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Explaining Mass Effect: A Theatrical Role Playing Experience

Fairly recently I came across a Youtube user by the name of Smudboy who does through story and plot analysis on games. Currently he’s on a playthrough of Deus Ex Human Revolution, has covered Dragon Age 2, but its his work on Mass Effect 2 which first got my attention. Multiple multi-part examinations that looks at specific characters, problems with the presented science and even conflicting marketing claims. The last plus a six part entry detailing how Mass Effect 2 might have been fixed has lead to the rather odd conclusion, that while I agree with the thought and opinion behind said fixes, that ultimately Smudboy and the many now complaining about the ending for Mass Effect 3 are in fact wrong. Mostly because their view towards the entire series is likewise incorrect or looking at it from the wrong angle. Which is actually Bioware’s fault.

Okay, let me try to backup.

As offered the Mass Effect trilogy is an epic sci-fi quest in which the player’s choices and decisions effect the course of the story as they battle a major galactic threat while dealing with any number of smaller issues along the way, and possibly Get Some. In actual practice – as Some is indeed Gotten – even though said choices are reflected in certain circumstances throughout the games, overall these options do little to change the overall conclusions of said games. Something which became obvious in the series’ second entry and prompted Smudboy into action.

His well thought out and presented suggestions, the actual result of many contributors he freely and humbly admits in the last part of the specific video entry, paint the picture of a proactive protagonist who charges about the galaxy to gather information, resources, alliances and above all the best of the best to make even better as a single self-relying unit that can tackle any oncoming challenge. To find those challenges. Or to put it another, simpler way, Smudboy’s intent was to apply fixes to a role playing game.

Only, as I’ve come to eventually realize, the Mass Effect series is not about role play gaming. Rather, its about giving a role playing experience. A theatrical role playing experience – lets call it TRPE for short.

Examples of TRPE are such things as accusing Saran of going rouge before the Council in ME1 and having to go on a new mission to prove it, when by a small application of retconned logic, as a space cop following the most basic of forensic procedures during your first meeting, you should have had more than a simple audio recording in the first place. Its knowing the Racnai’s name before the Racnai sub-plot begins and you’re told everything about them. Including their name as if it hadn’t shown up on your HUD in the fight before. It’s the shuttle scene in ME2 as well as Jack being ten times more powerful in her intro cutscene than the rest of the game.

Basically if you’re playing a game where its own established logic suddenly becomes invalid or real world reason comes out of nowhere if for no other excuse than to make a particular scene more intense or cool only to never be utilized again or prior, then you’re in the TRPE zone. Something which in and of itself isn’t necessarily bad, but then again Final Fantasy XIII is certainly a TRPE.

This is where Bioware started with Mass Effect. The basis for books and comics, anmie and likely a full length movie, a whole mass media cult that was built around a concept which could be argued at this point is more exploited than developed. Has lead to the current situation now surrounding the third yet not possible final entry into the series. More because there’s money to be made than a story told.

Looking at Smudboy’s fixes again, taking my own modest look beyond the well intentioned and creative, thought-out source they came from, I see a Mass Effect that’s as much about investigation, team and relationship building through active micro-management as it is about exploration, shooting things and blue alien boobs. A ME1 which would have had Saran running sooner, and an ME2 where the Collector General was recruitable. Leading towards an ME3 about getting Sheppard to the right place at the right time, of making that moment happen with guns blazing, to then argue the Reapers out of the galaxy or elsewhere better than James T Kirk might do.

Then I note to myself why such didn’t happen in the first place, again an admission which Smudboy makes at the end of his recommendations. Namely not knowing if all or any of the suggestions made are possible. At least within the amount of effort and ability shown within the games.

To which I must ask in conclusion, using only what appears to be a stolen and doctored free Internet image to reveal the appearance of a much hyped character’s appearance to accuse them with: Just how hard did Bioware try in the first place?

Link to Smudboy's vids. "His" recommended fixes:

Also, just for the heck of it, start of an equally contributed fandub:

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Godmars2902187d ago

2-3 days up and no comments? No criticisms or agreements? Is everyone forgetting this after watching Smudboy's videos?

WitWolfy2185d ago

Good read, I do agre with Jack's cinematic, at first I though CANT WAIT TO USE THIS CHARACTER to find out she was the same as the rest lol

coolbeans2185d ago (Edited 2185d ago )

I don't remember Jack's cutscene very well in ME2, but I don't think your ME1 examples really apply. Since the Geth accompanied Saren on Eden Prime, there's reason to believe some of them could've removed traces of a Reaper or him being there. Forensic Science? There's no bullet casings in ME1 and no other reasonable way for me to believe how Shepard could've caught a Spectre any sooner.

While the Racnai are mentioned sooner than the sub-plot in ME1, it's your decision to investigate the species further in the codex or dialogue options.

Edit: Enjoyable read btw

Godmars2902185d ago

Using the contemporary examples of current police or astronaut procedure, there would be the Normandy's scanner recordings, their own suit recordings - the same kind that was used to reveal Saran as going rouge - as well as the guy he killed. And though the deactivated nukes aren't exactly proof pointing towards Saran, they were the measure the Geth were using to remove proof. Why would they bother with anything else?

Also, while there's no bullet casings in ME, weapons do have energy profiles. Show certain and identifiable signs of damage. And as standardized as things might be, there are likely differences between Geth weapons as well as the weapons of the various organic races just like there are differences between types of handguns, rifles and machineguns. The dead Specter who'd been shot point blank from behind would have been as telling as a spent casing.

And yes I'm mostly speculating here, but its the kind of speculation that specifically pokes at plot holes. Asks why a space cop doesn't seem to be doing what a regular beat cop would which is secure evidence.

I'll give you the Racnai because its a small nitpick, but Bioware still could have done it better. Given the reveal some mystery and value to the following scene which explains them within game context, but then they were probably thinking in terms of a shooter rather than an RPG.

coolbeans2185d ago (Edited 2185d ago )

I applaud that reasoning for Saren (+bubbles). I didn't even consider any of those details. I'll give you the suit recordings, but I can't fully agree to the weapon profile part. Although this is speculation, who's to say a Spectre didn't steal a Salarian pistol prototype?

Regardless, thanks for replying with those examples (I didn't watch vid so not sure if that's all on there :P). I guess at the end of the day we still need to consider story/narrative/etc. depth is still in its infancy, but critical sci-fi analysis like this can keep future writers on their toes.

coolbeans2184d ago

Edit in first reply: I meant to say 'videogame story/narrative/etc. depth'.