


Mass Effect 2

Absolutely play it, doesn't matter who you are or what genre you like, this one is a must-play for me.


Mass Effect 3

Play it for ending the story and discovering what happens to your favorite characters, but know that this is a far more average game that has bizarre game design decisions with buggy results.


Mass Effect:

Play if you really like Choice-Based RPG's and love sci-fi. – A phenomenal story and character based RPG. – I love that I can create an origin for my Commander Shepard, and play him/her in whichever manner I see fit. – My Shepard is a straight-edged soldier who believes that all species can be good, and that the galaxy must always be saved, but not without losing our humanity. – Part of my roleplaying for that comes from the limited Paragon/Renegade system in place in the game, which is the game's way of maintaining what kind of decision am I making (lawful good or chaotic good). However this also means I can't completely role-play as him, because he is a predesigned character that can only ever make good decisions. Not a problem for me though. – However, gameplay-wise, the game is outdated as hell – movement is clunky, shooting isn't accurate, and squad based mechanics are limited. – To explore new worlds, you drive a vehicle called The Mako, which is so atrocious to aim and control, it almost feels like a different game. Shepard may not always take cover where you intend, and certain enemy abilities cause you to ragdoll around without any input. – Individual side-quest maps and missions are almost all the same, and while their stories do offer a fun and engaging reason to continue them, their repetitiveness and monotony do sour the experience a little bit. – You also have multiple weapons and weapon mods you can equip – which sounds cool until you begin to do it and realize the tedious and annoying nature of the UI and how awful it is to navigate. – However, the story, voice acting, score, and characters all elevate the game beyond what it should be, that by the end, it became one of my favorite RPG's ever made, even with the outdated gameplay. – Every side character is well thought out and interesting (save for maybe Kaiden/Kaidan?), and each plot point is so fun to play out, I rarely skipped through dialogue. Engaging with NPC's and trying to solve quests in certain ways (since multiple quests can have different endings) made navigating from plot point to plot point surprisingly and extremely entertaining. – Despite slogging through the clearly outdate gameplay, I had a blast roleplaying as Shepard and was extremely excited for Mass Effect 2.


Mass Effect 2

Absolutely play it, doesn't matter who you are or what genre you like, this one is a must-play for me. – The perfect sequel. – Forcing Shepard to join Cerebrus (an evil terrorist organization in the game lore) would seemingly take away my agency as a player character, but the game surprisingly delivers. – The allies you had once relied on all disagree with Shepard's assessment of the situation, and refuse to help. So you are given a team to recruit and a mission (tentatively referred to by everyone as a suicide mission) to do, which culminates into a fantastic finale. – Roleplaying as Shepard was fantastic – due to Shepard now aligning with Cerebrus, the Paragon/Renegade system is expanded, allowing for more varied decision making (lawful good to chaotic neutral). This opened the game up to grayer areas to explore, and forced my roleplaying of Shepard to adapt. – Incidentally, my Shepard/Me began to question a lot more straight-edged decisions and we were forced to make a lot more Renegade decisions than normal. I was still a Paragon, but not always. – Gameplay wise, the game is stepeped up in every manner. – The cover system is far more accurate and responsive. The guns are a lot more accurate, and ammo management is now a thing. Using biotic powers is a blast now, and getting hit with them no longer causes weird ragdolling. – Exploring uncharted planets has been replaced with a new "mining" mini-game, but this minigame is hit or miss honestly. Sometimes I enjoyed its relaxing nature, sometimes I got annoyed at how much I needed to do it. – The RPG mechanics are also severely toned down – you now only have 5 abilities and can upgrade each only 4 times, the last time giving a binary choice between 2 upgrades. Each squadmate now only has 4 abilities, with the same upgrade mechanic. However, in the long run, this ultimately was easier to manage for my squad (though I was disappointed with the lack of RPG-ness for my Shepard). – But the crown jewel of the game is definitely the combat and traversal, as it's so fun to navigate the world and your ship. – OOOOOH but the plot, holy crap. Well, let me rephrase. The CHARACTERS, holy crap. – Each character that you can recruit for your squad is fun, interesting, and so engaging to talk to, I NEVER EVER skipped dialogue with them. They are mind-blowingly unique and interesting and I love each and every one of them for different reasons (except for Jacob, who is this game's Kaiden. Man, Bioware has no idea how to write these male human sidekicks, huh?). – But the plot is where this game falters. The main plot does grab my attention, but it is unfortunately not the one that holds it. The game does a good job of being like "there are 5 main missions, and the rest are just recruitment missions." What this does is make the bulk of the game about your crew and squadmates, not about the main story. Which is fine, because the main story itself isn't the appeal – it's every character you meet during that story (The Illusive Man might have become one of my favorites). – The game also lets you do "loyalty" missions for each squadmate, which help determine something for the end of the game. Each mission is unique and engaging, and Shepard gets to make a decision in the personal lives of each squadmate, ultimately determining the kind of person they become. It's clever, and got me interested in the lives of my crew and endeared me to them even more. – Speaking of, let's talk about the ending. So the game does a fantastic thing of whatever you did and prepared during the game will affect the final mission. Did you mine enough material and buy new shielding for your ship? If not, then in the first cutscene during the mission, a crewmate will permanently die. Did you gain the loyalty of a squadmate by doing their loyalty mission? If not, the chances of them dying during a cutscene increase by a lot. It's all super cool and makes you feel involved. (Sort of, because I really wished it was done a little differently, and then rather instead of cutscenes, they died during gameplay because I didn't level them up enough or something. I don't know, I liked this way, but it still does seem like it was a binary choice ultimately, rather than a culmination of choices I made. I digress, because I still loved it.) – Being Shepard this time around forced me to make decisions in different ways, and allowed me to justify them to the game and myself. Playing the game no longer felt like a chore, and I was absolutely stoked and ready to get to Mass Effect 3.

