From The Armchair: Love Hurts in Mass Effect

ArmchairWhat ho, chums!

It’s been fairly quiet in the gaming world over the past couple of weeks, no doubt because everyone is holding back announcements for the upcoming annual mayhem of E3 on 10th June. Add in the fact that I’ve been journeying around the untamed wilds of Scotland for the past few days, and it means that there is likewise little for me to report on the domestic gaming front. Although I can confirm that Scotland is very, very cold. Beautiful, but cold.

However, I did eventually manage to finish Gargoyle’s Quest after much gnashing of teeth and frustrating restarts, and I’m pleased to say it turned out to be a lot of fun after the initial shock at how difficult games used to be. I’ve also made a bit of headway on Castlevania, although that game is astonishingly hard even by retro standards – god knows how anyone ever finished it without a save game system. It is strangely addictive though – despite having my posterior handed to me on a regular basis by Frankenstein’s monster, I still find myself drawn back to the game like an addict to the needle.

Link: charming
Link: charming

I also treated myself to The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds: I’ve barely dipped my toe into the pastel-coloured waters of Hyrule, but it charmed me completely from the start. My face was set with a dreamy grin as I guided Link on his quest, quite different from the determined grimace that is a permanent fixture during my battles with Castlevania.

It’s actually been a bit of a games-buying bonanza over the past few weeks after months of abstinence: I’m eagerly awaiting my pre-ordered copy of Mario Kart 8, and I bought Halo 4 in order to finally get up to date with the series and continue my quest to finish all of the Halo games in coop with my good friend Mr Sutton. I’ve also been sorely tempted by Wolfenstein: The New Order and Watch Dogs, although I managed to resist the devil’s subtle whisperings of enticement in the end. But should I eventually succumb, it’s likely that I will be hurling my shilling in the direction of Wolfenstein rather than Watch Dogs: hunting ludicrous sci-fi Nazis is more up my street than GTA with mobile phones.

I did, however, hunt down and buy Mass Effect 3, such is my eager anticipation to see this series through to its conclusion. I’m currently hovering at around the 35-hour mark in Mass Effect 2, and I’m utterly enchanted by it: any of my spare time, of which there is sadly little, has been funnelled in the direction of this frankly quite remarkable game, which deservedly made it into the top five of our Most Agreeable Games of the Generation.

The difference between Mass Effect 2 and its prequel is astonishing: as I said in my review, the first game has a great story but is fatally flawed by repetitive sidequests and dull exploration. Yet the sequel manages to fix pretty much every single flaw in the original, and the satisfying complexity of the game world makes it a joy to seek out quests and study the lore of the Mass Effect universe.

However, I’ve spent most of my time recently trying to cop off with members of the crew.

Miranda: annoying
Miranda: annoying

‘Romance’ in Mass Effect is almost like a metagame in itself. The fact that your relationships from the previous game carry over into the sequel is a genius idea, and it adds weight to your awkward flirtations when you know that your decisions will carry over to the next game. Miranda is currently in a huff with me after I took Jack’s side in an argument, but I’m not particularly bothered as she’s frankly irritating (I’m sure I can’t be alone in thinking that). To be honest though, I’m surprised there hasn’t been an option to bed Jacob, such is the sexual tension whenever my male Shephard sidles into his quarters for a chat and leans suggestively against the desk.

All of this soap opera posturing is highly entertaining, but the depth of the game still amazes me: at numerous points you’re offered decisions that cause the game to continue in radically different ways, and it’s perhaps the only game I’ve played since Fallout 3 that offers such varied ways to continue the story. This will mean nothing to people who haven’t played the game, but I just found out that there’s even an option to recruit Morinth and see that relationship through to its inevitable conclusion. In that case, love really would hurt.

All of these choices, all of these consequences – I’m already contemplating a second playthrough to see how things might have worked out differently. At this rate, and with Mass Effect 3 waiting in the wings, I won’t need to buy any new games for at least another year.

Toodle-pip for now!