Mass Effect 2: great game writing builds depth and richness


As noted before, Mass Efect 2 is a game that deserves its high ratings despite some notable flaws. It clearly needs a patch for greater stability and to fix characters getting stuck in various maps. My party also likes to let me handle a lot of big fights solo, as they patiently wait outside a room. I can tell them to go into the boss room all I want, they will wait outside the door and let me handle the boss all by myself.

What sets the game apart is the writing. There are moments with both main characters and minor ones that are stellar examples of the art of game dialog. Two come to mind as standouts. When you find them in the game, don’t rush through. Listen and learn how to build a scene that appeals to the higher sensibilities of an RPG player.

The first one has a minor spoiler, so be forewarned if you haven’t played through the game yet.

It involves the Solarian scientist on your ship:

http://masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/Mordin_Solus

You learn through the game the role he played in reworking the Krogan Genophage to prevent the Krogans from developing a resistance to the original version that largely sterilized their race. He defends his actions as needed to prevent war with the Krogan and perhaps their complete destruction. If you follow the Paragon path, doubts begin to form in his mind.

You undertake a mission to find his former assistant on the Krogan homeworld. Along the way you discover that he is experimenting with the Genophage, seeking to modify it. Just before you come upon the assistant, you find the body of a Krogan female who died while undergoing voluntary experiments to try to cure the sterilization.

Mordin has a long dialog tree as he contemplates the dead Krogan and his doubt now comes to the forefront. He bristles at the accusation that he has used medicine as a weapon, but sees that his actions played a role in the death of this Krogan. He prays over her, and this sets the stage for the final confrontation with his former student.

The student is conducting unethical experiments to undo what he now regards as a crime against the Krogan race that is destroying them slowly. Who is the greater monster, he suggests?

Mordin, with your advice, will later decide whether he will seek to undo the very viral sterilization he helped create.

It is a simply marvelous piece of game writing.

Another gem involves an NPC, a simple Asari bartender. She is an Asari Matriarch and her dialog is funny, poignant, wise, and memorable. She notes that a feature of living for a thousands years is that you see too many wars. She relates a family history of parents who fought on opposite sides of a war many centuries ago, but didn’t know it. When the truth is finally uncovered, it set in motion the end of both of them.

Also, keep an eye on her for a hilarious bit she does (spoiler alert) when you confront Conrad Vernor and he talks about his Spector costume. It is short, but the look she gives is priceless.

Oh, and do be nice to Conrad. He is simply your biggest fan and there is no need to hurt his feelings or get him killed. Go for the Paragon choices.

This was just a minor character standing behind a bar. Yet, her life story carried the game forward and strengthened the larger dramatic themes of Mass Effect 2.

There are other instances. One Asari merchant has a group of human colonists in a contract that is legal, but unethical. She holds a grudge against aliens (like humans) for the wars they are involve in that killed her close family members. If you ask her to tell you about the family she lost, tears form in her eyes. There is quiet, and she finally decides that there is already enough misery in the galaxy and she doesn’t need to add to it. The contract is amended.

Some of the best moments in Mass Effect2 don’t involve gunfire. Take the time to find them and savor how well a story can be moved forward via character interactions.

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