Friday, April 23, 2010

It was the best of gaming, it was the worst of gaming...

Mild Spoiler Alert if you haven't finished Mass Effect 2.

So, I played through my favorite segment of the game so far. It felt like a send-up to Left 4 Dead in terms of both game play and use of music to heighten the suspense (especially those discordant notes used to signal the approach of big baddies).

It left me wondering whether ME3 will have co-op -- because I definitely wanted to play this mission co-op style. It also left me even more anxious to finish up the game so I can try out Borderlands (co-op shooter RPG).

It wasn't until near the end of the mission that I realized what a huge and colossal mistake I had made. I shouldn't have been there in the first place...

Let me step back. Having played many Bioware games before (and other RPGs that use the same plot progression devices) I knew that I shouldn't do one specific plot-progression mission before I had completed all of the optional side quest missions.

I thought *cough* that I was launching a side quest, but didn't realize until much later that I had erroneously selected the mission right beside the optional side quest (an issue with the Galaxy Map where the pop up text from the different worlds tend to overlap). If it had been another optional side quest it wouldn't have been that big a deal.

However, it was a big deal because it progressed me in the story before I was ready to move on. Yes, I could have reloaded an old save game once I realized the error. But what a kludge.

I also experienced a similar issue when I completed the mission and then mistakenly launched the next plot progression mission by doing something I did all the time: Access the Galaxy Map. There was no "are you SURE you want to progress? or would you rather tie up loose ends?" prompt. Just throw me into the pipeline and leave me frustrated enough to reboot the game and restart at a prior save.

The obvious fix: Don't allow the player to make a major plot-progression choice (that will shut off other interesting optional content) without specifically prompting them. Bioware games generally do a good job of this, and ME2 in specific mostly did a great job of this.

Although it's a huge shame that this kind of user experience SNAFU occurred during a major plot point in the game, I'm still quite enjoying ME2 and would probably spend even more time with it if my queue wasn't so backlogged with other titles I'm looking forward to.

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