10 Things I Hate About Mass Effect | Fanboys Anonymous

10 Things I Hate About Mass Effect

Posted by DAJB Wednesday, October 16, 2013
The Mass Effect trilogy of games is huge. The hero (or heroine) Commander Shepard, his (or her) state-of-the-art space ship the SSV Normandy and his (or her) battle against the galactic menace that is the Reapers have already passed into gaming legend. The supporting characters are interesting, funny and likeable, and—for the most part—the gameplay is a sublime mix of meaningful decision-making and frantic action. Mass Effect may well be my favourite game series of all time.

Shepard with Garrus Vakarian (turian sniper) and Ashley Williams (gunnery chief and sexy soldier)
Shepard with Garrus and Ashley. Look behind yoooou!
But, despite what some games journalists would have us believe, no game is a ten out of ten. I've lost count of just how many times I've played each of these games, but I recently played all three of them again. In succession. Twice. (I really do love these games!) And, as I did so, I was not only reminded of all the many reasons why Mass Effect is so enjoyable, I was also reminded of the ha'porths of tar which spoil this otherwise perfect ship. Here, then, are the ten things I absolutely hate about Mass Effect.

The MAKO, handles almost as well as the Warthog from HALO and better than any vehicle in GTA or Saint's Row
The MAKO. Comes with Google Maps
GPS fitted as standard.
10.  Useless maps (ME1)

Everyone knows that Mass Effect's iconic space tank, the MAKO, handled like a drunk donkey with one leg shorter than the other three, right?

No. It didn't! The MAKO was a fantastic vehicle, able to climb (and descend) almost vertical inclines, clinging to the sides of sheer precipices more securely than Spider-Man on a diet of superglue and velcro. What's more, in the unlikely event it did fall, it would always land upright. I loved the MAKO.

Sadly, the maps of the planets the game gives you to explore were less use than a dodgy GPS from Poundland, providing no indication as to which parts of the terrain were traversable and which weren't. As a result, players frequently found themselves trying to coax the poor MAKO, gears grinding, to the top of inaccessible mountain ranges and wanting to subject the vehicle to a Basil Fawlty style "damn good thrashing"!

9.  Character creation (ME1, ME2 and ME3)

Being able to customise your main character's physical appearance is one of the little things that make RPGs like Mass Effect such a uniquely personal experience. In this case, the player can choose Shepard's sex, hair style and colouring, as well as adjusting the height of his or her cheek bones, the shape of the nose, the length of the chin and a host of other facial characteristics. Perfect!

Femshep, voiced in-game by Jennifer Hale, also known for her work on "Green Lantern: The Animated Series" (Carol Ferris), "Injustice: Gods Among Us" (Hawkgirl, Killer Frost), and "The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" (Carol Danvers, Ms Marvel)
In the character creation screen this Shepard
was a blonde. And male.
Or at least it would be if there was anything more than a passing resemblance between the Commander Shepard you actually control in-game and the one you've just spent so long creating. But, you know what's worse? Once you do enter the game and realise the discrepancies, nothing can be changed. Not even the smallest, most superficial detail. Apparently dyes, shaving equipment and even cosmetics won't exist in the future. And all hair dressers, it seems, will be serving life sentences on the Batarian prison planet Aratoht. So that's some consolation, I suppose.

8.  Scanning for minerals (ME2)

Allegedly in response to fans' howls of frustration about the MAKO (see Item 10 above), Bioware introduced a new way to explore planets in Mass Effect 2.

This involved interminably dragging a targeting reticule over a picture of a slowly revolving planet which, let's be honest, is about as mind numbingly dull as, well ... dragging a targeting reticule over a picture of a slowly revolving planet. But wait—it gets worse! Since there's nothing to indicate when you've actually found all the resources you need, players have no choice but to repeat this mind numbingly dull exercise over and over again, long after it ceases to serve any purpose. My theory? Bioware was deliberately punishing fans for daring to complain about the MAKO!

7.  Unexplained deaths (ME2)

Mass Effect 2 is pretty up-front about describing its final assault on the Collector Base as a suicide mission, so the player is on notice that one or more of Shepard's team mates may well die. It even tells you how to increase your chances of keeping them alive: gain their "loyalty" (i.e. complete a specified personal mission for each) and make key upgrades to your ship. That's good to know, right?

Mordin Solus (salarian scientist, ex Special Tasks Group, modified the Krogan genophage) and Tali'Zorah nar Rayya (mechanical genius and cutie, like Kaylee Frye from Joss Whedon's Firefly and Serenity)
Shepard with Mordin and Tali. Only South Park's Kenny
dies more often.
Maybe. Except, what the game doesn't tell you is that, if you play the loyalty missions in the wrong order (hint: leave Legion's until last!), the game is likely to throw you headlong into the suicide mission before you've had a chance to complete the others. It also neglects to mention that when you go into the final battle with the Big Bad End Boss, you need to take your least battle-hardened companions with you. Take a strong team and the characters you don't take will start to die. Off-screen. Without ever telling you why. Yup. The game cheats worse than a twelve year old making up the rules as he goes along!

A Collector being taken under the control of the Collector General, itself controlled by the Reaper, Harbinger
A Collector. If only he'd stuck to coins or stamps.
6.  Padding (ME2)

Successful superhero films have a habit of spawning prequel comics, showing us what the movie characters were doing before the movie starts. They aren't essential to understanding the movie which means, no matter how good or bad they are, the reader never really feels invested. And that's what Mass Effect 2 is. A prequel comic to the main movie event that is ME3.

