I still haven’t played Mass Effect 3, but I’m going to write just a bit more about some issues related to it. Mostly though, it’s about this video that Eric Schwarz at Critical Missive linked to. You’ll have to watch the video before reading this post. It has some NSFW stuff in it, so be warned.
The guy makes some good points in the video, but he undercuts his point stupidly by making irrelevant personal criticisms of Jennifer Hepler. But what I want to talk about is his comments on Hepler’s idea of allowing players to skip combat sequences to hear more of the story. The narrator of the video says:
Hepler’s suggestion would lead to game design where no story could be present in the gameplay, and no gameplay could be present in the story. (He says this around the 5:10 mark)
Well, that would be a bad thing, yes. However, I’m not convinced that it would automatically lead to that, only that it could lead to that in the hands of lazy designers.
Ideally, yes; gameplay should be integrated with story. The best narrative games make everything relate to the central theme of the story. However, there’s a downside: if the gameplay is not easy, people who would appreciate the story can’t experience it. I know people who would love the story in Alpha Protocol, but who just can’t handle the game’s fighting sections. So, they can’t play it. It’s good to be able to accommodate people like that.
The other point I’d like to make is that, towards the end of the video, he seems to imply that Hepler, along with the malign influence of EA, is responsible for all the awful romance sub-plots in BioWare games. This is not the case. I know this because BioWare romances have always been pretty bad, dating back at least as far as Carth Onasi in KotOR.