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Mass Effect 3

Play it for ending the story and discovering what happens to your favorite characters, but know that this is a far more average game that has bizarre game design decisions with buggy results. – A passable sequel, but definitely worse than the previous 2. Though not necessarily because of the ending (I'll get there, don't worry). – The biggest change and the one that most pissed me off about this one was the change made to Shepard himself/herself. – Up until this point, Shepard was a defined character under my control. Yes, he was always going to be a soldier with a morality that goes from Lawful Good to Chaotic Neutral, but I got to determine how he reacted to every situation or how he behaved in every situation. If I asked you to describe your Shepard, on the surface our Shepards are the same, but inside, we thought and behaved differently (despite the outcomes and decisions we made). However, suddenly, the character Shepard now has hopes/dreams/fears that are hardcoded to his character that I have no input in. So he doesn't feel like my Shepard anymore – now I'm basically playing some pre-written character from some linear game. – For example, near the beginning of the game, there is this kid that Shepard goes to save, but doesn't (because it's kind of scripted not to). Now Shepard has nightmares about this kid all game. But MY Shepard would have had nightmares about all the people he's let down, not just this kid! Unfortunately, it's out of my hands because the game forces this "guilt" on you. In fact, about an hour after this, there is a 10-minute cutscene where Shepard will hesitate to make a decision about an injured squadmate, complain about what is happening, and talk a little trash about the galactic council – all while you don't actually decide anything, because it's legit a finished cutscene where you have no input. I have no more control over how this Shepard is or feels. – That being said, you can still make varied choices and decisions in game for various quests that can affect different things, and that part has been improved tenfold. Since it was planned as the final game in the trilogy, decisions can have far-reaching disastrous consequences or incredibly amazing outcomes. This is the best version of the choice-based system implemented yet (I'll talk about the ending later). Quest outcomes and their choices is probably one of the best things this game did. – Gameplay wise, this game can screw off. – Okay, so combat itself is perfected – shooting is precise, abilities are fun to use, and squad controls are streamlined. It allows for a smoother experience when in combat. – Leveling up is still like ME2, where there are only 5 or 6 abilities, but each ability can now be upgraded 2 more times, and each squadmate gets more abilities as well. I still wish I could upgrade more for Shepard himself/herself, but ultimately it works in the game's favor to be this simplistic. – BUT movement is atrocious. I don't know what happened between ME2 and this one, but Shepard never goes where I want him to. Sometimes, his reaction speed is so slow, that he'll hop over cover when I told him to go into it because I accidently clicked the cover button twice (since he didn't respond on the first click). Shepard always moves strangely and his animations are extremely robotic. – And the Bugs! The original Mass Effect wasn't as buggy as this mess. My camera would always flip out when I looked around cover, Shepard wouldn't go down ladders half the game (I would have to hop down, taking damage to my shield), popping out of cover and zooming would confuse the game and I basically would get stuck in a bizarre camera angle, and so many more. It's bizarre how buggy this was compared to ME2 because I'm fairly confident they're on the same engine. – AND THEN MY LEAST FAVORITE PART. No longer are you really given sidequests – you are now given MMO-style fetch quests, that are added to your quest log, regardless of whether you talked to someone about it or not. If you walked past an NPC and overheard a conversation that involves an item, 99% chance that you will now have a fetch quest added to your quest list. But the worst part is that you can't even organize your quest list, and since some quests are timed, they can't be finished. Which means, unfinished quests stay in your quest log and never disappear and can't be sorted. Also, unlike previous games, they don't get updated with new objectives as you do them, so you'll never know if you collected a fetchable item until you go to its recipient and discover that you can talk to them. – Talking to characters is now stupid. Instead of conversations, they each give canned responses like NPC's in a game. Which sounds ridiculous when I say it like that, but trust me, none of the other games did this, why did this one do that? – Also, they introduced ammo management in ME2, because that game was meant to feel a lot more like an action-RPG. This meant ammo was less frequently found, and managing it was a priority. However, in