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Mass Effect 2 creates some wonderfully intimate moments with the spoken word. As we look forward to a voice controlled Kinect Mass Effect 3, I wanted to revisit the conversations I have had in Mass Effect 2 and find out why they meant so much to me.
Conversations are important, from day to day, they can have a profound effect on our lives and how we are seen by others. Even idle chit-chat can form a basis for deeper conversations, and it seems that now, even video games are beginning to cotton on to this.
I wasn't sure at first how well this would work. Can a video game, something supposedly steeped in action have idle conversations that morph into something more, something extremely intriguing?
Not many games try this tactic. Those that I have usually go for the multiple choice, pick one kind of setup. It is a way of interacting not only with the other characters in the game, but also interacting with the gamer, giving a fun and modern dynamic to the game play. But itís usually quite limited. It wasn't until playing Mass Effect that I realised how involving these conversations could become.
Now, rather than a preset conversation I was in the driver's seat.
Mass Effect 2, like its predecessor, does its best to draw the gamer into the story. I felt as I was playing that these were my decisions, my actions and perhaps most importantly the conversations were in my hands.
I don't often get that feeling of freedom playing a game. Something free flowing, something with only a few missions that are a must, where every character is delicately unique. It doesn't come along very often, but Bioware (the makers of Mass Effect) seem to be good at it.
The conversations affect all my other character interaction. Because I'd genuinely talked to these people everything else felt much more rewarding. There was an intimacy here that was much more intense than a story from stoic characters who react as you expect them too.
I loved asking awkward questions, and getting awkward answers in Mass Effect 2. I'm nosey. We're all nosey. We all want to know more. Without having to read pages and pages of codex entries (no matter how rewarding that might be in the end) I want to get involved in the nitty gritty of Citadel life.
Not only did this move the plot onwards, forcing you to continue the major missions if you wanted more juicy gossip, but I actually started to care about these computer generated people. Strange, like caring for a peg or a stick of chewing gum.
There was an intimacy here much more intense than a story from stoic characters.
I care about the plight of the Quarians and what happened to their homeland. I care about the history of the Turians and listening to what happened to Garrus during our years apart. I care about what happened between Jacob and his father, and what happened to Kaidan Alenko after my death during the astounding opening of the game. And by 'our', 'I' and 'my', I of course mean Commander Shepard.
Shepard is everything in the game, nothing happens without her (or him). There's a sense of power, and what you say actually counts for something. People don't always listen to her. I may not have liked every outcome, but in the end, they usually made the right decision. It was just like strengthening a bond.
This became the real game in Mass Effect for me: to earn the loyalty and respect of my comrades. I lost people on my initial play-through, but that only made me play it again... and again. I was still having fresh conversations, becoming a part of the universe, deepening my bond with Shepard and shaping her into the perfect Hero.
Although I sometimes ached to ask a question that wasn't available, or to comfort a companion obviously hurting, I was happy with the compromise of the conversations the game created. There was plenty of grey. Not everything that happened was black and white, life isn't that simple.
The conversations we have in life define us.
This is never truer than when it comes to decided whatís right and wrong. Sometimes I would be talking to opposing sides and having to make that decision myself. It left me entranced by the weight of my decisions. Shepard stood back and let Garrus kill the one who betrayed him. Shepard gave Jack all the knowledge she needed to get some peace. Shepard got rejected by Kaidan Alenko, when she asked him to join her once again.
The small actions in Mass Effect matter as much as the larger ones. Not everything I did had an impact, but there was always that sense of choice, always that sense of conversation, of debate, of knowledge being shared.
The conversations we have in life define us. Our reactions -- and reaction-times -- to certain questions, or how we choose to interact with certain people establish our most intimate engagements.
As I played I learned a lot about Commander Shepard, but I also learnt about myself. Even in a video game I cannot actively be cruel to anyone. It's truly modern and intriguing and infuriating. But not only that, I felt that in this game had only just started to toy with what they could possibly achieve through these conversations and in turn, their possible outcomes. I was Shepard, sure, but Mass Effect 2, I felt was just the tip of the iceberg.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: