Mass Effect 2: Mini Games

I think I have already milked Mass Effect 2 dry in the last couple of weeks. The amount of words I expelled upon this blog talking about that game is probably reaching obscene levels. I wasn’t going to post anymore but then I captured those videos and uploaded them to Youtube a few weeks back… It would be a shame not to share them. I initially planned to make an extended rant about mini games being stupid but I realized that I already posted that rant several times. So instead I’ll just briefly comment on them here – talking about what worked and what didn’t.

Bypass and Hacking

While Mass Effect used the silly circular frogger thing for everything ME2 expanded it’s repertoire to two distinct games: bypass game and hacking game. The former is for opening doors and unlocking chests while the latter is for breaking into computer systems, deactivating stuff and etc… It makes sense.

Bypass looks like this:

It is essentially a memory game. You have to match symbols into pairs, and you can only see one of them at a time. It has nothing to do with bypassing security but… Well, the way it is designed it almost looks like you are criss-crossing some electronic circuits, connecting them to each other to cause some kind of overload that will trigger the locking mechanism. Surprisingly the game didn’t make me rage the same way Frogger did. Go figure.

Hacking is a pattern matching game:

You need to match 3 patterns in a row, under a time limit while avoiding the red rectangles. Once again, it is easy and requires no skill but is much less awful than the Frogger sequences from ME1.

This reinforces my point that if you make a mini game look a bit like what it is supposed to be, it becomes less annoying. Still, I don’t think anything beats lock-picking from Fallout 3 which you do exactly what is says on the tin: pick a lock.


Arguably the least enjoyable part of Mass Effect 2 was the mining:

I didn’t mind it that much on my first run through the game, but I hated doing it my second time around. The worst part is that it is absolutely crucial to put in time into doing it, if you want your whole team to survive the suicide mission.

It appears that BioWare wanted to have something to replace the dull and boring Mako sections of the game. Sadly, boring minigame in which you drag your mouse cursor in circles is not a good replacement.

I understand why they made the game. BioWare wanted us to have some reason to explore all these little planets and asteroids they included on their map. Making them contain resources was a good idea. It’s just the busy work involved in mining becomes a thankless chore after a few hours. For example, wouldn’t mind just flying to a planet, say “deploy a probe” and then having my resource income randomized. But no. We can’t have that! Randomized is evil!

Honestly, I don’t understand this aversion to randomized results in modern video games. To me, pressing a button and getting a randomized result is perfectly natural. But then again, I have a background in pen and paper RPG’s where everything can be determined by a dice roll. Still, this is exactly what happens in every game when you deal damage – it gets randomized based on your stats, the weapon stats and enemy resistances. It makes absolute sense to use the same mechanic for unlocking doors or hacking computers – make a roll of your skill vs difficulty and announce the result to the player.

These days everything must be a mini game – opening doors, hacking, operating machinery, defecating. Soon there will probably make mini-games for reloading your weapons efficiently. I hate this trend. Why can’t we have skill rolls anymore?

Hell, I personally think skill rolls are infinitely more satisfying than mini games. When you use randomized rolls you can clearly see your characters progression. If you invest points to upgrade your lock picking or hacking skills your character will become better and better. With mini games, this is offloaded onto a player – you either master it after few tries and nail it every time or you continue sucking at it for the rest of the game.

Can we please reverse this trend? No more mini games in RPG’s please! Hell, let’s start some sort of a club or a society to promote this idea. We can call it Fight Against RPG Mini-games (or FARM for short).

What do you say? Will you join me in this fight and become FARM’ers?

Oh, and my Mass Effect 2 post queue is exhausted. So if you are sick and tired hearing about this game, you should now rejoice. I’m done with it.

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7 Responses to Mass Effect 2: Mini Games

  1. Zel FRANCE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Don’t forget than while ME1’s frogger takes less than 5 seconds to complete without much effort, ME2’s hacking and security bypass games require at least 20, and you have to hurry. As far as useless mini-games go, I’ll take the faster one any time, even if its presentation makes less sense.

    About skill rolls for lockpicking/stealing/etc, they don’t fit in a game where you can save and load at will. I think this is one of the reasons PnP systems fail when transposed in video games. In PnP the GM usually won’t let a player retry a failed attempt more than once, if at all. In video games, a player can just save before an attempt, try his luck and reload if he failed, repeating the process as long as it takes to succeed. Being such a cheater, I’m in favor of fixed thresholds that represent your character’s ability to succeed or not, not unlike Fallout3 Lockpicking/Hacking but without the associated mini games.

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  2. Zel FRANCE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I forgot to add (*hint* need comment editing functionality */hint*): when do we start the banana plantation ?

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  3. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ Zel:

    Morrowind used lockpicks that had a limited number of uses. So if your skill was poor and you attempted to pick difficult lock you would quickly use up your picks. I liked that system. In fact, I have never even considered re-loading to pick a lock because it would be so counter productive. Picking a lock was essentially a one click operation.

    In fact, I have re-loaded Mass Effect 2 once or twice when I accidentally failed what I thought was an important bypass/hacking sequence.

    Oh, and the bananas are basically regular commenter badges. I initially wanted to use a star, but I had this banana icon sitting on the server already… :P

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  4. MrPete GERMANY Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    The lockpick idea as in Morrowind was good. A covert skill roll and either success or failure.
    In Oblivion they screwed even that up by replacing the one-click-pick with a minigame where you had to pick the lock yourself.
    OK so far since your skill in lockpicking and the quality of your picks determined how long you could make the lock’s bolts stay up before you had to retry them.
    But they screwed even that. You couldn’t (at least not up to the patch I used before I resigned) abort lockpicking as long as you had a single lockpick left.
    That could lead to a very annoying situation if you followed a side quest and got the unbreakable lockpick… I think you know where I point…

    I love games like Fallout 1&2, Arkanum or such where it really is the skill roll against difficulty in the background.
    So, where do I get rake and shovel?

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  5. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    @ MrPete:

    Actually, Oblivion at least had a button that allowed you to “force” the lock which reduced the game to a pure skill roll. Unfortunately failed test meant your lockpick was broken – and you couldn’t easily buy lockpicks in general stores – you had to find the right people, and even then they tended to be expensive.

    However finding the unbreakable lockpick made lock-picking a joke. You would just mash the “force lock” button until you succeeded.

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  6. Clarissa UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I don’t understand why everyone is hating on the mini-games. I like having control of things so I like the mini-games. They’re easy to do and seem far superior to me than an unsatisfying skill roll where my character’s skill level only marginally improves my chances of beating the mini-game.

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  7. pramit INDIA Google Chrome Windows says:

    i agree with the mining part, it seemed OK in the first run, but it was such a pain in the second run.

    But its better than ME3 which has no minigames, no mining, where everything is way too..restricting. No more point in visiting other systems except the one with the mission(one or two at a time). The planets where you need to send probes are simple, bugged, consume fuel, and the whole reaper detect your presence if you scan thing really makes it not worth it.

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