Mass Effect 3 Demo Thoughts

Things haven’t been going too well for BioWare lately. After the fantastic high they experienced from Mass Effect 2, we were treated to Dragon Age 2, an unfinished and messy action-RPG that destroyed any feeling of closure the first game might have given and left a bitter taste behind as it obliterated any sense of choice or plot. Then came the long anticipated The Old Republic, which at this point is lovingly called the Tortanic by a large group of people. Mass Effect’s been the one last beacon of hope for BioWare for not just me, but a large group of gamers everywhere. It’s the ending to one of the biggest gaming series this generation. Can Shepard save BioWare’s universe?

I’m sorry. I am terribly sorry. I couldn’t even bring myself to finish the demo. Somewhere halfway through the second part, I found myself pressing the guide button on the Xbox 360’s controller, followed by the Y. Exiting the game in favor of the dashboard. I sat staring at the screen for a while. How could this have happened? How could things have gone this wrong?

There was a lot of good in the demo, I will freely admit to that, but I haven’t felt this cheated since the release of Guitar Hero 3. Remember when Harmonix sold the rights to that franchise after the second game so they could move on to Rock Band while another company took over Guitar Hero and made something that, despite being Guitar Hero at its core just didn’t feel right at all? That’s what it felt like to me. In a lot of ways, yes, I played a Mass Effect demo, but in a lot of subtle ways, I wasn’t playing Mass Effect. I was playing something else.

A large part of this feeling came from the fact that there was no subtlety  involved in this experience. I know a demo doesn’t embody the full experience of the real game, but that is still not an excuse. The game seemed to be trying to hard to wow me. To amaze me. And it did it with cheap straightforward trickery the way I’ve come to expect from games like Gears of War and Call of Duty. It works when those series do it, but this isn’t BioWare. This isn’t what I started playing these games for.

Yes, I am mad. After I set down the controller, I was seething mad. I had to play several rounds of Geometry Wars 2 to cool down and reflect on the experience. It didn’t help. The more I thought about it, the more problems I had with the game.

Let me recap the experience, to give an idea of the problems I had with it.

First of all, I wanted to roll a FemShep. Since it’s just a demo and not a lasting thing, I wanted to go with the default option. The default FemShep looks terrible. I really wish they hadn’t let the community decide. I went back, selected the default male Shepard and started the adventure. Also, I got to decide that Ashley was dead right there! Excellent!

First 5 minutes: Wait, what. What is happening. No. Fuck. Bullshit!

Commander Shepard is not a commander anymore. He’s kicked out of the Alliance Military. Okay… I’m failing to see how this is a relevant plot point. Commander Shepard died at the start of Mass Effect 2, Cerberus resurrected him. He worked for them after that. He wasn’t a Spectre anymore. He wasn’t Alliance anymore. He went rogue. Assembled his own crew with his own ship. That was what all of Mass Effect 2 was about. Shepard getting his own independence away from the Council and Alliance so he could fight against the Reapers with his own loyal crew.

How the hell did the Alliance ground him? How did they take away the Normandy 2? It’s not even their ship. How did his crew get disbanded? It’s his own crew, nobody was working for the Alliance. Why didn’t anyone take Shepard seriously about the Reaper threat until now? The Reapers attacked at the end of the first game. Without them, Shepard wouldn’t have died in the second game. They even found the damned relay proving the Reapers really are a fucking threat, that they need to be stopped. Shepard was on his own, if nobody believed me he should’ve started his fight with or without them already. Not sit by idly because his planet tells him to sit down. What the actual fuck is going on?

I should not be able to call bullshit to this degree in the first 5 minutes of a demo. That is not good writing. That is worse than Dragon Age 2. Sweet jesus fuck, I’m going to hate this game, aren’t I?

Shepard meets the human council. Because. Well. It’s too late to talk to them. So we should talk to them now.  Okay, makes sense.

Earth gets attacked by the Reapers. Okay, I have to admit, this looks really, really cool. But at the same time, is this really the Reaper threat we’ve been building up to all this time? I’m not really impressed. It looks directly copied from the Tom Cruise version of War of the Worlds. Which was also a really, really cool movie and totally pretty to look at. But no more than that. You would think interplanetary warfare would have become a much more impressive and technologically advanced thing. Big ships shooting big lasers is not really that impressive considering some of the things we already have within the Mass Effect universe.

