In just a few weeks we will celebrate the 8th anniversary of Mass Effect. The BioWare Sci-Fi RPG launched exclusively for the Xbox 360 to very high praise. I bought Mass Effect on day one but I couldn’t get into it. It was a pretty old school minded RPG and it just didn’t click with me. 3 years later, in 2010, BioWare released the follow up: Mass Effect 2. There was split reaction to Mass Effect 2. Fans of the original felt betrayed because the game was more action focused. However, the people like me who skipped ME were drawn back in. I actually received the game as a Christmas gift in 2010. I began my playthrough on 12/27/10 and by the time I finished my mission 25 days later, my gaming life had changed.
Before we jump into Mass Effect, a little personal reflection. I have been a gamer for a long time. I identify most with the SNES and N64 era of games. After college, with the rise of HD games, I felt more and more disconnected. I started playing less games and not enjoying the ones that I did play. I felt like most games lost the heart of what makes games great: playing. You can have the best story in the world and the greatest graphics ever seen, but if the game isn’t fun to play, then you have failed to reach your goal. This was the issue that I had with Mass Effect. The world was interesting, the conversations felt meaningful, and the story was epic in scope. My problem was that it just wasn’t fun for me to play. There are people that love Mass Effect and will completely disagree with me and that’s fine. For me, the first Mass Effect just wasn’t my idea of fun and I moved on.
Mass Effect 2 had so much positive buzz when it launched. I was very jaded from my time with the original Mass Effect so I just glossed over it’s release. I ended up getting ME2 as a gift for Christmas from someone who just said that it looked like my kind of game. And they were right. I love Sci-Fi and I also love RPGs. This game seemed like a slam dunk for me. There was a moment when I thought, “Man, I should return this game and buy something worth playing.” Thankfully, my family member didn’t include the receipt. So a few days after Christmas, I popped the game into my Xbox 360 and started my journey.
It’s pretty rare to be playing a game in real time and thinking this would be a “best game of all time” contender. However, that’s exactly what I was thinking. From the cinematic entrance aboard the Normandy to meeting the illusive man to suiting up and taking your first mission, the game just felt special, and by the time I added my 2nd party member, I was hooked. It was all that I thought about. Sitting at work, trying to get my job done, just wondering what adventure lies ahead for Shepard. When I finally reached the Omega-4 Relay, I was just about as invested in that game as anyone could be. I would be dishonest if I said I didn’t shed a few tears in that final push of the game. When it was all said and done, I felt as though I had lived through this grand adventure with good friends and I earned my place as their captain.
The question has to be asked then, what makes Mass Effect 2 so special? And that is a really tough question to answer. But in preparation for writing this article, I looked back over my notes and my experience and I feel like its greatness is defined by the two C’s: Character and Consequence. ME2 was about Shepard roaming the galaxy to find the right team for the job. It’s one part Ocean’s Eleven and one part Star Wars. Each new character mission played out like an episode of a really great Sci-Fi TV show, the only difference is that you were in control. At the end of each mission you would hopefully have earned the ability to recruit that character for your team. What made it even better is that you had to manage your relationship with each of the crew members in hopes to get their best effort and ultimately keep them alive. In any mission, at any time, you could lose a team member or if you handled a mission wrong, you could miss your chance at recruiting a new member. There were real, meaningful consequences for your actions as Shepard. As modern shows like The Walking Dead and House of Cards have proven, if you have great, well written writers you can find an audience and do great things. When you lose those great characters, it hurts even more.
I would be suspect if I didn’t mention Mass Effect 3. Mass Effect 3 found a nice middle ground between the first Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. It felt a little more old school RPG like the first game and also retained the amazing combat form of the second. The game was good. I played it, beat it and enjoyed almost all of it. But, as a follow up to one of the greatest games of all time, it fell just a little short. I am currently a lifelong Mass Effect fan. I love the world that BioWare has created and will join along in any adventure they have in the future. We are aware of Mass Effect Andromeda although we don’t know much. It’s currently slated for a late 2016 release. Even though that’s not set in stone, here’s hoping we don’t have to wait much longer for the next Mass Effect adventure.
So, as we celebrate N7 or Mass Effect Day, I want to thank BioWare for being willing to evolve their game. Had they not made the changes to Mass Effect 2, I might not have ever experienced the rich world of the Normandy Crew. As it stands, when conversations start about the greatest game of all time, I just take a deep breath and share about my journey to the Omega-4 Relay and the cost of victory. It is rare that a game comes along and transcends a genre or a platform. When those games do appear, they deserve to be played and appreciated. If you’ve never experienced Mass Effect 2 before, I can’t recommend the game enough. If you are like me and love the game, let’s be sure on this N7 day to walk with our heads held high and continue looking to the stars until the galaxy needs us again.