Internal Conflict: Issue 1 – Mass Effect (X360)

7 01 2008

This has happened to nearly everyone visiting this or any gaming site; a game is released to so much admiration that you fear any issue you might have with it and ultimately don’t “get it.”

Such was the case for my first game in a series I’m calling; Internal Conflict.

Now, this column isn’t to say that I think these games are actually bad… this is me playing devil’s advocate in a way I’m not able to while I write reviews; so read it all before you call me a douche (or just call me a douche).

Tonight’s whipping boy/girl is BioWare’s Mass Effect.


While the industry has evolved in various areas, one area was only perfected in the last generation (on consoles at least); saving. When developers realized we were competent enough to dictate when we should save ourselves the balance was restored (although arguments can be made that this dumbs down all difficulty).

In order to control the pace and the difficulty of encounters in Mass Effect, BioWare has decided to use the Checkpoint system along with the Save Anywhere function. But, as other Splinter Cell veterans would refer to it as, this trial and error checkpoint system is horribly dated. The major issue comes when you realize that the checkpoints in the game are so few and far between you are likely to die before reaching the next invisible wall.

Implementation of checkpoints can work, but when you break the system you force gamers to take themselves out of the game to save out of fear every five minutes you lose everything that’s been done to immerse your audience. Mass Effect can be so beautiful and addictive in moments you might forget to save before a battle and when you make that realization it’s too late.

While The Matrix sequels were disappointing they do provide a core philosophical concept to viewers; does choice really exist? BioWare is known as the morality developer, allowing gamers to shape the story around the choices made in the role as the lead character. While games like Knights of the Old Republic re-introduced this convention to the gaming world, BioWare has somehow broken their own perfected formula. More then ever you realize that the choices you make in the game don’t matter because ultimately you’ll either be good or bad. Decide which way you want to go, but as soon as you make that choice the entire game is based on fate.

Sheppard is destined to be evil or, Sheppard is destined to be good. Add to this that every morally sound choice is in the upper right quadrant of the speech tree and all the asshole-ish ones are the bottom-right (with the glowing blue or red ones for really good or bad speech thrown in for good measure) and the touted conversation system falls apart.

Sure you do decide as a gamer to go either way, but as Sheppard… your fate is sealed.

When Mass Effect was announced, the good doctors told us that we’d be able to visit a seemingly open-ended galaxy with a huge variety of side-quests that add to the story of the game. What we weren’t told is that every planet would essentially house the same quest, time and time again.

While it’s understandable that not every quest in the game can disclose the entire story of the series (it is a trilogy, right) it would be nice if these missions didn’t feel like they were added to pad the length of gameplay.

Here’s the best way to describe it:
Getting from Point A to Point B is really fun, but it’s only a 5 minute ride; to enrich the experience someone decides that in the middle of the trip from A to B you need to solve math equations in a timed sequence where failure results in getting fiercely kicked in the genitals. Sure it adds some time to the journey, but who the fuck wants that shit?

If Portal taught us anything, it’s that games need to deliver on the experience from Point A to Point B with the entire vision in tact without worrying about the ultimate value attached to the product. If that becomes an issue, lower your prices.

And, the second part of INTERNAL CONFLICT…


Besides coming from one of the most trusted game developers in the world (on both consoles and PC no less), BioWare has created a rich world that really demands our attention.

With wonderful writing and tried-and-true gameplay that keeps gamers glued to their screens, it is no wonder Mass Effect has been as successful at retail as it has been on Metacritic. Nit-picking aside, Mass Effect is one of the best exclusive titles available for the Xbox 360 and anyone remotely interested in role-playing games, strong story lines and compelling characters must own it today.

Just be weary; controlling the vehicle in the game is like trying to control a fat person’s direction by dangling a cheese burger on a stick in front of them to go right and an apple on a stick to go left…




One response

7 01 2008
Product Reviews » Blog Archive » Internal Conflict: Issue 1 - Mass Effect

[…] Original post by the leveling grind […]

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