Longtime Mass Effect fans can finally get their chance to play a more streamlined Mass Effect game on new consoles with the release of the Mass Effect Legendary Edition, which is only around the corner. As a huge Mass Effect enthusiast, I’ve had a lot of questions on whether the remaster will be a decent excuse to get into the series for the first time.
A little background information: I’ve been playing video games for over 20 years and love a wide range of styles and stories. Gaming is my life, and I’ve had some incredible experiences out there, from full-fledged single-player narratives to just firing a few rounds in Battlefield. However, no franchise has had the same influence on me as the Mass Effect movie, and a large part of it is attributed to the story’s excellent craftsmanship and Commander Shepard’s legacy.
For those unfamiliar with the Mass Effect trilogy, the player assumes the role of Commander Shepard, a N7 agent who enters the Normandy in the year 2183. Aliens, interstellar flight, and turian booty are all about you (sort of), but this isn’t your typical space adventure.
Although there are weapons and action in Mass Effect, it isn’t the story’s main objective. The tale of Shepard’s journey is gripping, special, and at times heartbreaking.
Before we go much farther, I’ll refer to Shepard as “their” since players may play either a male or female variant of the character. I’m using the word “their” to refer to all alternatives.
As Shepard, you’ll start off as XO to none other than the Normandy’s CO, David Anderson. Anderson becomes a father figure to Shepard, however circumstances ultimately lead to Shepard taking command of the Normandy. The first game is all about uncovering an ancient danger, one that isn’t completely understood before the plot of the first game comes to an end. The first entry is mostly about establishing the world, making you think about it, and making you feel like it’s a true part of your life.
The pacing is a little sluggish at first since the first Mass Effect is more about setting up the landscape than becoming the end-all-be-all of the game sequence, but once it picks up? It really picks up at this stage. The pacing issue is a world-building stumbling block that has little bearing on the second and third games.
We know who the danger is in the first game, but the right people aren’t taking it seriously in the second. Politics (surprise) gets in the way of public protection when Shepard moves from becoming the face of the Alliance, humanity’s interstellar force, to being a member of a human criminal group owing to unexpected circumstances (we won’t reveal why, big spoiler). Without giving too much away, the organisation in question is known as Cerberus, and it’s one we first read of in the first game as players discover nefarious experiments carried out under this flag. We discover more and more about Cerberus and their position in the cosmos over the duration of the three games, and those horrifying facts establish a uniquely heartbreaking narrative gap between our protagonist and those closest to them.
In a major battle against the Reapers, a sentient computer civilization that wipes out millions of lives on a cyclic schedule, Shepard assembles a squad of protagonists that are so dissimilar from one another that they tend to sound like real kin across all three titles.
The characters themselves, in my opinion, are what makes this tale so special. Over the course of 30 years of gaming, I’ve grown to love thousands of characters, each with their own unique contribution to every gaming adventure. That said, there’s something organic and real about the process of getting to know Mass Effect NPCs, similar to how we form friendships and intimate relationships in real life. They’re unique in a way that I’m not sure I could adequately articulate as a writer.
Don’t judge, but I’ve completed this trilogy 31 times. It’s a game that I enjoy playing. When life becomes too much for me, I return to the realm of Mass Effect. It’s a safety net for me. However, even after too many runs through the novel, it always makes me cry like a kid and makes me sound like I’ve been stabbed in the stomach when I have to say farewell once more when the end credits roll. A lot of that is due to how amazing it is, and another aspect is that, even if the ending is honed into three distinct paths, the decisions do matter in respects that many don’t realize in the trilogy. No other game has ever affected me in this way, and although it might not be the same for everybody for a number of purposes, it is a tribute to the unique magic that this BioWare tale possesses.
The writing itself is a part of this connection. The conversation is normal and enjoyable to listen to. There are quarrels, the process of trying to persuade others, and these characters go to hell and back with each other. This type of mutual experience builds relationships in every scenario, and the story framework and in-game gameplay expertly express this relationship. As someone who served in the military, I faced real-life situations with people who couldn’t bear me and vice versa. But what about those circumstances we went through together? This created a relationship that went beyond previous expectations. The Mass Effect trio exhibits the same kind of transformative partnership building, and it’s something that can be sensed on a global scale regardless of each player’s real-life experiences.
Every move feels important and impactful, from loyalty quests that go deep into these characters’ pasts to dialogue choices that affect how these characters perceive the player inside this universe, which is a big part of why Mass Effect is so interactive. These people are essential. They’re important to Shepard, and they’re important to you.
The battle dynamics are still not to be sniffed at, though the arsenal in the first game has aged horribly. True transformation can be observed both narratively, physically, and graphically as the series progresses. All of this will be available again for the rumored remaster, along with updated graphics.
Another excuse to play the trio is that the remaster contains Any single piece of DLC. While most DLC is optional entertainment, Mass Effect has always seemed like it was essential parts of the game that were lacking if you didn’t purchase them. I can’t picture playing the third game without seeing the Reapers’ makers face to face in the Leviathan DLC, or dirty dancing with Jack in the Citadel DLC as Vega and the biotics compete in a muscle fight. The expanded tales are also quite different from one another, and many of them are important parts of a much larger puzzle. This is a perfect opportunity to experience the franchise from a different window that was traditionally hidden behind a paywall and all of the DLC is included (except for Pinnacle, which is why).
The bottom line is that the Mass Effect Trilogy is a masterpiece, though I realize this post was a bit vaguer than it should have been. Since this post is aimed at outsiders to the series, I’ve tried to make it as cryptic as possible. I don’t want to give something away about the plot. If you haven’t tried it yet, you’re losing out on a fantastic journey that only a few gamers will match.