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Veteran Member - Level 14
in this edition of Thirty Days of Mass
Effect, we take a look at the changes that the good ole guys at Bioware
implemented into the Mass Effect series hoping to improve upon areas that the
previous entry(ies) lacked while introducing new ideas to players. Some of them
notably were good, others not-so-good, and there were more than a few horrible
changes to normally trademarked features of the series. Let's take a look at
the changes I feel are the most defining of the series, in order from best to
worst. Note that I've intentionally left out save file transfer to focus what I
feel are other more pertinent gameplay aspects.
1) NO MORE MINIGAMES!
Effect 1, we had them in the form of tedious button-mashing sequences that we
had to do each time we wanted to unlock or decrypt something; even when we
wanted to survey different minerals we'd discovered. Given the plethora of them
available in each of the various bases players traveled to, these rather
archaic staples of RPG's probably padded out a significant amount of the game
and did little to interest the player - with the exception of one, which was
basically a puzzle. In Mass Effect 2, they ditched the weird sequences of the
past for hacking minigames that required you to match certain nodes on a
security board or input the right codes of text before the time ran out. These
were the only two types of minigames you encountered, but they were certainly
pretty frequent and in some cases, thoroughly annoying. Mass Effect 3 ditched
these annoying concepts entirely in favor of a simple in-game cutscene showing
Shepard using an omnitool to bypass security doors.
2) LOYALTY MISSIONS
mentioned in my first comprehensive review of the Mass Effect series that this
concept seemed to be in the works in the first game, via special side missions
like the hunt for Dr. Saleon or Wrex's family armor. In Mass Effect 2, they
made these special side missions integral to preparing your squad for the
inevitable Omega Four Relay jump in a mission that could very well end with
their deaths. In addition to preparing them however, some of these missions
delved into intense personal issues they'd been hiding from Shepard - Thane's
past relationship with his now-troubled son, for instance - while others
allowed us to glimpse into previously unexplored cultural dilemmas - the
Quarian race's continuous war with the Geth, or even Grunt's coming-of-age. The
missions, apart from being an important gaming feature, also gave players a
bond that elevated the player's relationship with the narrative and its lore to
a level that has been hailed by many as "art worthy". Ignoring that debate, it
is undeniable that this new feature gave the story a meaningful new twist and
stands out as one of my favorite improvements in the series.
3) BRANCHING ABILITY TREES
3 never gave us the deep customization and leveling system that the original
Mass Effect had, but it did give us a fairly unique set of abilities that
branched at a certain point and allowed us to uniquely customize our character
how we saw fit, optimizing the strengths and weaknesses of our squad according
to our own playing style. I enjoyed enhancing the effects of the biotic and
tech abilities for the combos I loved using, and enjoyed using Liara's
Singularity once I'd tailored it to have an incredibly short recharge time.
Others I've spoken with enjoyed exploiting the infamous Nova-Charge-Omniblade
combo that Vanguards could spam ad infinitum, turning them into nigh invincible
killing machines. There's countless more strategies and possibilities that can
be unlocked that give Mass Effect 3 the RPG experience we were lacking in the
love pressing the right or left trigger each time a Paragon or Renegade indicator
popped up the first time they played the game? These moments - used at key
points in conversations - introduced players to entertaining cutscenes that
would not have been accessible otherwise. Some of these - such as one that
allowed you to prevent a gunship from being repaired - gave you the edge in
missions, while others - knocking out an annoying reporter - were simply there
to gratify the player and enhance their immersion. I'd tell you my favorites
but I already devoted a couple blogs to cover these nifty
events, so feel free to offer your own instead.
5) BETTER COMBAT
needed a reboot in the Mass Effect series, combat was a priority. While people
loved the combat of the first, terrible AI and a somewhat lackluster cover
system detracted from it and in some cases served to cause more trouble than
solve problems. In Mass Effect 2, a cover system, dramatically improved power
system, and better squad and enemy AI made for an action-packed experience that
added a needed component to the series that many felt was missing from it in
the first game. The third game, however, upped the ante with an even more
complex - although occasionally convoluted - cover system that included dodges,
rolls, and Kinect squad commands that added method to the madness.
6) HACKING MINIGAMES
mentioned before, these sequences were a chore in the first game, especially if
you didn't have your character leveled up to handle the respective difficulty
level, which effectively made hacking harder containers and safes impossible.
Instead of fixing this problem in Mass Effect 2, they simply chose to replace
these minigames with timed ones that players frequently encountered. To make it
worse, Bioware had effectively removed omnigel from the game; this material
normally harnessed by dismantling equipment could be used to bypass most of
these security segments. This was definitely not a welcome change, although
special upgrades that increased the time allotted to these segments slightly
alleviated their tedium. Slightly.
7) STREAMLINED JOURNAL
This is a
change that merits a huge WTF from the audience. Mass Effect 1 and 2 both
featured a Journal that not only recorded your missions, but updated them with
new objectives during each part of them, from telling players which system to
travel to finding an item or person in specific areas. It was detailed,
organized, and easily prevented players from becoming confused or lost in
tedium. Yet, the unthinkable happened in ME3: the new Journal system simply
recorded the barest of facts - generally the mission objective - with no hints
or suggestions whatsoever, leaving most players scavenging throughout star systems
or wandering aimlessly through the different levels of the Citadel for
terminals. This only made the tedium - since some of the items could only be
found during specific missions - worse and stands out as one of my primary
criticisms of Mass Effect 3's gameplay, though there are worse ones that I will
8) MINING/PLANET SCANNING
This by far
was the worst improvement in the first sequel in the Mass Effect series.
Players spent hours upon hours scanning random planets for the appropriate minerals
needed to research various upgrades - mineral deposits found during missions
were relatively miniscule. Although an upgrade increased the amount players
earned with each probe, the relatively slow-moving radar drained any source of
entertainment from this exciting concept. A patch allowed the scanners to move
dramatically faster in ME 2, and in ME 3, the tedium that came with the process
was all but abandoned in favor of a simplified system.
9) LESS DIALOGUE CHOICES
One of the
defining features of the Mass Effect series involved its implementation of a
deep branching conversation system that engaged players and made them enjoy the
cutscenes that transpired with realistic and in-depth dialogue options. In Mass
Effect 2 this staple of the series remained relatively untouched, just as
lovable as we remembered. Yet, in ME3, this trademark feature of the series was
practically dismantled in favor of a more cinematic experience. For the most
part this seemed to work, until moments that would've featured this system were
omitted, especially without the inclusion of neutral choices, leading to
jarring moments that frustrated players. There's a statement often used, that
"less is more", yet in this case, due to how shallow the system became, "less"
might as well have been "none".
10) FETCH QUESTS
abominations are without a doubt the worst change in the Mass Effect series.
While Mass Effect 2 made tasteful use of them by using them in moderation and
allowing the players to find the items during other diverse missions, Mass
Effect 3 bombarded us with them, requiring players to visit random planets in
different systems across the galaxy and mine them for the resource needed.
While this added practical value to the fight against the Reapers, it also
divorced the player from the normally engaging side quests Mass Effect 2 had
introduced and completely wasted several thrilling mission possibilities. These
fetch quests all being picked up in one single hub in the entire game cheapened
them even more.
my choices and I hope they've got you thinking. This blog's purpose isn't to
bash or point fingers, but to celebrate a series we loved, flaws and all. Of
course this list is subjective, so feel free to differ in opinion and offer
your own input in the comments section. We've passed another hurdle in my
series, and I hope you'll enjoy the next entries in this series.