The next chapter in the Mass Effect universe debuts in March 2017. Earlier this summer at E3, Bioware and EA (Electronic Arts) released Mass Effect: Andromeda’s newest trailer. Let’s just say I fangirled!
It reminded me why science fiction is one of my favorite genres, why video games that gave you the opportunity to create your own journey matter, and why I would definitely recommend the Mass Effect series to anyone who daydreams about the future of humanity.
Bioware was already famous for its Baldur’s Gate (1998) and Neverwinter Nights (2002) franchises, but my first introduction to their phenomenal storytelling was in 2003, when I played Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. That game truly immersed me in the Star Wars universe. Set thousands of years before the movies, I could become a Jedi or fall to the dark side. After acquiring my own ship, I took the galaxy in the direction I wanted it to go, making friends along the way who had their own unique stories to tell. It’s a fantastic story, rife with plot twists, where every choice I made had consequences. My experience with KOTOR made me an immediate fan of Bioware, and soon I was playing games like Jade Empire (2005). Then, in 2007, Bioware introduced my science fiction-loving heart to the epic series known as Mass Effect.
A Spectacular Space Opera Where My Actions Had Consequences:
It’s 2183 and humanity is exploring the Milky Way after discovering a technology cache on Mars, left behind by an ancient civilization, that provides them faster-than-light travel. Soon, Earth learns that the galaxy is a very crowded neighborhood. Similar to Captain Archer and Captain Kirk’s eras in the Star Trek universe, a familiar but welcoming trope arises; humanity has to prove itself among older, more advanced space-faring races that believe humans are a young species with much to learn. As Commander Shepard, you set out to prove them wrong. Commanding the SSV Normandy across the galaxy, my first memorable location was the Citadel.
When I saw the Citadel for the first time, I was taken aback. It was an extraordinary cinematic moment, wonderfully depicting the center of galactic politics and commerce in the 22nd century. Shepard and compatriots felt the same way, fangirling alongside me at its splendor as they gazed through the Normandy’s viewports. From there, I was given a new role and took my “first steps into a larger world”. The main storyline took me to a variety of locations like Noveria, a planet in the Horsehead Nebula mired in corporate and scientific conspiracy. There are numerous side quests across the galaxy that I could pursue, each having a story to tell and mysteries to solve. I was ready, with my arsenal on my back, squadmates in tow, traveling together in the Normandy or on alien terrain in the infamous land rover known as the Mako.
Bioware’s successful storytelling continued with Mass Effect 2. ME1’s intuitive dialogue helped me chart my own path while uncovering mysteries and the galactic threats along the way. In a brilliant twist of gaming, not done previously in any other series, the choices I made in the first game altered my path in Mass Effect 2 (and Mass Effect 3 as well). My desire to interact with an alien on a planet light-years from Earth, or make split second Paragon/Renegade decisions truly had galactic ramifications. Every choice changed the course of my unique journey and the fate of the galaxy.
For me, ME2 represented The Empire Strikes Back of the series. Everything starts out with a bang, our heroes at a disadvantage with Shepard and humanity in the crosshairs. I ran into old friends and met some new and quirky ones along the way (oh, Mordin). Its darker tone brought me to the seedy underworld of Omega, a counterbalance to the pristine Citadel. I was thrown back into a galaxy that I desperately wanted to save again, even if I had to work with nefarious organizations that stood against everything my Paragon-adhering Shepard stood for. Forging one’s own path, satiating that inner desire to explore and see what’s out there. That is a key tenant of human nature, and it is fully embraced in the Mass Effect series.
Mass Effect 3 (which won Game Informer‘s Game of the Year Award and Best RPG at Spike’s Video Game Awards in 2012), is the epic conclusion to Shepard’s story. If the first two installments get to you, ME3 will be an emotional rollercoaster. You’ll experience loads of feels. ME3 re-emphasized the need for me to invest in the galaxy. Despite whatever hardships and losses I came across, that investment paid off in the end. That’s what made my journey through Mass Effect unforgettable. And yes, while there was significant controversy surrounding the original endings for ME3, I give major credit to Bioware for listening to the players’ concerns. They created brand new and worthwhile endings to bring our journey with Shepard and crew to a unique and satisfying conclusion.
