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Thursday, March 08, 2012

I'm about a ten hours into Mass Effect 3, the latest in the hit third-person RPG/shooter franchise from BioWare, and I'm a little frustrated. The shooting is fun. The story has twists and turns.

It's the characters that bug me. They're not a lot of fun.

Okay, granted, Earth has just been attacked by the Reapers, a race of superpowerful robots intent on destroying all organic life in the galaxy. That does tend to make everyone a tad sad, and a tad focused on fighting for survival.

But isn't there room for a few surprises?

Where's the guy who's just broken up with his girlfriend, and is crushed by that, even though she's still alive? And he knows his loss doesn't compare to the millions who are dead, but damn it, it still hurts?

Where's the girl who's inexplicably happy, because her massive Ponzi scheme was about to collapse, and now that everything's life or death, one con that got out of control doesn't matter any more?

Or the dude who is just a wee little bit happy that his ex-wife was incinerated along with New York?

Where's the character who really, really wants to get himself killed, because life is not worth living, and, if you take him on a mission, he does?

We care about characters because of their flaws, as I said in my MIGS talk. The people you spend most of the time with have no flaws.

Look, I love shooting evil spider cyborgs as much as the next guy. But BioWare is known as a game writer's (relative) paradise. Do all the conversations have to be this sad and grim? Couldn't they be a little less predictable and a little more, well, human?

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I'm only a couple of hours in and (as much as the violence is fun) I'm already bored by the characters.

Storytelling in gaming has come a long way, but so far it really seems to just be about a good world with a decent plot structure (broadly speaking). The next big thing with games might just be decent characters, and arcs to go with them.

By Blogger Swil, at 8:45 AM  

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