Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Byte: I went out and achieved anyway!

Something's starting to annoy me about Mass Effect...

As you're probably aware, I'm something of a compulsive new character roller when it comes to RPGs. I like to experiment with character classes to check out the balance between the abilities of each class and see which one I like best. However, since I've completed the game with a soldier, I got an achievement that allows all the new characters I create to pick a bonus talent that gives them a specialisation in Assault Rifles.

This means that the Adept character I rolled a few days ago is not only able to use the biotic powers, but also properly use the best multi-purpose weapon in the game; so even at a relatively lowly level 12, she can hand most enemies their asses back on a silver platter in about two seconds flat. Part of the point of having different character classes is that you have to trade off some abilities against others. However, the weapon achievements piss all over that from geosynchronous orbit. The result of having this achievement system is massively overpowered characters after your first play through.

And I think this devalues the whole point of balancing the character classes in the first place. What's the point of having characters that should normally be restricted to only using pistols being able to use Assault Rifles or Sniper Rifles if you scored the 150 required kills for each weapon in a previous game? It's the same with some of the other achievements. If you ever get to the point where you have more than 1 million credits, that unlocks the really high quality Spectre gear, which you can buy from the quartermasters on the Normandy or the Citadel. That's fair enough on the first play through - because typically you'll be near the end of the game by then - so by the time you get to fight all the really badass enemies, the weapon power is appropriate. However, having got the achievement in one game, the gear is then available for all your subsequent games, meaning that all you need to do is horde the cash and you can buy insanely destructive weapons very close to the start of the game. It's almost as bad as rolling a mage in Baldur's Gate and then using a character editor to boost all your stats to 20 and then giving a level 1 character access to 10th level spells, like Comet.

I suppose the developers would justify this by saying you could raise the difficulty to restore the game balance, but I've always thought that having "hard" difficulty levels on games is a bit stupid... i.e. they're for the cock-waving masochist crowd who think frustration is fun. If you're tempted to argue against that point, I would remind you of the time when one of the chaps on State (I think it was either Jonty Hicks or James Lyon) decided he was going to jump straight into Jedi Outcast at Jedi Master difficulty without trying the lower difficulty levels first. It took him about three days to get off the first level, thanks to the knuckleheadedness of the design (hidden turret emplacements, guns that don't shoot straight, horrible AI, etc).

I also suppose I could just not use the extra specialisations, but it irks me that you're even given the option. You don't get special bonuses when you complete and replay Knights of the Old Republic (or any D&D-derived RPG I've played, for that matter), so I can only attribute this evil to the consoletards who can't decide whether they're having fun or not unless they've unlocked all the "achievements" and like this kind of thing.

It's not going to stop me from playing the game by any means (I'm still obsessing far too much about Ashley for that to happen), but it does annoy me. It would be nice if they could put in an option that allows you to disable the achievement bonuses in the game options, so that you can play a "pure" game. I know from playing through KotOR a dozen or more times that after a while you do just want to mess around with a game, but that's what we have cheat codes and game mods for. I'd prefer it if you were able to complete the game honestly with each character class before you get the overpowered unlocks, because I don't like a game that's a complete walkover from the start, especially if it's the developers themselves who've made it that way. So please, no more achievements. Who do they think we are, anyway? The Big Lebowski?
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