How to fix Mass Effect

Hey! Who stole my motor-oil?

"Hey! Who stole my motor-oil?"

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?

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15 thoughts on “How to fix Mass Effect

  1. You cant get rid of the love story. It makes the game so much more enjoyable on different levels. It also makes you feel like your day in day out interactions with the members of your crew had an effect on the game

  2. I agree, remove the love story, and you can scratch me off the must buy list, the story in mass effect was for me its core and most attractive awesome experience, its one of the games that just touched me on so many levels that i find myself still thinking of the story and speculating the fate of the future…cannot wait for the sequel and sequel sequel, that said, i do agree 100% that they should give you absolute exploration freedom, imagine stumbling onto a planet thats rigid with jungles and life and civilizations, only to find a damn geth outpost setting up camp, now destroy the geth and you cripple Seron, or whomevers plan of expanding, also they could even implement a small strategy section there, you know set up an alience base to protect the inhabitants and also win you over some territory, this inturn turns other alien species against you cause the council allowed expansion but the other races ryieng to expand are refused by the council. there are so many oppertunities of combining main plot with side quests that it could be a octa trilogy game.

  3. It would be good if you could interchange characters more, i mean by lots of characters leaving and joining your party and more deaths because in a war there are a lot of deaths.
    Also more species, you’d think that they’d be able to create some pretty cool creatures and planets!

  4. The most important thing to change is the vehicle aspect. It was repetitive and dare I say boring, but could easily have been improved. Less of the huge mountains you had to scale. Dramatically lower the power of the weapons, and give the standard enemy something to fight back with so the player would in some way be better off fighting on the ground. As it was, you clear everyone out without taking a scratch!

    To be honest, I’d say the early gameplay footage looked better. The early footage showed an amazing AI control system where you froze time (Rather like when you use tech or biotic abilities in the final game) but the camera then went back, and you literally placed your AI team mates where they should have gone, and who to fire at. That way you have complete control over a firefight, and your teammates abilities become that much stronger.

  5. how about a salarian team member! i was so bummed that i never got to team up with one of those awesome guys. i deffenitly agree about more variation in the environments, those side missions get really boring when every planet is pretty much just colourful desert with either a generic cave, generic building, or generic underground base. how about some freaking vegetation and water on some planets. oh and id like to see more friendly planets with cities, like an Asari home world. and earth. they need to let us go to earth. pleeeeaaase let us go to earth bioware.

  6. Great points. Two more to throw on the pile: 1) Get rid of the elevators, period. I feel like I spent half the game spinning the camera around my character waiting for the elevator to stop. 2) Please crank up the environmental graphics to look more like a next gen game is supposed to look like. Whether indoors or outdoors, I could not help but shake my head about how great the character models looked (facial animations and all) but how bad everything else looked. It wasn’t until I played Dead Space that it finally hit me – this is what I was expecting from Mass Effect! This is what the environments were supposed to look like, so cool you actually take your time to look at everything and marvel as you progress through the story. If EA was able to achieve this on a multi-platform title certainly Bioware could do it on a 360-exclusive title. Or at least on the sequel – hopefully.

  7. They really need to fix up the vehicle sequences, and make the world maps more exciting. I also agree that they need to make the side quests more enjoyable. There were far too many generic fetch quests in Mass Effect that just didn’t go anywhere. I’d love to see them do something similar to Oblivion’s guild’s where you can join different factions each one with a sizable story line. I love the points about adding more aliens. Hopefully they could add more exotic looking aliens; instead of aliens that look like slightly modified humans. I think it would be great if some your decisions from the first Mass Effect determine what additional quests you can go on in Mass Effect 2. For example if you saved the Rachni maybe you could get a Rachni ally, and even go on quests to help the Rachni rebuild. If you killed off the Rachni queen then it could open up a quest line where you have fight off the Rachni, or find a way to make peace with them.

