Game Informer released a comprehensive list of the 100 best RPGs of all time and is an interesting walk through the long history of RPGs. There’s a lot of fun titles on the list, everything from Deus Ex to South Park to Diablo to Demon Souls (they even remembered Shadowrun!). Fallout and Final Fantasy make the list multiple times but we were most drawn to two series we love: Mass Effect and The Witcher. All three Mass Effect titles appear while only the most recent two Witcher titles do, but we were most interested in how they ranked the best of both series: The Witcher 3 and Mass Effect 2. They placed them 5th and 4th, respectively. IGN disagreed, putting Witcher 3 just ahead of Mass Effect 2 (as did these guys). Then again, Gameinformer seems to have Metacritic on their side. So we thought we’d weigh in too and analyze the issue topic by topic. So here’s our breakdown of which game is better: Mass Effect 2 or The Witcher 3.
This one is a no brainer. The Witcher takes its time to introduce you to Geralt’s world and his quest to find Ciri, his adopted ward. The first kingdom you visit – while serving as an excellent training ground – is far and away the least attractive place you’ll explore. Mass Effect 2, on the other hand, has probably the best opening sequence we’ve ever seen in a game. You begin the game with the crew you ended the previous game with and are immediately attacked by the mysterious Collectors. They overpower your ship and your character (Shepherd) is killed in the combat while helping save the crew, all this before the title screen even appears. It’s a terrific introduction to a compelling story. WINNER: MASS EFFECT 2
This is a hard one. Commander Shepherd is one of the best characters we’ve ever played, due to the fun options your given to develop her (or him) and the amazing voice acting of Jennifer Hale. There’s only one character in games we like better and that’s Geralt of Rivia. Geralt is a complicated character. He’s a powerful fighter who does menial work. He’s a good father and devoted partner and shameless womanizer. He seems to know every single member of every royal family but he spends the bulk of his time in sewers and abandoned castles. He is a fascinating mixture of contradictions and is definitely our favorite protagonist in any game. WINNER: THE WITCHER 3
The gameplay in The Witcher 3 and Mass Effect 2 could not be more different. Geralt spends the game exploring massive kingdoms and beautiful cities. Shepherd tends to fly place to place throughout the galaxy. Geralt’s battles involve planning and preparation, creating weapons and potions that will give you the advantage against the supernatural monsters you battle. Shepherd’s battles are more run-and-gun, where you take shelter and pop out the blast streams of robots. Between the two, I think I slightly prefer Shepherd’s battles to Geralt’s because Shepherd always has her crew by her side. Geralt’s best moment in The Witcher 3, actually, is the massive battle of Kaer Morhen when all of Geralt’s friends arrive to help him protect Ciri from the Wild Hunt. Shepherd’s battles, repetitive though they can be, are actually more fun as you get to have your allies back you up. WINNER: MASS EFFECT 2
The Witcher has a lot of fun characters for you to interact with. Yennefer and Triss, in particular, are two of the most interesting women you’ll encounter in any game. But Mass Effect has this one. Almost everyone you interact with in your adventure is pretty cool. There are smooth, silent assassins, gruff, tattooed fighters, Many of my favorite characters in any game appear in Mass Effect 2, including Wrex, Mordin, Joker, Garrus, Tali and Liara. Heck, even second-tier Jacob, Miranda, Jack, Thane, Legion and Samara had some good moments. Mass Effect 2, unlike The Witcher 3, is built around your attachment to these characters (and the quests you take with them) so it’s great that they are written as well as they are. The Witcher has some great friends, but nobody has a cast as cool as Shepherd. WINNER: MASS EFFECT 2
The Romance Scenes
This is also a tough one. The original Mass Effect got a lot of negative press for the romance options, despite the fact that the actual cinematics were pretty mundane. Mass Effect 2 upped the ante, giving you several more romance options with a wide variety of teammates (some are much better than some others). The Witcher, though, is possibly the gold standard of romance scenes. Whether they are funny, really funny, serious, light (really light), or deeply passionate, the Witcher can be sexy and fun and moving in equal measure. This may be because the Witcher seems to be more willing to incorporate the supernatural into romance scenes while Mass Effect keeps the sci-fi elements largely out of the romantic sequences. Sure, Peebee’s zero gravity sequences is a good start, but Mass Effect needs to start having as much fun with these scenes as The Witcher is. WINNER: THE WITCHER 3
The Final Battle
Mass Effect 2’s one big foible is it’s final fight. When you finally track down the home of the Collectors, you discover their nefarious scheme is to…develop a human reaper. This is a creature with all the size of a Reaper and all of the weaknesses of a person. It is a truly ridiculous idea, like making a submarine out of bread. Meanwhile, the Witcher spends the entire game setting you against the members of the Wild Hunt, who seem nearly indestructible until you successfully face them down midway through the game. The final battle in which Geralt throws down with the Big Bad who’s been chasing her daughter throughout the game is appropriately cinematic and cathartic. As a Witcher, Geralt doesn’t get to feel many feelings, but I found it enormously gratifying to put that guy down. WINNER: THE WITCHER 3
Our verdict: THE WITCHER 3 (by a nose)
Seriously, though, if you haven’t played through both games, well now you know what to do with the long weekend.