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mygif

If I told you it was more about Space Azathoth than Space Zombies you probably wouldn’t be more interested, but let me assure you that you’re basically denying yourself some good writing and characterization, a really interesting aesthetic and surprising political acuity here.

Did you like Star Control 2? Because if not, then your taste is irrelevant to any good taste, and because I think I know the answer, and the answer is Yes. The point I’m trying to make here is that as good as the dialogue, alliance-making and exploration were in that game, Mass Effect is the closest anything has come in the intervening 20 years. And it does it with a different spin.

My bottom line here is that after you play the Stabbing Catholics game (Assassin’s Creed), the next game you should play are the Mass Effect games. If you think they’re about Space Zombies, then you’ve seen one trailer for one game.

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mygif

Sheldon and Leonard you are not. Reading it as if you were, however, it’s interesting to see where the breaks for the laugh track would be.

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mygif

I’m with you, MGK. I didn’t like ME1 very much. I might get ME2 if it goes on sale on Steam, and only if I like it will I be interested in ME3.

By the way — Saints Row the Third *is* wacky and awesome. :) I heartily recommend it.

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mygif

Agreed with above. It really isn’t about space zombies. Space zombie-ish things, while lazy and ubiquitous, are just one small part of the fodder class of enemy type in the Mass Effect universe.

The Star Control comparison above is apt. Drawing a conclusion that Mass Effect is all about space zombies would be to watch the recent Game of Thrones trailer and assume the whole franchise is about swordfights.

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mygif

Well, regardless, good call on saving $40. Probably $50. /still has ME1 and 2 lying around unplayed

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mygif

Smug ignorance does not become you.

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mygif

I actually never played Star Control II (it came out in the twilight years when I didn’t have a PC I could game with), so I can’t speak to it one way or the other. If my commenters liked it, then that’s a mostly favorable comparison and makes me a little more inclined to give ME a try eventually, although I am busy stabbing Byzantines right now in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and eventually will be stabbing the British so who knows when I will get around to another franchise.

But I don’t think it’s fair to say “well, if you only watch the trailer then of course you won’t get why the game is awesome.” The point of the trailer is to convince me to buy the game, and the trailer for Mass Effect 3 is boring and generic and features the stupid space zombies and doesn’t make me want to buy the game. That’s not my fault. That’s Bioware’s.

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mygif

Totally agreed on your last point. It’s even been something of a worrying trend/topic of much gnashing of teeth since the heavier roll-out of promotion began in the summer around E3.

Trailers showing only (admittedly not top-flight) third person shooting, on-rails turret sequences and an overabundance of space zombies absolutely do a disservice to showing the real strengths of the franchise.

EA/Bioware were going down the ‘let’s bring in new players’ route with a lot (probably too much) of their marketing, since it’s well worn (barren) ground trying to attract new players to the third game in a series, but on the other hand, dialogue wheels and neatly following up five-years-running character threads may admittedly not be the stuff of great two-minute sizzle reels.

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Christian said on March 6th, 2012 at 12:39 pm

I will say there is definitely more to Mass Effect than “space zombies” and a fairly significant coolness factor that can’t really be encapsulated in the ad campaigns is seeing just how things play out with the same character you started the series with. There are parts of the series that are a little flawed, and I’d definitely add that ME2 has some really annoying mechanics, but I’m looking forward to the final thrill ride.

Plus, Bioware certainly seems to get the attraction continuing players have for seeing the story play out. For those who remember the ‘investigative’ reporter Emily Wong from ME1 & ME2, she had her own launch day twitter feed:

https://twitter.com/#!/AllianceNewsNet

Was fun following it yesterday, and all the social media pile-on-ers.

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mygif

I haven’t played Star Control, but I’d have to say that the closest thing in general tone to the Mass Effect games is Babylon 5. A lot more gunfights, obviously, but that’s the constraints of the medium for you. It’s a heavily character-based series with a strong focus on dialogue and diplomacy, aliens that are more than just a funny hat, a galaxy-spanning cosmic horror story… Most of all, it’s not afraid to lighten up and itself be funny, even when the fate of the universe is at stake.

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mygif

When I started watching Babylon 5, I thought “wow, this is a television show of Star Control 2, but with slightly worse acting and dialogue!”

So, yeah.

As for the trailer, a couple points.

