Once again, I’m behind the curve. When Mass Effect 2 came out last year on systems I couldnt play it on, I didn’t really mind. I hadn’t played the first and was never big into Bioware RPGs. Then I played Dragon Age. So naturally, I was really excited when they announced that ME2 was coming to PS3, and even more excited that there was a demo out. It was just as cool as Dragon Age was, but maybe even more so; this one was in space.
The first time I played, I chose male Shepard. Who happens to look like a douchier version of Jack from Lost. Yet the main problem, was his voice. Mark Meer has managed to bring more apathy and bewilderment via sound waves, than any writer could ever dream. I guess it’s a talent. Of sorts. Also a problem I found with the male Shepard character – his eyes never quite look at what they should be. Yeah, it’s a Bioware game, they never quite line up perfectly, but Shepard’s was the only one that stood out for me.
So I then played through it as female Shepard. A few minutes in, I thought “Hallelujah! Some emotion in her voice!”. Then it gradually creeped up on me that it was the same emotion all the time. Jennifer Hale, in what I presume was an attempt to make female Shepard the tough commanding leader she is, overcompensated. Instead of being a strong female character, she comes across as a constant snarky bitch. Also, she looks like a younger version of The Gravedigger. That never helps.
So as the player, I’m left with a dilemma. These are the main protagonist – these are you for all intents and porpoises. You choose their abilities, you choose their back story, you choose their dialogue responses. But when, as a character, they have a personality of their own, this creates a dissonance. Sure, I choose what they say, but they choose how it’s said. This is an increasingly frequent problem as more RPGs give characters voices, and there’s no easy way to fix it. To say “Just get better voice actors” is no solution, as what I imagine the voice of my character to be, could just as easily be off-putting to another.
So in the end, I’ll choose male Shepard. While he will probably bore the shit out of me during the tens of hours I spend as him, at least he won’t be a complete cunt. Which at the end of the day, is probably good enough.