Monday, 4 August 2008

Game Saving

Mass Effect is an awesome game. It might have some issues with repetitiveness with regards to the side-quests, as well as technical issues with the game not loading the textures quickly enough and the fact that the inventory system is a complete shambles, the motions of characters can sometimes be stunted and robotic and the conversations can be a little strange, but other than that it's an awesome game. But my biggest gripe with Mass Effect is that you have to keep saving it, just in case.

This is an RPG, and one of the biggest things that put me off RPGs (JRPGs in particular, like Final Fantasy etc.) is that you get massively punished for dying. Mass Effect lets you save anywhere you like as long as it's not in the middle of a battle, which is perfectly understandable. This is great, but if you have a big session on the game only to die without saving it, it's a complete chore to go back through the same section of the game. It can also be incredibly hard, especially on 'Veteran' difficulty. Add this to the fact that your squad members are nearly completely useless, with their only saving grace being that you can utilise their 'powers' as if they were your own, provided they're not stuck behind a wall or something.

What I'm trying to get to, though, is the fact that in this day and age you'd think that games would learn from past mistakes and not punish the player so much for dying. Originally, dying was a way to get people to stick more money into the arcade machines, but now, when a game's story can be a lot more important than the actual challenge of completing it, it seems a shame that game developers are stuck in the past and are insistent on having what I see as major flaws in their game such as this. I'm not saying that every game released hence should feature indestructible characters that can never die, because that would spoil it for those who love a challenge, I'm just saying that games with plots that are essential to the enjoyment of the player (like the Mass Effects of this world) should have a much better way of saving your progress and not punish those that are playing for the story.

Shepard: "Who do I gotta blow for some auto-save?"

With all that said, though, I do enjoy a challenge, and I try to play Mass Effect on the hardest difficulty setting that I deem enjoyable. But for me, it's the 'Normal' setting which isn't much of a challenge at all, because you die a hell of a lot on the other, harder, difficulty settings and, like I said, if you don't save (it is very easy to forget) you have to go back to your last save, which is normally where you picked up the game from when you last left off. This can be really frustrating in a game like Mass Effect, where upgrading your character, buying and selling and inventory-management are all big parts of the game. Having to go through them all again when you die is a little dispiriting. But all this could be remedied by having an auto-save feature, or a checkpoint system like Halo. Gone should be the days of save-points; the folly of games that saved onto cartridges or memory cards, because being able to save anywhere would simply require too much memory. Now we have hard-drives and SD cards - more memory than we know what to do with - why can't every game have auto-saves? GTA IV had them and got rid of the ball-ache of having to travel the entire length and breadth of the city to save your game so you could have your dinner!

However, I still testify that Mass Effect is one of the most engrossing games that I've ever played (probably the reason why I keep forgetting to save), but not having auto-save is a far bigger nuisance than textures not loading properly. Mass Effect 2, you've got a lot to live up to!


Anonymous said...

The only thing I would say though is that if you only had a Auto save system it would be more frustrating. Mass effect can change depending on what you do, what you say and so on, if it auto saved after such a choice you would have to go through the whole game again to try the other scenario, rather then if you manual saved it. So a system like GTA4 does where it auto saves but you can create manual saves as well would be better :D

TheFighterOfFoo said...

That's a form of cheating, though, in my eyes at least.

Anonymous said...

Yeah but its irritating going all the way back though the story again just to take another path through the game. ive played though it once up until that point why should I play it again just to get to the bit I want :P

TheFighterOfFoo said...

That's fair enough, but it's still kind of like cheating. I like playing games through again; Mass Effect was made with two, three or four play-throughs in mind, that's why there are different classes, achievements for different classes and an achievement for completing the game twice.

However, I fully agree with you about the GTAIV save system, and most games with auto-save allow you to turn it off anyway.