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Editorial   

Five Things Mass Effect Could Improve On

The key to the future of Mass Effect is in its past.

Item One: The Inventory System is Clumsy and Hard to Use

BioWare’s solution: Remove inventory management completely, and only allow armor changes for the player character.

Yes, the inventory system in the first Mass Effect is a confusing mess. The game doesn’t filter weapons and armor that your character can’t equip, and good luck trying to add mods to your gear. On top of all that, many of the stats that your equipment has don’t make any sense, and there is no explanation given in the game as to what these actually do. Sure, “shields +150” is easy enough to decipher, but what exactly is “hardening +20%”, and what benefit does that give me? I have no idea, and I’ve played this game half a dozen times (so far).

Yep, that inventory is a mess to look at.

So, instead of addressing the problem of inventory management, BioWare ripped nearly all of it out of the game for the sequels. You can still equip Commander Shepard with armor, but it’s largely cosmetic, and I found myself changing it constantly just to have a modicum of visual progression for my character. Your party members are in no such luck, so I was unable to, say, get Jack out of that ridiculous outfit that only coves her nipples, for example. Sure, you unlock secondary costumes after completing each person’s loyalty mission, but most of them are basically palette swaps, and are far from an interesting alternative to actual armor sets.

Mass Effect 2 has fancy armor that is basically just cosmetic.

This is a real problem for me, because one of the things I love most about Western RPGs is the sense of progression for my characters. A large part of this is visual, of course. My level 50 Shepard looks so cool in his black and red Colossus armor (courtesy of Kassa Fabrication, of course), and it’s a far cry from the standard issue N7 armor he starts with. But a bigger reason to have an expansive inventory factors into gameplay. A late game shotgun feels much more powerful than the early weapons; take aim at a Geth in the final mission and watch it crumble in a shot or two, provided you’ve put enough points into your shotgun proficiency.

My solution: give me my damn inventory back!

That’s pretty much it! Just put it back in the game, but be smart about how you handle it. Take a look at Diablo III on consoles for how to do this right. Diablo III has a ton of information for every weapon and piece of gear, but when you first pick it up you can easily see if it is significantly better than what you’re already using. If it appears so, then you open up a handy radial menu and can get more info to determine if you really want to equip it for your particular character build.

Diablo III nails a complex inventory for consoles.

Let’s bring back useful, visually appealing armor, for ALL of your characters. It’s almost as if BioWare forgot how to design armor once EA bought them, as evidenced by all Dragon Age and Mass Effect games since that acquisition. Yes, it’s true that having everyone wearing the same type of armor can impact each character’s individuality, but I bet there’s a great middle ground to be reached here. While that asari seen in Andromeda looks all cool with her bare midriff it doesn’t really mesh well with the Mass Effect universe, at least not when you’re supposed to be exploring a new, never before seen world. There’s plenty of opportunity on the ship to see your characters wearing things that are more in line with their personal aesthetic, anyway.

                                                Nice outfit. Leave it on the ship though.

I want weapon and armor mods to make a meaningful return, as well. They just need to be streamlined. Mass Effect 2 had certain characters with abilities that were basically weapon mods you could activate like a sustained buff. Let’s explore that, but allow every character to select these from the weapon wheel. Instead of having tons of different weapon mods, just keep it to “damage vs. synthetics”, “damage vs. organics”, and so on. Weapon mods are highly effective in the first game on the tougher difficulty levels, so just make them less of a pain to use.

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Comments

Michael117

10/20/2016 at 03:25 PM

Ditch heat sinks? This whole article is now invalid :p

Heat sinks and generally reloading make sense because eventually you're going to run out of raw metal to shave and accelerate. You wouldn't be able to shoot infinitely and just worry about overheating. Also heat transfer and newton's law of cooling don't work so fast that you could just rapidly heat and cool a barrel or shooting mechanism like in Mass Effect 1, it makes sense that you'd have heat sinks that you could rapidly transfer out so you didn't have to wait for the hot one to cool down. I'm sorry but any attempt to justify infinite shooting and no reloading is bubkiss. I will stand up for heat sinks till the day I die, come at me lol

Julian Titus Senior Editor

10/20/2016 at 05:54 PM

Hey, if you want every game to play the same then more power to you. Mass Effect 2 feels as generic as they come with the shooting mechanics. And you couldn't fire infinitely in the first game; far from it. I could only squeeze off a couple rounds from my sniper rifles without my gun locking up. It added a level of tenseness to the shooting without having to worry about running out of ammo, which I did a lot in the sequels. Also, go play Doom and tell me if you miss reloading. 

But yes, by all means let's have every game with shooting act and feel the same. That's been so fun already, right?

Michael117

10/21/2016 at 01:29 AM

Failed to make your point. Reloading is still king. Ask revolver ocelot. Boom

Julian Titus Senior Editor

10/21/2016 at 03:38 AM

I made my point perfectly. 

Michael117

10/21/2016 at 06:23 AM

I actually got the new Doom this past week and just installed it on my pc! I'm so ready, I want to get through it soon so I'm prepared by the time everyone is talking about GOTY.

