There was something that was so inexplicably right with Dragon Age: Origins that it completely overshadowed Mass Effect with its story. And yet Mass Effect remains inside my heavily protected bubble as my favorite game (and series) of all time. Even with the disappointment of the ending, even with the feeling of insult that I feel when each new DLC is released, Mass Effect remains the top dog.
Why is this?
Dragon Age carried deeper content: multiple storylines, an enriched universe, an engaging journey, and a satisfying ending. But the reason that Mass Effect continues to trump this title is simply because of the character development. Granted, Mass Effect has carried the same characters through three games while DA:O is simply an entry inside the series, but the characters that accompanied the Warden had the potential to completely sweep Mass Effect under the rug… but they fell short.
I’ve played DA:O multiple times as different races and with different love interests but as the game continued and the main plot thickened, the characters simply remained static. While some growth was acknowledgeable, there were no major shifts in the character’s demeanors that made them appear to “grow.”
Commander Shepard was dead for two years and it was obvious that the characters that accompanied him/her on the Normandy were heavily affected by this occurrence. Mass Effect played on the emotions in just the right way to make you fall in love with the characters through their own actions and responses.
Dragon Age had a huge chance to play with personal angst and failed to do so (I’m a huge fan of angst in fiction). It focused too heavily on the choices your Warden made and overshadowed important emotion. I wanted to feel my love interest’s fear after realizing that slaying the Archdemon would inevitably kill me. I wanted to feel the desperation inside of that choice. I wanted to feel the underlying sacrifice inside of my decisions instead of saying, “Whelp, I died… maybe I’ll be an elf next time!”
While there were a few key moments with the characters, their own reactions to the darkness inside of the game were bland.
And even though Mass Effect continues to disappoint me with the ending, the emotion that fueled the series made it a little more bearable (Tali’s extended cut scene kills me every time). The camaraderie between the crew members, the love displayed inside the romances… that is what made Mass Effect such a powerful title.
Making a true comparison between these games is a difficult task, but a blending of the best qualities could potentially create a massively enticing game…
Or maybe I’m just ranting and this article makes no sense whatsoever. Feel free to say so! 😉