RPS Asks: Favourites From The Mass Effects?

By Jim Rossignol on March 4th, 2012 at 5:54 pm.


So I am busy playing through Mass Effect 3 at the moment, with my collected thoughts on the events, happenings, and systems therein to appear on Tuesday. I’ve been doing a bit of retrospective browsing over the first two games, too, and comparing events in those to the events in the third game. This process led me to wonder this: what has been your favourite event in the games so far? And why?

As a follow up question: who is your favoured character? Garrus seems like the obvious choice for acerbic/murderous sidekick, and I generally take him on missions for the sound of his voice, but I think Thane was the highlight of Mass Effect 2. Anyway: speak your brains, show your working.

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244 Comments »

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    RedViv says:

    The ending sequences to both games are among my favourites of all games.
    Characters? Really anyone except for Kaidan and Jacob. Everyone else has something I can connect with. Tali’s lack of a real home, Mordin’s constant quest for logic and consideration of previous choices, Jack’s screw-that issues, Garrus’ conflicts, Samara’s wardrobe malfunction…

  2. UncleLou says:

    I enjoyed both games, but I’ve got a terrible memorey for content. I barely remember who was who, and what exactly happened. Have you guys all recently replayed them, or am I just becoming senile? :-/

  3. SanguineAngel says:

    Undoubtedly the Ashley/Kaiden decision. To my mind, all of the decision making in ME1 was superior to ME2, but this moment in the game is what makes ME1 stand out for me. It made the entire story a lot more meaningful. It worked for a variety of reasons but mostly because whatever choice you make THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES. There was no safe option.

    Also, when I realised that my choices early in the game affected my choices later in the game. With the renegade/paragon meter dictating your potential abilities in speechcraft. I didn’t min/max, I choice character appropriate, which meant some later situations, I was unable to resolve in particular ways. Which was awesome

    • Wizlah says:

      I also tended to choice appropriate decisions, and it made the game more enjoyable. In ME2, I think I ended up marginally more bloody-minded renegade, I think, but in the first I was more a Paragon with a fairly ruthless streak.

    • NathanH says:

      Interestingly I think the paragon/renegade mechanic as implemented is terrible. One of the great things about Mass Effect is that you can choose pretty much any combination of dialogue options and create a coherent character. In most RPGs, you have to choose the same sort of option repeatedly or your character comes across as crazy. That the mechanics then conspire to undermine that strength is a disaster. The conversations are more fun if you play the game badly, which is a mistake.

      Having some persuasion options only open if the difference between your two meters is sufficiently low, or when the highest of the two meters is sufficiently low, would be a good way to fix this.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      The only thing I dislike about the Paragon/Renegade meter is that it comes across as a morality meter when it is not one. So you start off thinking about it all wrong and so you make the assumption as you make, Nathan, that you need to unlock all the options in one of the tiers.

      The game semi-dictates your character based on the character you have played up to that point. It is not playing the game badly to not maximise one of the statistics. It is just a reflection of the character that you have shaped. The failing, I think, is possibly in showing you what options you missed out on. And, as stated, the suggestion (largely through aesthetic) that it is a morality meter. It’s actually just a personality meter. calculating the types of choices you have made and the types of choices that your character is likely to make at that point in time. It forces character development. Which is wicked.

    • NathanH says:

      It is bad play though, because having high paragon/renegade will unlock advantageous dialogue options, whereas having both paragon/renegade low provides no such bonus. Therefore whenever you have the choice between gaining points and not gaining points, and the choice otherwise affects nothing in game-terms, it is always good play to choose the points-gaining option. Similarly, in a choice between gaining paragon points and gaining renegade points, it is usually optimal to choose the route that increases whichever is already highest. The game mechanics encourage extremism, while the dialogues encourage moderation. I think this is a mistake.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      But I don’t think the options are advantageous – I am replaying the game at the moment (lost my saves :( ) and as far as I can tell, you just resolve situations differently by using paragon/renegade options. Usually they are a method of avoiding conflict, always they just produce an alternative resolution to a situation – the idea being that that resolution is in keeping with your character. Equally, your character might make more sense NOT choosing those options. In that instance, they are unlikely to have unlocked those options, having made more down the line decisions in the past. Whatever happens, you still get xp and loot from those situations. And I haven’t noticed a discernible difference between the xp I get when solving with or without the unlocked options. A completed quest gives out fairly hefty xp either way. So there is no “right” decision. Which I think is crucial to why I like ME1 more than ME2 (where you clearly CAN make the correct decisions in the long run).

      Your point about the choice between gaining points and not is valid and I think ties into the perception of the renegade/paragon mechanic vs the actual purpose. Which is a flaw in my view. But how else would you see the system in effect? Maybe you don’t need to see it but there is a certain satisfaction to be gained from knowing your character is developing – that’s what RPGs are all about! (IMO – not trying to start a genre war)

    • NathanH says:

      There are, for example, arguments between the team members that you need high persuasion to deal with. I suppose it doesn’t make the game easier, but it helps you get what are obviously the best endings.