When you brought up No Mans Sky it made me think of having control of whatever the Normandy equivalent is in Andromeda and flying it down through the atmosphere and choosing a landing area right before you press the trigger and drop the Mako down onto the surface. You always see that in the cut scene in the ME games, it could be fun to actually have control of that process. In No Mans sky you can only explore one star system at a time and zoom around to the planets within, then when you're done you pick places to warp to on the larger map. The way you explore solar systems in No Mans Sky is basically the Mass Effect galaxy map but experienced from first person instead of overhead with the little ship to control. It could be cool to have that kind of exploration in Andromeda. I love the galaxy map and if it aint broke don't fix it, but exploring the systems from the point of view of the player's ship could be fun. Doesn't necessarily have to be 1st person, that might not make sense, but just have the camera behind the ship and be able to zip around the system and land at will when your scanners find cool stuff to investigate

Julian Titus Senior Editor

10/24/2016 at 03:03 PM

I'll be revisiting that thought in an upcoming piece, but I want to wait until after N7 Day to see if they address any of my items.

Machocruz

10/21/2016 at 12:38 PM

The inventory issue is a non issue. They were already veterans of RPG development by the time the first game came out.  We have 3 decades, at least, of examples of how to design an inventory, including other Bioware games. wtf

 Abilities: I thought the abilities in ME1 were well explained. The come with descriptions on what they do. It's up to the player to figure out how to use them in combat to tactical advantage. This is a solution looking for a problem. Some people just aren't made for certain types of games. Bioware has to decide who they are going to serve.

 Shooting: Another "duh." You are playing a military commander, a war hero. A basic level of firearm proficiencey should be assumed. You are not a peasant like in a classic fantasy RPG. Bioware were stuck on stupid with this one. And please, no damage numbers. Looks cheap and spoils immersion.

 Planets: Seems like a development resources issue. Maybe they ran out of time and money. Still, we had fleshed out planets in games before ME and NMS, so it's not a matter of technology.

 The Mako: Just make it drive normally. The fucking thing was bouncing around like a rubber ball. Why sould this be hard to code? 30 years of driving games. That's a poor excuse. And why keep the original control scheme? I don't think anyone is that attached to it. Another no brainer issue that the geniuses at Bioware can't seem to resolve, but I like some of your ideas.

 It's very frustrating looking at the modern AAA scene. Just so many boneheaded design choices and poor solutions to minor or non-issues. Things that were solved many moons ago. I just don't get it...

Julian Titus Senior Editor

10/24/2016 at 03:08 PM

It's not that the abilities were not defined well. I think the game does a great job letting you know what everything you have actually does, but it did a poor job of explaining how to play the game tactically. Sure, you can play it by just letting the computer do everything for your party, but the first thing I do with that game is turn off the power usage for my AI so that I can use their abilities when I need them.

I'd keep the orginal Mako control scheme because gamers hate change, and there are plenty of people who will say that they love the way the Mako controlled. I think they are crazy people, but again, it's all about having options for me. When I played Deus Ex: Mankind Divided I used the control scheme from Human Revolution. I took one look at the new control setup and knew it wasn't conducive to the way I play those games, and I was glad that I wasn't forced into using it. Same thing with the damage numbers. I love having those, especially in an RPG where I can see exactly how my character is improving based on stats and gear, but I know not everyone likes that. So it's something you can toggle, and would likely be off by default.

Machocruz

10/25/2016 at 04:21 PM

Diablo 3 made damage numbers trigger me. Every video I saw of the game people had them on. Remember when Diablo used to be an immersive game? But I didn't mind them in other games like Borderlands.

And yeah, you're right about the abilities. I forget that a lot of people aren't familiar with squad tactical games/tactical RPGs. They didn't have the advantage of growing up as the genre was evolving and learning how to play them as the games started simple to more intricate

Exrian Contributing Writer

11/02/2016 at 06:30 AM

Nice article. I really need to go back and play ME1 again. As I've mentioned before, I beat it a few weeks before 2 released so didn't get to really dive in like I would have. I really enjoyed it but was dying for part 2. 2 is the one that sticks with me most since I was obsessed with it while waiting for 3. 

I'm totally in favor of dropping Heat sinks. Doom was crazy nonstop fun. Once you have Assault Rifle Micro Missles with over 75 armor you never want to hit a reload ever again.

You missed something though. What happened to our Elevator rides? The true unsung hero of the game. I'm sure I got a lot more stretching, bathroom breaks, and hydration that I didn't get in 2/3.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

11/07/2016 at 07:26 PM

Haha! As bad as the load times were in the Citadel, I thought that was a good way of disguising them. I liked the extra dialogue/radio news, and it made the area feel big, which the whole series has a problem conveying.

jgusw

01/26/2017 at 02:47 PM

I know I'm in the minority, but I love Mass Effect 1 more than the other games.  I played it so many times, that it's "issues" don't bother me at all. 

Julian Titus Senior Editor

01/26/2017 at 07:36 PM

Same here, and it makes me sad that Andromeda seems to be going even further away from its mechanics and depth.

jgusw

01/30/2017 at 07:15 PM

I have a feeling that Andromeda will feel a little like Dragon Age: Inquisition with Mass Effect 3 combat.

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