Kid appears. He’s going to die isn’t he?

Normandy appears. Oh hey, it’s got an Alliance sign on it again. Looks like they really did take Shepard’s own ship. Oh, and Shepard got reinstated. That would’ve been really impressive if Shepard’s biggest accomplishments were actually within them. Oh, and hey, the kid does die. No surprise there.



I choose a dialogue option, and it suddenly faded to black and then skipped a whole bunch of stuff. Erm. What?


Okay, so this time we have some more abilities, and an area much more suitable for combat so we can find out how the combat in this game works. I do have to admit, the controls are much, much better during combat this time around. Although I feel awkward about how I can dive back and forth, kinda like Gears of War. Then there’s the extra power behind the melee attacks, which is also like Gears.

And why did I just randomly get Paragon points? This isn’t the first time this happened. Is this game choosing dialogue options for me? I’m pretty sure I turned it off by choosing RPG Mode. Which shouldn’t be an option anyway.

That’s another thing that’s been bothering me this entire demo long, actually. There are much, much less conversation options involved. And Shepard’s talking without any options every now and again. Just like Dragon Age 2. It broke the sense of control over the character, and I’m starting to get the same feeling with Shepard now too. The game is also much more action-driven, and from what I could see from the demo so far, the previous story doesn’t really matter much at all.

Shepard, once again, starts without a ship, without status, without a team.

One of the biggest problems I had with Mass Effect 2, despite loving the fuck out of that game, was that the story hadn’t moved forward at all. At the end of the first game Shepard had his ship, his crew, and the reapers were coming. At the end of Mass Effect 2, Shepard had a new ship, a new crew, and the Reapers were really coming this time. Now we have another time skip, and we have to get the Normandy back and assemble our crew yet again.

This is not how you create a series. There isn’t much in the way of continuity going on. Each game could be the start of the whole experience, and I understand why they’re doing that. They’re trying to appeal to a broader audience with every single game. Doing their best not to exclude anyone. But they’re doing this at the cost of the story.

One thing is clear here, Mass Effect 1 was created by a different BioWare than the one that made Mass Effect 3. Mass Effect 2, the game that was right in the middle of the two games, had just the right balance of what the first and third games are trying to do. And BioWare did admit that in terms of story, they never really planned much. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ending in Mass Effect 3 has absolutely nothing to do with the events and planning in the first game.

I always wanted to know how this story would continue, how it would end. But it’s no longer the same story. The story to Mass Effect 1, to me, will never have an ending.

Mass Effect 3’s demo has killed my interest in the game. And with that, my interest and involvement in anything to do with BioWare.

I’m sorry, Commander Shepard, but you no longer have my favorite game series on the Citadel.


12 thoughts on “Mass Effect 3 Demo Thoughts

  1. While I agree some aspects of the writing could have been stronger in the demo, had you played the Arrival DLC for ME2 you wouldn’t be complaining and trying to make yourself sound all-knowing in regards to why ME3 starts the way it did. SPOILER ALERT! In “Arrival” Shepard accepts an Alliance mission from Alliance Admiral Hackett to rescue operative Amanda Kenson. At the closure of the mission, Shepard rams a giant asteroid into the “Alpha Relay” which the Reapers were planning to use in their “arrival,” indirectly resulting in the deaths of over 300,000 batarians in the system. In his debrief, Hackett gives Shepard the options of turning himself in to the Alliance for trial, having Hackett “buy him some time” before presenting himself or saying “to hell with you (in essence)”.
    Everyone is obviously free to their opinions, but before going around sounding high and mighty in you criticisms of the story, you should know the entire story first.

    • Consider the point about the story taken, to an extent.

      DLC should not have this big an impact on the main story. It shouldn’t be so that I cannot follow a large chunk of what’s going on because I didn’t shell out extra money for a side mission. That is complete bullshit, and only makes my problems with the story worse. How many more people do you think are going to have these problems because they bought a full game expecting to get a full experience with the full story only to get cheated out of it this way?

      Quite a few people came out of the demo feeling the same way. I think it’s safe to criticize a story that isn’t letting people in properly. That’s terrible writing. No excuses.

