The Massive Mass Effect Race – Part I

I have not been a very good writer this weekend, and nor was I very stringent on my diet or exercise regime. What I did do was spend two and a quarter days shut in a house with six friends racing through the Mass Effect trilogy – Andromeda was excluded only because it’s not part of the Shepard story line, and we were aware we may not have the time to do all four games. And so I’m doing a three part blog post about the adventures and exploits of Titan Shepard, Earthborn war hero of the Alliance Infiltrator Corps!

Also: MASS EFFECT SPOILERS AHEAD!

If you don’t play Mass Effect hopefully some of this will still be interesting or entertaining for you. If not, ignore this and the subsequent two blog posts here!            The rules of the race were simple. Finish each game as fast as you can. Drinking was done as follows:

  • Two fingers of your drink when you died/any time you saw the Critical Mission Failure screen.
  • One finger of your drink whenever a squad mate went down.
  • A shot whenever a squad mate dies in the story-line.

Players:

  • Yours truly – Infiltrator
  • Jason – Vanguard
  • Will – Soldier
  • Mike – Sentinel
  • Steely Dan – Engineer
  • Freddy – Adept
  • Lizzie – Sentinel

Character Creation – Class & Character

We were assigned random classes and no one really got what they wanted. Having picked up Infiltrator, I consoled myself I at least had overload for the abundance of shielded enemies in the first game. I’d really wanted Soldier, as I knew that could breeze through most things with barely a scratch, but at least I had medium armour. Having completed the game before, I also got to pick up Assault Rifle training, so felt a lot happier for that.

I went female, having played before as a male and I wanted to experience what differences there were as a female character. Blonde hair, some facial redesign and a slightly elegant scar later and Titan Shepard, Earthborn war hero, was ready to go.

Most points for innovative/entertaining character design go jointly to Mike, who made an impressively accurate recreation of Steely, and Jason. I won’t go into too much detail, but he named her Oral Shepard and designed her to look like she did what it said on the tin. It was pretty terrifying in honesty.

Mass Effect Play Through

We began at 10pm on Friday night. Freddy was playing on his laptop and managed to snag an early lead due to smoother cut scenes and load times. It was all fairly close on Eden Prime up until we got to our first real combat – even though I got lost and spent two minutes backtracking. After Saren revealed himself to be the villain and betrayed his Turian colleague Nihlus, we had to disarm four bombs planted by the Geth, a synthetic species with a penchant for building terrifying mobile bodies for their networks and converting live prey into semi-robotic husks that are essentially zombies.

Disarming the bombs caused a lot of problems, partly due to the game itself but since we played on Normal difficulty I have to be honest and say we struggled to adapt to the original controls and our unfamiliar classes – most of us charged in recklessly and were taught some object lessons in how useless light armour is. Freddy came out ahead, with most others around five minutes behind. Steely and Lizzie were a little further behind, but not much.

Back at the Citadel, the galactic hub we all knew and loved, we had our first meeting with the Galactic Council. This revealed most of us to be two things – a) Focusing on Renegade alignment to plough through dialogue and b) Holding massive grudges against the bureaucracy the Council for them being utter jobsworths throughout our last play throughs. Diplomatic we were not, but nonetheless we all got made Spectres (galactic secret agents) and given the Normandy, because the game designers knew their player base would treat these poor diplomats and politicians with all the respect they’d give a trio of warmed up shits, so built in this somewhat awkward allowance to avoid people failing the game due to belligerence and bad manners.

I chose Renegade as my path on the basis that the visions given to Shepard by the beacon on Eden Prime panicked Titan Shepard into action, and her fear and conviction of the Reapers has driven her into a desperate frenzy of haste. She is impatient and loathing towards people who stall and deny her as she knows the absolute truth of what is happening, and nothing should stand in the way of saving the galaxy. Picking up both Wrex and Garrus as I left the Citadel, and Tali after the violent and chaotic battle in Chora’s Den, I set about the galaxy – thankfully with past experience to guide me, since the Journal’s helpful guidance was ‘find evidence to incriminate Saren’. That was about as useful as giving someone in a zombie apocalypse an objective to find a cure.

I was the only person to go to the frost world Noveria first – not quite true, as Steely technically went there but after getting through the time consuming first section I entitled ‘Dialogue City’, he got taken out and was the first to discover that the auto-save feature in Mass Effect is about as forgiving as Cthulhu. Instead of going through it again, he buggered off to Feros.

