I started playing Dragon Age in 2010. Whenever I started it, the usual logos came up, and the title, but before entering the main menu, another game’s trailer started to play automatically. Yes, that was a thing at that time. Anyway, that trailer was for Mass Effect 2. At first, I ignored it, but while I played Dragon Age, I fell in love with how you can create your own character, get to know the companions, and navigate through the story and make decisions. I started to wonder if maybe this Mass Effect game was the same. And that is how it all started.
“The Normandy’s crew was MY crew.”
I quickly got my hands on both installments and got sucked into the world with the snap of a finger. By the time 2012 rolled in and it was time for the third game, I was a massive fan who had already played through the previous ones at least two to three times. I fell in love with the story and characters. The Normandy’s crew was MY crew. I felt like part of a family I never knew I needed.
What are the things that make Mass Effect so special? There are many answers to this question, and I will give you all of them because I really want people to get into these games. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.
We’re in the future. The year is 2183 when we first step onto the Normandy either as a Female or Male Shepard (we will come back to this point). At this point, humanity discovered and has been using devices called Mass Relays that make interstellar travel possible. This, of course, means that we also discovered Alien life and how rich the Milky Way galaxy is in reality.
In the first game, we are sent on a routine mission to a human colony called Eden Prime and this is where the bigger story gets triggered. The colony is under attack by the Geth army ( Artificially Intelligent machines created by a race called the Quarians that have been rising up against them) They are led by a rogue Spectre called Saren.
”Spectres are agents entrusted with extraordinary authority by the Citadel Council, including the power of life and death over the inhabitants of the galaxy.”
The crew of the Normandy quickly realize the Geth are there for the same purpose. To recover an unearthed Prothean Beacon. Protheans play a big part in all three games. We soon find out that their beacons are actually warnings of a highly advanced machine race’s arrival. This race is called the Reapers. They return from the dark space every fifty thousand years to purge the galaxy. They are the big bad of these games, the ones that Shepard and her/his crew have to fight against to save the galaxy. The biggest problem facing Shepard is that no other civilization before has been able to defeat them.
The stakes in the first game are high, but they are only the beginning of what’s to come. After defeating Saren (who is under Reaper control) and the Geths, the second installment of the game brings in other minions of these machines, who are called the Collectors.
They made a very interesting choice in this part; you see: Shepard dies at the beginning while saving the crew. Don’t panic though, Mass Effect isn’t like Dragon Age. We do get back our Shepard thanks to a company called Cerberus and their leader, the Illusive Man. But other than Joker, Garrus and Tali’Zorah, no one else actually joins from the original game, I mean, you do meet them and have missions with some of them, but they are not actually there with you in the final fight. This pissed me off a bit at first, but thankfully, the new crew is actually quite awesome as well. They managed to justify this decision pretty early on. The second game is much more complex in the story, character building, and even in the decisions, you have to make along the way. I will write about this more, but one of the greatest things in this story, for me, is the Illusive Man who’s played by the amazing Martin Sheen.
The third game doesn’t mess around at all. The Reapers arrive. There’s nothing Shepard can do to stop them anymore. It is straight into the action. Throughout almost every mission, we are thrown into a war zone as the enemy is already everywhere. Every decision made in this game can mean life or death to one or the other. I will point out that Mass Effect said that all the decisions we made previously will matter. It is ultimately true, except for the final decision… The final decision was the part that pissed off many, including me. I replayed the third game many times since, always going for the best possible ending – which for me literally means Shepard taking a breath among the ruins of the Citadel – but it still makes me angry to think that after everything we go through, we can only win if we sacrifice ourselves.
I might be able to forgive them since the surprise new Mass Effect game announcement and that trailer with Liara actually hints that the crew somehow is after Shepard? Possibly? Hopefully. We obviously don’t know what will happen yet exactly and I am guessing depending on which decision you made it will be different in ways, but I am hopeful. That trailer gave me a lot to look forward to and my Mass Effect loving heart is happier than ever.
Mass Effect is a role-playing action game. This means that you get to design your own protagonist. I loved this in Dragon Age but oh, boy, do I love it here even more? YES. So, I can’t talk much about male Shepard as I always go for female Shepard. I mean… just listen to the badass voice of Jennifer Hale, who’s an absolute Queen, and honestly, whenever she talks in the game, I feel like I can literally achieve anything. She brings such depth to Commander Shepard that I didn’t think was possible.
The creating process evolved a lot throughout all three games, but I am guessing that the remastered version will improve all of them even more. I loved the freedom it gave me to make Shepard as similar to myself as possible. At one playthrough I made her look like Angelina Jolie and I immediately fan-casted her as Shepard for a possible movie adaptation. (Please, Hollywood, don’t touch Mass Effect though, thank you).
I would say, without an ounce of doubt, that the best part of these games is the crew and the relationship you build with them. You truly feel that they are your family by the end of the first game and that feeling will grow with each installment. When I enter the Mass Effect world, I am going home. Easy as that.
You know there’s a feature in these types of games that you can skip the conversations you’re having with the people? Well, I’ve never done that here. I love listening to the really well-written dialogues, stories they tell, and getting to know these characters. Even with the companions that don’t actually go on missions with you.