1. You focused on the dudes on the ground. Did you not notice the big things in the sky? The giant spaceships with lasers?

2. If the people watching it are familiar with Mass Effect at all, they know what those spaceships and “zombies” mean. (Think “Shadows” from Babylon 5.) They are already sold; this is just action stuff to get them pumped up.

3. To those with less-discerning taste, Bioware is playing the odds. If you are likely to buy a science-fiction video game at all, then seeing cool fights with robot zombies – in a game that seems to be straight-faced empowering action, and not survival horror or humour/splatter – is probably a safer bet than showing Shepard trying to broker alliances between the Turians, Salarians and Krogan while arguing back and forth over whether the Geth are sentient and have a right to live as equal partners on the Quarian home world. Or something.

4. Those who aren’t familiar with the series and aren’t just in it for the action have their friends to shout at them about how much more there is to the gane, until they give it a chance. Or not. But your smug dismissal is really just a criticism of the trailer. See point 3.

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mygif

Also, arguing with Martin Sheen and Keith David over the merits and caveats of pursuing human galactic supremacy is worth whatever cheap rate they’re charging to grab Mass Effect 2 on PC or Xbox or whatever.

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highlyverbal said on March 6th, 2012 at 1:10 pm

@ Ilan: “…showing Shepard trying to broker alliances between the Turians, Salarians and Krogan while arguing back and forth over whether the Geth are sentient and have a right to live as equal partners on the Quarian home world.”

Yes, you have put your finger on the real reason to avoid the ME3 single player campaign, with hours spent in cutscenes with aliens on the bridge of a ship. Ugh, pass. Sign me up for whatever game MGK thinks ME3 is, instead! That one sounded great.

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mygif

Brokering an alliance with Krogans usually means hitting them until the respect you.

Still, it’s a game with story, diplomacy, character and action. If you don’t want some or any of this, then feel free to pretend it is a game about designing logos, and say “I don’t CARE about that!”

I’m not trying to pitch the game, really. I’m trying to reach into the Internet and tell MGK why, if the trailer looks like that, there’s any reason he should possibly care about it.

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mygif

(Other commenters may not be aware that Ilan is one of my oldest friends – like, we first met in our early teens – and he and I can give each other more guff than is normal on internets. So please, don’t anybody else email me saying he’s being disrespectful, because even if we weren’t friends, he’s really not.)

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mygif

The game is better than the trailers.

It’s not about space zombies at all. They’re just foot soldiers of the enemy and they’re less zombies than they are The Borg + Ants.

I know everyone else has said this, but you’re being preemptively dismissive on this. The Mass Effect games are well written, have deep characterization, feature a fleshed-out world with unique alien races, and have gameplay that is appreciably different from Dragon Age or other Bioware titles.

Mass Effect 2 is basically Seven Samurai and The Guns of Navarone, in space. If that doesn’t sound appealing to you then the franchise clearly is not for you. And that’s fine.

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mygif

(Likewise, I hope I wasn’t being disrespectful in anything I’ve posted here about it. MGK and I have regular, bombastic, amicable disagreements on matters of deep nerd concern on a regular basis face-to-face.)

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mygif

Of everything MGK, Flapjacks, and the other commenters said, I have only this to add.

Planescape: Torment was not a Bioware game. It was a Black Isle game made using a modified version of Bioware’s Infinity Engine, but everything else was independant of Bioware.

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highlyverbal said on March 6th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

@Ilan: The intent of your comment sometimes doesn’t diminish the salience of all other comments.

Also, where were you with that logo-snark on the Skyrim thread?!

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mygif

Star Control I+II are on Good Old Games – $6 gets you both, and the possibility you would have to upgrade your computer to run them went away in about 1995.

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mygif

I think a lot of people aren’t responding to one of the key problems of Mass Effect here: Time. AFAIK, that’s one of those games you can’t play in short sessions and find it very rewarding, hence my copy of ME1 long gaining dust despite kudos and recommendations from trusted sources. I just don’t have the time in my life, whereas AssCreed (which definitely has its shortcomings) is quick to reward me with the opportunity to facestab! FaceStab! FACESTAB! Ah, that *is* cathartic.

