Warning: Yet another gaming topic incoming. Also, the following contains a shitload of Mass Effect 2 (and some Mass Effect 1) spoilers. Read at your own risk.
I wanted to do a Dragon Age II wishlist, but I’ve been following its development so closely for so long, I already know enough about it to make such a list obsolete. Mass Effect 3, however, is still months away from release, and ME2, while a great game, still has room for improvement. So here goes:
1: Skippable introduction cutscene.
I haven’t finished every BioWare game I own. More specifically, I haven’t finished Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2. However, I did START every BioWare game several times, because they all have amazing replayability. Having said that, though, one of the things that ticked me off about ME2 was the fact that I can not in any way skip the introduction cutscene. It was awesome the first time I watched it. It was boring the third-time-and-onward. Now I go take a piss whenever it’s playing. This does not mean, however, that any moment in the game where the player thinks taking a piss is preferred over sitting and watching isn’t bad design.
And it’s not like it’s amazingly difficult to make a cutscene skippable: Every other cutscene in the game is.
Which brings us to:
2: Skippable company logo thingies.
I know BioWare made the game, and I know EA publishes it. I do not need to be reminded every time I start the game. Thank you.
3: Realistic run-with-gun animations.
BioWare sort of dropped the ball here in both games. When you’re carrying a gun, and you run around, you generally don’t aim it forward, and you don’t hold it raised to eye-level and continually look down its sights. This posture should be reserved for when you ‘zoom’ in to an over-the-shoulder view to take aim. When you don’t, Shepard (or any character, for that matter) should be seen holding their rifle or shotgun lowered, pointing sideways. Handguns and SMGs should be pointed upwards or downwards when idle or running. The sprint animation is perfect. If coding new animations is too hard, the run animation could be a slowed-down version of the sprint animation.
This especially peeved me off when holding a sniper rifle: Shepard is shown as constantly looking through the scope while running with it, which is not only tiring for the arms like with the other weapons, but also hampers the view considerably: scopes pick one spot a fair distance away -usually someones face- focusses in on that, and ignores everything else. It quite litterally gives you tunnel vision, which is amazingly useful if you want to blow someone’s head off, but not so much when you’re running across a battlefield with gunfire and explosions everywhere.
Speaking of animations:
4: Give female Shepard a different set of animations.
The animations for the male and female models for Shepard are a simple copy/paste. Female Shepard walks like a man, runs like a man, stands like a man, and -and this is the worst of them all- sits like a man.
I’ve heard (or rather, read) theories that this is done to make female Shepard come off as a strong and independent woman, but I call bullshit on that. Crossing your legs and holding your hands on your lap isn’t a sign of weakness and insecurity, it’s a sign of grace. ‘Feminine’ doesn’t mean ‘weak’. Anyone who says so is, in my opinion, sexist.
Personally, I think the lack of female animations is an example of ‘the animator got lazy’, which is a bad excuse.
5: Allow me to buy and sell resources.
I’m one of those weird people who actually enjoyed the resource-collection mini-game and the upgrade system they put in the second game. However, few things are more annoying while mining for resource A than sitting on a huge stockpile of resource B and only finding spikes of resource B. What I would’ve liked is a system where I can sell excess resources, and buy resources I’m short on. I don’t mind this being done with the classical RPG diminishing-returns economy (where I can sell X of something for Y currency, and buy X of the same for Z currency where Y<Z) as long as that huge stockpile of Palladium (it’s always Palladium) is USEFUL! Also, Element Zero is rare, both in the game, as well as in the story (with Eezo-smuggling being a common theme among criminal organizations). It would help immersion a great deal if it was worth a ton more than the other three resources, both in selling and buying it. Paragon Shepard could sell to, I dunno, the Alliance, and in return count on Alliance support during the final stages of the game, while Renegade Shepard could sell to the black market for muchos moolas.
6: MORE customizability.
