I was a little harsh when writing up Mass Effect, I think. It deserved a lot of that, it really isn’t that good of a game in a lot of ways, but the core of the game is actually pretty solid. It is just to find the good stuff you have to wade through a ton of cruft. Nearly all of the side quests should just be thrown in the trash, because that is all they are: garbage. The five or six story missions are actually really well designed and interesting. That plays into the game’s greatest strength, which is letting the player create their own Shepard. That is feature that only gets better as you move from ME1 to ME2.
That creating of the protagonist is nothing new to Bioware games; it has been a part of their output’s charm since Baldur’s Gate. But the protagonist of that series, while important to the plot, seemed like more of a bystander. The rest of the player’s party did the heavy lifting of the characterization. With Mass Effect, Bioware really nailed both letting the player control the personality of the protagonist and having that character actually play an active role in the story. Yes, the game forces the player onto essentially one of two paths, but there significant room for alteration
Being the rational, sane person I am, when I started up Mass Effect I made three separate characters. The first was a female Shepard, since I had been told that FemShep was the way to go. That was the character I ended up playing as. Then I made a Shepard that looked something like me. That was going to be my choice for doing a male Shepard run. After playing for a little while, I got the bright idea to try to make Zapp Brannigan Shepard. (If I ever am able to figure out streaming/doing an LP, it will definitely be as the Mass Effect Trilogy as Zapp Shepard) I only really played the first one of those, but as much as I didn’t really enjoy most of the game, the parts I did enjoy make me want to go back through it, just to see how the different choices work out.
Of course, they all work out largely the same. No matter what, all Shepards reach the same end and go on to the same Mass Effect 2. It gives the illusion of choice, but the story plays out with less freedom than a “choose you own adventure” book. It is the journey, not the destination that is important. There is a lot of space in the options given to the player to create their own version of the character, whether that character is a reckless badass or a by the books hero. My Shepard went largely along the Paragon route, but she had a bit of a temper, especially when dealing with slavers and racists. So far, I’ve continued that characterization into Mass Effect 2, where Shepard is really uncomfortable working with Cerebus after seeing the vile shit they got up to in the first game, but willing to try to put aside past differences o work towards a common goal.
After beating Mass Effect in March, I have now beat 1 Bioware game each month this year. If I continue on the pace I’m on, I will surely beat Mass Effect 2 by the end, hell, by the middle, of April. I had planned to lay off of ambitious but time consuming series of post on my blog after my attempt to replay the entire Zelda series over the course of a year or so took me more than three. Okay, I was planning a replay of the Final Fantasy series, but my plan there was to play the games at my leisure and hold back my blog posts about them until they were all done. It wasn’t going to be anything grand; I was just going to look at how the series evolved over the years and if my initial impressions of the games have held up. I really want to play the NES version of the first Final Fantasy for the first time on years. Looking through Bioware’s output, I realized that they have a little over 12 readily available games. I could beat the major part of Bioware’s library over the course of a year. Instead of just letting that be a happy accident, I am making it a goal.
Yes, Bioware has put out more than 12 games, especially if you count PC expansions as full games. But looking over it, it seems really easy to pare it down to a dozen. Going chronologically(mostly), they have Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2, Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Mass Effect 1-3 and Dragon 1-3 & Awakenings. Yes, I am counting Awakenings even though it is an expansion, because I have it as its own retail game. And it rounds things out at 12. As for the others, I will play expansions if possible. They are included with my Enhanced Editions of the BG games, as well as with the version of NN I own. I am not sure about what to do about the DLC for the newer games. I was already thinking of grabbing the DA2 stuff, but buying even a fraction of the DLC for the handful of games that have it would take a significant investment. For just ME3 it would cost me more than I paid for the whole trilogy. And I am talking about actual gameplay add-ons, not pay $2 for special guns or extra costumes. I will likely take it on a game by game basis. If I want more of the game, like I do with Dragon Age 2, then I will pick it up. Otherwise, I don’t need it.
I am ignoring Sonic: The Dark Brotherhood. Maybe I shouldn’t. I own it and have played it some, but I really don’t have any desire to play it anymore. The Old Republic is out as well, because I don’t play MMOs. It is as simple as that. Lastly, I am leaving out MDK2. I don’t know much about it. Someone convince me to play it. As for the rest, I have already beaten Baldur’s Gate, Dragon Age 2 and Mass Effect. I am currently working my way through Mass Effect 2. I don’t really have any plans for the order of the rest of them other than leaving Dragon Age Inquisition for later since I don’t actually own it as of yet. Unless I burn out, I’ll likely fire up Mass Effect 3 right after I beat ME2.