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mygif

A lot of people deride the idea that you could start with ME3, but I think for people like Ben (and possibly MGK) it might not be a bad thing. Because the multiplayer co-op is (given my experience with the demo) an absolute blast, and requires a commitment of no more than 30 minutes or so at a hit. So if you’ve got a few hours to spare, you sit down and broker galactic alliances. If you just want to stab things with your Omni-blade, fire up the Multiplayer. And the latter will actually help you in the former! Win-win!

Will you be missing out on the emotional resonances that come with having spent 100+ hours in the previous two games can give you? Most of it, sure. But I bet it’s still a damn good time, and deep choice consequences mean that you can always go back and start from the beginning with a new character for a dramatically different experience, so you shouldn’t let that stop you either.

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mygif

For those who haven’t played Star Control 2 and are curious, I’m just going to leave this link here:

http://sc2.sourceforge.net/downloads.php

(It’s called The Ur-Quan Masters here, but don’t worry, it’s Star Control 2.)

Besides the fun and light-hearted ship combat, the joy of this game is discovering the galaxy, meeting its inhabitants, and altering their fates. With plenty of humour thrown in. Also, the goofy music.

(Star Control 1 is almost a completely different game, not epic at all. Same combat though.)

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mygif

Re: the plotting going downhill.

That is true, however I personally attribute it to a ‘choice’ presented to the player (me) being… well, fake.

And I don’t mean that in an ‘every outcome is pre-scripted’ way, no. What I mean is that due to both technical and financial limitations and the desire to leave room for a sequel that’d work with any ending what we have now are choices that only kinda-sorta matter and a single story, trying to incorporate a number of variables, instead of multiple different stories.
Basically, the only thing you rally get to choose is whether you’re a good guy or a dick, and what kind of relationships you have with your companions.

Which might be depressingly realistic, but doesn’t make for an epic-feeling adventure.

In a way it may feel as a mockery: have your ‘freedom of choice’, not that it matters.
Or, even worse, evoke a quasi-existential dread of your choices amounting to little more then cosmetic changes in the grand scheme of things (and I don’t know abut you, but I get enough of that IRL, thank you very much).

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Christian said on March 6th, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Jae to be honest that’s one of the reasons I’ve been looking forward to ME3 so much. They’ve stated pretty clearly that this is the last game of the trilogy. While I’m not naive enough to think that they won’t revisit the universe in some way, saying that ‘This is the end of this story’. Gives them the ability to go truly crazy with branching story-lines this time around.

We won’t know until we play through it, but I’m privately hoping that them not having to develop towards a sequel encouraged them to really blow the doors off.

(i.e. I’m hoping that my alternate Shepard, who is sort of a dick gets the offer to betray humanity in exchange for the chance to become a Reaper himself)

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mygif

@Jonathan: Damn you, I was totally hoping to rub MGK’s nose in it about Planescape: Torment.

And, yeah, the husks ( y’know, “Space Zombies” ) are only minions of an entire race of mechanical Space Cthulhus.

I guess the designers of the trailer thought it a bit stupid to have Shepard punch a 200 meters long squid spaceship in the face with his omni-blade, so they went with the ground forces.

I wouldn’t bother with the game if you haven’t played the first two ones, but those are pretty cheap to get nowadays, so maybe you could do that, if you got the time. The story and the characters are certainly worth it.

Oh, and totally agreed that a return to the big six man party of BG and PS:T would be totally rad.

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mygif

I know my older brother will stay alive long enough to see a Baldur’s Gate sequel emerge.

GO FOR THE EYES BOO!

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mygif

P.S. Star Wars the Old Republic is more addictive than heroin.

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Nicodemus said on March 6th, 2012 at 10:13 pm

You don’t like Mass Effect? How dare you have different tastes in Video Games and Story Telling then me!

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mygif

Didn’t Dragon Age: Origins allow a party with more than two followers, or was that a cheat I implemented immediately upon learning one could only have two followers? I forget.

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mygif

I’m not getting it either. In my case because I’m 140 hours into Skyrim, with another 100 to go. I don’t even want to think about a new game.

At all.

Plus, it probably won’t have super easy mode.

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mygif

I have to argue that Mass Effect has a good narrative: it doesn’t. It’s as space opera cliche as you can probably get – a single human knows “The Truth” that the authorities won’t listen to, but fortunately he is a bad enough dude (or dudette for the minority of players) to save the universe.

