5 Reasons Why the Mass Effect Series Sucked All-Along
Yesterday we read Ethan’s article on his opinion on the Mass Effect ending. I also commented at the bottom so you might wanna read my take on the ending as well. Mike also reviewed the game. Ethan and Mike both proclaim themselves to be fans of the series, but I have always found the series a disappointment. Yes, I agree that ending sucked, but I think also did the beginning and the middle. The ending was the logical conclusion of it all. I will here present to you 5 reasons that Mass Effect is ultimately a hyped up series which never deserved the praise it got. And I will also prove that how by these facts, the ending really belonged to the whole series.
#5: The Retarded Morality System
The game succeeds at many times to present a situation where a moral choice would be really hard to make. You would say it is really hard to decide whether to commit a crime and let a whole race go on sterile or cure and accept the risk of them committing more crimes in the future. But then the whole complexity goes down the toilet when the game decides to slap a label on all your decisions, it’s either a “Paragon” decision or a “Renegade” decision, which is to say it’s good or bad. Therefore the game lets you know the consequences and the implications of your decisions beforehand, and how they will affect your character.
But it gets more annoying than that. Not only the game decides to piss on any possibility of complexity by juvenile labeling, it also forces you to play one more. As you progress through the games new choices are unlocked…. if you are Paragon or Renegade enough. For example in the second game Jack and Miranda, two female characters, got into a cat fight and I couldn’t break a peace between them because my Paragon points weren’t high enough. It was only in the third game, and that only by the merit of importing save games from the two previous games, that these locked options were finally unlocked to me. The game not only labels your every action like our theology textbooks here in Iran it punishes you for being open minded and choosing different options under different circumstances.
If you believe in grey or complex morality you're EVIL.
How this relates to the ending: So, you’re complaining that you were given three simplistic choices at the end? But let me tell you, throughout the whole series you have been pushing buttons, blue and red buttons, to determine how nice or naughty you are. Bioware Santa Claus doesn’t think its ideal gamer is intelligent enough even to determine which choice is nice and which choice is naughty. It paints them blue or red.
I have to confess, to me racism is a little bit different than to other people. To me racism is not merely hating a race, but simply believing in the fact that race matters. And I don’t dislike this notion because it’s naughty, I dislike it because I find it logically wrong and simplistic. Race determines some biological aspects- black people have healthier skins, Russians can put up with a lot more cold than an African, and so on. But race does not make character, attitude, or identity. Your identity is your individuality, because many factors come into play- family, social class, education, your own choices, etc, and since the character shaping process differs from each individual to individual, generalization is always wrong. It’s equally wrong to say “black people are more prone to be criminals” or to say “black people like jazz”. Yes, the first statement is wrong and evil, but in its stupidity it is equal to the second one.
The Assari are hot chicks who excel at science and combat, Salarians are fast talking people who are all mad scientists, the Krogan are mischievous war mongers who seek nothing but blood, (unless they are female, just to throw in some sexism in the mix as well), Batarians are another war monger race, the Quarians are technical people, and so on. In Mass Effect universe, the main defining factor of your life is your race, and it is rare that you have any chance of real individuality. The same applies to Shepard’s team. Tali is the technician, Garrus is the war hero, Mordin is the mad scientist, Grunt is the violent warrior, and Liara is the hot archeologist information broker. Just like all “sophisticated” movies, where all the black people are basketball players and all Asians are nerds.
Hello, I'm a Volus. I represent the Jewish stereotype of Mass Effect universe.
How this relates to the ending: It proves the simplistic mentality behind the writing of this game.
#3: Boring Gameplay
Scan this planet, talk your mouth off, shoot that thing. That is the whole gameplay of this series, and the same cycle goes on and on for hours. Granted, we all overlook it because the story is very suspenseful and you want to just go forward, but really, there isn’t much value to the gameplay. This is not always a problem, as in many great games like Heavy Rain or L. A. Noire or greater than those two Silent Hill: Shattered Memories the style warrants it. But this game pretends to be an RPG. But at the end, there is no real exploration, the side missions are mostly boring and repetitive, there is no real sense of level up and the combat consists of “shoot the bad guys”. At best, this game is an action with RPG elements, but the action games are usually short, and the same formula gets really tiring and frustrating after some time. And the difference between different classes is only superficial.
Now lets do that 9000000000000 times more.
