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You take games too seriously.

Mass Effect: No Jews In Space

Mass Effect

(All apologies to Albert Brooks. And Jews. Who are more than welcome in space.) 

Is three hours into the single-player campaign too early to start talking about Mass Effect? No? Then let’s do this.

Mass Effect, BioWare’s yadayada-wah-wah-you’ve-heard-all-this-why-do-I-do-this-for-AAA-games, is about as far from the “hardcasual” moniker as you can get. It’s just straight up kick you in the head nasty-ass hardcore. It’s got an inventory system that doesn’t work, to begin with, and even reviewers weren’t able to puzzle out the experience system.

 So why am I so excited that I’ll spend my fleeting gaming moments climbing the dialogue trees instead of, say, the quick games of NCAA ’08 or Pac-Man: Championship Edition that are much more my usual style?

This is exactly what the good people at WordPress developed the jump for.

Story.

Sure, you start off as a gruff bald space marine. Even though you don’t have to be gruff (or bald, for that matter), the dialogue tree’s flaws are easily apparent in these early bits, where exposition means that nothing’s going to change too much.

But then, after some altogether-standard intrigue, where no one but your scrappy ragtag group knows that a Great Evil Is Ready To Destroy the Galaxy, the world opens up in a big way – and a typical way for videogames.

Yes, I’m talking about the Citadel section – much-despised by reviewers and players alike, universally believed to be too long and too tedious. But guess what? Those people are wrong. This is a game teaching you its mechanics, teaching you about the world you’ll be playing in and how you’ll be playing with it. 

You get small, manageable side-quests. You have small, intriguing battles with assassins and thugs. You learn how to move around, how to swap out party members, and how to interact with the world.

And what a world it is. Space operas are generally cliche-ridden morality traps, where the humans are the beautiful Aryans amidst a galaxy of hideous, barely veiled stereotypes of the fears of their mainly rich, mainly white, mainly male audiences. 

For example, I love the Star Wars movies, but they contain – and bred – bad writing, where you can easily connect the implications of which race corresponds to which ethnic group or flaw in the human psyche. How many times have you seen a group in a space opera that’s all too clearly a crude take on, say, Jews. Or a minstrel-era take on blacks. Or just a simple evocation of our mental images of the Nazis.

But Mass Effect sidesteps that. Mass Effect presents a wide array of aliens – sentient, mechanical, scary, sexy – who disagree, have differing motives, and are just as well-developed as (if not better than) your personal avatar in the journey. 

That’s good storytelling, and it’s so rare to the form that it’s getting me excited about a style of play that’s so far removed from my day-to-day life. 

Let’s see if it can keep it up – at least until Grand Theft Auto 4 (new trailer! new trailer!), which I can’t wait to play during the hours when my girlfriend is asleep or out of the house.

– swr 

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Filed under: Commentary, Story Analysis, ,

4 Responses

  1. ctplante says:

    Trust me, sex changes everything.

  2. Sam Ryan says:

    I haven’t hit that milestone yet.

    But I have been to a stripclub, and apparently ALIENS LOVE HUMAN BOOBS.

    There’s also a button command to “lean forward” and “lean back” so you can better survey a dancing girl as you watch her gyrate.

    Yeah, maybe I better not play this with the girl around, either.

  3. weefz says:

    Sam,

    Yeah, weird isn’t it? Males come in all races and shapes but the one thing unifying them is appreciation for the nude female human-like form. Pretty handy for the Asari, no?

  4. mblankier says:

    that’s right jews are welcome in space.

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this is a blog about video games by chris plante, sam ryan and chris littler.


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