Thursday, November 29, 2012

Opinion: Mass Effect Trilogy Should Not Exist by Matthew W-A.

Mass Effect 3 was... Controversial to say the least. It was well reviewed, and an excellent game for the most part, but it had one glaring flaw that left a lot of people angry: the ending. Mass Effect 3 was advertised as the epic conclusion to the Mass Effect trilogy, and instead we got a “choose your explosion color” ending based on about the most literal interpretation of deus ex machina possible, resulting in an ending that would have made even M. Night Shyamalan cringe. The extended cut free DLC helped a bit, but it didn't do enough to really change most people's feelings about the ending What I am trying to say, is that as things stand, the Mass Effect franchise is not in good standing with it's fans, or the gaming community in general.

Now, EA is releasing a compendium called Mass Effect Trilogy less then a year after the third game released. The Trilogy collection will be available on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. It will cost $60, and depending on which platform you get it for, it will include, some basic downloadable content (DLC), or almost none of the DLC for any of the games. 360 gamers get shafted the worst, only receiving Cerberus network access for Mass Effect 2 which includes a few weapon packs and a mediocre squad member, and the online pass that allows access to multiplayer in Mass Effect 3. You want the Bring Down the Sky and Pinnacle Station mission packs for Mass Effect, a game that came out in 2007? Sorry, not included. You want the Kasumi DLC that add s whole new and interesting character to Mass Effect 2, an almost three year old game? Nope, you need to buy that separately. What about the Lair of the Shadowbroker or Arrival DLC that take place after Mass Effect 2, without which, the beginning of Mass Effect 3 makes almost no sense? That will be $10 each. PC gamers get a slightly better deal, with the Mass Effect DLC being included, but still, critical parts of the story of Mass Effect 2 are still omitted. PS3 owners get the best deal, with the Arrival DLC being included free of charge, so (spoiler) at least players know why Commander Shepard has been removed from active duty and is basically under house arrest at the beginning of Mass Effect 3 (/spoiler).

The problem is (at least for me), that there isn't enough included as it stands for it to really make sense to purchase the Trilogy box. Including all the DLC for Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 should have been a given. Shipping the 360 version without even the Mass Effect DLC is almost shockingly greedy. I can understand not including the Mass Effect 3 DLC, but that runs into my next issue with Mass Effect Trilogy: it's too early. The last chapter released less than a year ago and just got a new piece of story DLC. Furthermore, the bad taste left in the mouths of many gamers still lingers from the Mass Effect 3 ending, which means that not many people who have already played Mass Effect 3 will be particularly interested in purchasing Trilogy just to get all the games in one premium foil box.

So what should EA have done? For starters they should have waited until holiday 2013 at minimum. All of the DLC should have been included on all platforms. Such a release would be a pretty good deal if not a bit bland. There is more work that could be done however.

Mass Effect is finally coming to the PS3, more than five years after release on other platforms. It was my favorite game in the series, with the best story, and most coherent universe. Unfortunately, it feels extremely dated next to its two sequels. The textures are so bad that when I replayed it after I finished Mass Effect 3 I had to enable the terrible film grain effect just to cover up how awful Garrus's face textures as well as some of the armor textures looked. The combat in Mass Effect was also pretty clunky, with an inconsistent cover system, automatic melee attacks, and weapons that made it feel like you were rolling imaginary dice rather than aiming every time you fired. The changes in regards to combat between Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 are significant enough that any degree of muscle memory built up in one game will make the first few hours in the next really frustrating. If EA and Bioware really wanted to make a truly great trilogy collection, a solid remastering of Mass Effect in the Mass Effect 3 engine with better textures and improved combat would be an excellent selling point.

It is clear to me that EA is rushing out Mass Effect Trilogy hoping to make some extra money without a lot of extra effort. It feels lazy, a bit greedy, and definitely too early, and I think the Mass Effect games as a whole deserve better. We need a good, comprehensive collection that includes everything, and maybe even brings the first game a bit more up-to-date visually, not a cynical bare-bones cash-in.  

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