February 1, 2010 § Leave a comment
I can’t lie, I am more than a little underwhelmed by Mass Effect 2. But before you all start shouting at me that I’m wrong, let me get this straight: I like Mass Effect 2; it’s a good game; it’s just not a great game – at least, not in my eyes.
At the moment I kind of feel like I must be taking crazy pills, since it appears that everyone else in the world has fallen head over heels for the game. Whatever; everyone has a right to their own opinion. But let me just raise at least one criticism of the game, and that is the conversation/morality system they’ve got going. The problem I have with it can be split threefold:
- Conversation reply options are sometimes ambiguous or vague, misleading the player into saying something different from what they thought they were going to. Reading up on Wiki, this appears to be as designed, but it could have been done better. For instance, instead of displaying a sample of dialogue indicating tone, the conversation wheel options could display intentions.
- Moral choices are basically divided between being a jerk or being a saint, or whether you put ahead the good of the many over the few. In other words, the dilemmas you’re forced into are boring, simplistic and uninvolving. They do not represent a challenge, and most of them have an obvious “best” solution – usually the compromise solution.
- The morality system scores players and aggregates each saintly and dickish action on their own distinct scales. This means you can technically be both a Renegade and a Paragon at the same time. It’s not only the same old good/evil scale; it’s completely incoherent. People are complex, contrary creatures, but they’re rarely schizophrenic.
The first point relates to me wanting an aspect of the game to be better. Simple enough.
The second and third points are more difficult, and it’s here that maybe I expect too much of Mass Effect 2. I think it’s also the same reason I didn’t get into Dragon Age: Origins, and I think what it comes down to is that I’m fed up with these black and white morality axes. What I would prefer is a game that responds to the player purely in terms of the decisions themselves, and not whether it was a “good” or “evil” decision.
I could go on, but James Portnow said it best in his article:
The first step is to back away from thinking of moral choice as a system and start considering individual moral choices. This mindset makes it easier to craft ambiguous moral choices because it lets us build scenarios that have no clear “good”. Ambiguity comes from tradeoffs; it comes from having to decide what is the most good in a situation that is mostly bad.