Mass Effect 3 ‘Omega’ Post-Mortem: Time To Stop Caring?
An Increasingly ‘Filmic’ Feel
Each Mass Effect game has featured a few cutscenes with moments seemingly pulled from blockbuster science cinema. Sovereign’s assault on the Citadel in the first game, and the assault on the Collector Base in the second were beautifully constructed, exciting, fast-paced moments that made the hours upon hours of painstaking missions and conversations feel worth it. Further, moments like the airship attack during Kasumi: Stolen Memory, or the reveal of the Normandy II, were eye-popping, gorgeous moments you talked about later.
However, for every moment like the ones above, there are two more that offer nothing but practical utility. Conversations feature cameras pointed right at Shepard’s head like a TV news program. Non-action cut scenes rely on titillation or impressive backgrounds to make up for static camera. Gorgeous scenery, especially in Mass Effect 2, had a remarkably “constructed” feel, like each planet you visited was made specifically for you to walk around in, and nothing more. Those are legacy features from 30-odd years of games, but you notice the difference after you’ve seen spectacular sunsets when a hanger door opens into a vast helipad and loading bay.
With ME2′s Lair of The Shadow Broker, BioWare really stepped up its game to an impressive degree. The entirety of LOTSB features cutscenes that really feel alive, particularly in the chase through the Illium downtown. There is moment after to moment in which the scenery through which you are playing feels like actual, living space. The Arrival DLC disappointed in part because it was a step back in this regard, and Mass Effect 3 overall was very much the same hit-and-miss the series has always been.
But Leviathan to a lesser degree, and Omega through and through, were notable in that each DLC pack felt tailored to provide maximum visual effect. Placement of mission-objects in rooms, more organically triggered cutscenes, and the branching out to include environments not seen before in the series were positive steps in Leviathan, and with Omega we saw an almost unfamiliar Mass Effect, one that never assumed there wasn’t a way to make a scene feel just a bit more thrilling. Some moments reminded us of Firefly or Battlestar Galactica, one in particular going so far as to have half the frame out of focus as though the cameraman was caught off guard. Even dialogue scenes were framed in a way that lends an action movie feel to them, with dynamic cameras and angles, and frequent point-of-view shifts.
Excellent visual presentation is no substitute for core aspects of a game, but the new focus on visuals suggests that gamers should expect a vastly improved movie-feel in future Mass Effect games. BioWare may not have learned all the right lessons from a troubled year, but it’s obvious in this aspect, at least, the push is to constantly improve.