Feeding the OCD in Mass Effect 2

I’d love to know what the creators of role playing games think of their players, subjecting them as they do to endless repetition in its various formats.  It could be killing monsters endlessly in Dragon Quest or in the case of Mass Effect 2 it is the ceaseless, relentless mining tasks you can set about to do in order to upgrade your ship, weapons and abilities.

These missions are absolutely optional during the game, though I’ve heard that how well you’ve done your upgrades influences the end of the game.  I’m not even going to touch on how the game allows you the chance to completely direct the narrative, your various choices influencing how the story plays out. Back to the point, this game has taken many strides towards actually removing itself from the stat-based gameplay of its ancestors, with fighting taking place on a battlefield that wouldn’t be out of place in a Gears of War.  Despite those strides, we’re still subjected to the mining task, a video of which I’ll show you below:

I’ve clocked about 13 hours into the game so far and I’d say about 65% of it has been these goofy scanning missions.  The sick thing is, I can’t stop!  I still have a lot of game to play and it is absolutely not necessary that I do all the scanning now, but there is some kind of compulsion to continue.  It could be the weighty thud of launching the scanning probe, or the slot machine chime when you find something, but I literally could just scan, and I do.   Designers must acknowledge that a certain portion of their audience sees some kind of value in simple repetitive tasks.   I’m sure they love that their 12 hour game suddenly becomes a 40 hour game as well.

The funny thing is, this type of mission is pitched as a better alternative the planet exploration of Mass Effect 1!  And it really is a welcome change!  This is how video games work really, sometimes shooting for the “real” experience isn’t as fun as a well designed “gamey” experience that can’t exist in reality.  Given the choice to drive a vehicle around a huge planet, fighting off Thresher Maw’s and exploring abandoned research facilities versus moving a pointer over a grid, I would easily choose the pointer/grid!  The description I just made of planet exploration is accurate, but the activity was designed so poorly that it is largely considered the worst part of the original Mass Effect.  Your landing vehicle was hard to drive, the planets were largely identical except for weather and the color of the landscape and most of the buildings and enemies were all clones of each other.  Illustrated:

Over all, I can’t complain about this game because so far I’ve found the story completely worth the effort.

One thought on “Feeding the OCD in Mass Effect 2”

  1. I think the problem with the ‘exploration’ in the first game was that they tried to hard to make them similar to the main quest/locations. In doing so they were forced to make them as simple and as repetitive as possible, which wasn’t fun or interesting in most cases. This new ‘mini-game’ is at least its own unique aspect of the game. I can’t tell you why its so addicting, but at least a little of it is because it gives you the opportunity to explore those interesting planets described but inaccessible in the first game, even if it isn’t in a more quest-like context. The planet descriptions are amazing.

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