      I think the system doesn’t need much work, all you need is a couple more persuasion types. Currently you have Inspiring from paragon and Aggressive from Renegade. I would also have Diplomatic (balanced between paragon and renegade) and Professional (not too high in either). All four options wouldn’t be available for each persuasion scenario, of course.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Those arguments are in ME2 but not ME1 right? I am only on ME1 atm, still in the main section. As far as I remember there is only 1 conflict in ME1, which I have already faced – liara and Ashley and there was no special options for that.

      I think that the standard responses in the dialogue wheel would count as the middle ground responses. I agree that it would appeal more and may work better if these were also tracked. I suppose the idea is that as the default setting, just tracking the variations (paragon & renegade) would be sufficient but in reality, despite choosing renegade down the line for example, you’re still able to suddenly become diplomat of the year. Which does go a little counter to the system.

      To get back to those arguments – even if your character has not unlocked those dialogue options, (s)he is still able to resolve them using normal options. If those normal options do not resolve it in a peaceful manner for all then it just means that the character YOU have developed does not have the ability resolve it in that manner. That is life man, you can’t please everyone. That’s one of the strengths of the system in my mind.

      I can’t recall if failing to resolve those situations peacefully results in people’s deaths? I don’t think it does but if so THEN that results in the process being a win/lose situation and I would say that is not so good, because then you would want/need to game the conversations for the best possible outcome.

      In my opinion ME2 tends to be weaker than ME1 in most respects but I don’t think that the paragon/renegade mechanic is inherently broken or terrible, I think it’s actually pretty good. I would like to see it taken further as you suggest maybe. Have that middle ground or diplomatic response receive the same treatment.

    • NathanH says:

      ME1 does it better than ME2 because you can manually increase your diplomatic skills on level-up. In ME2 your persuasion ability is determined completely by how many of the options for the relevant tone you have chosen in the past.

      As you say, it creates situations where the character you have built is not able to deal with the problem optimally. That’s fine in theory. In practice, what the mechanic does is reward you for picking one of the extremes and following it religiously. That’s also fine, there’s nothing wrong with that in theory, but from my experience the dialogues are more fun when choosing what seems most natural, rather than what will boost your persuasion abilities. A game that is best to play one way but best play is to do the opposite is, to me, a game with a problem that ought to be addressed.

    • plugmonkey says:

      People try to “game” morality systems too much, imho. If you set about to do a “renegade” or “paragon” playthrough then you are essentially removing the morality feature from the game. If all your decisions are predetermined, the choice might as well not keep coming up.

      You’re effectively making one choice. They could ask you straight after the title screen, on the character creation: nice or nasty. Job done.

      If you play like that, you never get to explore how far your character is willing to go, where they draw the line, which is where the experience lies. Morality exists in the grey area.

      To that end, I would say Bioware are wrong to attach any sort of extra features to being at one extreme of the scale or the other. In doing so, they’re actively encouraging players to opt out of the feature.

  4. Wizlah says:

    Tali ended up my favourite mate. I bollixed up the first mission, putting zaeed in command (hey, he’s an experienced merc, right?) and she got killed and I couldn’t have that and so reloaded. I think I still have the save point though, so I may go back and play as originally intended before going on to ME3. Which I’m unlikely to play until chrimbo anyway. And like a lot of people, I had a bit soft spot for wrex.

    In terms of moments in the game, pushing the garrus thing almost to the edge of a romance, but not quite, was a fun option (I don’t think I ever suggested it, stopped a thing short). My character stayed true to Liara, and her whole stubborn intransigence in ME2 was a good scene. I think I’d agree with a lot of people that Virmire is probably the most compelling oh fuck the galaxy really is going to war bit, although the assault on the space station in zero G was pretty good.

    I got Legion late, and was kind of pissed I did, because I quite rated him/it/them. Something about a bit of my armour being part and parcel of them was what made it compelling. I wouldn’t mind getting the lair of the shadow broker at some point before I play ME3 although I’d happily leave the rest of the DLC.

  5. Gittun says:

    Well, yeah, Garrus is just a badass, no way around it. Besides that though;
    First game: The last bit after you land on Ilos, I loved the sense of being on a planet where the protheans actually lived. I really enjoyed the prothean lore bits, which is why the me3 dlc thing annoys me so much.
    Second game: Probably Mordin in general, he’s hilarious. Also really enjoyed the shadowbroker stuff, all the consoles with extra bits of info you can read after you beat it made me squee with loregeek joy.

