The Mass Effect trilogy is a series of sci-fi RPG games following Commander Shepard, a customizable character who rises as a protector of the galaxy. All three games follow the story of one character, which can be imported from one game into the next–the choices made in the first game will still have an effect on the plot of the third game. Which is kind of awesome.
I also like that you can determine how your character responds to any situation or any other character, and you can rack up nice or mean points (called paragon or renegade points) to open new options in dialogue that let you charm or intimidate people.
The first game had lots of options for exploration. Seriously, this game made me very happy from an adventure standpoint. I could just talk to random people and do random things. I didn’t get as attached to the characters in the first game, maybe because I didn’t talk to my crew as much as I should have. But it just takes so long to get to them, and the elevators take forever.
By the second game (ME2), I really cared about all of the characters, and even surprised myself with how happy I was to see old faces.
I love structure of the missions in ME2–you need to build your team, and you’re given a list of people you can potentially recruit. It’s nice, because you go in looking for these characters. The focus is on them, their story, and how you can convince them to join you from the get-go. There are also optional missions that already recruited characters ask you to go on, which will gain you their loyalty.
Two in particular were really cool, because they mixed up the gameplay in a way that was entertaining–one had you interrogate someone for information, and another had you try to entice a serial killer to come after you. Both involved trying to get a particular reaction out of an NPC, and they added variety to the game.
I also enjoyed the variety in the main last mission, and how variable the outcome can be. Your actions and decisions determine which of your teammates make it out, and who amongst the crew of your ship you manage to protect.
Another positive thing about ME2 is how you know you’re taking damage during combat–everything just gets muffled and quieter. And then the sound of the battle around you suddenly comes roaring back. I was really impressed with the sensation of it, especially the first time it happened.
One nitpick: Why couldn’t I play a good person and have scars? The whole being-a-good-person takes away your scars while being-a-bad-person makes them worse (and glow red for some odd reason) is a little too Beauty Equals Goodness for me.
Mass Effect 3 has a different kind of goal, where you have to collect war assets to increase your military strength. It is interesting in that you need to make decisions not only based on morality, but also based on what what effect this will have on your military power.
The great thing about the Mass Effect games is that it isn’t necessarily clean cut–if you always do the nice thing, you’ll end up letting guilty people go free sometimes, but if you always do the ruthless thing, you’ll end up hurting innocents sometimes. (And both can have an eventual negative effect on your war assets score).
And there are some seriously emotional moments. I got attached this world and these characters.
Most of the trilogy is just fun to play, but it’s time to talk about the big caveat everyone who’s heard of the game probably knows about. The ending for ME3. I knew going in that everyone hated the ending, so my expectations were low enough that I wasn’t devastated or anything. But I can admit that, yeah, it’s unsatisfying. I was forced to make a choice based on an assumption that was completely wrong, especially with the way I’d played the game. There was no way to challenge that assumption and salvage the things that my character had fought for. But that doesn’t invalidate how entertaining the rest of the trilogy was.
Note: Can I just say that I really like the VA for the female Shepard? At first, I was surprised how similar the nice and aggressive dialogue choices sounded–most recently, I’d played Dragon Age 2, where the nice/sarcastic/aggressive dialogue choices all sounded very different. But then I came to really appreciate it. It fits. You can change between mean and nice conversational options as much as you want, and it’ll generally feel like the same person is talking. Shepard is voiced in a pretty no-nonsense way, no matter what kind of decisions the player makes. (This isn’t necessarily better than Dragon Age 2, either–I appreciate both in different ways, and I’m glad I got to see both in action.)