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Default Ars Technica - The lesson learned from 369 hours of Mass Effect

May 7th, 2013, 09:02
Ars Technica has a four page editiorial on the entire series after having played through the entirety of Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, and Mass Effect 3 over the course of nearly 400 hours.
369 hours.
That's nine 40-hour work weeks of time spent in the Mass Effect universe, according to the combined reports of Steam, Origin, and my creaky old Xbox 360. Eighty-six hours went into the original Mass Effect (three playthroughs), 189 hours into Mass Effect 2 (six playthroughs), and 94 hours into Mass Effect 3 (three playthroughs).

Commander Shepard and his crew—sometimes her crew, but we'll get to that—have done plenty of galaxy saving under my control. They fought aliens, robots, clones, politicians, and reporters. They stood united against enemies vast and unknowably timeless. They have, in the words of James T. Kirk, "been through death and life together."
They're my friends.

OK, they're not really my friends; claiming to be buddies with imaginary characters is a little too geeky even for me. The Mass Effect series is not without its flaws, and some are truly Reaper-sized. But it has gripped me like nothing else in the history of video games, and video games and I go back a pretty long way.
But take heart, as Shepard himself says near the end of the series. Even if Shepard must be a hollow man for the sake of the player, the ease with which the player can fill his shoes means that Bioware made the correct set of design decisions.

I didn't feel quite so maudlin about the series until the Citadel DLC came out, but now, it's like I know all these aliens. They're real, hanging out in the back of my head. We are Commander Shepard, and the crew members of the Normandy are our friends. Garrus. Tali. Liara. Thane. EDI. Joker. Jack. Wrex. Grunt. All the rest.

The ending of the series is this: Commander Shepard, surrounded by his team, ready to board the Normandy and set sail back out onto the ocean of night. That's where they'll always be.

Shepard's squadmates are right: we've had a good ride.
More information.
Last edited by Couchpotato; May 7th, 2013 at 09:16.
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May 7th, 2013, 09:02
I shed manly tears.

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May 7th, 2013, 10:34
369 hours… It is what it takes to brainwash this guy's mind. Bet that psy ops can beat the time.
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May 7th, 2013, 11:49
I've got way more than that, yet I'm nowhere near as emotional about it. That being said, I do like the companions and some of the other NPCs. They're well written. Still, there's a lot of untapped potential in the ME setting. As we've discussed quite a few times: More exploration could work out very well. A greater sense of facing the unknown. It was present in ME1, but then vanished in ME2 and 3.

Also, in ME2 and 3 I found the "aliens" becoming more and more like "weird looking humans". All of a sudden they're drinking and smoking, going clubbing and so on and so forth. What's the difference between a batarian and a human? The batarian has four eyes.
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May 7th, 2013, 13:09
If ME2 and ME3 had been proper evolutions of ME - then it would be one of the best game trilogies out there - if not THE best.

As it is, I see it more like wasted potential than anything else.

However, given that it's pretty much the only science fiction trilogy - it's still an achievement worthy of note.

I just can't get past how wonderful I feel when playing Mass Effect (even now) - and how disappointed I always feel when moving to ME2 through ME3.

For instance - the combination of atmosphere and music when I move through C-Sec on the Citadel is one of the most powerful experiences I can have (in a game), even today. It's science fiction done almost to perfection. The lore is quite strong for a computer game - and everything fits together with such a sense of wonder and inspiration.

Oh well….




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May 7th, 2013, 16:06
While 4 pages is a bit much, I could probably go on about my connection with the ME universe, too. No other game has done that for me. It also seems I have reason to go back in some years and replay it all again, since I never played the Citadel DLC.

My one lesson from this series: no matter how tempting it may be, never, ever buy an RPG that suggests DLC support the first 6-9 months after release. You will miss so much content and you will have paid top dollar for the base game.
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May 7th, 2013, 16:24
Originally Posted by ChaosTheory View Post
My one lesson from this series: no matter how tempting it may be, never, ever buy an RPG that suggests DLC support the first 6-9 months after release. You will miss so much content and you will have paid top dollar for the base game.
That's a very good advice, but I would also add that it applies more to EA and Bioware rather than Bethesda or Obsidian games as their core games are large enough and moddable enough on their own with the DLC not affecting/influencing the main story.
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May 7th, 2013, 17:08
Mass Effect 1 is the best Sci-Fi RPG made so far. Better than KoTOR, which I rank second. Gameplay, Story and Atmosphere never were as satisfying in the successors.

PS: I'll not play the Citadel DLC. I refuse to be milked for more money.
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May 7th, 2013, 20:04
I know it is nitpicking, but KotOR and Star Wars shouldn't be mentioned in a sci-fi comparison, as it is not sci-fi. It is space fantasy, really.

I know Lucas tried to retcon and explain the Force in the prequels with the midiclorian nonesense, but the premise is that there is a largely unexplained magical force in the universe of SW, and it takes out the 'science' from Sci-fi.

Also, SW films, games, books, comics, etc do not focus on sci-fi themes at all, but focus largely on fantasy themes.

But I digress, and sorry for that.

I have yet to finish ME1, but I must say I got a bit turned off when taking a look at parts of ME2 at a friend's playthrough. Is it worth putting the effort into playing the first of the trilogy knowing I never wanna play the rest of the trilogy, I wonder…
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May 7th, 2013, 23:01
Personally, I can't fathom how anyone could spend that much time playing Mass Effect. It simply isn't good enough for me to invest that kind of effort.
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May 7th, 2013, 23:08
Yeah, it is also fantasy, but Star Wars it not just the force. There's space ships and shit, too. Many Sci-Fi works have unexplained, mythical, or whatever elements in them. It is not an exclusive decision, each can be part of various different genres.
But I agree, as far as well known Sci-Fi goes, Star Wars is one of the more fantasy heavy universes. With a strong fairy-tale vibe.

And yes, the first one is worth playing alone. The story is satisfyingly finished, not a cliff-hanger. Well… not as finished as in sheppard-got-killed-hurray!. They kept that for later use.
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May 8th, 2013, 02:08
I just don't see enough significant variety in the content for multiple SP playthroughs. Seems terribly boring to me. ME3 multi-player, on the other hand, still haven't finished scratching that itch.
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May 8th, 2013, 21:24
The lesson learned? Throw the BioWare formula at any old crap and this doofus will find a way to fill the giant, 369-hour gaping nothingness in his life with it. I like the ME games, but how does one not notice a steady drop in the quality of the writing?? Some of the voice acting improves. I think a lot of what ppl are getting sucked in by these days is the unparalleled professionalism of BW cut scenes. Oh well. Not everyone can be smart.
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