Why I Missed the Party: Mass Effect

I really miss Baldur’s Gate.

Sometimes I can remember the nights I would play it. I was always in the middle of a journey, adventuring with a ragtag group of heroes from all walks of life. In every event, their unique perspectives would often mix in with mine, with pretty interesting results. If I were to meddle in the affairs of two warring estates to settle the dispute peacefully, my meaner teammate would be the first to ask me why I was such a nice guy. Conversely, my “good” party members would question my intentions as I went into dealings with a criminal syndicate. Extreme actions were often met with brow beatings or threats to leave me high and dry, so I always had to make decisions with those potential responses of my party in mind. I won’t give you all too many examples, but the point is this; Baldur’s Gate, in addition to Western Role Playing Games in general represented a much more active approach to storytelling, and to this day is one of my favorite games of all time.

Before the days of Neverwinter Nights, Jade Empire or Dragon Age: Origins, I was introduced to Western RPG’s with the Baldur’s Gate series. This was a time where Squaresoft was the supreme ruler of the RPG genre; a time where the average gamer would only be aware of classics like Final Fantasy. Don’t get me wrong, the games I’ve reviewed thus far are a clear beacon: Japanese RPG’s have been very good to me. However, I feel as if I’ve hit some sort of limit with them.

Like I said in a previous post, the Mass Effect series had gone right over my head. It was a combination of bad timing on my part, and an infatuation of a number of other games, and regrettably, little bit of bias.

I had put a lot of stock in Bioware’s RPG, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, when it was preparing to release. The Star Wars universe was trying its hand at being an RPG, after many years of existing as an avenue for action/adventure games. This was new, and it was big. Playing as a unique character who realizes the potential to wield the force made out to be an excellent idea on paper, but for me, it fell flat. Combat left something to be desired and from there, I continued to find more things wrong with the game. Perhaps it just didn’t work well for me, since this was a top selling role playing game, and did very well to put Bioware into more homes than the average Dungeons and Dragons enthusiast. Personally, I think that Bioware’s brand of RPG was in a transition phase: At the release of KOTOR, it hadn’t reached a stable point that I could enjoy, compared to what Baldur’s Gate had already accomplished.

Since I didn’t like it, I swore off Bioware games completely, since 2003.

However, it’s been seven (almost eight) years since that then. Western RPGs have steadily been on the rise in terms of innovation and mass appeal. At the forefront of this is Bioware, touting a number of games like the ones I listed earlier.

2010 is coming to a close, and unfortunately this is the time where most of us sign off and burrow into our caves to rest every inch of our minds and bodies for the duration of Winter Break. I’ve reviewed everything I wanted to cover for a while, and since I have about two months or so before the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, I want to put my reviews on pause for the time being. During this break, I’ll be getting reacquainted with Bioware, and observing how far they’ve come by playing through both Mass Effect games consecutively. I played the demo of Mass Effect 2 recently, and have been completely enthralled with the game play. Perhaps after so many months of having to fight monsters with keyblades and photon weapons while dialogue and plot spoon fed to me, It feels pretty damn satisfying to shoot stuff, and carve my own path (where it’s possible) by choosing what I want to say next.

I just got Mass Effect 1 in the mail late this week and have already gotten my Commander Shepard to become a Spectre, so I’m already knee deep into this great game.

When I look back on certain games, I hate to say that the reason I’m not playing them is because of a bias that was rooted in a previous game. I used to think that Bioware wouldn’t get back on track after finishing Baldur’s Gate. Even though I’m a couple years behind, Mass Effect is clearly proving to be just what I needed to restore my faith in Western RPGs.

Here’s one of many epic moments that made me glad I’m playing this –

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