Five or so years later, Skyrim comes out. In the intervening years, Bioware has owned my soul with their story-driven way of designing RPGs. I wasn't sure Bethesda could compete, honestly, and so instead of buying Skyrim right away, I put it on my Christmas list and waited. It is definitely a fun and engaging game to while away the months while I wait for my much-anticipated ME3. However, the characters cannot hold a candle to Bioware on their worst day, and the story is, while a cool "hook" not very story-driven. But the game is flat out gorgeous, and there is something fun about playing it. I even get a kick out of hunting deer and collecting plants to make potions with. Like Morrowind, I could easily lose myself in all the side quests and interactions, and avoid the main quest entirely. (I am making a concerted effort not to, however.) Does it compare to a Bioware RPG? No. The two are entirely different beasts. But it is fun, and I am enjoying playing.
That said, when March 6th roles around, my already-paid for pre-order of ME3 will take center stage without a fight. IN FACT, something happened recently to remind me of just how FREAKING AWESOME everything about this franchise is (more on what this is a bit later). Okay, maybe not everything...but certainly there are many traits that stand this series head and shoulders above the competition. Starting with characters, story, continued continuity, the voice actors...and speaking of the voice actors, they are some pretty awesome folks! Playing Skyrim, I have noted several "celebrity" voices. Christopher Plummer, Claudia Christian, etc. However, I feel the wonderful talents of these folks are somewhat wasted on small parts with lackluster-ly written characters. To contrast, even the cameo Adam Baldwin played in ME2 had so much emotion and character in one small role, it created something of a fandom following, campaigning to expand the role in ME3. This is no fault of the voice actors, and has everything to do with how the game, and the characters, are written. There isn't enough personality written into most of Skyrim's characters to have something to expand on. (But seriously, it's a beautiful and fun game. In a hack-and-slash, popcorn-and-pizza kind of way.) The truth is, it would be hard to compete with Bioware on their own turf anyway. I've had a lot of emotional responses to their games. Some good, some bad, but almost always extreme, and almost always because of the characters.
Some of you may remember my response in ME2, when my love interest from ME hardly appeared in the game, and then when he did, the meeting was brief, with no possible way to make the conversation come out on a good note. Shepard's succinct, "I've had enough of this colony" at the end of that meeting expressed my own feelings. I was furious with Bioware, and petulantly resolved not to be true to Kaidan during my playthrough after all; why should I, he'd just written me off without even listening to me! Then, those sneaky Bioware writers sent Shepard a message written by Kaidan after that ill-fated reunion. He apologized in such a heartfelt way, they won me back with a letter. Having his character on screen wasn't even necessary! That's what I'm talking about, with the way these games are written.
Not that the ME franchise is all about the romance...I love so many things about this game. My Shepard's solid friendship with Garrus, the redemption of Miranda and salvation of Jack, Joker and Edi's strange, messed up "thing", the way I got to tell the Illusive Man to f-off at the end of ME2 (one of my most satisfying moments in any RPG)...the way Shepard kicks butt and takes names all through the galaxy...yeah, good times. But I won't deny, I'm a girl, a fandom girl. The 'ship and the romance is a big part of the overall experience for me, obviously. (If you're surprised by that, you must not have been reading this journal for very long.)
So, you can imagine how curious I am to see how the Kaidan thing is resolved in ME3. They've hinted at a big payoff for those of us who stayed true to our first loves from ME, and I am counting on that. As we get closer and closer to March, and ME3's release date, I find I am often on the look out for ME3 news being released. The whole multiplayer aspect is pretty exciting, although also a little nerve-wracking. I want my single player experience to be just as awesome as always, but being able to play the game with my RPG playing friends is pretty freaking amazing (and a damn long time coming for the RPG genre).
Anyway, this brings me to that FREAKING AWESOME thing that I found out...it seems the voice actors who play Kaidan and Ashley both recorded themselves reading the letters their characters sent. Raphael Sbarge and Kimberly Brooks did this for the fans, on their own basically. Isn't that one of the most awesome things ever?? And now on his audioblog, Raphael is posting interviews between him and Kimberly, wherein the two of them talk about their experiences working on the series! Seriously, this game has the most awesome voice actors!