Does anyone else feel like Mass Effect 3 ruined video games for them?

So I have hardly touched video games since my race to hit the end of Mass Effect 3… which followed watching my wife’s race to beat it. Sure, a little bit of Diablo 3, trying to get back into Skyrim, which I set down for Final Fantasy XIII-2… which I have not yet gotten back into. Good batch of games I just listed. Ought to be no problem, right?

I have been heard to remark that Mass Effect 3 has the shortest statute of limitations of just about anything ever (as such, I see no need to say spoiler alert, but be ye warned). This is because such a hubbub came up around the ending. I watched my wife beat the game because one of us needed to, and really we had pretty similar play-throughs (I guess we are both good guys at heart). As I aim to focus at least a bit on writing in this still-settling blog, this game seems *very* appropriate to discuss. Mass Effect as a series was popular not as a shooting actiony game, but as a story game, where the player built the story.

Still, the problem people have had is that the end felt… incompatible with all the decisions people put into it. There was very little to the decisions we were boxed into.

However, I had less problem with this than some, maybe. I did not mind either the thought of Shepard having to sacrifice himself and die, or the thought of us losing. The odds were against us. We put up the good fight. For instance, I don’t think this was a terrible argument:

However, we didn’t know. And the uncertainty is what was really maddening to people.

So meanwhile, the extended cut of the endings just came out, and I haven’t touched it yet either. I feel like… getting to go back and rewrite your writing is just… well, it breaks something in the normal stream of things. I feel like I ought to save it for a further play-through… but for that, I would need to feel like playing video games. So I read a review instead. The video at the end is priceless.

But see, the real problem for me was from my play-through. My real experience of there being no choices that mattered in the game. My wife had played basically my first character, saving people, things were great. So I played as my second character, the Royal Pain. Lots of people died. And yet… all the same events happened. Like everything was predestined, and really, only the players might change. They might have slightly different outlooks, make you squirm a little more, but what’s to stop the Reapers from… I don’t know… magically resurrecting a Rachni Queen to breed an army?

Apparently nothing. So much for that choice.

For me, the better writing would actually be that the Reaper Rachni (in my example) would not exist in a play-through with a dead Queen. Would that maybe have made it an easier play-through? Sure. Would it have been a hell of a lot more interesting? Yes. That series I would play back through a dozen times to see all the implications.

I guess I should stop my rant. But one last thought.

I hope Dragon Age 3 does better.


About CompGeeksDavid
Co-founder, editor, podcaster, web comicer, forum moderator, and writer for Comparative Geeks. Father, husband, geek, nerd, gamer, librarian, Christian, Libertarian, Science Fiction philosopher, and probably a number of other descriptors.

2 Responses to Does anyone else feel like Mass Effect 3 ruined video games for them?

  1. Rich Martin says:

    TL;DR Writing, especially for a story with this many decisions is probably *much* harder than it sounds.

    I’m inclined to give them a little leeway in terms of replacing key characters. I can only assume they regret the suicide mission at the end of ME2 because of how extremely difficult it made it to tie various plotlines together and still present the main story they wanted to tell. Every squadmate in 2, plus Wrex, has to have a backup in case the character happens to be dead. I’ve played through ME3 three times now and seen most of these replacements (with the notable exception of Garrus.)

    Some obviously work better than others. Legion stands out as being handled in the most absurd fashion: “Hi, I’m a holographic recreation of a geth platform that you may have never even activated, instead selling it to Cerberus! Okay, trust me now!” On the other hand, I think Padok Wiks standing in for Mordin was a fairly interesting character in his own right. Admiral Raan filling the role played by Tali makes perfect sense as well. Wrex, of course, had his replacement already introduced in the second game. Even minor characters like Dr. Chakwas and Captain Kirrahe had reasonable replacements: Dr. Michel from the first game, and a previously unknown STG agent who nevertheless has some significant and interesting dialog.

    I’d like to think that the writers hated using such a weak cop-out for Legion. Perhaps it could have been done better, but that’s where I’m willing to give them slack. Without Legion, the entire geth/quarian storyline gets reduced to a completely boring and one-sided conflict. There’s no reasonable way I can think of to introduce a significantly different character and still tell the same story.

    Regarding the rachni queen: True, it would have made more logical sense if there were no rachni at all for characters who made that choice, but perhaps the reasons behind that writing decision didn’t actually have anything to do with the writers. The game designers may have already pushed forward the concept of the ravagers as an enemy unit, and the writers had to come up with some way to justify it. Maybe it could have been better, but anything else they did probably would have had too much effect on Grunt’s mission. Perhaps they could have built on what was revealed in the From Ashes DLC (which makes clear that the Rachni existed in the previous cycle) and said that they kept clonable material from way back then. Or maybe it would have meant replacing that mission with something entirely different, which probably would have annoyed completionist gamers (like myself) since we’d be forced to play an entirely different character in order to see a “lost level.”

    Basically, I think the writing for ME3 is as good as it could reasonably be. The decision trees for the first two games are enormous: hundreds or thousands of tiny decisions, and probably a few dozen major ones. Or in fact, the character in question might not have even played through the earlier game(s). If they followed the butterfly effect for each of those decisions, there’s no way it could fit into a single game and a single plot line. Each game, out of necessity, became a little more of a railroad. Even so, the scenery around those rails was still able to reflect almost every decision made in the previous games. For example, in the first game, you might have helped resolve an argument between a man and his sister-in-law about whether or not to have her child screened for diseases (or whatever it was) – sure enough, there they are three years later, and their dialog is different depending on how you acted back then. It’s little things like that that, for me, make the whole trip worth it. I’m even now replaying a character all the way through game one, in order to have those old plot points more fresh in my mind.


    • dbcox says:

      I think part of my problem is I agree with you. Maybe I am mad at me… With one play-through, these replacement scenarios don’t stand out.

      How about another example… I did not have Thane, and his replacement for saving the councilor was Kirahe. You mention a replacement for Kirahe of another STG character. How many layers of replacements did they program? Might it have been easier to just say ‘whelp, now the councilor is dead.’

      You mention the Rachni being important to Grunt’s quest… I should have had no Grunt AND no Rachni. So why even give me a quest?

      As I said in an earlier post, I think ME3 should have followed Chrono Trigger in having the ability at any time to start the final battle. And lose. Just to feel a little less… Predestined.


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