IHAO on ... the Mass Effect games and franchise

GUARDIANS OF THE FLIPPING GALAXY!  IN JUST A FEW MORE SLEEPS!  AHHHHH!!!  What can I do that hits the highs I need to keep my excitement going?  Let's do ...

Mass Effect is a massive franchise of novels, comics, and of course, 3 AAA titles that all do the impossible: tell one story throughout that is for the most part affected by the choices your character has to make throughout.  No other franchise can say the same.  Some franchises have as detailed a story, some have the same quality of games, but NONE are as massive, as well received, as well put together as the Mass Effect series.

I am on the cusp of finishing my first playthrough with the same character through three games, Geoffrey Shepard.  He is an Adept that slowly stopped using his guns, instead throwing around amazing biotic powers (for those who don't know the wording, think the Force, except more specific and completely free of religious connotation..  He saved every species he could as he never wanted to exterminate life, until it came down to saving a trusted comrade he had just 8 months earlier saved or saving the love of his life, a Quarian engineer Tali.  Geoffrey started as a man who trusted his race's government and slowly learned that all of the governments he had to deal with, every entity that wasn't him and his crew, were liars and backstabbers.

I know Geoffrey Shepard like the back of my hand.  He has had the same muttonchops for years, though he did stop dying his hair when he survived his crew's suicide mission.  I know his quirks, his personality, and the choices he makes.  Geoffrey is also distinctly NOT "me."  His choices started very much like all video game characters choices, in that they were controlled by the player, in this case, me.  But very quickly, he became his own entity.

Now, these games are not perfect.  The first game for some has a lot of tedium and a lot of unnecessary fluff.  For me personally, I loved all that fluff, and just wanted combat to be more fun.  The second game is darned near perfect, other than a terrible cover system that barely worked.  The third game ... ok, it isn't as good as the others mechanically because of a change in how the journal system works, a lot of graphics that have super late texture pop-ins, and a very broken power system that really punishes people for being too far ahead of the storyline which none of the other games did; but the story is so strong that it makes up for it.  And it adds a very fun multiplayer aspect that you can still play, for free, today, and it does not take time to get groups together at all.

This is the kind of game that I want my wife to play.  My kids to play.  The story is incredibly engaging, and it is about making moral choices that for the most part have actual consequences in the game.  There is a jerkoff you meet in the first game that shows up again in the second.  I was tired of him and yelled at him.  And he died.  Off screen.  I heard it on a news report.  And even more amazingly, my roommate who has played the game WAY more than I and completed many many more full-runs of the games, he has never seen or even heard of that option happening.

The game is a true roleplaying game.  It allows you to put attributes onto the character, completely arbitray if you like, and play them out.  You don't have to be yourself, you can be a Captain America soldier type, or a magic ninja who does everything just for himself, or just some run of the mill guy.  Supporting characters live or die based on your choices throughout all the games, and the ramifications of missing even just one in the first game has long reaching aspects.  Continuing a romance from one game to the next rewards you with wonderful acting and shocking memory of these characters.

What I'm saying is, I've loved playing the series.  And look forward to playing more and more.  And since I had the soapbox, I thought I would share.  Because some of you may look at it and go "oh look, a shooter game in space, whatevs."  But that isn't what the game is.  Take the difficulty all the way off if you like, because the fighting is just for game stuff to do, and can be completely bypassed.  The story and the characters are what is the essence of Mass Effect.  The only game that came anywhere close to this for me was Chrono Trigger, which is my nominal favorite game of all time.  So yes, give this a shot if you haven't.  The first game is a bit of a slog, but Mass Effect 2 will do everything you'd ever want in a game.  And Mass Effect 3, while not as technically well made, creates the perfect continuation and finale to a trilogy.

But, that's just my opinion.

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