  8. I think that the class system/leveling was not good or deep enough.

    I think the class system needs to be done away with. No one knew what the classes were going to do (beyond a brief description given about each class), or how it would feel. Sure, you will be able to tell that the Adept will be using “magical” powers, and the soldier will be shooting the majority of combat, but you don’t know how that FEELS. You don’t know how that’s going to change the gameplay.

    I say, do away with the classes, and start the main character out as a blank slate, to be further developed by the player. Of course there would be limitations to what skills could be leveled to the max, or what branches should be given points (Adept skills, engineering, soldier).

    Also, I felt like the skill trees were rather sparse and shallow. I would like to see more depth in the skill trees.

    Oh and the elevators are there to mask loading times, Candyman. If you would rather have a blank loading screen, you could ask for it, but don’t expect to get any support.

  9. Maybe your hopes were up too high? As Tyler said, the elevators were a mask for loading, but if the loading wasn’t so long i believe it would be a bit more bearable.

    The “How about some better game play?” section sounds like you expected the game to be a shooter. Bioware came out saying that it was a RPG more than anything else, despite the focus on projectile weaponry. However, i do agree with you, the AI teammates were terrible. In fact, the entire concept made me stop playing. When i asked my friends how they cleared the game, they told me that they went lonewolf on the squad. Hearing that made me sad and mad at the same time.

    With that said, i really can’t comment on the story. But i have read the prequel book, which isn’t so bad if you have your expectation set to cheap Sci Fi paperbook. So again, when it came to the story, i didn’t really expect anything epic or heart churning…except for hot Alien sex…which is ALWAYS GREAT! lol

    Overall, i think most of us can agree when i say the game was a degree of disappointment and could have benefited by another year or at least a few months in development.

    Candyman, you say to “crank up the environment”? The 360 could barely run the game, how do you expect the system to perform better if they were to crank up anything? Try the PC, sir!

  10. Andrew – I don’t buy the “try the PC” line. Play Dead Space on the 360 and you’ll know exactly what I mean. You don’t need a PC to have gorgeous graphics, you just need a developer who has the time, resources, and desire to make the environments look great.

  11. lol yeah totaly agree…story too short (beat in 3 days technicly 1 cuz of work) shot gun was funn but overheated to often…overheation is gay….more better side quests be nice…..more people die stuff but u get more… and open ended please! it was soooo gay i had like 15 missions left and i beat it and im like “hello wtf i cant keep going…”…melee system?
    cover was gay and the new trailer dosnt make sense…reasons why:
    1:Geth are made, not converted…husks are converted
    2:so he has n7 armor dosnt say it sheperd plus i got rid of that crap in like 16 mins
    3:what so now your playing as some geth dude want to kill every one
    4:WHAT THE HELL HAPPEND TO THE OTHERS?!?!?!?

  12. Candyman – You don’t need a PC for gorgeous graphics, yes, but to run beauty is a different thing. Maybe we are talking about different things. Are we talking about the visual fidelity or the design? I agree, we don’t need PCs for top notch graphics, but again how can you expect them to make it better when the game can hardly run on the system itself? The game is beautiful and i can’t see how you can deny that.

    I suggested try the PC version because Bioware had more time to polish that version since it came later. Possibly having the time to streamline the loading, and with installing most of the game to the drive, it would probably make it run better so you can “CRANK THE ENVIRONMENTS!” without breaking the game.

  13. The thing that I want the most from Mass Effect 2 is factions. Edgar, you put it perfectly. Oblivion-like guild side quests would be incredible. It would be awesome to be able to join a mercenary group or an assassin organization. Keep things relatively the same though other than that. Another great main story line, good side-stories with people on your ship. Keep the good mix of alien and human allies. There definitely needs to be some big event towards the end of the game where everything totally changes. Both KotOR’s had this. Fix the Mako (or get a new vehicle) and add a little bit to the random planets you can visit. There DEFINITELY needs to be more than one major city.

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