Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mass Effect and... KotOR?

Mass Effect is the best computer/console RPG I have ever played—and this includes the incredibly well done Knights of the Old Republic series (though it was close with KotoR I)

In the game, you take the role of Commander Shepard, the first human agent for a galactic power known as the Citadel Council. Your mission is to track down a rogue former agent—but you very quickly discover a much larger threat looming behind the scenes. Accompanied by your rag-tag crew, you set out to save the galaxy—despite the odds and the fact that your own superiors don't believe the threat.

Mass Effect is a product of BioWare—the people who also created KotOR and Jade Empire. I am constantly amazed at just how good their products have turned out to be. They seem to hit the aspect I enjoy most about RPGs—the RP part of it. Where as most RPGs are more centered around killing stuff to gain experience to build up your character to kill more stuff to gain more experience, BioWare focuses instead on character interaction and moral choices—and the impacts of those choices on the world around your character. I feel that the people who complain about the combat being not as 'cool' as first person shooters or that the equipment you get isn't as varied as they would like are missing the point. BioWare games focus on story and character more than stuff. And if some of the side-missions are clunky or all the guns look the same, I don't particularly care. But then, that's just my preference.

As with KotOR I very quickly got the feeling that I was 'inside a movie'. It gave me goosebumps. Games don't usually do that. The absolutely awesome character graphics and voice acting certainly helped in this regard. The game pulled me in—kept me chomping at the bit to play again. Indeed, I spent more than one night staying up till the wee hours of the morning playing. There were even scenes in the movie that had me cheering out loud—especially towards the climax of the game (the scene where Captain Anderson punches Ambassador Udina springs to mind here). Yes, I was cheering at a video game. Geeky, yes, but true.

How does any of this relate to Star Wars? Well it really doesn't, except to make me sad. Why sad? Because it makes me think of what COULD have been done with KotOR II (if BioWare had been given a more realistic schedule for production) and what MIGHT have been done with KotOR III if BioWare hadn't suddenly switched their emphasis to an MMO.


I feel like a grumbly old man for saying this, but...I just do NOT get the appeal of MMOs. Maybe KotOR will be different than others, but somehow I doubt it. In any case, it will never be as immersive as one of BioWare's other RPGs. I mean, the first time you battle alongside 'Brewski_LeBurp' the Jedi and he totally PWNs some NOOB the fourth wall will probably come crashing down hard.

I guess what really bothers me the most is that KotOR I was so awesome and KotOR II was so awesome (up until the last few hours of the game) that I was left wanting more. Plus, they 'ended' the series on a cliffhanger—with the heroes of BOTH games heading off into the unknown regions to battle a threat to the galaxy that was even greater than that posed by the Sith or the Mandalorians.

THAT is what I'd like to see. Not only does it sound cool, but it would provide some closure for the story arc that I grew to love. When I see how they're doing things with Mass Effect 2, it makes the fact that KotOR III is not on the horizon all the more disheartening to me.

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