A little over two years ago, I was on here praising Mass Effect 2 as it was voted by our editors as SideQuesting’s Game of the Year in 2010. Mass Effect was my baby. Last year, I traveled to Los Angeles to see Mass Effect 3 at E3 and write a preview for it. Again, BioWare earned more of my praise. Naturally, I asked for the opportunity to write our review on Mass Effect 3. As SideQuesting’s reviews editor and the resident “Mass Effect guy” here, I felt like it was my job to see this thing to the end.
When I drove to the store after work on Tuesday, I plotted out my work/play schedule for the following week to make sure that I would be able to juggle my day job and give Mass Effect the proper time it needed for a review. It was tight, but I was positive that it could be done. Imagine my rage when I booted the game up to find out that it could not transfer my Shepard’s face into Mass Effect 3.
BioWare guaranteed that I could take Shepard with me across their trilogy and through their universe. Two years ago, I enthusiastically wrote about this promise that they made to me. And they broke it.
This would have been my Mass Effect 3 review.
Back in 2007, BioWare made a promise to us. They promised that we would be able to play through their trilogy as Commander Shepard, a character that will be shaped by the player. This guarantee spanned from Shepard’s backstory and face, right down to every moral decision that Shepard would make and every notion of dialogue that Shepard would utter. In practice, this guarantee worked out beautifully. Mass Effect is one videogame franchise that I truly cared about. For a developer to create a game like this was no easy feat.
Mass Effect gave me the power to play through their story the way I wanted to, effectively making it my story — an experience that was unique only to me. On launch day, when I found out that my Shepard’s face had to be left behind, I felt helpless. This power was suddenly taken away from me. Everything that I had been playing for was gone.
I felt like I was lied to. The worst thing that could happen happened.
The choices we made were carried over properly (for most people), but what good is it if you had to continue with a Shepard that was not the one you had spent the last 100 hours with? It’s like coming home from college for Thanksgiving, only to find a lady you had never seen before greet you at the door and tell you that they were your mother. The asthetic appearance of Commander Shepard is a fundamental part of BioWare’s promise to us.
On launch day, I came home and tried frantically to pick up the pieces up of my broken Shepard. I booted up Mass Effect 2 and took pictures of Shepard from the pause screen with my camera phone, like a savage, in hopes of being able to rebuild her.
It was useless. And I refuse to play their game without my Commander Shepard.
As someone who goes galavanting at night as a reviews editor of a gaming site, it’s important for me to remind you what we are. We’re more than just gamers; we’re consumers. If a product does not do what claims to, it’s a problem. Moreover, it’s unacceptable. It’s been days since BioWare officially acknowledged this issue and told us that a fix was coming. As of today, the forum thread on BioWare’s website created to voice this to us is 103 pages-long with only slight updates and no ETA on a patch, just a pile of unhappy fans that were lied to.
Recently, sites have been reporting on how many copies EA and BioWare have been shipping and selling. What about the customers? How many of the 890,000 copies sold in North America have been rendered completely unplayable by this mistake?
As I sit here and mouse up towards the “publish” button, I can’t help but think of every positive sentiment I’ve ever written about BioWare and Mass Effect. At this point, they’re just a bunch of love notes in a shoebox from a once happy, meaningful relationship that has gone terribly sour.
BioWare: I’m not playing your game without my main character. Fix it.