Its characterisation is stronger, but ME2 had an odd “you must solve your squad’s personal problems before you can save the universe” thing going on that was just a bit odd. Pretty much everyone has daddy issues. What a great elite squad you have there.

The choice is still mostly an illusion – you’ll still end up in the same spot regardless of what you do for the vast majority of choices. Being Renegade or Paragon doesn’t lock you out of any further choices.

There is no diplomacy. There is “make sure you have a high enough Renegade / Paragon score to choose the right coloured option” which is the conversation “I win” button.

And yes, you fight space zombies – the very first humanoid enemies you fight in ME1 are Husks, who fit the bill.

I’ll play ME3 at some point, but early reports are that people wanting a resolution to the strong narrative (haha!) are going to be massively disappointed.

ME is BioWare’s space FPS / RPG. If that simple statement doesn’t appeal, there are lots of other games out there to play.

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mygif

I actually never played Star Control II (it came out in the twilight years when I didn’t have a PC I could game with), so I can’t speak to it one way or the other.

The Ur-Quan Masters, the free open-source modern-platform-compatible version of Star Control II calls to you. You should play it.

It’s a little dated, granted – but it’s still, despite the mild dated-ness, one of the best games ever made. And it WILL run on your current PC, even if your current PC is a ~2002-era laptop or a smartphone. Basically, if you can get *to your own website* and update it, you can play Star Control II, and you should.

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mygif

I think the only game to ever do moral choice systems really well was Mask of the Betrayer, because the good/bad options were both natural and created genuinely different (but still serviceable) stories: the story of overcoming your curse and ending hard lives on good notes, or the story of diving face-first into a cycle of addiction and lashing out at a world with a grudge against you. And it was hard to switch between the two, as well, which made the development in the game seem sensible.
It’s a real pity that other games tend to interpret this as “Heroic McBlandypants Saves the Universe” or “Heroic McBlandypants Saves the Universe (and is kind of a jerk).”

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HonestObserver said on March 7th, 2012 at 1:08 am

Calling out Bioware for the tired hacks they are? Good on ya, MGK. The only way you could possibly cause me to respect you more is if you denounced Big Bang Theory for the nerd minstrel show it is. But it’s okay, you don’t have to.

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DistantFred said on March 7th, 2012 at 4:23 am

Norabombay: Mass Effect 3 does, infact, have a super easy mode. One of the Bioware writers actually hates the whole “video game” part of video games, so convinced the rest of the team to put in a “Story Mode” difficulty that lets you get through the gameplay bits faster so you can get back to the talking heads and dialogue wheels.

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Raskolnikov said on March 7th, 2012 at 1:22 pm

DistantFred – “Hate” is a bit strong. She mentioned in an interview that it would be a nice option to skip combat the same way other people skip dialogue.

I don’t see how player-choice in how they play a game is a bad thing.

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kingderella said on March 7th, 2012 at 1:56 pm

i only know the 2nd game, but i would love a overworked version of baldurs gate. work out some of the kinks, iron out the sexism, add a couple of surprises and sidequests… they dont even need to change the graphics, id love it!

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Jilliterate said on March 7th, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Part of me is bothered by how much you’ve misconceived the whole ME franchise, but on the other half, I finally got around to starting ME2 the other day, and it’s been nothing but disappointing. I’ve got quite a few hours of playtime left, but damn, they’re going to have to turn this shit around if they want me to buy ME3.

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highlyverbal said on March 7th, 2012 at 9:32 pm

@Raskolnikov: “…it would be a nice option to skip combat the same way other people skip dialogue.”

This raises questions that I had a fun moment reflecting on… I often skip the implementation of dialogue but the choices still occur. I don’t feel like I am missing the challenge, just avoiding amateurish voice acting and poor lip animations.

What is the analogue for combat? Keep the choices, just snip out the part that drags. (I don’t really have a good answer.) I may play ME3 on that mode just to check out what other folks think this means.

One complicating factor, if you are really good at combat, you have (some) control over the duration spent in combat. But even if you are really, really good at listening to voice-acting, it doesn’t go any faster. So, a little hard to compare rates.

