Played Mass Effect 2 yet? If not, probably best not to read this if you take offense to some spoilers. Saren kills Dumbledore, if you’re wondering. Consider yourself warned.
It’s been a good while since I last got laid, let alone had a relationship of any note. I really should probably be Mass Effect 2’s prime audience – gotta keep my self-esteem going some how haven’t I? Those long sorrowful nights of semi-tactical ballistic droid decapitation can be lonely. It’s a good job ME2 fills such a niche, right? Well… maybe it would if it offered more than connect-the-dots romance. Relationships are complex. You don’t just have a set line of inquiry before you get into someones pants. Well some people do, but I tend to think I want more than a dozy Bacardi-Breezer slag. I mean I get it, the actual lines are a little more than “Hey tits mcgee, here’s a drink, fancy a fuck?” Bioware have tried to develop some sense of emotional reasoning. But at the end of the day, it pretty much comes down to “Select top right-most conversation option to bend Tali over” – it really could have done with entirely separate romance conversation trees at least.
It wouldn’t be too bad if you could nip-things in the bud – given a conversation option early on where-by romantic entanglement is henceforth no longer an issue and can get on with more important things. I’d far rather discuss when thou must smash and when thou must not smash with Grunt. The same option would be nice with the characters pre-designated for a good hard Sheparding. Problem is though, once you’ve blundered into the honey pot, you’re stuck. Suddenly Miranda’s either too busy to talk, or dragging you over to her bed. One friendly compliment too many, and conversation with Tali is relegated to awkward fumbling until you hit that.
Or maybe it’s my fault? Maybe I missed the opportunity to shoot the relationship’s down in flames. But I tend to play RPGs of ME2’s ilk – at least the first time round – solving problems using my own ethics. I pick the conversation options which I think would most closely meet what I’d say. Sometimes those options are compliments or reinforcement for your team members. Maybe, with such pre-defined blow-up dolls, I’m just too nice. Maybe, by trying to win over my crew’s respect I evoke something more… But it irritates me greatly. At the current stage of the game, I seem to be entangled with 3 of the crew, seemingly without me trying. I’m actually unwilling to talk to them because I’d rather steer clear of it – which only adds to the sense of disbelief, as I’m sure most of you know, avoiding such emotionally loaded relationships is largely impossible in real life. Quite how it’s possible on a ship is baffling.
Aaah, and the sex scenes themselves. Unwilling to indulge in them in game, I’ve done my duty to the article and youtubed it up. And… it’s horrible. Genuinely, terrifyingly horrible. They’re largely tame enough to fend off the worst of the Daily Mail brigade, and that’s not really my concern. Much like being able to drink till you pass out, do the white-man shuffle and stumble up to a pair of Krogan talking about fish, it’s a superfluous, even humourous extra. I’m more irritated at the attempt to indulge the lonely-geek need for emotional attachment to the characters. Particularly being able to cuddle up to Tali on command after the relationship is engaged. It’s awkward at least, sad when you really think about it.
At the end of it all, the best characters are those you aren’t shoehorned into a “romantic” situation with. Admittedly, I can’t think of one character in ME2 besides that Asari bint that I don’t like, and it’s a testament to Bioware’s ability to create believable personalities. But ultimately, anything Garrus, or Jacob of Grunt has to say is far more interesting than any sex induced life threatening rash Tali is concerned about. I applaud Bioware for trying – and indeed, they’re one of the few developers actually trying to do anything with sex and romance in games, which I think that done right one day will add to gaming as an artistic and conceptual medium. But ultimately, I’ve not been inspired by Mass Effect 2’s attempt at one of humanity’s most basic – yet often complicated emotions.
Now come over here and keep me up all night Mordin, you sexy brain man. Lets talk Genophage ethics.