Is Romance In Games Like Mass Effect Even Necessary?

By Adam Ma on January 25, 2010, 8:03PM EDT

Playing through a western RPG means that you'll be subjected to a lot of choices. Fallout, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, they all love to offer the player decisions that naturally have repercussions. From the group you assemble to the alliances you make, these decisions shape the very foundation of experience. Selecting a character that isn't good for the team may lead to some harder boss fights, and so on. But where does romance fit into all this?

Most games offer a default romance to experience, but every once in a while the player is given the choice. Bioware is renowed for this, making players submit to a form of extensive virtual foreplay before being gifted the chance at a steamy (but clothed) sex scene. But for all the depth gamers are allowed to pour into their character's background and moral choices, these romances are superficial and bland at best. It's hard to even want to engage in them when you know exactly how each and every romance is going to start, and end.

This isn't to say that there's not a lot to learn about each of these characters, but simply learning about someone isn't the turning point to then being able to take things to the next level. For all the advancements in these morality systems it wouldn't be too hard to add a dating simulator into the game right? Something along the lines of Grand Theft Auto IV where players would be able to choose what space and/or gothic styled Italian restaurant they would like to take their female archer/space cadet. When it hits the point where all the player needs to do is select a few choice words and they're guaranteed some action before the final boss these companies should just toss the whole system out the door. It would be far more interesting for the game to see who I'm using in a party more, then show me unlockable cut-scenes that I could navigate rather then leave me the dry task of flirting with a computer.

There's nothing worse then having a game make presumptions of its players. For example, if I choose to make a female character in Mass Effect why don't I get the option to have a relationship with Garrus? Or Wrex for that matter. And where are all the gay male soldiers? If having a romance is simply going to be something fun, let players go all out. But if the game wants to hinge upon the pretence of seriousness there must be a reason for every single action taken, or ignored. Rejection should be a part of these worlds as well, because they are a part of real life. Until there are serious consequences in these 'romance' sections, these western RPGs should take themselves less seriously. Open up a little, let players have more fun, or otherwise start digging up some real purpose behind these romances. Either way, the experience will be more fun and less laborious.

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