The Blue Planet is in ruin
While OC & I wait for Hato’s comments on our favourite games from E3, I thought to write something about Mass Effect 3, the third installment of the Mass Effect series. Mass Effect 2 was my favorite game from 2010. ME2 was not only an excellent space opera, but a nice transition to more action for the Mass Effect series after ME1, while still having nice RPG elements and an incredibly in-depth conversation tree. Mass Effect 3 is coming in 2012, and I cannot wait! From what we’ve seen of it so far at E3, I’d like to touch on a couple points that are making the game look even more intriguing.
At Microsoft’s Press Event, it was announced that Mass Effect 3 would utilize Kinect’s voice functionality to allow you to do two things in the game. First, it would let you say any of the available choices in which your Commander Shepherd can respond to NPCs. I had thought at first that, because Shepherd doesn’t actually say what’s written in the conversation tree, there would be somewhat of a disconnect between what you say and what Shepherd says. As I thought more about it, I thought of how orally speaking the lines can add an extra sense of engagement in the conversation that your Shepherd is having with squadmates, enemies, etc. When we have the idea, from the start of the game, whether we want to be a Paragon or Renegade, we know 95% of the time where to go on the conversation tree in order to get the + points for our path. But think about you actually saying the lines and the difference between choosing an option and speaking the lines. I know it’s only a video game, but Mass Effect already does well enough at making gamers question their choices; many a time, I’ve rotated thru the conversation wheel trying to figure out what the right thing to say is. It kind of has the potential to add a little bit of soul to the game, engage players in the actual process of conversation in Mass Effect, and make them think a little more about what they are going to say. And hey, if you want to be an evil Renegade asshole, you can really have some fun with it. I imagine that there will be Youtube videos of people recording their voiceovers of Shepherd telling someone to piss off.
The other feature is the ability to issue commands in battle. Not the first game to do it, as we’ve seen even the very first Socom game on PS2 utilize a headset to issue commands, but it can become a very welcome feature for ME3. It can possibly eliminate the several amount of times to pause the game and scroll thru the radial to issue commands. All you need to do is have your reticule pointed at the enemy and call out, “Liara:Singularity” to have her perform that ability, or have your squadmates move to cover instead of being a sitting duck. Again, much like how I feel about the process of conversation, the same can be, well… said for how you battle enemies. I can see it immersing me even more into Mass Effect.
In my experiences with Kinect, voice recognition has been really good, so I can definitely see myself using these Kinect features in ME3. I like that Mass Effect 3 has Kinect, but didn’t think of some new mini-game to include that involves you getting up and flailing your arms or anything else that really breaks the flow of the game.
The Mass Effect 3 demo stream shows off some new elements of combat. The first one is Shepherd’s omniblade. Much like an assassination in Halo Reach, Shepherd will be able to attack enemies head on or from behind and hit them with a sharp-looking attack. It won’t always kill, but can do massive damage. And I mean, you just don’t want to run into the middle of a firefight hoping your omniblade is the key to victory; only fools rush in. With improved cover techniques, you’ll be able to use stealth much better than the past games to sneak around enemies and either assassinate them or just completely pass by them. A couple more action-specific items of note is the inclusion of grenades. Grenades are nice when it’s not the start of a CoD deathmatch, so it’ll be nice to have a little something extra to clear the room. And, there will be much more detailed weapon customization. Unlike ME2, you’ll be able to customize your choice of gun to make it do just what you want it to do in terms of reloading, rate of fire, etc.
Mass Effect 2 is an awesome game and deserved any Game of the Year honors it got, but the action in the game did consist of the same kind of structure. Cover, shoot, use bionic abilities, use Unity, etc. While it’s in no way, shape or form a potential deal breaker for me, I’d like to see just a bit more variety in action sequences for Mass Effect 3.
Time to Go Save a Planet:
Because I bought ME2 on the 360, my interest in getting the 360 version is not limited to just the Kinect features, but to the choices I made in ME2. It’s one of the great qualities of Mass Effect that your character and their actions can be carried over to the game (for the most part). Bioware has taken on a difficult task of trying to tell a detailed space epic across multiple games while allowing players some freedom to go which way they want to go. It’s an admirable balancing act that those in charge of ME’s storyline are doing to progress thru a deep story while still giving players a sense of ownership to their version of Commander Shepherd.
The new gameplay elements in ME3 are welcome and I’m hopeful they’ll provide a touch more variety in action sequences. It’s not that action sequences in ME2 weren’t fun, I’m just ready for these moments in ME3 to allow me to do things differently; add more stealth techniques like flanking, or maybe I’ll just throw grenades and clear a room with a bang! As previously mentioned, I feel that Kinect should do more to make me feel more immersed in the role I’m playing.
What I’m seeing of Mass Effect 3 is satisfying me and making me that much more anxious to play it on March 6th of 2012. I still haven’t gotten to that Renegade playthru yet, so maybe it’s time to get those red eyes and start being a prick to everybody on the Normandy…