this one, ammo is everywhere, which kind of defeats the purpose of it. What's the point in having an ammo amount if you're just gonna throw more of it at me? This isn't really a complaint, but another example of weird game design decisions. – However, the game comes with lots of DLC (which sounds kind of bad, but hold on). I can tell you that each DLC is a goddamn banger. "From Ashes" DLC is probably the weakest, but it gives you a new squadmate, and his interactions are fun too. "The Extended Cut" DLC fixes a lot of the problems people had with the execution of the ending, and I like to think it does it well enough. "Omega" DLC is amazing to play, and your decisions during the DLC affect the outcome of the DLC in a fun way as well, which was nice. "Leviathan" was a fantastic mystery "crime-solving" DLC that I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend to everyone. But the crown jewel of the lot is the Citadel DLC. I thought people were over-hyping it, but then I started it and holy crap, it is a masterpiece. I would recommend playing it right before the final mission (attack on cerebrus headquarters), and interacting with everyone you can during the DLC. It's heartwarming and loving, and I enjoyed it so much, it is now my favorite part of this game. – But now let's get to the plot. – The story itself is fine – it suffers from the "How I Met Your Mother" problem, where the plot itself is fine, it's just the execution that sucks. The last mission is boring and repetitive and despite the past 2 games and this one being about your squad, the last 45 minutes are spent alone with 2 characters you only had passing conversations with. You are also forced to make a decision that has no effect being passed onto it from your prior gameplay. It's affectively a brand new decision. – Ending the game with 4 choices is kind of stupid, especially when those choices are not affected by what you did before, but also not that out of the question for this series. While I wish my choices would have had a greater impact on the final mission, I am fine with my choices having an impact on the cutscenes afterwards (I did the destruction ending with enough military strength, just FYI). That being said, I really do wish they had done a better job implementing my decisions during the game into the final mission (it goes the same regardless of how prepared you were). I don't know, the ending for me was okay, but I definitely understand why it would piss people off, as it feels almost disconnected from the rest of the game. – But also, the endings themselves are all incredibly thought-provoking and gray. No one ending is absolutely correct, or at least not in a way that you and I could share an opinion on. Different people will see different endings as the true ending, and I think that's a tremendous accomplishment. – However, what really makes this game stand out to me are the characters. Once again, everyone here is fantastic and loveable, and 3-game long plot threads are tied up with these people. It's super engaging, and worth it simply for them. Even the boring male sidekick characters created for previous games (Kaidan and Jacob) have a better version in this one (in the form of Jimmy Vega, who is far more layered and interesting). – The Citadel DLC is so worth it entirely, that it almost fixes the game. Every prior squadmate (if they are alive) show up here and you can play with almost all of them. You also throw a party for them (that makes sense plot-wise), and the DLC ends with a tender moment with your whole crew from all 3 games. For the first time in my life, I cried at a video game because of how attached I became to these characters (not even Last of Us or Assassin's Creed 2 ever made me do this). – Being Shepard this time around kind of sucked, because he at certain points didn't feel like my Shepard. Though the game allowed me to make various choices and affect outcomes, it falls short of that for the ending. Playing it was absolutely a chore, as a lot of game design decisions made during development got this game to feel like an MMO-RPG, rather than an RPG as it was previously. Ultimately though, I liked the ending, but wished it was all executed a lot better.

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Anyways that is my summary of the 3 games. The Mass Effect trilogy is amazing, and a fantastic example of great role-playing that video games can offer. It starts off rocky, gets to a peak, and ends on kind of a disappointing note. But at no point did I hate it – I loved playing through it and do not regret it one bit.


Mass Effect:

Play if you really like Choice-Based RPG's and love sci-fi.


Mass Effect 2

Absolutely play it, doesn't matter who you are or what genre you like, this one is a must-play for me.


Mass Effect 3

You should play it for ending the story and discovering what happens to your favorite characters, but know that this is a far more average game that has bizarre game design decisions with buggy results.

Source: reddit.com

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