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Candlejack said on March 8th, 2012 at 12:15 pm

On the other hand, if you’re really bad at combat, you can hit a point you simply can’t get past, and you’ll never see the rest of the game at all. No matter how much you hate the voice actors, they won’t actually stop you from finishing the story. (That’s what happened to me on ME2 and a couple of other shoot-heavy games. I might go back and try again, now that I have glasses and can see the targeting reticule. Or I might not. It didn’t exactly wow me.)

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Raskolnikov said on March 8th, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Yeah – I think that was her point. That some people care more about the plot & dialogue than they do combat, so why not give them a similar skipping option.

Interestingly, there is a mode in ME3 called “Story mode” – supposedly makes combat simple and easy. There is also a mode on the other end of the spectrum, that turns all the conversations into cut scenes – you don’t make any dialogue choices. Neither sounds fun to me, but I think it’s cool that they are in the game.

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highlyverbal said on March 8th, 2012 at 2:02 pm

@ Candlejack: Wait, what? In lots of games, there are plenty of puzzles and challenges to be found in the dialogue stuff. If you don’t solve them, you are stuck. And you are certainly forced to make choices — you can’t be neither/both helpful or evil when you face that dialogue wheel. Lots of times the aggregate effect of these decisions determines WHAT ENDING you get, so “you’ll never see the rest of the game at all” if you aren’t good at them, too.

At some point, you have to admit that you are taking a stand about what parts of combat are the “challenge” or “story” of playing the game and what parts are dross. Your comments confirm that there are deep problems with this analogy: “…it would be a nice option to skip combat the same way other people skip dialogue.”

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mygif

If you want to play a game where the actual gameplay is just the glue to hold the cutscenes together, play Heavy Rain.

If you want to play a game where the story is irrelevant but the gameplay is fast and furious and challenging, but really really fun, play Vanquish.

If you want a fusion, play Mass Effect 2/3.

And if you suck at combat, why are you playing a combat game?

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mygif

Sorry MGK, the joke’s on both of us. There is no Mass Effect 3 on Steam. PC users have to play it on EA’s shitty Steam knock-off.

I can absolutely see why you’re not interested in getting into it now, though. If I hadn’t played the first two games when they launched I wouldn’t want to start now either; I have, collectively, almost two-hundred and fifty hours dumped into the two of them and who has the time for that when they’re trying to work, blog, and maintain a social life?

As to the quality of the games…they’re probably Bioware’s best work since the Baldur’s Gate games, but that’s more to do with the quality of the writing and the setting than the gameplay. They’re fun, but they’re also repetitive and shooty and very little is usually gained through dialogue other than standard Bioware info-dumps. When the opportunity arises to resolve a conflict or situation through conversation comes up, it is rewarding, but given the political nature of most of the over-story there is not nearly enough of this on not nearly a grand enough scale.

It does have some really fun characters, though.

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Candlejack said on March 9th, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Even if you make the wrong choices, you’ll still see one version of the rest of the game, highlyverbal, and you can always play again to see how things would have gone if you’de made different choices. If you get really stuck, you can turn to your friends or the internet for advice. But when you’re stuck because you can’t complete the combat mission you’re on, your game is done.

I’m not saying the combat isn’t important to the experience; I’d judge that the combat is a major part of what most people show up for, and the game would be pretty dull if it was nothing but dialogue. But if you’re billing your game as an RPG as well as a shooter, you’ve got to expect people to show up for that, too. So, yeah, options that prevents poor shooters from getting stonewalled after investing 30 or 40 hours are awesome–whether those options are the Story Mode that Raskolnikov talks about, or just the inclusion of cheats.

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highlyverbal said on March 9th, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Great points, Candlejack, and with your help the case gets strong and stronger to believe that this analogy: “…it would be a nice option to skip combat the same way other people skip dialogue.” is fundamentally broken.

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mygif

The first 96% or so of Mass Effect 3 was a really good game, where you can affect the course of the war, save (or condemn) entire races, and get to be a big damn hero.

Then you get to the ending of the game, where … dear God, the ending is bad.

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mygif

This is really, really belated, but I feel it’s important to note that “always locked onto the plot and you were going to be the good guy whether you liked it or not” is probably the wrong sort of thing to call Planescape, since it’s one of the few games out there that has really let you be tremendously evil. Not just a dick, a jerkass, a racist dick, an arbitrary puppy-kicker, but really, really evil. The sort of thing that makes you want to wash your hands.

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