Author’s note – for those of you who have been holding off reading anything about Mass Effect to avoid spoilers, rest assured, the entirety of this piece covers only the misery before the opening credits roll, so unless you are one of those people who really likes unboxing things you can read on fear free.
Like most of us I didn’t come to Mass Effect for the shoehorned in multiplayer mode, regardless of what effect it has on anything else. No, I came for the conclusion to a series that I have fallen in love with, investing time in, even put a bit of myself into. I came to see my Commander Shepard rise to glory or get burned in the wastes of the planet he just couldn’t quite save.
My Commander Shepard.
Even now his nose doesn’t look quite right.
For those of you have held off buying the game this is not because, say, at the start of the game Harbinger descends from the heavens and softens you up by planting a neat left hook between your nostrils. No, this is because I had to recreate his face from scratch.
A quirk of the new import system means that faces created in ME2 had what was known as a face code, but if they had been imported from the first game they did not. ME3’s import tool only recognises that code so if you played from the first game then all those hours spent crafting a bleached blonde, moustachioed space gigolo (or whatever) to save the universe with has been wasted.
Many of you will be telling me to get over it, but I can’t, and after spending three hours trying to make the workaround one of the Bioware staffers posted actually work, I resultantly gave up and did the best I could. The problem for me now is that it’s still not quite right, falling too far into the uncanny valley. It’s as if someone swapped Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill in the Return of the Jedi and, noticing the mistake, had them awkwardly redub each others lines to make them fit. It’s weird, yes, but more than that it spoils the illusion.
While you’d think someone would have perhaps noticed problem that this would cause and moved to fix it before, say the release of the third one. Amazingly enough, someone noticed enough to put in a polite error message notifying you of the problem -so it wasn’t a total QA fail. No, it just wasn’t a high enough priority to be fixed before the game launch, unlike integrating some crappy multiplayer.
What this made me do was look back at the whole process of buying the game and realise that, actually, it was a pretty crappy experience for one reason and another. I spent a lot of time entering codes into the system only to discover that I can’t actually usefully play multiplayer and have it do what was advertised because my xbox live gold account isn’t the same one my ME2 save is in. On top of that, the stupid EA system that fires up every time you start the game takes forever, and uploads my play statistics without explicitly asking me.
So now I’ve started thinking- why bother? Other than bugging me every time I turned the game on, what would have been the problem if I’d bought it second hand and none of my pocket change had gone to either EA or the fine people at Bioware? None of the ‘features’ of a new copy are useable to me and, if anything, make my experience worse than if they didn’t exist at all.
The really irritating thing was that this was me giving EA and Bioware a chance. In a fit of peak last year I followed what smart arse commenters always tell you and voted with my wallet- I foreswore buying anything EA badged new, so sick was I of having to sign up for another stupid account through which to be bombarded with crap from the publisher. Not paying anything to them seemed the only way to be sure of avoiding the creep of these ‘services.’
Part of the problem with game reviews is that they only cover the game itself, rarely the experience of getting to play it – a ‘review the film and not the cinema’ attitude that perhaps needs to change given how far these things have started to encroach on the landscape of games as a whole. This is something that you may start to see change with the rise of free-to-play, but doesn’t help us in the case of double and triple A. We shall see.
Back to Mass Effect 3 though, as much as it pains me to say it, to those of you who haven’t been caught up in the hype I’d suggest holding out for the splurge of second hand copies, hopefully after the game has had the much needed patch to clear up the face import issue (among others). I can’t comment on the value of the multiplayer as I can’t play it, but I suspect that a lot of the ME die hard won’t be hugely fussed. If, like me, you are concerned about not providing support to the developers who make the games you love then take solace in the fact that there will now be plenty of DLC yet to come that you can spend your hard earned pennies on.
Is it a great game? So far yes. Was it value for money however? For the reasons stated above, my money is on no.