If you have any ounce of geek cred, you’re probably a fan of at least one sci-fi TV show or movie series. Wars, Trek, Galactica, Doctor Who, Firefly, Babylon 5, Farscape, Stargate, the list goes on and I know that you’ve watched at least one of these shows with some intensity. Even if high-tech space drama isn’t really your thing, you’ve probably watched some genre drama (Buffy, Angel, Lost, Walking Dead, etc.) with what is or could turn into an ensemble cast and you were really into it. You probably complained at some point because the episodes were intermittent or there weren’t enough seasons before it got cancelled or X character didn’t get enough screen time and they show too much of Y character. You may even think that it went on too long and they wound up beating a dead horse. These are the perils of genre drama fandom.
Now, have you ever wished you could interject in these shows? Have you ever wished that a particular scene could go a different way? Have you ever hoped and prayed for a character to change so you’d like them even more? Have you ever wished that you had some control over who lived and died? Have you ever wanted one character to punch that other really annoying character right in the face?
If you haven’t met yet, friend, I’d like to introduce you to the Mass Effect series.
It’s not a usual thing where I jump out for a video game as soon as it’s released. My only recent notable exception was Portal 2, but everyone needs Portal 2, and if you don’t, you’re a blood-sucking communist pig.
Mass Effect 3 was probably my most anticipated title of the year. More than Bioshock Infinite. More than Diablo III. I wanted ME3 because, the more I thought about it, I would essentially be buying season 3 of one of my favorite sci-fi TV shows.
The Mass Effect Series follows the ongoing adventures of Commander Shepard and the crew of his ship, the SSV Normandy, as they fly around and save the galaxy from a super-ancient enemy race known as The Reapers. Decent enough logline for a TV show pitch, right?
The original Mass Effect was gripping though it caught some flak by hard-core action gamers because the game is very (read: VERY) dialogue heavy and very character-driven. There’s quite a bit of mayhem along the way – shooting things, disintegrating people, blowing stuff up, battles against crazy blue psionic commando women, giant sand worms, and one particular robot space squid of doom – but there’s also a lot of political intrigue and moral quandary in which you can participate. You can choose a romantic interest (with an actual developing relationship, unlike some other games). You choose who lives or dies (well, let’s be frank, you choose who dies). You control your destiny and the shape of the galaxy by the time the game is over and you watch Shepard and his companions evolve from their former lives into known galactic heroes.
Mass Effect 2, same deal, improved combat system, even more character development both for Shepard and his companions. Many new faces appear, many old faces show up again, new threats arise, and old threats are presented in new ways. Again, you have the ability to control the fate of your companions as the game introduced loyalty missions corresponding to each character. Most of these missions helped to expand a particular characters background and drew you to become more attached to that particular character, not to mention the conversations you’ll probably wind up having with them on the Normandy during your time between missions. It also opens up new romantic possibilities, allowing you to pursue something now or stay true to your love from the first Mass Effect. Also, every choice you made in the first game has relevance here. If you decided to save X, X is back and has something to do with the plot. If X died in ME1, X is replaced by Y, who you may or may not know as well, and the story may play out differently for you than it did for the person who saved X or did X or didn’t do X. Your final ME1 save game file is imported and everything you’ve done along with it.
Then, we get to ME3. Slated to be the final Mass Effect game, ME3 takes into account tons of variables from both ME1 and ME2, if you played them, which you should have considering jumping right in to ME3 is like jumping on to a TV show when it’s in its final season and you haven’t done your proper homework.
Everyone you’ve ever met or helped or who ever ran with you ever ever is back in this game. Everyone important, anyway. That is, as long as they survived through ME1 and ME2 (very possible none of them could have). It’s a special treat as you play through, seeing all the old faces, seeing how people have changed and grown over the past three games. Again, much life and death, and much dramatic conclusion to be reached. I really can’t say more than that for fear of spoiling you. I don’t want to spoil you for anything in this series because it’s all so awesome (except maybe the ME3 ending, but don’t let that stop you from playing, it’s still REALLY EFFING GOOD).
Each mission in the Mass Effect Series plays out like one episode of a TV show. From the Pilot (Eden Prime in ME1) to the Finale (The Battle of Earth in ME3). Each has its own supporting cast, its own themes, and its own part to play in the overall storyline of the series.
For anyone out there looking for a show to latch on to seeing as most of the good ones are either over, soon to be season-ended, or currently on a long hiatus, forget Netflix for one second, dust off the ol’ Xbox, and get the Mass Effect Trilogy. It’s more well-written than most shows, the soundtrack and sound effects are killer, and the animation doesn’t look as crappy. Where something would obviously be after-effect’s in and look like garbage compared to the real actors, this is a video game, and it all goes together seamlessly.
Yes, the writing is killer. Yes, the voice acting is awesome. Yes, Martin Sheen plays one of the villains (ME2 and 3). Yes, this is totally worth your time.
If you were to purchase the Mass Effect Trilogy, it would require approximately 100 hours of your time. Not for straight story, but because you’ll want to do every little innocuous sidequest and use every possible dialogue option because of the treasures, both gameplay- related and character-related, you’ll uncover. Plotline only, you’d kick it around 75 hours or so, which is about three seasons worth of a TV show (coincidentally).
Right now, you can pick up ME1 and ME2 for practically peanuts. They’ll take you enough time (playing casually) that, by the time you’ve got your ideal save file for ME3 ready to rock, it’ll probably be less than $60.
One last thing… Was I disappointed in the ending? There’s been quite a bit of backlash on the internet about this one with people saying it was unsatisfying.
I feel satisfied. That’s all I’ll say. I’ll let you make your own judgement. This is not one of those LOST situations where the ending sucked the whole way ‘round. This is purely a matter of opinion.
Grandpa, tell me another story about the Sheperd…
BTW: Bidula’s Last Word on Mass Effect 3 – 10/10. All the way.
Keep fighting the good fight.
—end transmission— (Hackett out.)