A plea for patience

I see three big reasons why you should not buy the newest video games:

(1) Games that are newly released are usually expensive and see a price drop within months after their first release.
(2) Games are often rushed out to meet an arbitrary deadline and contain numerous bugs that get fixed using patches during the first months after their first release.
(3) Many games that are hyped up before their first release turn out to be big turds in the first week after having entered the market.

Now I found that BioWare got me a fourth reason (as if I needed another one).

About a year ago in this blog I ranted about Mass Effect 3: that it did not reach the level of quality of Mass Effect 2, that the multi-player zones in the single-player game were boring, that there was insufficient diversity in enemies, that the focus on interaction with team mates was lost, and that it had an incredibly stupid out-of-the-blue ending.

In the last weeks I took another character through the Mass Effect series, and now I had some of the Mass Effect 3 DLC installed (some of which was published earlier this year). My conclusion: while I still prefer Mass Effect 2 over Mass Effect 3, most of my issues with Mass Effect 3 have evaporated.

Let me explain.

When BioWare got overwhelmed with a tsunami of complaints about the stupid ending to Mass Effect 3, they quickly released a free Extended Cut DLC, which padded the ending and lessened some of the problems that people had with it. While that DLC helped the game because it provided some closure, it did not help with the ending just being stupid, or with the overall feeling that Mass Effect 3 was just less “personal” than Mass Effect 2.

Since then three big DLCs were released: Omega, Leviathan, and Citadel.

Omega is forgettable from a storyline perspective. It does add some variety and some new enemies, however, which helps when players get bored with the samey enemies that they meet in the main storyline.

Leviathan is a great addition to the game. Not because of its storyline, which is OK but not great. Not because of the fights and tactics, because they are hardly any different from the main game. No, what makes it great is its expansion of the game’s lore. The climax of Leviathan provides, in a very personal way, deep insight into the origin of the main game villains, the Reapers. And what is so great about this insight is that in an extensive way, it sets up the ending of the game. The main reason that the game’s ending was considered stupid was that it came out of nowhere. With the Leviathan expansion, it is foreshadowed and can even be foreseen. Suddenly, the story becomes whole again.

Citadel, finally, is absolutely wonderful. Citadel focuses on the player’s interaction with the team mates. It has a very light, almost zany story, which turns Shepard into a sort-of one-lining action hero movie star, who remains completely unfazed in the face of even the worst peril, and makes a joke about everything. The companions all get their spotlight, joke around, and help Shepard in their own personal way. And after all the action is over, Shepard celebrates with them, which leads to many small interactions, most funny, and all of them touching. It is true that during the main game the companions are still mostly just fight support, but this DLC gives them life in a way that makes up for much of the faults of the main game in this respect.

Besides these three (or at least the last two of them), any player of the game should also install the first-day release DLC which contains Javik the Prothean party member. He is a strong addition to the storyline, especially considering the Leviathan DLC (and my femShep who was without a relationship had a surprising and brilliantly funny moment with him in Citadel).

So, in my view, Mass Effect 3 has finally become a worthy sequel to its illustrious predecessors. The problem is, of course, that the big mass of players who already completed the game in the first months after its original release, were confronted by the inferior, unfinished mess that the game once was, got annoyed by it, and will probably never experience the game as it should be.

Which gives me another reason not to buy newly released games anymore: it looks like even big studios now release games in an unfinished state, and only complete it months after it got into the market. You can count on them releasing another version of their game, including all DLC, 6-12 months after the first release, for a price lower than the cost of the original. That’s the game that you want, right there.

So, if you want an expensive, buggy, unfinished game, you should buy it immediately at its release. If you prefer a cheap, streamlined, finished game, you just wait a couple of months. Just exhibit some patience, okay?

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