Oh man, what's not to say about Mass effect.
For those who don't know, Mass Effect is my all time favorite franchise! It's not just my fave video game (series) or story, it's my favorite everything! The story is amazing, the characters are lovable, the choices you make are gripping, and to top it all off, it takes place in the best sci-fi universe anyone can create. It inspired me more than any other franchise out there, and it's a game that's left the biggest impact on my life. Shall we begin?
(Also I wrote this on a plane with 30min left on my laptops battery, this post is a little rushed).
For those who don't know, Mass Effet is a game series developed by Bioware. The first game was released in 2007, right at a fairly early age for me. Back then, I really only played Halo and any other game teenagers played (even if we technically weren't suppose to because the game was rated M (17+) for mature). But for me, something had awoken inside. It was the first time I felt like I lived in a huge universe since Star Trek or Star wars; it was the first time that "I" was in control and I wasn't just following a linear plotline; it was the first time I felt emersed on a grand level, even without a VR headset. Its story elements were the best combinations of all sci-fi stories that came before it. It's as if Casey Hudson (long live the king) and his writing team took elements from other stories and mashed it all into one in a perfect blend. Biotics are similar to the Force from Star Wars, the Alliance Navy is similar to Star Treks Federation, Omega's station in ME2 was heavily inspired by Blade Runner 1982, the Quarian fleet with their creation of the Geth and now live across ships are very similar to Battlestar Galactica's story. If you're a sci-fi fan, you're bound to at least appreciate what Mass Effect is doing! It's got robots, aliens, space ships/stations, laser guns, exploration!
Let's get the bad stuff out of the way. Yes ME3's ending exist, and so does the Andromeda installment. The game series isn't perfect and it stings every time I acknoledge it, but I'd rather move forward in the same way Casey Hudson did: appreciate the good, and ignore the bad. ME1 is still one of my fave games for its purity in story and RPG elements mixed with action. ME2 felt a little more streamlined, both in good and bad ways, but the story and drama was amped! By ME3, it felt mostly like an action game with small RPG elements. I miss ME1's RPG aspects, but with what Bioware wanted to do for ME3's wrap up, it makes sense to turn it into more of an action story. The original ending to ME3 sucked, but I think the extended version saved it. It gives me enough context for some closure, but my own imagination can make up the rest for what's untold after the credits roll. Do I wish things went differently still? Sure, but I can learn from what I didn't care about my disagreements with Bioware as a storywriter. However just like real life, things don't always go the way we planned it or how we like it; maybe ME3's ending is similar. Andromeda? I enjoyed it; it's a spinoff and affects the original trilogy 0%. It's not as good as the trilogy, or any single ME game before it, but I still had fun. The combat felt amazing, exploring in the Nomad was fun, the squad characters had their charming moments (I romanced Vetra, tried to romance Kalo). However, its story lacked umph for me, it felt like ME1 with ME3's action and stakes, but without me caring too much. It also felt much smaller to explore than ME1-3's milky way galaxy. I could continue writing a whole review of ME1-Andromeda, but that wasn't the purpose of this blog post.
The characters of the Mass Effect world are amazing and memorable! I haven't played the OG trilogy in a long while, but I can still remember names like Garrus Vakarian, Tali Zorah, Joker, EDI, Mordin Solus, Ashley Williams, Liara T'soni, David Anderson, Saren, you get the idea. Granted it helps to have 3 games with a lot of these returning characters, but they're as memorable as the name Darth Vader or Captain Kirk for me. Each character feels real, as if they're just as human as us. That's a theme that I've come to adore about Mass effect; it's less about our physical differences and more about coming together (very trekkie themed). Each character comes from a different background and alien species with their own traditions, they're different yet familiar. Tali Zorah comes from a nomadic species running away from the problems they created. I don't know someone from outer space who wears a helmet 24/7, but I do know plenty of people who are extremely tech oriented who tend to be nervous and shy. Ok let's get this out of the way, I romanced Tali, Garrus and Vetra. Tried to romance Mordin, Legion and Kalo. The Citadel DLC and Andromedas movie night are some of the best character interactions you'll find. I'd love more scenes like this.
The universe is the best I've seen. As I've mentioned earlier, Mass Effect takes good elements from other sci-fi tropes and stories and makes it their own: star wars, star trek, blade runner, battlestar galactica. There's a ton of tropes I'm not even familiar with that I'm sure they've included. But let's talk about its universe and why I love it. It feels lived in, it feels like you can go to any solar system and discover something new! There's another game that has exploration mechanics called Outer Wilds. I'll get into that game another time, but that's one that offers exploration the best. While Mass Effect doesn't explore caves as often as I'd like, you still explore different worlds and talk to great characters. ME1 offered a prestine and shiny universe. Things felt almost like a utopia with a few errors here and there. The Citadel was incredible, each world like Noveria and Ferros felt like it had history. ME2 offered the darker underbelly of the universe, literally! The citadel had darker and richer shadows, Omega's station was a Blade Runner-like home and work spot, planets felt more dangerous with its impending doom of the Collectors yet there's still things to explore. ME3 felt like you knew the galaxy. You still explored different spots of this world, but things felt a little more familiar. Each alien race felt alive and with their own traditions. The Turians are militaristic and had a code or sense of honor, the Quarians are nomadic and tech oriented, the Asari are comforting and political, the Salarians are smart and squirmish. Meanwhile, the Humans are bold and almost unpredictable. There's also the Geth, Hanar, Elcor, Drell, Batarian, Volus, Krogan, Angara, Protheans, Kett, Reapers. The technology of Mass Effect is a mix of digital and analogue. It's actually weirdly hard to describe. Unlike Blade Runner movies where things are clearly analogue with a few digital upgrades, or Matrix where everythings digital, there's a mix of tech. The look of Citadel tech (which also encompass Turian, Asari and Salarian tech) is shiny, sleek and prestine. The best and most expensive tech is found here. The Quarians recycle and are pretty analogue based. However everyone in this world has an Omni-tool, pretty much a holographic cell phone. There are flying cars and space travel with Mass Relays (a network of space stations that jumps ships from one solar system to another) but there is no time travel or lightsaber.
