So, I have a few things to say about Mass Effect as a series, starting with this:
Mass Effect was one of the greatest moments in gaming history.
I say “moments,” because Mass Effect was much more than a game: it was more than a night of fun and awesome, action-packed cutscenes. Mass Effect was an artistic masterpiece. It represented the apex of what the gaming culture phenomenon could achieve. From the moment you walked on the citadel for the first time, to the final crawl in the last hallway towards the catalyst, you knew this gaming experience would change your entire world and way of thinking, for the rest of your life.
Let me be clear: I am gameplay guy first.
I care more about gameplay than I do voice acting , story, graphics, whatever else may be. Gameplay, at its core, is how the title feels — whether the title is fun. Do you enjoy playing the release? Could you keep playing it? Will you?
My point is , take a game — any game; let's look at The Last of Us. The Last of Us is a fantastic game, make no mistake. However, how many people still play it, hm? Do you know someone? Or, are you? No, of course not. Now, let's look at franchises like Donkey Kong Country , or Zelda, or Mario… gamers keeping playing them to this day. Why? Because they are “fun.”
But these examples might be too old, so I’ll use another example: let's look at World of Warcraft,or Destiny. These titles enjoy active communities that regularly meet up and take down the next good fight. This notwithstanding that Destiny, as a game, has a shit story, with shit characters, set in a shit environment. And yet, players from around the globe continue, every week, to play and put their skills to the test.
On the other hand, you have a title like World of Warcraft (WoW), with ten-year-old graphics, and yet people get married in the game and treat that marriage like a real life experience, because, for them, WoW is so immersive, the marriage might as well be real. When WoW’s gamership plays, they have so much raw fun; they want to live the life they have created in the game, and they want to continue that experience as a part of their ‘real’ lives. This is why these games make my list of 10s.
Mass Effect was a pioneer.
Mass Effect found a way to create a game where the story is the gameplay. This is contrasted with the Final Fantasy (FFX)series, where you have a great story, but nothing can alter it: you play through a predetermined path.
Think of Mass Effect (ME) as those old dungeons books that we had as kids growing up [EN: CYOA]. In these texts, you were a knight, and you had to choose what you would do as the knight: for example, if you wanted to walk into a cave, turn to page 13; to go turn around and go back, turn to page 26.
BioWare, the original, Canadian developers of ME, found a way to make the story elements feel like a button on a controller, a key on a keyboard. With this philosophy, every player enjoyed a personalized experience, and this was present throughout the ME series. ME was so sophisticated, in fact, that reviewing someone’s game progress could show you that person’s psychological make-up: how they’ve thought, and acted. How often do save files show you who you are as an person?
Allow me to share a passage with you, to show you just how deep and complex Mass Effect was.
Regardless of who was speaking, whether they were good or evil, the creative minds behind Mass Effect were able to achieve introspection, and make you look deep into your own understanding of life and existence.
Hopefully, this passage can remind the developers of the universe they created.
This speech from Commander Shepard’s first communications with the limitless being Sovereign, known as only “Reaper” at that point. Sovereign expresses not only his reasoning for his existence but also his meditations on how the universe itself functions.
Rudimentary creatures of blood, and flesh. You touch my mind, fumbling in ignorance, incapable of understanding. There is a realm of existence so far beyond your own (that) you cannot even imagine it. I am beyond your comprehension. I am sovereign. Reaper, a label created by the Protheans to give voice to their destruction. In the end, what they chose to call us is irrelevant. We simply are.
Organic life is nothing but a genetic mutation, an accident. Your lives are measured in years, and decades. You wither and die. We are eternal, the pinnacle of evolution, and existence. Before us, you are nothing. Your extinction is inevitable. We are the end of everything.
Confidence born of ignorance, the cycle cannot be broken. The pattern has repeated itself more times than you can fathom. Organic civilizations rise, evolve, advance, and at the apex of their glory, they are extinguished. The Protheans were not the first. They did not create the citadel. They did not forge the mass relays. They merely found them, the legacy of my kind.
Your civilization is based on the technology of the mass relays, our technology. By using it, your society develops along the paths we desire. We impose order on the chaos of organic evolution. You exist because we allow it, and you will end because we demand it.
We have no beginning, we have no end, we are infinite. Millions of years after your civilization has been eradicated and forgotten, we will endure. My kind transcends your very understanding. We are each a nation, independent, free of all weakness. You cannot even grasp the nature of our existence.
We are legion. The time of our return is coming. Our numbers will darken the sky of every world. You cannot escape your doom. Your words are as empty as your future. I am the vanguard of your destruction.
This exchange is over.
But that was then, this is now, and it seems the “empty future” that Sovereign referenced was Mass Effect’s own.
Bioware has opted out of this complex philosophical approach and now prefers to focus on the most memorable moments being that of a twelve-year-old telling me how he slept with my mom [EN: This.].
The life-changing qualities that were once so emblematic of Mass Effect are erstwhile, and, without them, Mass Effect is left “fumbling in ignorance.” When you remove what made you special in the first place, you get thrown into a sea of other sci-fi shooters. Therefore, you will be judged as such. And, believe me, there are much better titles out there that do ‘shooting’ way better than you.
When I say that Mass Effect inspired an entire generation, I don’t simply mean games, such as Infamous, which, while in production, implemented a good-and-evil system because the demand was high, or the many more that followed suit. No, Mass Effect inspired people to become artists by opening their minds to their own realms of imagination, mental vistas never before thought.
BioWare, the reason why your gaming bases is upset is simple: you led us on a wonderful path from ME 1, 2, and 3, and then, when it was time to share the mysteries of the universe, you took a dump on our chests. It's like reading Game of Thrones, only to have George R. R. Martin rip out the last page and say, “Thanks for buying the book.” We’re upset because we want you to finish what you started and give us answers. We don't care about Andromeda; we care about the Reapers, Commander Shepard, the Milky Way.
And shame on you, BioWare and Electronic Arts, for pointing fingers at the community, saying that we are being babies about the graphics and glitches.
Gamers are among the most understanding group of people, it’s just that, when you piss us off, we don’t let it go — nor should we. If glitches were what makes-or-breaks a game, WoW would never have been successful: it becomes unplayable for a month after every patch. And this doesn’t even mention the magnitude of exploits in WoW.
What you are experiencing, E.A., is gamers. Gamers who had to grow up telling people they hated games, because being the ‘gamer nerd’ was social suicide. Even the ‘comic book nerds’ could point and make fun of you… because games are for kids, after all, right?
Then, every once and while, a game was released that changed everything, and that game would make you proud to be a gamer. People would come to you and ask, “Hey, have you played this game?”, because they knew there was something special at hand. You could wear your gaming pride on your chest that day, and be the ‘cool guy,’ because you knew about games.
Mass Effect was one of those games. But, when you dump on us, we will dump on you. That’s why people are pushing back — not because the characters walk like they took three extra-strength doses of Ex-lax. Hopefully, Mass Effect team, you can learn from this, and, next time, just end your game; end what you started, so that we can all move on and accept what comes next.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of The Overpowered Noobs, LLC.