Saving the galaxy didn’t mean I had to go it alone. My squadmates in Mass Effect came from all walks of life in the galaxy, with their own vices and virtues. The relationships I built or broke with each of them mattered in the end. There’s the headstrong and proud human soldier of the System Alliance, Ashley Williams; Garrus Vakarian, the loveable Turian with his ever important “calibrations”; and Wrex the Krogan, whose brutish behavior reminded me of the Klingons from Star Trek. There’s also the sarcastically humorous pilot of the Normandy with an apt nickname, “Joker”, and one of my favorite characters, the intelligent Quarian named Tali’Zorah. These are just some of the characters you come across in ME1.
I suggest taking the time to get to know your squadmates as if they’re your good friends in life. Bioware didn’t create Miranda, Thane, Jacob, and Mordin’s lives as simple filler in an already rich world of science fiction. It’s worth getting to know each of their stories (especially in ME2). Doing so humanized them and made the experience more personal. Shepard’s crew wouldn’t be as remarkable without the voices behind them. The Mass Effect series has an insanely nerdy voice cast (warning: some spoilers within link for ME2) that I still fangirl about today. Here are some of the fabulous actors behind the characters:
- Jennifer Hale (Samurai Jack, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Powerpuff Girls, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic) as FemShepard
- Mark Meer (Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Jade Empire, Dragon Age Origins/II/Inquisition) as Male Shepard
- Kimberly Brooks (Batman: Arkham Asylum/City, Steven Universe, Bioshock: Infinite)
- Raphael Sbarge (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Star Trek: Voyager, Once Upon A Time) as Kaiden Alenko
- Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica, Starcraft 2, Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, Halo 3: ODST, Lucifer)
- Seth Green (Robot Chicken, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Austin Powers, Family Guy) as Jeff “Joker” Moreau
- Shohreh Aghdashloo (X-Men: The Last Stand, Star Trek: Beyond, The Expanse, Destiny, Overwatch)
- Michael Hogan (Battlestar Galactica, Warehouse 13, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Teen Wolf)
- Carrie-Ann Moss (The Matrix Trilogy, Momento, Chocolat’, Daredevil, Jessica Jones)
- Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now, Gandhi, Gettysburg, The West Wing, The Departed, The Amazing Spiderman)
Diversity and Worthwhile DLC Across the Stars:
Mass Effect does a phenomenal job when it comes to representing humanity. From LGBT representation to the ability to pursue same-sex romances. There’s also the Asari, a monogendered, bisexual species with a position of authority within the Milky Way. There are great POC characters, each of them shattering age-old stereotypes and tropes. Jacob Taylor, Kasumi Goto, David Anderson, Steve Cortez, Samantha Traynor, James Vega, etc., all add to Mass Effect’s diversity. Plus, the awesome thing about role-playing games is that the protagonist can be customized to represent you. Commander Shepard doesn’t come in only one color.
The Mass Effect Trilogy is available for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC, with an array of DLC (downloadable content). My favorites include Bring Down the Sky, Arrival, Lair of the Shadow Broker, Leviathan, Omega, and The Citadel (Bioware’s love letter to the fans). There’s a lot to do before Andromeda’s release next year. In addition, be sure to check out its E3 trailer below, narrated by the wonderful Jennifer Hale (please bring her back for Mass Effect: Andromeda, Bioware!). So what are you waiting for, soldier? There’s a galaxy that needs to be saved, and it needs you!
Seneca is a proud 4’1 (the best things come in small packages) progressive sociopolitical activist. He loves science fiction, video games, fantasy, and satire from the likes of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. He writes various opinion/recommendation and news articles on the fandoms that he loves for the Geekiary.
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