We all remember the hilariously overreaction to the ending of Mass Effect 3. Even objectively, though, there were some problems. Mass Effect's story has promised that the player's decisions will effect the game's story and Mass Effect 3 was advertised as fulfilling everyone's wish of feeling like a special snowflake where all of their decisions resulted in a very specific ending that revealed the consequences of their actions. Instead, we sort of got a bell curve where it peaks in ME2 or halfway through 3, and then comes back to one of 3 endings that you just sort of pick between. Doesn't matter if the geth as a species are dead or not, you can still choose to do a), b), or if you got enough points c).
But, this is sort of the point of the story. Really, the decision to take Jak's side in every argument just so you can see her ta-tas later shouldn't have any influence on the Reaper's attack strategy or whether or not you can overcome them. Yeah, maybe seeing Shepard and Jak laying on a beach after the credits would have been a nice "happy ending" sort of nod to your decision in that one instance, but does touching on every little decision really improve the story after the ultimate climax of saving the universe is over? Mass Effect 1 set you on a mission of saving the universe, and by 3 you do it. That should be a "yay" moment, but fans felt jipped because of the advertising that seemed to imply something more would happen.
On the other hand, fans celebrate the Witcher 2 for doing it right. The story can branch off and the decisions you make really do lead to different storylines. If you do a replay and pick new options, you might be surprised just how much you didn't experience the first time. This game doesn't really do the bell curve, it actually branches out in less annoying ways.
So, why is the Walking Dead on everyone's "I like this game and you should play it" list? Ultimately, it does the exact same thing as Mass Effect 3. Each episode opens with the phrase, "The decisions the player makes will effect the story", and yet there are a lot of decisions you make that don't save that person either way, or doom that character either way, or set you up for the ending in the exact same way. There are some neat variables to experience, and you feel like it matters along the adventure, but it ends the same for everyone.
Well, maybe that's it. You feel like it matters. Even if it doesn't. The Walking Dead puts you in a situation where you feel like a human being. The world will keep spinning, and sometimes you have bad luck and sometimes things will happen. You might be able to offer a character your opinion, but that doesn't mean they'll take your words to heart. It feels a little more real.
In Mass Effect, you feel like the single most important human being in the universe. Sometimes the most important lifeform of any race in the universe. You make these huge decisions that can wipe out entire species. And what happens if you choose wrong? You get a brief cutscene and then get back to your adventure as if nothing happened. I exaggerate, but my point is in there, somewhere.
Even though Walking Dead ends in such a way that was unavoidable, you want to talk to your friends about how you got there. "Did you do that?" "Did doing this work out any better for you?" It's entertaining to see how differently you played the game, despite the fact that spoilers happen.
I've never really enjoyed a video game's story more than Walking Dead. I teared up by the end and I was emotionally invested and stressed for days after each episode. I freaking cared about these fictional characters, knowing all-too-well that they could die at any moment, even if I do everything I can to stop that. Mass Effect wasn't just about the story, either. You had cool shooting missions and weird side quests that don't mean anything, and ultimately the story is only a portion of the game. Walking Dead was 100% focused on survival and things that matter, so if you made a decisions or said something or didn't say something, it might be important down the road. But, what's important is that you knew it mattered. When it was your time to speak, sometimes you didn't want to be given the opportunity to say anything because that's a weight you weren't ready to bear, yet.
Or whatever. Anyone have branching storylines they wanna share?