Friday, 22 January 2010

Shut up about Mass Effect 2, Damn it!

Seriously the internet, be quiet.

I have faint hopes for ME2. Something along the lines of "this might be the best game ever." I've tried to dull this impulse. I know all too well that this way lies massive disappointment, but I just can't.

*Sigh* It's going to be Oblivion all over again.

How I was looking forward to Oblivion, how I scoured every preview, every tidbit, every tiny morsel thrown from mount Bethesda. I waited so long for it, this sequel to my all time favourite game, I'd bought my first ever gaming PC for it. It was going to be incredible, everything I wanted from a game and more.

And then I played it. And it was good. Wasn't it good? But that's just the thing, I wanted a seminal work of interactive entertainment, an epiphany, not just a good game. I played through it in an odd haze, part willfully turning a blind eye towards the game's flaws, half niggling, cold fear that it wasn't as good as I wanted it to be. In was the latter of these two that was the worst. Flaws I can get over, but the constant nervousness that permeated the whole experience was something I couldn't escape. It ruined Oblivion, which is to say, I ruined Oblivion.


I decided after a little reflection that I was going about it all wrong. I'd never ingest this much information about a book or film before getting into it, I'd never come into them with this much baggage. I couldn't help my feelings of excitement, but I'd come into games on my own now. I still read previews, and reviews, but I wouldn't obsess over them, and I certainly wouldn't visit the noxious den that is the gaming forum. I hadn't read a lot about Fallout 3 when it came out, and was certainly a little dubious, but I found it one of the most surprising games I've ever played. I just didn't expect it to be the way it was, which is odd because it really is Oblivion with guns. What made it so special was that it was Oblivion-done right-with guns. It was in many senses the game I wanted TES IV to be, but arrived too late.

This was the paradigm I wanted to settle into. Enough information to aid in an informed choice, but not enough to generate some mad superstructure around the event. It was going well, really, it was.

And then John Walker kicked me in the nuts.

I was still on reviews, hell, the PC Gamer review of Mass Effect lead me into choosing a female Sheppard, probably the best piece of advice about a game ever. I'd bought Arkham Asylum and Left 4 Dead 2 on the back of critical acclaim. Although a bioware game, and though I'd adored Mass Effect, and though I'd only recently played Baldur's Gate 2 and adored that even more, I'd managed to settle into a similar groove concerning Dragon Age to the one I had for Fallout 3. Dubious was I. Expecting the best, but prepared for the not the best. I wanted a review before I bought it. I promptly hoovered up PCG when its Dragon Age review copy came out and gobbled up every word. And man, John Walker liked that game. He starts his review with the game's prologue. He calls it "the RPG of the decade"(which they promptly stuck on the box.)

Wow, thought I. RPG of the decade. Prologue. First Paragraph. Sounds ace.
And that was it. The dam broke, my cynical fortress imploded, crushed by a wave of raw glee. Dragon Age was going to be the shit.

Marx said history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. Once again, Dragon Age was really good, but it was not my RPG of the decade. I ruined it with my constant worry. And its a terrible game for that too, so many moments where an actor fluffs a line, where an animation doesn't quite scan or a scene just seems out of place. The game is full of occurrences that pull you out, like sudden jerks of bad hand-writing, moments into which The Fear can burrow. It aggravates me even more that I really appreciate it as a game; that its basically an old school RPG, that it really is bloody hard, that its got a great magic system, that its got genuinely interesting choices. But it wasn't perfect, wasn't seminal.

This isn't John Walker's fault of course, or his review's. That would be absurd. It's an honest one, a good one. He loved he game, what else was he going to write? But I wont risk a repeat on Mass Effect 2, so I won't be reading a review of it, not anywhere.

Even more, I'm trying to avoid all discussion of it, even even more, I'm trying to avoid all whinge, about ME 1 or 2. This is the worst, worse than praise, its the criticism that lodges in my skull, comes racing out at a bad line or loading screen. I started this piece just after dodging a forum post complaining about ME 2 spoilers on the Mass Effect wiki. It was called "oh damn it!", had the offending spoilers in proper spoilers boxes, but for God's sake man I could have clicked on those! Shut up shut up shut up! There's also a large crowd of folk who just didn't think much of Mass Effect or bioware, and say so. Which is fine. Only, do it over there, away from my delicate ears.

Ye know not the harm ye do.


  1. I think you complain about it too much. Sure it is nice to be immersed in a game, however, no game is ever perfect, there is always something you can be disappointed in. ALWAYS.

  2. I think you've missed the point.

  3. Oh God! I went through exactly the same thing with Oblivion. All I've ever wanted to do was forgive it for its sins and just enjoy it like my non-Morrowind owning friends do.

    Blissfully I had the inverse problem with Dragon Age, ever since Neverwinter Nights got a better score than Morrowind (childish, I know, but I was a child!) I've despised Bioware: they've represented everything stagnant and unambitious in RPGs for me for years. The faux-maturity of Dragon Age made me hate it even more, and the fact that everyone cared about it because it had the latest graphics and was made by bloody Bioware it had to be good. Then the reviews flooded in, and I bought it anyway. When it was shit I was able to gleefully say "I'm not having fun" but when the game hit its incredable climax and Bioware went and rewrote the book on gaming narrative I enjoyed more than I ever thought possible.
    The moral of the story? Hate developers! Decide every game you are going to play is shit, be smug about it when it IS shit and AMAZED when its good.

    With this in mind I'm off to buy that new sci-fi RPG Mass Effect 2. Looks terrible, doesn't it?

  4. Out of curiosity, just playing through Mass Effect 1 myself - why was the female Shepard better?

  5. Jennifer Hale's voice acting is Superb for the female, which Whoever His Name is merely good.

    I't partially a preference thing too.