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    AmateurScience says:

    I loved the ending of both ME1 and 2. My biggest regret is that I let my completionist nature get the better of me for ME2 and I did everyone’s loyalty missions – even for characters I really didn’t like (Jack/Jacob) and got all the upgrades. And then no-one died during the final mission: I think I lost a lot of the drama right there. Worst part is if I go back and play ‘sub-optimally’ then I’ll be arbitrarily picking and choosing who lives and who dies which completely misses the point too. I wish they’d made it a bit harder to lose no-one and a masked the important ‘live/die’ choices more.

    Really tempted to have a second playthrough going with my gut a bit more.

    Also: Garrus is probably my favourite character in the series. Joker’s up there as well as Anderson.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Said it a dozen times but THAT is my biggest problem with ME2. I loved the game but ME1 did it better. Personally, I think you should not have been able to save everyone at all. Maybe if you had to choose whose loyalty missions you completed but couldn’t do them all… or maybe some more immediate choices (I’d have preferred that).

    • plugmonkey says:

      I would also have preferred that.

      A little bit of Dead Rising’s “Now means NOW!” could have been quite effective here, as opposed to the traditional RPG “We need you help immediately! (and by ‘immediately’, we mean ‘any time in the next 18 months’)” approach.

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    Tunips says:

    “You can’t bludgeon your way through bureacracy, Shepard. ”
    “I can bludgeon pretty hard”

    That was my Shepard: the hard surface of the moral imperative. He did the right thing as hard as humanly possible, and ME1 really gave you the space to do that.
    As such I felt massively betrayed by the compromise of the character. My Shepard would have teamed up with Tali – the only other character with reservations about Cerberus – blown up the reaper/AI infested Normandy II, marched into the council and started bludgeoning the bureaucracy until he got an alliance ship and a council mandate.

  8. alexanderjmee says:

    I was looking forward to the consequences of my choices being a big deal. On my first play through of ME2, I went for max loyalty of my team and let the crew die. Watching the ensign get mashed was really affecting.
    Sadly, every play through thereafter was completed so quickly that I got full loyalty, and saved the crew. Kind of broke the narrative for me. I’ve also never lost a team member, which made the finale a little hollow.

  9. YourMessageHere says:

    For me there’s not many really standout moments, as when I think about Mass Effect, on the one hand there’s the good times I had for most of the entire two games. On the other there’s a handful of criticisms I could make about certain characterless characters (Kaidan, Jacob), choices that I wasn’t allowed to make (why are you asking me what to do now the council has been vapourised? Don’t you have proceedures for this sort of thing? I don’t like any of the options) and things that just didn’t work (planet scanning, and the whole suicide mission: “this squad combo is right and that one wrong just because we say so, irrespective of how you’ve developed your character and had her develop others personalities” + Taking control away so the game can execute your squadmates + super-ridiculous boss = spoiling the end of the game).

    But both games as a whole were superb. Specific things:

    - a character creator of awesome. It was even possible to make fairly realistic yet non-beautiful people. I think not enough games do this, but ME is a perfect example of why it’s worthwhile. My Shepard is MY Shepard, her choices are MY choices; I connect with her more than any character I’ve ever played, except maybe my Fallout 3 character. Whenever anyone talks about Mass Effect, they recount a unique experience. That’s priceless, right there.

    - I got to do what I like best in roleplaying games – roleplay. I decided what my character’s personality would be like before I started playing (ruthless – neither good nor evil, but utterly determined to do whatever she decides to do), and unlike almost everything, I didn’t have to compromise on that. The flexibility was there, largely due to…

    - a morality system that wasn’t completely binary, and nor was it judgemental. I played both games with roughly equal amounts of Paragon and Renegade (not Good and Evil – what a great idea) points, and that was not because I was trying to, but a result of naturalistic ethical choices based on my character’s personality.

    - you import the save from the last game into the next. That’s bloody brilliant.

    - frankly superb writing that makes the diverse characters really shine. Some of them (Tali, Wrex, Legion, Mordin) I loved; others (Miranda, Ashley, Jack, Liara) I despised. The ones I hated were just as well crafted as the ones I liked, and I was glad they were there to make the place more real. The only ones I really didn’t like were the ones who didn’t seem well-written or fully developed (Jacob, Kaidan, Samara, Grunt).

    - great art design; they made a universe I want to be in and explore. There’s not much higher praise.

    - some superb levels. Noveria reminded me of lots of ’80s sci-fi films, fighting up the citadel spire thing while Sovereign was clearly visible and ripping off chunks of it was utterly cool, the presidium itself was a very well crafted tribute to art I remember loving in science books throughout my childhood. ME2 was a bit lacking by comparison, I think, not a great deal of it stands out in my memory.

    - whether you talk about ME1 or ME2, the combat mechanism was good. I played adept, so I never really handled many of the weapons myself, but the flexibility was there for you to play as you wanted.

    - fantastic worldbuilding, both broad and deep. An altogether superb universe, and one I hope will keep being explored beyond these 3 games.

  10. Orontes says:

    Thresher maws!

    J/k Wrex and Garrus from the first game. One with shotgun, one with sniper rifle. Perfect.