I ploughed on, keen to get Matriarch Benezia out the way before I was late game powerful as all the fights scale to your level, and late game biotic witches are horrible to fight. I died after Dialogue city and hadn’t auto-saved, learned my lesson and saved roughly every room thereafter throughout the game.

I died in the garage. I died in the Mako, surprisingly because its terrible driving controls – everyone had at least one awkward moment of yelling “No…No – NO! God dammit…piece of shit…” at the screen while piloting the vehicle/pinball with PTSD. I died when the Rachni randomly jumped out of vents. I died because I didn’t realise Rachni workers actually do damage. And then I reached Benezia.

I died to Asari commandos. I died to Geth snipers. I died to exploding cover. I died to a multitude of different biotic abilities. I’m pretty sure I died once to my own grenade. Importantly though, Benezia bit the dust in a hail of electronically charged bullets while I yelled at the screen I was going fuck her daughter. Somewhat drunk, and very angry, Titan Shepard killed the Rachni Queen without remorse – Wrex was all for it, but Ashley oddly wasn’t. This is Ashley Williams, xenophobe and borderline outright racist, big proponent of putting down aggressive alien species, telling me that I can’t make the Rachni, the insectoid, hive mind species that brought the galaxy to the brink of destruction, extinct. Titan reasoned she took a pretty big blow to the head at some point in the fight and moved on with her genocide.

Rachni purged and Benezia suitably mistreated, I left for Feros. Everyone besides Mike had done this first – Mike went to get Liara. Most people avoided it for fear it was a non-story mission and would just slow them down. Therefore I was fully prepared for the husks and general creepiness of the planet. What I was not prepared for was the suicidal tendencies of the Mako, which I drove off the edge of the skyway. Three times. Honestly, if Saren had actually wanted to defeat the Council races he could have just bought up every vehicle production company and installed the same drive system that the Mako had. Galactic decimation, daily.

After slaughtering the colonists on Zhu’s hope, because they were infected by some sort alien creature in a way sort of like the Geth, the Rachni or the Reapers and so couldn’t be saved, Titan Shepard waded through husk blood and multiple corpses of the Asari commando clone to kill the Thorian without much difficulty. She also put a bullet in the actual Asari commando’s head for good measure. As Wrex confirmed, it was the only way to be sure. Ashley stayed quiet this time, making Titan think she might just have a weird attachment to bugs. Or maybe murder was fine but genocide wasn’t.

Titan went on to hunt own Liara T’Soni, because she had a promise to keep to a dead Asari Matriarch. I was a little worried that I’d be wasting my time, as no one who’d picked Liara up had got any story-progress or speed benefit out of it, but I suspected it was necessary. A short trip to the Knossus system and some angry yelling about the journal not telling me which of the twenty odd planets she was on later I’d collected her. Steely had found the Krogan Battlemaster at the end a massive problem, him being and Engineer and Krogan being bloody-minded bastards who refused to die. I was killed once but managed to get out the way the second time. The Prothean ruins collapsed and I left Knossus behind in the rising cloud of dust as I jetted off to Virmire.

Virmire. That graveyard of player happiness. We’d all played before. We knew what was going to happen. Freddy let it happen, apologising quietly to Wrex as the shot rang out. I’d delayed arrival as long as possible and treated everyone else in the galaxy like dirt to amass Renegade points. I only had forty percent of the bar filled so…I was really glad to find out that was enough. Will and Jason played really meta-game angles to avoid the issue entirely; Will recruited the bare minimum of squad members so if Wrex died he wouldn’t have a full squad for the mission and Jason just didn’t recruit the Krogan warlord at all. Both worked, although Jason never got a chance to go back to the Citadel to recruit him as he got caught up in the race for second place.

Despite keeping Wrex on side and, you know, there, I lost some ground on the other two at this stage. In the face of inferior assault rifle ability and charging regenerative Krogan, Titan Shepard did not live up to her name. Overload was also of debatable use at this stage, as while the Geth fell in droves the Krogan shrugged it off. I have never once been able to put up with Kaidan Alenko (to the extent of which I forgot who he was by the third game of my original play through) and so it was an easy choice to ‘sacrifice’ him/free myself o the burden he represented. Saren also didn’t present much of an obstacle at the end of the stage and Titan Shepard moved on with fire in her chest and victory in her sights.

