Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Day Mass Effect Died

Some of you will no doubt have finished Mass Effect, had a reaction one way or another to the ending and moved on with your lives.  Others among you won't have a clue what Mass Effect is or care remotely.  For me Mass Effect began as an experiment.  I'd not played the games that I'd heard so much about and I wanted to see what my reaction would be to the ending that caused so much controversy.  So I started from the beginning with a six year old game and slowly fell in love.

The graphics were clunky and a little dated.  It had a terrible inventory system that didn't tell you how much stuff you actually had and as a shooter it was awful.  But what a story.  I played FemShep as I'd heard the female Shepard had a better 'voice' than the male version and I decided early I would play Paragon and get as many of my ships crew to the end as we battled in the stars.  About halfway through the first game I knew I was hooked and the brilliant innovation that I could move my final game save over to the sequel and eventually the whole trilogy thrilled me.  I was writing my own FemShep's story.

The second game was even better.  Graphically it leapt up in quality and menus were simplified (maybe a bit too much) and the subtleties of battle were far more apparent.

My three year old XBox decided about twenty hours in to the second game to die.  Or to be more specific the hard drive on my three year old XBox decided to die.  The very place where Shepard existed was now a worthless heap of nothing.

This all happened less than two weeks ago, the following day Mass Effect 3 arrived in the post and now sits on my game shelf mocking me for not saving to the cloud.

Can I start again?  Well yes, of course I can but it's a massive investment to get Shepard back to where she was.  Mass Effect doesn't play like most games do.  The levels here are conversation branches with colleagues and adversaries not jumps to make or foes to kill.  Those conversations define who your Shepard is, make him or her feel more alive than any game character I've encountered.  She felt so alive I simply never considered she'd need saving to a cloud somewhere.

I will go back, soon probably, Kotaku's Mass Effect Week is helping to inspire me and I know I'm not alone in having a save file corrupt and die.  I suppose I should be upset at all the other game saves that no longer exist, Far Cry 3 for example, but frankly I never had much time for the lead in that game.  Mass Effect's story is great fiction and the way the game slowly lets you paint that lead yourself is one of the great joys of this generation of games.  I'm glad I started my experiment but genuinely sad I have to start painting all over again.