In it, Shepard is pitted against the Collectors, an alien species which is never mentioned in ME1 and plays no part in the events of ME3. Fortunately a lot of the characters (no fewer than ten new squad mates!) are a lot of fun, but you can never quite shake the idea that the whole game is just filler—a series of fun-to-play but essentially irrelevant stand-alone missions; a game with more padding than Miranda Lawson's more than ample bra.

5.  End Boss (ME2)

A giant robot? Really? I mean, okay, I'm sure Bioware would argue it's not really a robot, it's a Reaper that just happens to have been made in human form using distilled essence of human colonists but, let's face it ... if it's a big man-shaped machine made of metal it's still a giant robot! Definitely a contender for the least imaginative, most over-used End Boss of any SciFi story in any medium. In the galaxy. Ever.

Femshep, voiced in-game by Jennifer Hale, also known for her work on "Metroid Prime" (Samus Aran), "Wolverine and the X-Men" (Jean Grey), and "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" (Bastila Shan)
Female Commander Shepard. Now
with glowing orange potato peeler.
4.  Unachievable ending (ME3)

As is now widely acknowledged, Mass Effect 3 was released with three almost identical endings. Plus, if you'd built an Effective Military Strength ("EMS") in excess of 4,000 points, one of those endings included a final shot of Shepard's chest rising as if to suggest he (or she) had survived. Bioware claimed there were sufficient War Assets in the game to enable you to reach that magic number without having to play their controversial multiplayer missions online (see Item 3 below).

Except that there aren't. That was a lie. But never mind. Thanks to the Extended Cut DLC, it is now possible to get that elusive ending with an EMS of less than 4,000. For anyone who played the single-player game in its original form, however, it will always be difficult to re-play the final mission without a horrible sense that the chance to keep Shepard alive could disappear as suddenly as a teleporting banshee. And you know how scary they are!

3.  Online multiplayer (ME3)

To improve the longevity of their games, developers and publishers have long included optional online modes and, for some gamers, these modes have become an integral  part of their social lives. There are, however, huge numbers of gamers (by far, I suspect, the majority) who do not want to play online. They may fear abuse, they may feel their skills are not sufficient to do well in that arena, or they may simply be unwilling or unable to pay online subscription fees.

Whatever the reason, a developer would have to be unbelievably arrogant to deliberately alienate that majority by making a single-player game with a compulsory online mode, right? Yes, they would. And yes, Bioware did (see Item 4 above). Following the release of the Extended Cut DLC, it's no longer essential to play online but, every time I see my Effective Readiness rating stuck at 50%, I still find it more irritating than a case of varren scale-itch!

Shepard and squad mates: Garrus Vakarian (turian sniper); Wrex and Grunt (krogan warriors); Tali vas Normandy (quarian engineer); EDI (artificial intelligence and sex-bot); Liara T'soni the Shadow Broker and Samara the Justicar (sexy asari biotics); Steve Cortez, Samantha Traynor, James Vega, Jacob Taylor, Jack or "Subject Zero', Miranda Lawson played by Yvonne Strahovski from Chuck, Jeff 'Joker' Moreau played by Seth Green, Zaeed Masani (all human),
The gang's all here. Except Mordin who's dead. Again.
2.  Deaths in Mass Effect 2 (ME3)

Remember those unexplained deaths at the end of Mass Effect 2? Guess what? They affect Mass Effect 3, too! Of all the characters who reappear in ME3, Mordin and Tali are perhaps the most important, adding real emotional weight to two of its most critical missions. Even the brief cameos by Jack and Kasumi add a little extra humour and poignancy to the missions in which they appear.

So which characters did Bioware make the most likely to die at the end of Mass Effect 2? Yup. Mordin and Tali first, followed by Kasumi and Jack. Wow. Even George R.R. Martin doesn't kill off his characters before they've done what they're supposed to!

Martin Sheen, also known for "Anger Management","The West Wing", (President Josiah 'Jed' Bartlet), "Wall Street" (Carl Fox), "Apocalypse Now" (Captain Benjamin L Willard)
The Illusive Man. The most evil man in the
galaxy. Except for Casey Hudson, obviously.
1.  THAT ending (ME3)

Okay, this had to be Number 1, right? Bioware's pre-release hype for Mass Effect 3 promised that every important decision made by the player across all three games would affect the ending, and that the endings would be innumerable and "wildly divergent". What they delivered was a game that ignored every decision the player had ever made and presented only three endings, all of which were virtually identical. As if to rub salt in the wound, those endings not only failed to deliver on Bioware's promise, they made little sense in the context of the game and were badly executed. Hell, the final scene was even cut short by a pop-up ad!

Despite agreeing that, the endings aside, the game was otherwise superb, fans rushed online to award the game ratings of one or two out of ten, and to vilify Project Director Casey Hudson. Eventually Bioware felt compelled to release the Extended Cut DLC. This went some way towards addressing the shoddy execution but, sadly, the substance of ME3's ending still makes about as much sense as the final episode of Lost!

So, what's your favourite game, and what are the things you absolutely hate about that? Oh, come on—there must be something!

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