I wanted my first piece to be on a subject that I love and believe in…gaming. More specifically the Mass Effect series from Bioware. Now as most gamers are probably aware, Mass Effect 3 has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. If any of you are members of Raptr then you can find my little rant on that topic on the Mass Effect 3 dashboard under the thread ‘Mass Effect blamed for Connecticut school shooting: fans defend video games’. This isn’t going to be another chapter on the idiocies of the ill-informed though. This piece is about my love for the Mass Effect trilogy and the effect it has had on me as a gamer.
Now, before I go any further let me tell you that I’m a mythical, fairytale and dragons kinda’ gal. I was, and still am, obsessed with a little game called Dragon Age. I’ve spent 100’s of hours immersed in the land of Thedas surrounding myself with Elves, Darkspawn and magic. I was blinkered when it came to video games, preferring to stick to what I knew and loved. So when a friend suggested that I should have a change of scenery and try a game called Mass Effect I shied away. Er, hello?! It’s space age! Futuristic! The absolute opposite of Dragon Age. Naturally I put more hours into Dragon Age and Mass Effect went forgotten…Until one day, after completing my 7th or 8th play-through of Dragon Age, I realized that I could potentially spoil the game for myself by playing it too much (yeah, a few 100 hours didn’t do that but I panicked a little!). Not wanting to ruin my favourite game I decided to look for something else to play and again someone mentioned Mass Effect. They pointed out that it was created by Bioware…the same company that created my beloved Dragon Age. I finally caved and agreed to give it a chance.
For me it was a big step to even look at this game. Ideally I had wanted a game with more dragons and mages not spaceships and aliens. I was very wary of the world I was stepping into…space…my final frontier (cheesy reference I know). But I took that step with a (fairly) open mind and turned it on…
First and lasting impressions…
I only got to that ‘Start’ menu. That vista of the planet below. That music…and that was enough. I got tingles, yes really, tingles.
Music has a magical effect on me. It can instantly change my mood, feed my emotions and evoke memories. The opening score of Mass Effect is just spectacular…it creates a feeling of futuristic magnificence. As if it’s telling me that something special is about to begin. Throughout the trilogy the musical scores hit all the right notes and they complement the game-play and characters brilliantly. Yes, I do own the albums that accompany the games and when I listen to them I am instantly transported back into the game with brilliant clarity. The composers Jack Wall, Sam Hulick, Cris Velasco, and Sascha Dikiciyan all deserve massive thanks for creating the beautiful musical scores for this epic series of games, they simply wouldn’t be the same without them.
From the first cut scene of the Normandy passing through the mass relay I knew I was going to like the world of Mass Effect. How could I not? The sleek and smooth design of the Normandy and mass relay stamped a lasting impression on me. Art director Derek Watts and his team have created an incredibly aesthetically pleasing world.
All aspects of the games are fantastically designed, from the alien worlds and spaceships to the Citadel and the many races that inhabit the galaxy. With each race being vastly different from the next and each race having their own religion and history, the scope and depth of the world is mind blowing. The writers attention to detail is astounding and it all makes for a more engrossing and involving experience. Every character, whether they’re a bit-part or main NPC, are written and brought to life in such a natural and believable way. The voice talent for the trilogy is easily some of the best in video games. And because of this I grew to care about my eclectic crew and I fought damn hard to help them and keep them alive.
Of course at the core of the game is the story. And what a story. One that has the survival of the human race at the heart of it. And if you don’t want to get involved and save humanity then there is something wrong with you. It takes us on an emotional roller-coaster; it pulls at heartstrings and evokes great emotion. It is simply epic.
A special relationship…
All the aesthetics and storyline aside, one of the main elements of this game for me is character interaction. In any RPG I need to like the person I am playing as; I need some kind of emotional connection with them; I have to want them to succeed in whatever quest has been bestowed upon them. With Commander Shepard this connection came easily, due in part to the character creation process at the beginning where I was able to choose not only her appearance (yeah, she’s hot), but her history, skills and personality. I was then able to continue to mold her through the excellent Paragon and Renegade based dialogue engine.
The situations Shepard tackles throughout the trilogy make her a very real character. As Shepard I felt loss, love, heartbreak…all the things that make us human. All these things made me fall for her. I am incredibly protective of my Commander Shepard.
Don’t leave me behind…
Playing as a Fem-Shep my main relationship was with Kaidan Alenko. And I know I speak for a lot of female gamers when I say: I love that man. No, he’s not real. He’s a video game character developed by a team of writers…but I love him.
His concern for Shepard right at the beginning of it all after the encounter with the Prothean beacon on Eden Prime instantly endeared him to me. His shyness on the Citadel after he accidentally admits he thinks Shepard is beautiful is just too cute! He has been written and voiced (by Raphael Sbarge) in such a way that you have to fall for him. I loved Kaidan so much that I stayed faithful to him throughout the trilogy. I didn’t even consider another relationship in Mass Effect 2, even after our meeting on Horizon in which he basically dumped me. I’m not ashamed to say that it hurt and I turned the game off in heartbroken misery. You can only imagine my reaction to saying goodbye to him in Mass Effect 3’s Extended Cut DLC… Yes, I cried. Of course I did! Look at that face…I defy you to not feel heartbroken!
Now, some people may be thinking that I have an unhealthy attachment to a fictional character, but I don’t see it that way. I see it as a testament to the incredible creators and writers of the Mass Effect series. They have created a whole host of genuinely believable and lovable characters in a world that I care about. I want them to survive the galaxy wide war together, in one piece.
Memorial? I don’t think so…
I’m certain that I’m not the only person who refuses to believe Shepard dies. No way. No chance. Not after everything I’ve brought her through; the Geth; the Collectors; her own death; the Reapers… No way am I letting her die in the smoking debris of the Crucible…
She takes a breath… that’s enough for me. It’s not the perfect ending I’ll admit that, but I’m taking it and running with it. Because I love Commander Shepard. I love Kaidan. I love the Normandy and her crew. I love the world of Mass Effect.
For me, nothing can ruin this series of games. It doesn’t matter what idiotic crap people write on a Facebook page. It doesn’t matter if people think I have an unhealthy obsession with a fictional world because to me it’s special.
It made me realize that there can be so much more to video games than collecting things, killing bad guys and saving the princess. I’m not dismissing every other game and genre, I’m simply expressing my opinion. Mass Effect changed my outlook on video games in such a positive and rewarding way that I will never forget it. I will never get bored of playing it.
For all of the fans out there I would like to express our thanks and gratitude to Casey Hudson and all involved at Bioware for creating this magnificent franchise. I am proud to call myself a fan, thank-you.
P.S: Hurry up with Mass Effect 4!