On Illusion of Choice

Blaugust Post #15

After writing about the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer, I had a strong urge to go back and play Mass Effect 3 all the way through again. Really, what this meant is that I had a strong urge to play the entire Mass Effect trilogy again, because the second and third games make really awkward assumptions if you don’t import a save file. Because I said I hadn’t, I’m playing as a Soldier, but I think I’ll probably play 2 and 3 as an Engineer (which is the other class I’ve never played through any of the games). My only regret so far is that playing as a Soldier makes Wrex largely redundant, and he’s probably my favorite party member.

On Illusion of Choice

A Dirty Trick

I’ve heard it said that Mass Effect 1 is the best RPG in the series (even from people who don’t consider it the best game in the series), and while I don’t really agree, it’s certainly the most traditional. Your conversation options depend on the skill points you spend in Charm/Intimidate (and it’s also traditional enough that investing in both is a trap). Locked items and even how well you can shoot your weapon are also controlled by skill investments. You can equip a weapon that you have no skills for, but don’t expect to hit anything with it. None of this applies to the following games: Mass Effect 2 entirely limited weapons by class, and Mass Effect 3 went with a system where your class just determines how much weight you can carry (but all classes use all weapons equally well).

One of the other things is that Mass Effect 1 gives you the conversation wheel a lot more often than either of the following two games, creating the impression that is has more choices. Realistically, ME1 is playing a grand trick on its players, although you’re really only likely to notice it if you play the game more than once (or specifically replay a scene while giving different answers). In a lot of cases, multiple options on the wheel will lead to the exact same voiced line. It will almost always be a line generic enough to “fit” whatever summary the wheel presented, and the only difference is player interpretation.

On Illusion of Choice

Maybe Not so Dirty

Mass Effect 2 and 3 abandon this idea, in favor of just giving you the line, which generally makes conversations flow better. ME3 goes farther than ME2 in this sense, and also occasionally gives you a line based on your Paragon/Renegade scores. In the end of things, I’m not sure which is better. I personally prefer Mass Effect 2’s approach, where you only get a conversation branch for actual line differences. Appearances are important in games, and maybe some well-placed illusions are called for.

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