The themes of Mass Effect are...actually where do I even start with this? The main theme of Mass Effect I would say is to co-exist. There have always been tension between organics and machines in this world. The Quarians were a prime example of the dangers of AI and robotics, ei, the Quarians built robots called Geth to make life easier. The Geth developed consciousness and out of fear, the Quarians wanted to "retire" Geth. The Geth fought for their own survival and banished Quarians off their own home planet. How about organics? Humans first contact with an alien species were the Turians which started the First Contact War. And while Turians, Asari and Salarians have a chair in the council of Citadel space, plenty of other species are still fighting for their own chair. Krogans hate Salarians and Turians for giving them the genophage, while everyone fears a Krogan for their strength and fast-growing population. There's always tension between different races; in fact you could even say many of the characters are flat out racist towards others. While these characters are racist towards other aliens, you can see how humans today might relate to certain issues. But as we've seen with Shepards story, the N7 operative was able to make peace with the galaxy by the end of the story, combining resources of all alien species to fight the reapers. Even robotic species like Geth can join the fight. Coming together in unity while celebrating our differences and understanding others needs and desires are vital to any form of life. Co-existence with others is something we do in our own lives. Each person in our lives has their own story, their own way of life and how they think about the world. They have their own damage but they have good traits too.
I've dabbled into this already, but what IS the story of Mass Effect? You play as Shepard (male or female) with your own chosen history and military specialty. Humans are new to this galactica government while several other species have already been working together. You come across the threat of Reapers, an ancient robotic race deemed to harvest advance life in the galaxy every 50,000 years or so. You, Shepard, must form a squad of the best of the best, from soldiers to hackers to spies to scientists, and unite the galaxy to save itself. In ME1, you become the first human spectre on a trail to stop a rogue spectre, Saren, from starting the Reaper invasion. The galaxy is new to you and many humans around as you fly on the Normandy, a ship designed by both Turians and Humans with your squad, you explore the galaxy, help others, expand your squad with new alien characters and defeat Saren along with the first Reaper, Soveriegn. In ME2, you die but are brought back by a pro-human group called Cerberus. They instruct you to defeat the Collectors, a new threat that's been harvesting humans across space. You expand your squad list while also gaining their trust through interacting with them and doing loyalty missions with them. You scan planets and upgrade your ship and defeat the Collectors, and a human reaper. But before the game's over, the Batarian Mass Relay is destroyed and the Reapers are confirmed to be coming. ME3 starts with Shepard inprisoned for the destruction of the Batarian system, but shortly after, the Reaper have offically invaded the Milky way Galaxy. Not only must you gather your Normany crew once more, but now you have to unite the entire galaxy. Do you successfully unite the galaxy and defeat the Reapers? Do you merge with the Reapers and hopefully leave the Milky Way galaxy alone? Do you synthesis organics and machines in creating a new form of co-existance? Or do you ignore these options and continue fighting reapers, ending this cycle of life and restarting the clock? In Andromeda, arks carrying Humans, Turians, Salarians, Asari, Quarians and other Milky Way aliens leave before the events of ME3 but arrive to the Andromeda galaxy in the far distant future. Things go sour as planets are inhabitable and resources aren't plentiful enought to wake everyone up. You, the Pathfinder Ryder (bro or sis Ryder), must make worlds habitable and lead way to a safe home for the Milky Way species, all the while cooperating with the native Angara species and defeating the Kett, an antagonistic alien race. There's a few other installments like a mobile game or an anime movie, but those were the main installments. Throughout every Mass Effect game, there are of course side missions with personal stories to solve and fall in love with. Each game offers you RPG elements like designing your own character, romancing or not romancing characters,
So how has this affected me? I truely admire video game developers because they are capable of making a story that movies can't. While I'm a movie maker, I sometimes wish I could help develop my own game or make more Mass Effect games. But until then or in another life, I plan on making a Mass Effect fan film. Ideally, I'd love a show or short film series showcasing audience interactions, or at the very least, a great story in the Mass Effect universe. There's so much one could tell in this world, I've seen so many people create their own stories and fan characters. And it's a HUGE world! If you think about how many stories real life can offer us, with how many people live on planet Earth alone in our reality, expand that by the amount of planets, characters and stories ME has to offer. I don't want to continue Shepards story, I'd rather make plenty of smaller side stories. His/her grand epic trilogy was a fun ride, but what about smaller stories, the "Star Wars 1313" story, or the Star Trek Voyager/Deep Space Nine of Mass Effect. I need to make a few other shorts and web series until then, but that's the goal I have for now. If you have any ideas on what Mass Effect story you'd love to experience, comment below and I'd love to read them! It might be fun to collab on it even!
This is Matt, signing off.