[ Throwback Thursday ] Looking Back on Mass Effect

It’s been just over four years since the last entry in the Mass Effect franchise and, as such, when I was at work, I decided to drop a quote from everyone’s favorite Salarian, Mordin Solus: “Had to be me; someone else might have gotten it wrong.” I really liked Mordin Solus as a character because a lot of ideologies he held close to him meshed well with a lot of mine and it was, perhaps, one of the reasons the franchise stuck on me so much. Anyway, this piqued the interest of one of my coworkers and we got right to talking about the franchise and probably one of its more intriguing aspects: the true purpose of the Reapers. That’s another discussion for another article but today I just want to take a look back on the Mass Effect franchise and what I think of the games in the franchise.

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The First in the Series

Well, as some of you might know, my computers and laptops that I’ve owned throughout the years have not been the greatest for two reasons: one, I’ve always been of the mind that to keep your computer up for gaming and multimedia purposes, you’re constantly needing to drain money – money I usually don’t have – to keep the computer up to day and two, the money that I do have was better spent on consoles as they were, long term, the cheaper option between the two if I was going to keep current with gaming at all. Some of you may also know that I’ve been a bit of a Nintendo and Sony fanboy for quite some time – I’d actually been a Sony flag waver since my first Walkman but that’s a different story for a different day – so playing the first Mass Effect when it came out was quite impossible, meaning that I didn’t get on the train for this game almost until the next game in the franchise had come out.

Being that I was super late to the game and the tech I had when I did play it wasn’t exactly the best, I don’t think I was really able to fully enjoy the game the way it was meant to be played. Given that, I was still quite riveted by the game and was hoping for a sequel or port to come to the PlayStation market. Not only was I able to play the rest of the series on PlayStation products but I was also able to play this game later on thanks to the Mass Effect Trilogy collection of games.

Would have been nice to get prepared for Mass Effect 2 in a proper fashion but coming back around after playing through the rest of the franchise really gave me a new appreciation for the original and, actually, it’s probably one of the first times I submitted to that. Normally, if I can’t play the first, I don’t jump in the franchise: I learned to appreciate that more and more as time went on and this game was one of the first times I allowed it. I’m thankful I did.

Playing this game later on gave some serious depth to the situation faced in Mass Effect 2 and fleshed out some of the character’s backstories. However, it wasn’t until that game that I really got hooked…

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Second Time Around

Not only was Mass Effect 2 the first game in the series that got me truly hooked on the combat and story, it was also a game that took me entirely by surprise: like I’d mentioned before, Mass Effect left me in a spot where I couldn’t truly enjoy it, the first time around, and I followed up with Mass Effect 2 only to see what all the fuss was about and the hype was well-placed, in my opinion, in this game, probably the best in the franchise to date. I’ve never been one for shooters of any kind and when I first started playing the game, I gotta say, the cover-based shooting mechanics really didn’t resonate with me. While it made a great deal more sense to me, logically, than the typical first-person shooter method of charging and shooting at everything possible, shooters just brought so little to the table that was new and exciting that didn’t really justify getting into this one with any kind of real investment.

It wasn’t until the story really started unfolding and developing that this game really took its hold on me: it wasn’t about preference or choice, anymore; once I became emotionally invested in the story it was about war, it was about politics, it was about the characters and their personal drives and desires and motivations. It was about doing your best to make the best of the cards you were dealt and I dealt with a system I wasn’t exactly great at, at first, to make the story of the game happen. It wasn’t a pleasant first go around in the game, either, as the final mission killed off a good portion of my crew. Call it a curse, if you want, I always try to go through my first playthrough of the game completely blind, without guides or help of any kind and on the default difficulty.

Another thing, too, is that this story could have been played independently of the first game and it could be fully enjoyed, in my honest opinion, and it worked on that angle for me: I felt no less invested in the game the first time I played through that I did after having played through after going through the original in the collection release. It was probably one of the most powerful initial gaming experiences I’ve ever had, right up there with Final Fantasy IVSuikoden II, and Chrono Trigger.

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Sheperd’s Conclusion

Whereas the first game introduced a lot of gameplay and story concepts and the second game refined and perfected those concepts, Mass Effect 3 uses everything to bring everything around full circle. I bought this game Day One during a midnight release and I did not put it down, for the most part, from that moment on to a few months later when I’d pretty much burned myself out on the game and DLC wasn’t for a little while. I wanted to come back and play it as much as I could but the outcry regarding the game’s ending really turned me off from talking about the game much and, therefore, really killed playing the game as obsessively as I could.

However, it was responsible for my complete dive into the greater effort I made in gaming journalism, information gathering, and the like from that point forward as the “controversy” surrounding the ending of Mass Effect 3, even after the DLC that was released to expand upon the ending a little, was the final straw for me in regards to the fanbase eventually ruining things for me, for a time, and I’d had enough of letting that happen. I drew my line in the sand and The Laymen’s Gamer became a serious effort to do more than just talk about games and the industry but rather make a concerted effort, as well, to bringing positive mindsets back into the gaming world.

That being said, I thoroughly loved this game, ending and all, and this stands as one of the only games I bought everything for: DLC, multiplayer expansions, the whole nine. This was also one of the few games I was able to share with my coworkers at the time and not feel like a total and complete dork for trying to do so.

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What’s Yet to Come

While I, like most fans of the series, would like to see more from Sheperd and his crew, I’m probably in the minority in saying that I’m perfectly okay with there not being any more of them. The trilogy as we have it now is a fully complete series on its own with a fully resolved conclusion, provided Andromeda doesn’t expand on what the original series has tied up. What I would like to see is something that expands, a little more, at the very least, on the First Contact War and how humanity first came upon the Mass Relays. It would steer away from the obvious controversy and it would also be able to stand alone as a fully independent entry in the mythos while still holding true to artistic integrity, which, in my opinion, is incredibly important in any creative medium.

Regardless of what comes, I’m pretty confident that it’ll kick ass. I’ve always loved work from BioWare and I don’t think this game will be any exception. What do you guys think? Do you think this entry in the long loved franchise will hold up to other games in the series?

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