In a videogame, getting virtually killed usually means a trip to the Game Over screen. This is one of the only things about videogames that hasn’t changed since the very first Mario game to Mass Effect on Xbox 360. After the protagonist of a game dies, which is always avoidable, the only recourse is to load up the game again and try again.
With Mass Effect 2, that’s no longer the case. Those who played the original Mass Effect will know that making the wrong calls in a tough mission could result in some of your teammates dying: permanently. While this was uncommon in the RPG genre, it wasn’t unheard of: Final Fantasy fans still mourn Aeris’ death at the hands of the nefarious Sephiroth in FFVII. However, Aeris was only dead for the remainder of FFVII: any squad members who died in the first Mass Effect will remain dead in Mass Effect 2 and 3. This continuity creates a story that actually changes with how you play throughout an entire trilogy of videogames, something that has never been done before.
However, Mass Effect 2 isn’t content to just revolutionize games by making a consistent, customizable story that’s different for everyone who plays it. They’re taking it further than anything else out there, by making it possible for your entire squad, including the protagonist Commander Shepard, to be killed, but actually beat the game in doing so. Not only that, but the game won’t simply end with your team’s suicide mission. If you survive the final mission in Mass Effect 2, the game continues on, much as it does other open world games like Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion, Fallout 3 or Fable II. If your Shepard and his team die in the final mission of the main story, you obviously won’t be able to continue to fly around the galaxy after that. Being dead has its disadvantages, after all. Not only that, but in Mass Effect 3, your Shepard won’t be there either if he bit the dust during Mass Effect 2.
That’s quite a bit harsher than the usual “try it again and beat it in 5 minutes” penalty that dying in videogames entails. The knowledge that you and your team could bite the dust with serious implications if you aren’t careful should serve as quite an incentive to play carefully throughout the main story. Oh, and you’ll want to treat your teammates well: if they aren’t loyal enough to you, they might just bail out themselves when the going gets tough, rather than stick around in what might be a suicidal final mission. As Casey Hudson of Bioware puts it in his IGN blog: “As in real life, not being able to keep living is really the main down-side of death. So if you care about playing the next game with your character, make sure you survive this one.”
This aspect of Mass Effect 2 is quite unprecedented. The first thing that comes to my mind is how Bioware could design a final mission so incredibly tough that you succeed, but lose all of your squadmates and Shepard in the process. But on the other hand, if you’re prepared enough, with the most loyal team and the most firepower in the galaxy, you might actually make it through intact. This sounds incredibly hard to balance, especially since you can continue playing in the Mass Effect 2 setting afterward if you survive. However, if anyone can do it, it’s Bioware. Mass Effect would have been one of the best RPGs ever made even if it didn’t have the decision mechanics, but Bioware proved they had the skills to do something that noone else had really done in the industry before with truly different story endings and outcomes dependent on what the player decides. I can’t think of a better gameplay incentive to try and survive a really difficult challenge than being able to continue using your character after the game’s main story is complete, and into Mass Effect 3.
Mass Effect 2 is scheduled to release in early 2010, for the Xbox 360 and PC platforms. Be sure to check out our E3 2009 preview of the game.
Article from Gamersyndrome.com