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Power Member - Level 10
The Mass Effect trilogy is my favorite series ever. An unreal level of anticipation preceded the Mass Effect 3 launch, and after playing it I personally feel satisfied with my purchase. However, here are 10 points that I feel made Mass Effect 2 actually superior to its sequel.
10. Party Members: The Mass Effect series has some of my all time favorite party members in it, but I thought 2 did the best job of introducing awesome characters to your party select screen. While EDI is cool and James is okay, neither of them quite match up to Samara, Thane or Jack in terms of sheer coolness. The loyalty missions in 2 were a great gameplay-driven way to get to know your characters, but party interaction was limited in ME3. Hell, I didn't even know James was on the ship until halfway through the game.
9. Paragon/Renegade: In the first two Mass Effects, I felt nothing was more important that maxing out my speech skills. Talking you way out of the Wrex situation on Virmire or mediating an argument between Jack and Miranda were highlights of the Mass Effect experience, but I felt they were slightly cheapened in ME3. My Shepard that I had taken through the entire trilogy was completely Paragon, had almost no points in Renegade, yet there wasn't a single red conversation option grayed out. I expected at least one speech-heavy challenge (like the Samara/Morinth conflict), but the best I got was talking the Illusive Man down at the end...which was basically a rehash of the finale of ME1.
8. Resources: I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually liked gathering minerals more than I did war assets. Mining planets for every last ounce of palladium might have been tedious, but at least I knew what I was using them for. Can anybody tell me a concrete gameplay reason for gathering the war assets? Because I seriously have no idea. How does my scanning a random planet in Reaper controlled space somehow add the Fifth Turian Fleet to my war asset account?
7. Exploration: Mass Effect 2 made huge strides in the galaxy exploration system, but I felt ME 3 took a step back. First off, let me be clear BioWare: The whole running from the Reapers may make sense from a narrative standpoint, but there was no fun in constantly exiting and re-entering a system trying to scan for that last available asset...we know it's just going to be a derelict fuel station anyway. Also, why doesn't a percentage show up on the galaxy map until after you've collected your first resource? I must have entered the Horsehead Nebula at least four times because there was no percentage next to its name, yet there wasn't anything there until later in the game. While I'm at it, I didn't like the idea of certain sectors of space seemingly randomly popping up for access. I've been all over the galaxy with Shepard, why can't I go anywhere to begin with?
6. DLC: Honestly, we should have seen this coming with the advent of the Cerberus Network. Here's a riddle: What's the difference between Javik and Zaeed? Answer: About $10. Zaeed came free with all new copies of ME3, while Javik and his missions, roughly the same amount of content, only came free with the Collectors Edition. Either way, you are throwing down some extra cheese for the Prothean, content that fills in some major plot points. And don't get me started on the devious model of using real money to buy random loot packs. I'm going to go ahead and say it: Mass Effect 3 is EA's first attempt at blending app-style payment plans (microtransactions) and traditional console gaming on a huge scale...and I bet it has been a massive success for them...financially.
5. Towns: Planets, really, but I'm speaking in RPG terms. I don't know about you, but after my sixth trip back to the Citadel delivering rail amp stabilizers, I was sick of seeing the Citadel. Seriously, if the people on just the small slice of the Citadel you can visit have that many problems, imagine how the rest of the place must be faring. ME2 had Omega, Tuchanka, Illium and the Citadel all available as hub areas, each with a plethora of shops and side quests to undertake. The model of "go to the Citadel, overhear some one complaining about item, return said item" got old pretty quick.
4. Disc Swapping: How many times did you switch discs during ME3? My first playthrough was a staggering nine disc changes, compared to a still-high four for ME2. At least ME2 had clear boundaries about what was on each disc (well, kind of. I knew Omega was on disc 1...). ME3 had the most arbitrary disc switches. I just didn't understand why one early main story mission had me switch discs at the beginning of the mission only to switch back at its conclusion. Did they forget to add that mission to the first disc? You know what would make ME3 better with Kinect? "Xbox, switch discs." Jokes aside, it really was absurd.
3. Weapon Upgrading: I loved the upgrading system in ME2. The whole gameplay circle of gathering resources and using them to upgrade your weapons and skills was ingenious. Finding or purchasing weapon upgrades was a clear goal, and upgrading to obvious bonuses like better armor penetration and headshot damage was easy to understand. The mod system from ME3 is pretty cool, but purchasing simple numbered upgrades brought to mind too many of the over-complicated equipment issues of ME1. Also, why is organic life's last hope forced to salvage many of the same weapons he already owned from random planets?
2. The Journal: I didn't have a single problem with the journals from ME1 or ME2. They were perfectly functional, they did their job of telling me what I needed, and was never a source of frustration. Honestly, I never gave it a second thought, which is why it was such a shock to have such a crappy journal in ME3. It's like it was engineered to be as bad as possible: it doesn't split main- and sidequests apart, it doesn't tell you exactly where you need to go and it rarely even bothered to update itself for me. How did this take such a step back?
1. The Ending: I don't even want to get into the actual ending, which I know has been polarizing for people, but I do want to talk about the mechanics of the ending. ME3, with the exception of the final decision, is largely a linear ending sequence without a lot of variation. Without the story payoff, which in all fairness was why we were all there, the ending was nothing mechanically incredible. ME2, on the other hand, had one of, if not the most, awesome ending sequences ever. No gameplay experience, before or since, has ever matched the first time I chose who was going into the vents. The fire team leader, escort and biotic choices all carried similar weight, but making that simple choice and knowing that somebody's life was on the line...man, that was a truly emotional ride that I will never forget. I'm still puzzling over ME3's ending(the indoctrination theory is very interesting), and I can't say that I'm disappointed in it, but I don't feel it matched the brilliance of ME2.