I loved the fact you could change the appearance and functionality of your basic armour (and consequently wondered why BioWare bothered with static, unchanging DLC armour). I think it’d be great if something like this was extended to your weapons and your ship. For examply, you could replace the standard scope on sniper rifles with an infrared scope, a scope that picks up electronic signatures of mechs, a scope that reads biotic potential, allowing you to see priority targets before a battle starts, etc. Kinetic Stabelizers would diminish recoil on automatic weapons.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think the ME1 inventory system can die in a fire (which, apparently, it did), but one thing I did like is the fact that you could -on a very basic level- customize your weapons by limiting the upgrade slots. The upgrade system in ME2 is very nice, but also awfully binary: either you had an upgrade, or you didn’t. There wasn’t much choice involved. Choosing between weapons, rather than weapon upgrades, worked, because each weapon handled differently (do I pick the automatic assault rifle, or the assault rifle that fires in three-shot bursts, but is more precise?), however I believe that making an interactive upgrade system that allows you to custom-tailor your weapons to your own personal taste can be amazingly fun.
Or they could screw it up horribly, and it’ll suck. Either one.
7: A Danger Room on the Normandy.
Featuring mechs with weapons that stun, rather than kill, if you want an in-world explanation for why it wouldn’t kill. A training simulation that can be done repeatedly to try out your new, customized weapons.
8: Space Combat.
We already briefly took control of Joker before. Why not again when he’s flying the ship? In the middle of a fight with other ships? This is where customizing the Normandy can come in. Do I pick shields that are effective against energy-based weapons, or kinetic barriers that withstand explosions? What kind of weapons do I use? Do I paint the ship pink or orange? That sort of in-depth, tactical decisions.
9: More varied ground combat situations.
ME2 combat is heaps more streamlined than ME1 combat, but all of it still pretty much plays out the same: You run around a predetermined path, and kill EVERYONE in your way. More variety would be nice. I could ask for multiple ways to play a mission, but I know the chances of that happening are slim. Instead it would be nice to have some missions where you have to, say, infiltrate a base, and actively trying to avoid guards (or silently taking them down) is a viable option. Or missions with lots of close-quarter combat that makes Vanguards shine.
There are a few places in ME2 where you could either fight on the ground, or climb up a balcony and shoot from there. More of those, please.
Also, bigger fights. ME1 and 2 feature Shepard as the leader of a commando squad in an environment where everyone is hostile, all the time. What I’d like to see are bigger battles. You will most likely end up working for either Cerberus, a pro-human organization with, quote, ‘near unlimited resources’ (For the record, I hate the term ‘near unlimited’ with a fiery passion) or the Human System Alliance, and, by extention, the Citadel Council, the most powerful political body in the Galaxy, yet you always fight alone. Even the crew of your ship who are trained for combat, but aren’t high-profile companions never leave to get their feet wet. A few large-ish battles with two sides fighting each other and your squad only being *part* of one of the sides would be nice.
10: Don’t make Paragon ‘good’ and Renegade ‘evil’.
In ME2, Renegade simply meant ‘dick’ on too many occasions.
Or ‘sociopath’ on others.
I dislike morality meters in RPGs, but I liked Paragon and Renegade because it was never intended to be black and white. However, the direction of some Renegade choices in ME2 seem to steer towards the wrong way, and I hope they turn it around in ME3.
Keep the cybernetic implant scars for Renegade, though. They look awesome. Especially on green eyes.
11: More Snark!
You know you want to.
12: More Suicide Mission!
What I mean by this is, more missions like the Suicide Mission at the end of ME2. You have a whole squad of highly-trained specialists, yet you only use two at a time. During the Suicide Mission, you assigned members of your team you don’t take with you to various tasks: send the tech expert to hack something, the biotic-gifted one to erect a shield, an experienced leader to lead, etc. The outcome of the mission changed based on who you sent to do what task. More of this please. I’m not saying making the wrong decision would mean someone dies, but more stuff like amount of enemies spawning, amount of resources gained, number of people saved, support of faction A and/or B gained, etc could all be affected by who you pick for which tasks.
