Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What I've Learned from The Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC

OK, so I haven't played this DLC, but I've read a few reviews, and it really hit me over the head about two things: the first being why I didn't actually like the Mass Effect 3 ending, and a rule for character-based stories.

I'm not gonna lie, the ending bummed me out. I've already talked about it a bit in my review of the Mass Effect Trilogy,but it never really hit all that hard what I disliked, right up until I read what this DLC was: you spending some last moments with these characters before the end. When I read that I actually felt a bit of a pang, and realized that, had I run into that in my playthrough, it would have made the unfairness of the ending hit in a completely different way. I wouldn't have been forced to sacrifice myself for all these people, I would have gladly sacrificed my character had those been the memories I was looking back on. I mean, don't get me wrong, I felt as true a connection with these characters as I ever will in fiction, but most of them were war buddies, not people I'd really spent all that much time with. That's actually why I liked the new Prince of Persia so much: pretty much unlimited dialogue between two characters, I'll take that! What I guess I really wanted from Mass Effect 3 was for the story to wrap up what was really important: the friendships. I mean, honestly, the war was never really the point of the bloody story anyway, the point was to go through it with these people, and to get to know them in their joys, sorrows, dreams, and despair. The point was to make you willing to die for them. And without that DLC, they failed, in my humble opinion, because they provide a sufficient enough connection. Just hearing that this DLC exists is almost enough for me, which says a lot about the true nature of Mass Effect.

The second thing it taught me was something very crucial about character-based stories: the external problems drive the internal ones, and the internal problems are the ones that you really have to worry about. Find out that one of your players has given their character a strong sense of independence? Make their independence, as it stands, a threat to everyone, give them a foil who's methods aren't all that different from their own. Make their relationships think about giving in to slavery and being locking themselves up for the sake of everyone only to have them decide at the last minute to screw everything they must be free. You get the idea. Help the players play up each others' themes, and make the inner journey the one they really care about. Yes, I must destroy the Reapers, but Tali will miss me if I'm gone, I'm a major source of strength in her life. Must I really go? What it all comes down to is that, without caring about the characters and pushing, stretching, abusing, and pampering them character-driven fiction won't work.

Not sure if any of that ramble made sense. Oh well, lemme know what you think!