8-Bit Thought Bubbles

So my first weekly gaming article…where should I go with this one? Let’s start with the two games I’m currently spending the most time with, Rift and Mass Effect 2. Rift is a newly released MMO on the PC that I’m trying out because it looks fun and a lot of my buddies also subscribed to it. That reflection will be pretty timely considering that reviewing an MMO one day after it came out is useless in my opinion. No one – even the most ridiculous player in the world first to max level – can experience fully what an MMO has to offer.

Mass Effect 2 is the less obvious choice here. Many people selected this for their OMGTHISISAWESOME game of the year 2010. Unfortunately, it was one of the first victims to fall into my “I no longer buy purely single player games for full price” buying guidelines. Batman: Arkham Asylum was the last game to beat that barrier – a phenomenal, final, full-price purchase if you ask me.

So what are my impressions so far?

Rift is what it advertised to be. It's a fun MMO with similar elements to other games. The crafting system has been seen many, many times and there is really no need to go into it. The UI looks and feels like 75% of games out there, but the fun thing is they have included incredible customizability that many games needed mods to include. This is one of many lessons the game takes from World of Warcraft. The Warfronts are essentially PvP minigames where the maps are well designed, but you can find any number of comments on forums and other sites saying they are just cheap knockoffs of other maps. The game is very solid and fun and for a new release I have encountered almost no bugs – which is incredible by the way.

One of the best things about this game is the customizability of classes based on the Soul System. I don’t want to go too far into the details of it but you can play almost any of the traditional roles, or a combination of them, in almost every class. I suppose if you were going to distill it MMOs come down to having Healers, Supporters, Tanks and Damagers. You can pretty much find a combination of souls that will allow you to play in that role. The other fun fact is that you can pick four different combinations and switch between them almost instantly so you can instantly make a group work on the fly.

The negatives of the game are that it feels the same. Rifts are really fun, but I honestly liked the Realm vs Realm that Warhammer had to compel people to participate in PvP. I think the bottom line on MMOs these days can be summed up by saying that there will probably never be a new one that will hold the attention of most people for more than six months to one year. They are fun when you are playing with friends and they all have one or two newish features, but in the end they feel the same. The next one will always have something new that you want to try, but never will you see one that everyone feels is perfect.

This is my perfect transition into discussing Mass Effect 2. Why is that? Perhaps because in the midst of all the acclaim that it's received I’m here to say that I don’t really like it. The skills have been dumbed down to a point where I barely feel it is an RPG. It is an action movie where you get to play part of it. When a mission ends and the game sends you straight to a cut-scene giving you an overview of your mission stats it crushes immersion and doesn’t give you the opportunity to make sure you searched every nook and cranny of the level – something I like to do. It just feels like it was stripped down too far. Was the first Mass Effect REALLY that complicated for people? Hell I even preferred sitting in the elevator listening to news as a loading screen over the new "take you out of the game" loading screen. I don’t care how cool the display looks that isn’t immersion!!!

So, the game looks great. I can’t deny that. The conversation, writing, voice acting and plot are definitely really compelling. Getting rid of the Mako and scanning the planets was one of the few gameplay things that was brilliant and necessary. As for the rest I’d rather play Mass Effect. I mean why can’t I at LEAST choose the weapon I want to carry? I’m REALLY locked into one loadout so I can’t have a battle drone AND a sniper rifle? Ridiculous. Am I just missing something? If I were rating games on a 0-10 scale Mass Effect would have gotten something in the 8-9ish scope. Mass Effect 2 would be getting a 7 at best. Just my two cents. Happy reading!