I will start this off with one of the greatest characters in any video game. His name is Jeff “Joker” Moreau and he is played by Seth Green (Robot Chicken, Dads, Rat Race, Buffy the Vampire Slayer). You’ll want to protect him at all costs and you’ll fall in love with him, I can promise you both of these things. Joker actually has Vrolik Syndrome which causes extreme brittleness in the bones and even with modern medicine, he has a hard time walking around. But this won’t stop him. He is confident in his abilities, he is funny, and he is lovable to a point where you feel like he is your little brother. Seth Green does such an amazing job with his character. Joker comes to life because of him and I really like the little conversations you can have with him.
Of course in this game, you also have a chance to romance the characters. There are some restrictions here and there, but you actually have a lot of choices on who you can pick. My forever pick is Kaidan Alenko who’s played by Raphael Sbarge (Once Upon a Time, Risky Business, Prison Break). I actually fell in love with Raphael’s voice first. It’s a bit hoarse, deep, and for me very unique. Kaidan is a bit of a more typical character. I would compare him to other popular sad boys like Alistair from Dragon Age or Cullen from the same universe, but what can I say? I love sad boys. We all do, let’s be honest.
Mass Effect 2 challenged my loyalty to Kaidan when they brought in the Drell assassin Thane Krios, played by Keythe Farley.
When I tell you all that the background stories they came up with for each and every character is amazing, I am not lying. I usually have one or two characters in a game I don’t really like. Here? I can’t even say that. The “bad guys” of the story are also interesting, they have depths, and they are not your (sadly) usual one-dimensional villains. It shows very early on in the first game. Maybe… maybe Udina is a bit of a more generic “bad guy”, but that’s something you can forgive as you play through the game.
We actually have so many characters that I can’t mention all of them without making this an 18-page long essay, so I will highlight two more that have a special place in my heart and I will let you discover the rest for yourself.
Mordin Solus is played by Michael Beattie and he is a Salarian geneticist who joins us in Mass Effect 2. I am pretty confident that he is the character who goes through the biggest change throughout the two games he is in. In the beginning, he doesn’t really see or understand the failures of his way, but as you talk more and more with him, he slowly starts to evolve. When we meet with him again in the third game, I think it’s honestly one of the biggest surprises. He changes for the better. One of the quotes I love from these games comes from him and it breaks my heart every time because the meaning of this line actually changes through the two games:
Had to be me. Someone else might have gotten it wrong.”
The Illusive Man is played by Martin Sheen (The West Wing, Apocalypse Now, The Departed). In my personal opinion, I firmly believe that the Illusive Man is one of the best antagonists ever created for a game. There. I said it. It’s not just because this is one of my favorite Martin Sheen performances, but also because his character also goes through a big change. There was always more to him than met the eyes. You always suspected his motives as being a bit more than questionable, but the big change comes in the final confrontation. If you chose the Paragon path, the talk with him is actually a bit heartbreaking. His character keeps reminding me of what Dr. Alan Grant says in Jurassic Park 3:
“Some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions.”
An honorable mention for the end is the character of Kai Leng from Mass Effect 3. He was played by Troy Baker and it was my introduction to his work. I can safely say that Mass Effect gave me a lot.
These two things are also very important in the game. You become a Paragon if you always do the right thing and Renegade if you still do the right thing but choose the “ruthless” path. Or you can move somewhere in the middle. A little intimidation never hurt nobody. However, the game becomes very specific at some decision-making points, meaning that the Paragon choice can have different consequences than the Renegade choice. This comes into play especially in the third game where a lot of things depend on which road you have chosen. I am always on the Paragon path because I don’t like being mean to others. I did try at one of the playthroughs, the whole being a bit of an ass to others deal, but I made Garrus upset and I couldn’t live with that thought. So, I can’t say too much on this, but I do know from other people’s playthroughs that there are definitely differences in some scenes depending on which road you took.
There is so much content, history, and side quests in these games that I almost ended up writing a full eight pages just about the story. I could share so much and all I did was simply play these games and pay attention during the journey. I know the names even though I am horrible with names. If you were to introduce yourself to me, you can be 100% sure that two minutes later, it gets wiped from my memory. It’s just gone. You ask me about my Mass Effect crew; I’ll throw all the knowledge I have on you.
The creators at Bioware have my utmost respect. The world and the stories that they came up with, never fail to amaze me. I mean, just the simple fact that you can connect with these characters on such a deep level shows so much about how well it was all planned out. For me, these games will never get boring. They will mean comfort and love no matter what else is going on. So when N7 Day came around – (November 7th, when the creators and fans are celebrating Mass Effect together, in the game it’s Shepard’s Special Ops sign) – I literally jumped up and down screaming when they announced the remaster and the development of the new game.
I can promise you this: If you decide to go on this journey, you will not regret it at all. You’ll grow to love the characters and the world they exist in very easily. The connection you’ll be able to make with everything here will be thanks to the role-playing nature the game has. The action sequences are stunning, the cinematics were way ahead of their time, even in the first game. I played these games first on my laptop. When I had to buy a new one, I replayed them again on the new one too. Now, I will have the remastered version on PS4 and I just can’t wait to jump back in again, even though I experienced it so many times now. It will be like playing with something new but still very familiar all over again.
“Guide This One, Kalahira, And He Will Be A Companion To You As He Was To Me.”