  2. dude you are a jerk -.- mass effect story is shaped acording to the player in-game choices, so your point of view only matters in your own story for other migth be different, and played the demo to and the only thing that i can agree on with you is about knowing the kid was about to die, and yes everything is in place it felt to me that i was playing mass effect 2 again, and about the default char if you dont like it you can always build your own, besides in the complete game you wont be using the default youll be using the one you had before, unless you dont have a previous savegame. in conclusion you are a duche and the game is great, cant wait to play the complete version.

    • How am I a jerk for having opinions?

      And no, they retconned many of your choices, they don’t really matter. If Mass Effect was really shaped by my choices, Mass Effect would’ve been very, VERY different. For one, Shepard would have never stepped down. Shepard wouldn’t have been saying a lot of the things he was saying in the demo (they don’t give you the wheel for a lot of dialogue options). If you like to have a vague feeling of choice over actually having any choices, go ahead and enjoy ME3. But no, choices don’t do much. If they did, we’d have really, really different situations this far into the series.

  3. dude its a demo you didint import you save game here, so of course a lot of things wont happen as your shepard would do or sayn and some diologue migth be limited because its a demo, this is just to have a glimpse of the gameplay and stuff, and you should have noticed that rex appears in the second level of the demo, in my story i ordered ashley to kill him, so im quite sure that when i import my previous save game he wont appear in that part wich will change completely the history, because you are doing that mission for him to get the help from all the krogan race, with rex dead in my history ill have to do something completely different so yeah your choices have a big impact

    • These are not the kind of problems I was talking about in my blog post. The kind of problems I’m talking about are the kind that are likely the kind you’re going to be stuck with no matter what because they’re too big for them to change the way the story plays.

      For instance, EVERY SHEPARD will have the Earth intro. Because bonus DLC released later demands that of the ending. This does not compute with Shepard being driven to complete his mission: to fight the Reapers. No matter what Shepard you’re playing, he is doing everything he can to fight that fight. Anything that compromises that mission would be out of character.

      Also, to have an entire game about Shepard getting his loyal crew together (ME2) and then to render that all pointless by switching out your party again in ME3 is not a good move. It makes ME2 a pointless experience as the only thing that really went down was his gathering of the characters. Well, okay, and getting undeniable proof that the Reapers are still a threat, which is also proven to be ignored within the first 5 minutes of the demo.

      Choices such a Wrex living or not, those are superficial choices that do not have as big an impact on the coherency of the story outside of “whether or not Wrex alive or not”. It’s a loose story thread. It’s exchangable. And that’s fine. But the major story threads aren’t connecting either. That is not fine. That is bad writing.

  4. in that i actually agree with you, gathering a new crew again is kinda boring and pointless you should just stick with the ones you got on ME2, and yeah giving a lot o importance to the DLC’s like that is a mistake, not everyone is willing to pay for them (i did), but if you play them like i did a lot of things will make sense like shepard being in earth and liara being the shadow broker and joining your crew again, stuff like that, but still your choices do have impact, like i said before, and not only rex, i bet there is more things that will change according to your choices when you play the full version, of course that there are things you cant change, that will happen to everybody, the game has to have a base story, that wont change for anybody, the things that will change is the path that you walk and the consequences.

  5. Well Mr Van Ruiten, judging by your responses, I will follow up by saying I think you had already convinced yourself to hate this game, especially with your lead in talking about other BioWare titles. Hey, whatever floats your boat man. But the way you are criticizing the “choice system” leads me to believe that nothing in any game would ever satisfy your gaming experience. You are given the same level of decision making as you were given in the previous two games so it definitely will not adversely affect my gaming. Your complaints towards it make me think if there was a scratch your ass button, you would expect to see the Citadel news putting your act up on a big screen. Look, I’m not a big fan of DLC either and I understand where you’re coming from as a fellow consumer. But some of these game anymore have a MASSIVE amount of data already on the disc, sometimes its just impossible to fit all that the developers want on the actual game disc. Besides, I would be more than willing to bet that the actual game begins with Shepard in some form of trial with some dialogue options still trying to fruitlessly warn of the oncoming Reaper invasion BEFORE the actual invasion in the demo that we saw to help explain why Shepard is where he/she is for those who didn’t play Arrival. Good luck in finding a better game this year my friend, and if you don’t like it why not get into the industry yourself and make the game YOU want to play?

    • Don’t worry about me finding better games, I’m finding those nearly constantly. As for making my own game, if I could increase the speed at which I’m learning programming, I’d be all over that.

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