ME: Legendary

With FFX complete, time for another flash from the past. (FFX-2 maybe some other time…) Mass Effect: Legendary came out and with a whopping 100+ gigs of download done, off I go, JJ Abrams lens flare and all.

I mentioned this in the FFX playthrough, where knowledge is a double edged sword. I’ve played that game so many times now that there’s very little new or surprising, and yet I still find it a super enjoyable experience. Mass Effect I’ve played through maybe twice (?) in all the years since launch. My recollection of the story is somewhat hazy and frankly more emotional than firm. I recall the feeling of awe the first time I stepped into the Citadel, the frustration of the MAKO, wanting to punch certain companions. The actual story beats are a sort of deja vu effect, which makes me pause at times and think about how I handled it last time. The end result is that it feels much more like a game here than an experience. There are checkboxes to fill, skill points to assign, and inventory to manage rather than a story to uncover.

The game lens really highlights how successful Mass Effect was upon launch at hiding its foundations. You see a bunch of interesting people with interesting stories and just follow along, making what at the time was rather nuanced choices to impact the story. At the time we didn’t have true multi-branch stories… KOTOR had the start of it, Dragon Age had some key decisions, and I guess Fallout was the best example . No wonder people caught on to this model, and were rightfully peeved when ME3 dismissed most of it. Upon this replay,, the quest structure is much more obvious with multi-stage fetch quests, but for 14 years ago… wow.

Gameplay wise, I can see a lot of the improvements put in so far. Elevator wait times are gone!! There is an over abundance of lens flare – I really need to point it out. It’s one thing to have it in a cut scene but I find it painful when its in active gameplay. The visuals are super improved otherwise, with awesome framerates on a clearly antiquated game engine. Very impressive. The MAKO is better than I recall, but as Bel mentioned, it’s still the worst part of the game. Inventory management is better but I can’t say that it’s good. Character development and the biotic/tech powers are very meh. The combat itself is still as broken as ever unfortunately. The UI is cleaner, no question, but it has not aged well at all. Getting 1 shot from someone 100% behind cover is still there, and the AI has some really rough edges. I guess this is to be expected from a game that tried to merge action and RPG that many years ago…

Nitpicky, but I find this very distracting.

I’m not far along in the game… exploring space and whatnot. Again the game part, where its super focused in the Citadel then just goes huge open world once you get the ship. I do recall the first time I played I explored everything, where as this time I’m only landing on planets where there’s a clear reason. Those landing missions are smaller than I recall… or perhaps the zones themselves seem much smaller. I do recall the side quests having some interesting story beats – the Batarians in particular are fun to see again, if under-used.

The Paragon/Renegade bit in ME:1 is very heavy handed, there’s few opportunities for grey. It’s either admonish them or shoot them dead. The Batarian/asteroid quest in particular prompts you 6 times for the renegade choice, which are all variations of shooting the alien. I know this is better in ME:2. BioWare mentioned that ME had 92% of players go Paragon… which is painful as a dev to spend so many cycles on a mode no one really played. (Side note: this is why LFR exists in WoW… only 1% of players were completing raids prior to Firelands.)

Odd bit… the Origins/Steam achievements are displayed as % of user base. Landing on a planet is currently at 10% of all players… so either the metrics are wrong, or people have decided to buy the game and not play it. The achievements are really rinky dink too… sort of like getting points for putting your name down on a test. That the % are low is weird.

Still, the experience thusfar is enjoyable. BioWare clearly needed a win to keep the doors open, and what’s here is impressive in capturing the original experience with a minor coat of paint. In the negative light, this highlights to me how far BioWare has fallen from 2007. Games aren’t made by companies, the are made by people. The people who made Mass Effect did a hell of a job.

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