I remember years ago when Mass Effect was recommended to me. I’ve always been a fan of RPG’s but move to new ones with some trepidation. This time however it was suggested by a friend with good taste in such things, and was made by BioWare, so I thought I’d take a chance. And hell I want to go into space in my own ship and blast around from star to star and this was the closest I was ever likely to get.
I bought a new copy of the game, got home and peeled it open to be hit in the nose with that fresh wrapped new game smell. I’ve always loved that smell. It reminds me of new experiences, new stories and new adventures. I put it in my console, waited and then I was blown away.
I was hooked instantly. This music was inspirational and dramatic, it pulled me in and was well crafted for every moment of the game. The voice casting and acting was a beautiful surprise, the opening dialog where they discuss Shepard is just golden. The story was… Epic.
Let’s focus on the story for a second. It covered comedy, drama, action, horror, terror, romance, xenophobia, racism, politics, economics, and a lot of other stuff I’m probably forgetting. It was a proper space opera.
The character development, armour selection, and weapon choices were fantastic. As I played the game my character grew, and I became more and more intrinsically tied to him. I made the choices, I picked the look, I made the kills. I thought Garrus was cool, and I loved Liara. Tali was intriguing and Wrex was a legend.
The game grabbed a hold of me and immersed me in it’s world and I loved it. It was, and still is, one of the best games I’ve ever played.
Then came game two. So I’ll just start with what I didn’t like: Streamlining the RPG elements of the game until it wasn’t really an RPG anymore. That’s not cool. In fact it was terribly annoying.
But… But… WOW on the story! And the music! And still with the casting. Wow wow wow. The introduction of the coolest character in the series: Thane. Oh Thane, he looked cool, he sounded cool, he had a cool story, and he had fantastic philosophy. I’m not forgetting Legion here, it’s just that Thane was my favourite.
Overall the second game carried a great story forward, and introduced some great new characters and story elements. I was as involved in number two as I was in number one. My heart raced and I stood up right at the end and urged my Shepard to make that big jump by stomping my feet and squeezing the controller until my hands were sore.
And so at last we come to game three. I’ll start with what I did like this time: More of the same as what I liked before. Overall the series maintained fantastic writing, music, and casting up until the end. It was a beautiful story and I was engaged from start to finish. I cared about what happened to each and every one of the characters and what happened to them. I cared about all of the races, and occasionally found it tough to make the ‘big’ decisions. I was involved in this game, and it hooked me just like the first two. Perhaps even more than the first two because I was so committed to my characters, and so dedicated to getting my win.
But what went wrong with this game? Well it was still a streamlined RPG, so boo to that. A lot of characters that had become so important in game two were just plot elements in game three. They turned up for a chat or a mission and then they were gone. The game also felt very linear. There was no real new exploration, which I know makes sense for the story but still felt a little constrained. Oh, and Kai Leng. That guy was just annoying.
So finally, after traipsing around the galaxy and having a few massive fights I got to the end. And I was presented with three very murky, and very unclear options. I picked the one I thought made the most sense for my experience, the one I wanted, and that was it. It was all over. I watched the consequences of my choice unfold, I sat through the credits and listened to the amazing epilogue by Buzz Aldrin.
(I’m not going to say anything about the ending other than these few thoughts: I liked it. I think it sat well with the tone of inevitability that had been well established way back in game one. I think the campaign to change it is madness. And I don’t believe in the ‘Indoctrination Theory’ even though it would be very cool if that was the intention all along).
I made some tea, sat down, and felt a little empty. A story I’d spent four or five years playing though had finally come to an end. It was a rewarding experience in terms of a video game, and one I hope to repeat, just as soon as I get my hands on a copy of Mass Effect again (2 and 3 are still here, never going anywhere). Even though I felt the games diminished somewhat as each was released they still remain to be individually wonderful and wholly breathtaking.
I still want to go up there. Into space. In my lifetime if that becomes possible then I’ll take every step to do it. Right now even I’m studying astrophysics, just in case that helps. There are a million things I could say about that, but the Mass Effect 3 epilogue kind of says it best…