13: Don’t call it loyalty
In ME2, your companions had a ‘loyalty’ status that would switch from ‘normal’ to ‘loyal’ if you completed their side-mission (or loyalty-mission, as they are referred to on the BioWare forums). Loyal characters have less chance of dying during the Suicide Mission, and making a character loyal also unlocks a unique power for them. This is all fine and dandy, but during conversations with the characters, they don’t seem any more or less loyal to Shepard, or any more or less willing to die for the cause. What they are is focussed on the mission. Which is exactly what I suggest this status’ name should be changed to: Focus.
The heart and soul of any BioWare games, it’s companions. They all have unique personalities, their own backstories, and quirks we all love. And I think we have enough of them.
ME1 had six companions, and no matter what you did, four or five always survive. Two of them rejoin Shepard in ME2, joined by ten new ones, creating a total of sixteen established characters. Now, personally, while I think it’s a nice touch that ‘any character can die’ in ME2, it creates a huge mess when determining who joins your team in ME3. Mainly because not only can any character die, almost every character can die. People have tried and succeeded in completing the game with only two companions alive. For me this is reason to assume that most of them might be scrapped as companions and replaced either with new characters, or with people we already know, but weren’t companions before. Following is a list of all previous companions and why I think they might or might not return (if they survive).
-Wrex: If he survives, he returns to the Krogan homeworld to try and rebuild it, becoming the chieftain of one of the biggest Krogan clans out there. Because of this I don’t think he’ll return as a companion, even though I’d like him to.
-Garrus: If he survives, he’ll be there. Trust me. Garrus’ fate is tied to Shepard’s, mainly because he has nowhere left to go. I also have reason to believe he will have a scripted death scene, and that it will be epic.
-Tali: Can be exiled from her home, based on your decisions. Because of this, I’m fairly sure she’ll stick to Shepard.
-Liara: Is the Shadow Broker now. Might be too busy to join Shepard as an active squad member, but will very likely play a big role regardless.
-Ashley/Kaidan: One of them is dead. The other one hates Cerberus and blames it all on you. However, I think Shepard will be presented with a choice between the Alliance and Cerberus early on in the game and, if the Alliance is picked, the survivor of this duo might very well rejoin Shepard.
-Miranda/Jacob: Will very likely be the Cerberus companions in the above-mentioned choice. Or rather Miranda will be. I think (fear) Jacob will join you regardless.
-Zaeed/Kasumi: Are DLC-only characters. Because of that, there’s a chance they won’t even be mentioned.
-Mordin: has a high-chance of returning. I don’t see why not (unless he died)
-Jack: Will probably have run off to do her own thing.
-Grunt: Becomes part of the Urdnot clan during his personal mission. I believe he will join you as a representative if Wrex survives, but has to stay on Tuchanka if Wrex is dead. Maybe.
-Thane: Is most likely dead. He had less than two years to live in ME2, and I’m assuming there’s quite a bit of time between the two games.
-Samara/Morinth: Buggered off.
-Legion: Will most likely stay on as representative to the Geth.
Other characters I think are possibilities are Kal’Reegar, Aria, Shiala and Kirrahe.
Ofcourse, with the exception of Liara and Aria, ALL of these characters can die at one point or another, making companions a very difficult balancing act for BioWare. To be honest, I’d prefer it if they’d retcon people dying in ME2 over bringing in an all-new crew.
15: Don’t exclude Jack Wall
A bit ago, it was announced that Clint Mansell was due to compose the music for Mass Effect 3, which, one would assume, is wonderful news. However, the guy who made the music for the first two games, Jack Wall, has done an amazing job and has created a sound that is very Mass Effect. My point being, don’t diss Mansell, but don’t diss Wall either. I firmly believe that these two working together can create a score that is both amazingly epic and amazingly Mass Effect.
And that was my wishlist. BioWare will have to try really hard to screw up ME3, and I’ll probably play it regardless, but if they included even a few of these, I’ll be amazingly happy.