Hmmmm…. “We’re in early stages of designing a completely new Mass Effect game. What would you want to see in it?” This afternoon Mass Effect Executive producer Casey Hudson sent out a tweet that got the imaginations of Mass Effect fans working overtime. While this is something we’ve discussed at length on our podcast Rated NA, we’re elated to hear that Bioware is hard at work on a next-gen Mass Effect title. After a bit of stewing here is what we’d love to see.
AMY hits the virtual marketplace this week, bringing a third person survival horror experience with elements of puzzle solving, escort missions, and teamwork. Let’s dive in and see how this demo stacks up.
The player controls a female character named Lana — Amy is the name of a little girl who is unable to speak (or possibly autistic, I’m not sure it was completely explained). The game opens with Amy and Lana riding on a train headed for Silver City. We discover that Lana has rescued from some sort of facility (Phoenix something or other) where we can only assume children were being experimented on, studied, or some such. We see Amy drawing death and destruction on a futuristic tablet, when an explosion is seen in the distance. Moments later the train crashes at the station, leaving Lana alone. A stereotypical cab driver hiding at the station gives Lana a door hacking device, we find Amy a few moments later and now we’re off to the races.
In a word, the demo was boring. To elaborate — everything was just Ok, from the dialogue, to the gameplay, to the puzzle solving, to the characters — nothing grabs you. The game isn’t that scary, honestly everything is too dark. Yes, darkness adds to the horror, done ineffectively darkness makes me think something is wrong with the contrast on my TV. And it doesn’t need to be dark all the time to be scary, Resident Evil did it with atmosphere, Silent Hill did it with fog, Dead Space uses claustrophobia and ambient sound. All I did for 20 minutes was stumble around in the darkness, leading Amy around by the hand while she unlocks paths, occasionally beating the infected with a stick.
And what exactly are we doing? I couldn’t really tell you, trying to escape the train station I imagine, trying to reach a contact that Lana was talking to on the train? It’s not entirely explained in the demo… or what I played of it. Here’s the rub — I have come to expect game demos to end somewhere around the first or second achievements, at which point a still frame appears and says, “hey, unlock this game, or you can just Get OUT!” Ok, hyperbole, but yeah. The first achievement I, um, achieve triggers a screen with two options (unlock or continue) the second time I see this screen it is at an unnatural ending for a demo, Amy and Lana hide under a table while the cab driver tries to reason with the soldiers in the train station. This time, three options (unlock, back, or exit). Exit? Ok, I assume the demo is over at this point and that’s the end. I have a feeling it wasn’t really the end, but why give me the option to exit — and if it actually was the end of the demo, oh boy…
It’s too bad, because I think there was something under all that darkness. Amy is the key to Lana’s survival, but you need to lead her around and show her what to do. She can hack security panels, crawl into tight spaces to unlock doors, push buttons to unlock doors, and um (ok, she unlocks a lot of doors) I hear she also has the ability to repel the infected and help Lana heal, but I never got there. Did I mention there is some sort of a zombie outbreak (can I use the Z word here)? I never reached the hook, and from reading some other reviews on other gaming websites I get the impression that it doesn’t come.
What I’ll give to AMY is the fact that it’s a third person game at an arcade price (800 MS) that doesn’t involve K/D ratios (brah). I’m of the opinion that most downloadable titles are indie darlings, esoteric art projects, minimalist neon games with trance music, or re-hashes of actual arcade games from the early 90’s. In the end, this one for me is a pass, but maybe survival horror fans might find some comfort here while waiting for the next AAA title.