Mass Effect was, hands down, one of my favorite games of 2007. Yes, it has an amazing amount of problems. The vehicle physics were enough to make my brain explode on the regular. Add to that the clunky combat and the dreaded “Unreal pop in”, and it was truly a labor of love to finish the game. Man oh, what a love affair it was. This week, there has been some loose talk of the sequel. It got me thinking: what are the five things that could make Mass Effect 2 way, way better? If you disagree with my suggestions, leave a comment and join in on the debate.
Move past the love story: Hands down, the coolest thing about Mass Effect is that you could pick someone to fall in love with, develop the relationship, and then bump uglies right before the epic final battle. What else is there, really? Well, there is a lot more. Love stories are great, but they are also extremely played out. The same type of tension could be built up in other character-based relationships. A father and son story would be great, or some other authority-knocking story line. Even though the main character, Shepard, is pretty lock-solid and headed towards a confrontation with the incoming Reapers, there could still but other power struggles that could take the place of a love story.
No more “Someone dies!” story lines: We’re just done with it, aren’t we? One of the easiest ways to create an emotional reaction is to end something. Once it is gone, you can’t get it back. Death is the super-easiest because no one ever wants to die. Remember that scene in Mass Effect, where you have to save the mean soldier girl or the geeky, whiny engineering guy? That was supposed to be a heavy scene; because one of the people you spent days leveling up and figuring out attributes wasn’t going to make it. It worked for me. I was pretty bummed. But it was a one-time event in the story, unless you didn’t persuade Rex to calm down. There are other situations that could be scripted in to give some weight. Instead of one person dying from your actions, there could be whole colonies that could be laid to waste. There is no real way Mass Effect 2 couldn’t be better than the first one, unless it is written by a culturally-closeted fourth grader.
How about some better game play: For some reason, everyone uses the Unreal engine. And there is nothing wrong with that, unless you hate tons and tons of glitches. What is up with the vehicle in Mass Effect? You look at that damn thing funny and it flips over. There was no real weight with the shooting, the cover system could have been a bit better, and it took me about a week until I realized that you had to push a button to detonate a grenade. The combat in Mass Effect was fun, but not perfected. Switching character commands in fights always felt clunky, and your A.I. buddies never do what you want them to. All that being said, some simple tweaks and a little time could make it all better.
No more repetitive environments/character models: All the characters looked a bit similar, and all the environments were either rock deserts or a cave or a cargo ship or some strange office/future thingy. The Halo games have had to deal with the same problem, as did the last Rainbow Six series. A recent game that Mass Effect should take notice of is Bioshock. Even rooms that looked similar still have a special personality that made the game as special as it was. Mass Effect is about an astronaut flying all over the galaxy and meeting some really strange dudes. The art direction and the character models need to reflect that.
Lets try using that Galaxy-map thingy over there: When Mass Effect was first pimped out, we saw that super cool map and we were promised that we could go all over the galaxy and interact and have sex with any and everything we could possibly imagine. Did that happen? No. Were we sad about that? Oh yeah. True, it might cause your 360 to explode, but basically anything can do that. The first Mass Effect was super-doper long, but it was long in a strange, abstract way. The secondary missions never felt like they meant anything, and the main story line was easy to move back and forth from. There was never a reason to go on a secondary mission, which meant that there was no real reason to go from room to room and oddly shoot some robots. The secondary missions need to fit in with the main story lines in a stronger way, giving us reasons to see what is around the corner.
I’m sure I’m missing something. What do you guys think? What else could make Mass Effect a better game the second time around?