Mass Effect: Building a Galaxy
A Living, Breathing, World
The Mass Effect Trilogy contains some of the most fascinating, and emotional moments this gen was privileged enough to experience. For those who don't know, Mass Effect is a series of action RPG games developed by Bioware, and is one of the most engaging and meaningful worlds the developer has produced. Mass Effect's strength lies not only in its ability to immerse the player with its brilliant exposition and meaningful player-choice, but also in its unforgettable characters - Mass Effect is one of the few games that successfully creates a world real enough to solicit emotional responses.
Building a Galaxy
The main factor that makes Mass Effect so immersive is its attention to world building and lore construction. Sure, thereís the excitement of unraveling the galaxy's darkest secrets, of course, but thereís also the simple pleasure of conversing with an alien bartender, comforting a crew member, or settling a dispute between a police officer and a fanatical alien evangelist. Mass Effect is full of detailed main character arcs, minor story arcs, and random characters whose roles are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. The value of such elements is that they remind players that although the plot of Mass Effect is epic and far reaching, it still takes place in a living, breathing galaxy where people go about their business none the wiser.Aiding in the believability of such a world is the outrageously detailed codex entries that flesh out Mass Effect lore throughout the series. Available as soon as you begin playing is a vast catalogue of narrated codex entries that expands on every conceivable detail about the world of Mass Effect. Politics, races, and important events are obvious choices for a codex expanding on lore, and they are there, but also included are outrageously intriguing explanations on how the technology of the galaxy works. Many games will tell you what you need to know, but few will explain to you exactly how the gun you are firing works. Also available to the player are planetary codices that give you a brief history and overview of every planet you visit (and thatís a lot). The planetary codices are beyond fascinating, often times charting the colonization of a system, the political struggles of an oppressed population, or the mysterious disappearance of a long extinct species. With such a staggering amount of detail, Mass Effect never fails to draw the player into its fantastical world.
While detail is a necessity for creating an immersive experience, there is something to be said for execution. Many fans would agree that without Mass Effect's wholly underrated conversation system, exploring the world and building character relationships might not have been so impressive. The inspired system of dialogue trees allows players to express themselves as characters within the Mass Effect Universe. Are you against the border-line sterilization of an entire race? All for it? Or do you want to keep that opinion to yourself? Players are allowed to express their opinions on such matters in multiple different ways, which will, in turn, lead to different outcomes and reactions from the characters with which the player is conversing. In fact, the conversation tree is one of the many ways Mass Effect players shape the galaxy around them - each player experience is different. Mass Effect's conversation system is the tendril that connects players to its expansive universe.
Player Choices and Character Interactions
Mass Effects most prominent feature is its focus on player choice. Throughout the trilogy players are presented with both small decisions and major decisions that can shape the course of their story. With the main storyline and all the other ancillary plot lines being affected by player decisions, every experience is made to feel unique. Decisions made in the first game, like whether or not you are going to sacrifice soldiers to save a politician, for example, will alter the political climate present in the next two games. With public newscasts on nearly every hub world, Mass Effect makes it quite obvious that your decisions have had a tangible effect on the galaxy.
Player input also operates on a more personal level. As you travel the galaxy, you will meet new friends, allies, and enemies. What makes Mass Effect stand out in this respect is depth of these characters. Each character has their own motivations, goals, and emotions - and the player often has an effect on their character arc. For example, Garrus, an alien soldier you meet in the first game, often shares his views on the events of the game and his own past with the player. A renegade at heart, his viewpoints on ethics come into question frequently, giving the player the chance to provide advice and input. The ability to play a role in character development is a groundbraking feature not found in many other games.
Garrus is but a single example of the exquisitely crafted characters the player encounters throughout the series. These characters are brought to life with near perfect voice acting and facial movements, clearly living up to the high standards of the rest of the game. The characters all come together to form a group of people that will ultimately define the series. When fans think of Mass Effect, they think of the characters that they shared the journey with.
A Journey to Remember
Mass Effect is fantastic. Fans of RPGs, whether Western or Japanese, have a must-play in the Mass Effect Trilogy. Mass Effect helped push the genre forward this generation with its attention to building a believable world, player choice, and character crafting. In short, if you have not played through the Mass Effect series, you are doing something wrong. You owe it to yourself to play through this epic sci-fi saga. Itís a journey you won't soon forget.