Until she got to Ilos. I’d caught up on Freddy here, as he’d apparently forgotten there was a map function and had consequently got lost several times. I closed some ground, but he finished the Ilos run before I was half way through, and managed to pull away on the home straight in the citadel. A combination of massed assault rifle fire and massed tech/biotic powers meant I managed to push through most of the combats on Ilos without much bother, but because the map was clearly designed by the same spiteful, hate-filled developer/designer that had made the journal it never really made clear when and where stairs had to be/could be used. As a result Titan Shepard (and most of the other Shepard’s) spent a lot of time standing a floor above or below objectives frustratedly looking at blank walls and yelling at them in a vain attempt to make terminals appear.

I dived straight into the Citadel run, absorbed by the cut scenes once I accepted they were unskippable and loving every second of in a mixture of awe and nostalgia. The Citadel trench run was a desperate grind to close ground on Freddy, who had stalled near the end, and keep ahead of Will and Jason who were so close if you’d overlayed our screens you would have seen almost exactly the same thing. Lizzie was approaching Ilos and Mike & Steely were both on it, so slacking off now would have been a big mistake with regard to standings.

I blazed through, taking pretty big risks where I probably should have played to my class – I’d early on given up on the sniper rifle (read: on Eden Prime, after firing one shot) as the scope wobble brought back visions of the journal directions. A more cautious approach might have brought more efficient and quicker progress, but all three of Will, Jason and I were caught up in a screaming fireball of competitive energy. Every time I cleared an obstacle, one or both of them would the same barely seconds after.

The final approach to the council chamber and the showdown with Saren was a mess of rocket turrets, with underground passages bypassing them but littered with hulking Geth Destroyers and Primes. Jason gave up on the turret run as he, like I, died in a single hit and so slogged through the underground labyrinth. I ran screaming death and terror through the turrets instead, gambling on one lucky run to get ahead. The risk paid off and my second suicide run got me far enough to trigger the final confrontation just as Will reached the turret section.

Fighting Saren on his rocket-firing surf board a second time proved ridiculously harder than before, and Freddy finished the game as I struggled to overcome Saren’s apparently infinitely-regenerating shield bar. Freddy had also had the Paragon points to convince Saren to kill himself, an advantage I’d forgotten and not had revealed to me – clearly I needed to shoot more people during dialogue and find more reporters to punch.

Saren’s final form was frustrating and annoying to face, but not difficult. Having both grunt and Ashley – simply because as Soldier class mains, they were difficult to take down and so bled me less drinking punishments – meant I had two healthy and resistant meat shields that Saren couldn’t quite burst down in one volley. It became a war of attrition between Sarens health bar and my Assault Rifle ammo for victory – I won, as I had infinite ammo.

The final cut scene rolled, with the Human fleet obeying my final middle finger to the council after hanging up on them all game and abandoning them to destruction while taking down Sovereign. It was a victory, although I felt cheated of first for no good reason. Jason finished minutes later, followed by Will and Mike. Lizzie and Steely had to finish the next morning – we’d started at 10pm on Friday and finished between 5am and 6am the next day, so a play time of seven or eight hours. We set our alarms for 10:45 and prepared to steal what sleep we could before we started the second game at 11am.

We literally sprinted through this game, doing the absolute bare minimum of dialogue and mission options. It was a blitz, and a draining one despite the ahste we tried to apply. Discussing it afterwards we decided we must have only done about 35-40% of the full game, with all the varied side missions, character exploration, shopping and world exploration available. With only two and a half days we just didn’t have the time to slow down, relax and really enjoy the universe we all knew and loved.

Still, it had been intense and thoroughly enjoyable. Even with the combat controls and being barely able to fight in or around cover. Even with the Mako trying to kill every single one of us, without prejudice or warning. Even with most of the galaxy reclining luxuriously like a tempting lover of in the distance while laughing at our inability to explore it. I went to bed determined to be ahead of the pack by the end of the second game, and will end this first entry hear as it’s a obvious point to do so! I hope you enjoyed this brief insight into what was a frenzied and exciting struggle – there were far fewer story missions than I thought in this game, and as I rushed through each of them (except Noveria, where I paid for every metre with blood, sweat and angry tears) the reports are somewhat sparse.

Look forward to the next one, which contains more spills, thrills and entertaining moments*!

*Thrills, spills and entertaining moments not guaranteed, subject to readers enjoyment of summarised reporting of rushed playthroughs with minimal photo/video additions. No refund for your time can be made but can be requested at the Citadel Chrono-complaints desk outside of C-Sec. Refunds for time used trying to find, lodge, chase and resolve said complaints cannot be made. Apologies are also not issued for any of the above.

 

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