Mass Effect, HL2-Episode 1

Well, I finished Mass Effect last week.  At final count I clocked in at around 30 hours or so though I did go through a lot of the side missions.  The story itself isn’t wholly original (jaded good guy turned bad wants to summon baddies to hurry us along to our “inevitable” destruction) but it is conveyed in such an evocative manner via it’s dialog system and powerful graphic (particularly in it’s facial rendering) that you find yourself engrossed in it none-the-less.  Indeed it’s the characters that invest you in the game.  The romance subplot is a good example of this.

Marine soldier Ashley, when I first met her, seemed like a cool chick, badass solider, a survivor willing to face overwhelming odds while asking for nothing in return for her service.  Except she’s a racist.  At first I wrote it off as a little bit of healthy xenophobia but, as things progressed, I constantly found myself at odds with her over my belief in the full cooperation between humanity and the Council.  Thus I abandoned my efforts to woo her turning instead into the entirely more understanding (if blue) arms of Liara.

Therein lies the beauty of the game.  It draws you into it’s world via the human (or alien, I suppose) elements of emotion and relationships.  Sure the story is a bit familiar but somehow it feels more real, more dynamic, all the same.  Combat isn’t too shabby either.  I admit I struggled in the beginning but eventually got the hang of things; so much so that I admit blasting away Geth with my shotgun engendered a visceral joy that, in hindsight, might perhaps be a bit disturbing.

The game is not without its flaws.  Inventory management is a pain (NO STACKING ITEMS!!!!!!!!) , there are a number of graphical glitches (seems to vary from game to game), and there is also a sharp swing in difficulty (towards the easy side) once you hit a certain level and I admit I missed the modular, shifting difficult from Oblivion.  However, in all these cases the total package outshines the these minor complaints.

If you enjoyed the KOTOR games,  want a change in pace from the fantasy-saturated RPG market, or are a film fan skeptical in the video game medium’s ability to tell a story somewhere on close to par with motion pictures you should seriously give Mass Effect a try.

I also finished HL2-Episode 1.  This game frustrated me on numerous occasions (Elverator/Falling Debris perhaps its most serious black mark) to the point where its scripted nature and forced events felt more a chore than an aid to experiencing the game’s story.  If you’re a HL2 fan looking to finish the story you’ll power through it, like I did, but it me leave a slightly sour taste in your mouth.Despite the issues with gameplay I think Valve has done a splendid job in crafting a dynamic and interesting world and setting out a perplexing sci-fi action/mystery that I’m willing, and even eager (still), to see to the end.  Besides Alex Vance is frickin’ adorable.

Hl2- Episode 2, has thus far been a more pleasurable experience.  The heavily scripted areas, while painfully difficult at times (Ant-lions and zombies at the same time!?  Come on now!), I find a much easier pill to swallow.   The story continues to be interesting and has a whole lot of Vortigaunts.  Every time one of them calls me “Free Man” (emphasis on the two words) I smile a bit.  I’ll post more once I’ve made my way through the game.