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: