I’ve been wanting to talk about Mass Effect 3 all week. I’ve had 1000 different things to say, at varying times, covering wide swaths of opinion and analysis and bitching and fanboy swooning. I’ve also had a hellaciously busy schedule, and what free time I’ve had has been spent playing instead of blogging, hence the recent radio silence. Apologies, etc.
ME3 is a hard game to talk about without spoiling; certainly my podcast co-host gets almost violent if I even hint at a spoiler without inserting proper precautions, so just know that there may be spoilers to come. In fact, I suppose I might as well just tell you where I am, so that (a) you can judge for yourself if I’m ahead of you or not, and (b) you can see why I’m treading water a little bit.
I think I’ve been playing for around 16-18 hours, but from the little I’ve heard about the game’s structure, I’m probably only at the end of what would be considered Act 1. (I’d also say that a good 5-7 hours of my playtime has been me just wandering around the Normandy, which is as close to a virtual “home” as there’s ever been in a videogame.)
(MILD SPOILERS AHEAD) My current mission, the one I’ve been trying to avoid confronting, involves me going to the Krogan homeworld to wipe out the genophage once and for all. I’ve been dawdling because the mission involves me making perhaps the most difficult choice I’ve had to make in the entire franchise. If you’ve gotten to this point, you’ll know what I’m talking about; if you haven’t, well, it’s a doozy. All the different races hate each other (and with good reason), and in the midst of my trying to form a very fragile alliance/treaty, I’ve basically been asked to perform the ultimate backstab, a backstab that I could conceivably get away with without it getting back to me. My reward is the enduring friendship and scientific/military support of this particular race (and, obviously, the loss of the race I’d be backstabbing); and vice versa. Being that the ultimate enemy here is the Reapers, I feel obligated to set myself in the best possible position to take them on, and so this opportunity to get the Salarians on my side feels rather crucial, even though it goes against my deepest beliefs as an ethical, rational human being. I have to believe that the game is set up so that you can “win” regardless of which option you choose, but FUCK. (END SPOILERS)
The game’s got problems, too. I don’t want to parrot this week’s Giant Bombcast too much, but they bring up a number of valid points: a lot of the side mission stuff is poorly conceived (i.e., picking up missions simply by overhearing conversations), and poorly executed (the mission log does a terrible job of letting you know if you’ve picked up a missing item, or who you need to give it to, so you often spend a lot of time just wandering around the Citadel hoping that some idle NPC will have an action reticle on them), and the planet scanning stuff (always a problematic feature in this franchise) is now so stripped down that it seems unnecessary, basically. (Bioware’s strengths have never been with the side stuff, and TOR is no exception, either, but ME3’s side stuff is particularly weak.) I’ve also run into a number of weird bugs, sometimes where my AI companions refuse to move, and other times where enemy turrets become impossible to destroy – I’ve had to restart a few missions more than once, which is frustrating.
I haven’t touched the multiplayer. I want to, both because it sounds kinda interesting and because I’m wanting to increase my Galactic Readiness Rating at all costs (including playing the iOS Datapad thing, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the crafting stuff in Old Republic, actually). But my focus is primarily on the single player – as I imagine it would be with most hard-core ME players, who’ve been in it for the long haul.
Despite its problems, I love this world. I love the fiction. I love the characters. I love my Shepard, and I love that it’s been my Shepard for the last 5 years. I’m glad to be playing it; but I wouldn’t have minded if they gave it a little more time to cook. There are elements of this game that feel rushed (as noted above); there’s also certainly the obvious mass marketing ploy to get this game into the hands of new players, which I understand from a business perspective but which still stings a bit, as a hardcore player who’s been here since the beginning.
More on this to come, as well as a bunch of words and thoughts about Journey, which really does deserve its own post. The short version – it’s amazing.