The Mass Effect Trilogy: Epic Science Fiction
The original Mass Effect trilogy tells one of the most enjoyable science fiction stories in video games. It follows Commander Shepard, a customizable protagonist who uncovers a threat facing the entire galaxy and rises up to face it. It features a rich science fiction universe filled with alien races, and the interactions between humans and aliens are an important part of the story.
They are all action role-playing game third-person shooters, but the exact balance varies by game. The first Mass Effect is definitely an RPG, although combat is still handed through third-person shooting. Mass Effect 2 is more a third-person shooter with RPG elements, and Mass Effect 3’s gameplay sits in between the two.
You’ll travel the galaxy in the Normandy with a crew (and party) made up of humans and aliens alike. Whenever you’re on the ship, you can talk to your party members and choose to pursue romance options with some of them. Your dialogue and choices will also affect how your companions feel about you.
This is one of the best parts of the series, as the party members are entertaining and well-written. Depending on who you take on missions with you (two can accompany Shepard at a time), they’ll also banter with one another. You leave the Normancy for plot-related missions, special quests related to your companions, and side quests. The first game also lets you freely roam several planets.
Mass Effect is very choice-driven, and the ramifications of your choices sometimes carry through the whole trilogy. While not strictly divided between good and evil, Mass Effect has an alignment system, where choices earn you either “Paragon” points or “Renegade” points. While some choices will be easy to make depending on what sort of hero you want your Shepard to be, others are difficult moral decisions.
Choices, exploration of the galaxy, and interactions with party members are all part of a larger story. It starts out simple, with Shepard on the hunt for a special agent who has gone rogue, but turns into an epic quest to save the galaxy from powerful machines known as the Reapers. The Reapers, who take some inspiration from Lovecraftian horror, are dangerous antagonists whose true motives remain unknown until the very end.
The ending caused some controversy among fans, as it isn’t the strong conclusion Mass Effect’s story deserved. Nevertheless, particularly with the help of Mass Effect 3’s DLC, it provides an adequate ending to the story.