Character management in RPGs

While the time spent in MMOs for me lately has dwindled, I’ve been picking up heavily on single-player RPGs. I picked up Mass Effect during the Steam holiday discount, but Mass Effect 2 was released shortly and the hype over its release called for me to jump into that. Now that I’ve completed ME2, which has piqued my interest in the Mass Effect universe, I turned to the original ME.

One of the more drastic changes in Mass Effect 2 was that Bioware did away with the entire inventory system, conveniently ridding me of having to management my inventory, a pet peeve of mine. There’ve been a number of protests over this, with some arguing that this simplification removes an integral part of the RPG experience – the ability to uniquely customize a character.

Mass Effect features a traditional inventory system, with the stats on every piece of gear clearly enumerated. Further customization can be done through a Diablo 2 style “socket” enchantment system. All of this is surprisingly absent in Mass Effect 2. While I know my assault rifle has a base damage of precisely 120 in Mass Effect, I have no clue about that in Mass Effect 2. Upgrading is also done through researching and the results affect an entire class of gear, rather than enchanting each piece individually. In Mass Effect I end up carrying a multitude of weapons that I looted along the way in my inventory, sometimes having 3 or 4 copies of the same item, Mass Effect 2 centralizes that through an armory on the ship. There will only ever be one instance of an item, but you can equip multiple squad members through what I surmise must a Star Trek style materializer.

Having played a few hours into Mass Effect, I have to disagree with those comments. I find that on the whole, Mass Effect 2 presented a more engaging and immersive experience than Mass Effect.

Instead of spending time on the “meta” aspects of the game, such as deciding whether to keep, sell, or convert to omni-gel for my loot between missions, I’m able to quickly get to the story and action. The resulting game plays out more like a movie, except that I’m the director and I get to call the shots. Also, since the upgrade paths for gear are also more streamlined and obvious right from the beginning, I’m able to make more informed decisions.

The differences in the two systems show itself during combat. The encounters in Mass Effect are more tactical and require more pauses to access the situation and attack accordingly, whereas in Mass Effect 2, I find myself engaged in more FPS styled, fast-paced firefights. I find myself more drawn to the latter kind of combat when it comes to Sci-Fi games, and the former for fantasy, reasons unknown.

What do you prefer in your RPGs? Do you enjoy spending vast amounts of time managing your character or do you prefer to be able to get down to the adventure right away?

Posted on February 7, 2010, in General. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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