How this relates to the ending: Again, when the whole game is a simplistic system which is designed for lazy gamers, why not the ending?
#2: Hyperbolic Cliche Narrative
Do the enemies have to be the reapers, the strongest possible things created? Does the fate of the galaxy has to be always at stake? Do the politicians always have to be so ignorant? And facing this danger, should it always be a few guys who pull the strings? This is the plot of all trashy sci-fi from Star Wars onward. Basically, the whole universe is in danger, and one guy has to gather a bunch of badasses to fight the danger. I know that Ethan cried when Mordin died but really think about it, did he have to die? I mean, suddenly “Oh I can’t do it from here! I have to sacrifice myself!” The plot uses every opportunity to fall into sentimentalism. It uses every opportunity to present a twist, and uses every opportunity to exaggerate and use hyperbole. It is the same old story, we all have heard it a million times.
And this is not necessarily a bad thing. I love Harry Potter. It’s good escape literature. Escapism is as crucial as other kinds of literature. But it will get on your nerves when people talk about the crucial matters the plot tackles or its moral ambiguity or its complex narrative. The game deals simplistically and superficially with all its themes, and its narrative is not complex at all. The characters are really interesting, and the main strength of the game, but that goes for many escapist works, such as the aforementioned Harry Potter or the anime Bleach.
Long story short, all the thematic elements in the game are simply recycled hyperbolic writing. From cheesy romances, to really strong enemies who seem immortal at fist but then are defeated in a comically easy manner, to the forced sentimental scenes, and to the unnerving main hero whom we will discuss next.
Look at the magnificence of the Milky Way. If someone believes that something like that could be threatened or saved by any life form they are too stupid to write a worthy story.
How this relates to the ending: So you think the ending was hastily written and was improbable? So the rest of the story.
#1: Commander Mary Sue Shepard
“Oh I can’t believe I’m talking to the legendary Commander Shepard!” “I can never be as awesome as you, Shepard!” “I cry out your name when I’m having sex with my husband!” These lines are not actually from the game, but I believe ultimately half the script is in the same vain. Listen I get it. The whole idea behind RPG is to make gamers feel awesome. The main character is always a spot for gamer fantasies. But there is a limit. You don’t want the gamer to throw up at his/her own awesomeness. No war commander is worthy enough of a project as expensive and as hard as Project Lazarus. When General Patton died, they buried him. No man or woman is so unique to be reminded again and again and again that “But you’re the ONLY one who can save the galaxy and unite us and destroy my virginity”. No man or woman is so perfect that s/he can get everyone s/he likes and save the galaxy along the way. Shepard is the most annoying thing about Mass Effect series. Even the official biographies of Kim Jong Il are not as simple minded and repulsive as Shepard’s characterization.
Two things make this worse. First the official face of Shepard. Now, the savior of the galaxy looks like a jock? If you sent that guy to my ship I would send him to the first line to get killed or I would have him swipe the floor. Does that guy look like anything? Look at Admiral Hackett: this is how a real commander should look like, scarred, old, and bitter. Not like a Calvin Klein underwear model. At least you could change this face into someone old and seasoned (and I did, or I wouldn’t be even able to go on playing). But this face shows how the creators imagined their main character.
And the second infuriating thing is Shepard’s pretentious pandering towards an illusion of being a real character. There’s a reason that the main characters of Skyrim and previous games in the series have no lines or no background. They look like they have fallen out the sky, they are you, and you accept the fact that one guy is going to save the world and be the boss of all guilds. Because your character is never really a character inside the story, it’s simply you. Skyrim never forgets that it’s simply a game and not a novel, and you never forget that. But Mass Effect pretends to be a novel, and it pretends that Shepard is not you, but a real character within a fictional universe, and his status is not you but the protagonist of the story, and therefore the wisdom of Drosselmeyer stand true: “There’s nothing more boring than a perfect heroine!”
The universe can wait until I trim my eyebrows.
How this relates to the ending: Well, why shouldn’t the fate of the universe be decided so simply if its whole fate relies on one Mary Sue over and over again?
To me, it’s completely alright to like Mass Effect, as I have liked it as well. But claiming it is anything serious or complicated, it’s like someone saying that J. K. Rowling should win the Nobel Prize. The series therefore are good pieces of escapism, but not valuable works of art, and are gravely overrated by the industry.
If you disagree, please feel free to comment below.