Gaming

Backlog Quest: A Mass Relay Leads to Self Reflection and A Large Deviation in Tone

Well, I honestly set out to write a wacky, randomized playthrough as I revisited the iconic Mass Effect series. You see, they recently remastered the entire original trilogy for current gen and next gen. Like faeries, I will believe in PS5 when I see one in person.

I had a character made. Her name Temere, meant random in latin. I have large foam rubber dice and a system devised on how rolls would effect what choice I made. Everything was set for the zaniest saga of random bullshit ever seen. I had a few crazy moments; dialog that didn’t quite fit together tonally, violent outbursts that fit the tone as snugly as if stapled to my reactions. Everything was all over the place, right where I wanted it until…I began to actually play the game without all the whacky shennanigans. Mass Effect is, at it’s core, one of a defining moment in the history of the medium for various reasons. Vaaaaarious reasons. For one, it put Bioware on the mainstream map and introduced millions to dialog trees, player choice (yes, yes, the ending) and other RPG goodness. For veteran RPG nerds, it offered a gun based, big budget sci-fi experience rarely, if ever before seen before. Regardless of any of these fine points, Mass Effect did one thing twice. It completely grasped and subdued my adult brain now fully and savagely ravaged by ADHD. That “game I think about playing when I get home” feeling is an increasingly rare commodity as time goes on. I can present reasons as to why this happened, but I blew it on the backlog thing. I really like the OG Mass Effect Trilogy.

So, rather than present the lackluster time spent dicking around in a random manner I did early on, I will just gush about how good (most of) this trilogy is. It’s deep and does a really good job with immersion. It has the obligatory ¨Good or Bad” dialog tree choices as was the tradition at the time, but Mass Effect treated this mechanic with more reverence than some. Whereas many other games of the time equated complex moral choice to: the kind of thing you would do/say if you were a kind, relatively normal and well adjusted person vs. the kind of edgy, over the top, cartoonishly evil answer/(over-re)action one would respond with if they were were the type that glared at passing school busses like 12-packs of Capri Sun. Mass Effect strives for a little more balance. You can abstain from doing all the terrible things and ending every conversation looking like a complete asshole by doing the right thing and still pick the evil option to shoot the terrorist in the face during his exposition rant. On the other hand, if you’re playing a total dick, you can still be the beligerant scourge of every room you stumble into, but you can still do a nice from time to time. Allowing these organic, grey area choices makes the story all the more engrossing and engaging. Our Shepard is a character we grow to care about as an extention of ourselves, but they come with the tools to build a personality, and not just fill the role of a silent, doe-eyed protagonist.

Memorable characters, masterful world-building, graphics that hold up to modern AAA games, tight and responsive cover-based gunplay, some really amazing voice acting… yadda-yadda. It’s pretty good. It’s also like, 60 bucks for three games. They’re pretty long and full of stuff to do. However, like this quazi-review of the Mass Effect Legendary Collection…my train of thought derailed, and I found myself in a whole new territory…Earth Defense Force 4.1 country!

See, a while back I bought this game and got super excited to play it. I got into it for about 20 minutes and got called into work. That week, work throat-punched my life in the work/life balance thing, and by the time I had a moment to play a game, I had forgotten about it, Oh, man. BIG mistake! If you’re a fan of old, B-movie sci-fi classics, this game loves you and wants you to be happy. Holy shit, it’s like someone distilled every drop of fun from every Dreamcast era arcade style action shooter and made it into EDF. This series (which started as a budget title and went on to amass a cult following) is fearlessly hokey, proudly looks last gen, and is absolutley chaotic and addictive. I like this game so much, that this could be incorporated into my trap if I was ever caught by the Jigsaw killer.

I stared, blinking at the brightly colored screen as the trumpets blared. Jumping right in I am presented with four troop types I can choose from, There was a cool looking flying one and a heavy armored one. There’s also a neat looking technician one that halts me with a warning that states the class is hard to play. The cool flying ladies and the armor dudes warn me that they’re also hard to play and I didn’t boot up a game about blowing up space invaders for complexity. I go for the first option: G.I. Joe man. It say’s he is middle of the road, which is what I’m looking for.

The opening mission has me running up a street in a large sandbox city towards screaming civilians and an entire block crawling with 18 foot tall ants. We lock. We load. We make heads splode. I am somewhere in the middle of a giant ant/giant ant corpse-military mosh pit. They throw lots of enemies on screen at once. I can’t really emphasize this accurately. It’s a wonder it doesn’t slow down very much. All I see is chitin and gunfire, All I can here are the screams…

Like, a lot of screaming. These goddamn civilians scream FREQUENTLY. Their lines get repettitive. Fortunately, EDF uses this to great effect in it’s charm and humor. Many lines are repeated, but are delivered like they were recorded at gunpoint, with all the hokiness of a cheesy old movie. They also mix up their responses pretty frequently leading to a moment between two soldiers in which one passionately begs his comrade “Don’t you die on me!”, to which his compatriot quickly retorts “I’ll think about it.”. It’s moments like these that really drive home the goofy charm. Thats really all it needs because the gameplay is absolutely bat-shit insane.

Gif made from a video I captured with the PS4’s share button.

Don’t want to pick each giant spider off that building individually? Blow the whole damn building up! Nobody cares! For some convienient and unexplained reason, property damage of any scale is totally O.K.! This became my go-to method of solving many misunderstandings, such as the one with the giant bastard asshole robot who kicked me across the city and murdered my friends before I could run back.

I went into this wanting to have a wacky time with a deep game. I might have gone into the wackier of the two (deff. EDF4.1) looking for a deep immersion, but the game let me know right away that I was in for something completely different. Either way, I ended up having a lot of fun playing both ends of the spectrum. Whether I was engaged in a harrowing mission to save the galaxy from utter annihilation, or driving a delivery van into the foot of a kaiju, I came out of this one the winner, I’d say.

Mass Effect is property of Bioware and E.A.

Earth Defense Force is property of D3 Publisher and Marvelous USA

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