Friday, May 4, 2012

Mass Effect - A World Beyond

I pride myself in being quite the avid gamer.  My first gaming system was the Super Nintendo, and as a little girl I would sit in front of the TV playing games like Tetris, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario World, and Final Fantasy Mystic Quest.  These stories, these adventures, were some of my first loves. As I got older, my library expanded.  I tried other games, other genres, and continued to find stories that sucked me in and had me fall in love with their characters.

A few years ago, if you and I were to sit down and chat about our favorite games and gaming companies, my answer would be along these lines: Square Enix and Final Fantasy.  Capcom and Resident Evil.  Final Fantasy VII was specifically what opened me up to a world beyond my Super Nintendo and GameBoy color, showing me more and more brilliance in the world of gaming.  I was a die hard Square girl.  And I still am, don't get me wrong.  But in late 2008, everything changed.

My husband, who back then was just my boyfriend, and a mutual friend of ours, were all hanging out one evening, when they put in a game called Mass Effect by Bioware.  I'd seen the company's name before from my past playings of Jade Empire and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.  I enjoyed both, so I was no stranger to Bioware.  I was, however, unprepared for the way this game series would end up effecting me.  Call me over dramatic or theatrical, but for you Poppers out there who have played these games, you understand why I talk this way.  Bioware didn't just create a story.  They created a universe, a world beyond our own, with characters the fanbase could not help but fall in love with so deeply that they cared for them, regardless that they were nothing more than fictional.

A quick summary for those who are unfamiliar with the title.  The game focuses on the protagonist, Commander Shepard, and his/her quest to stop the rogue 'Spectre' (an elite group of agents selected from a number of different species entrusted with extraordinary authority, including the power of life or death over the inhabitants of the galaxy, in order to preserve galactic stability by whatever means necessary) Saren Arterius.  During the pursuit of Saren, Shepard learns of a far greater threat looming in the background.  This threat continues in different forms that span across all 3 games.  The games rely heavily on the choices you make, changing the outcome in different ways - an amazing aspect for replay value.  You can choose to make choices of a Paragon or Renegade nature, or a mixture of both.  You establish close relationships with your crew, some going even further into the form of a love interest.  These relationships were staggering, and I very quickly came to care for the characters just as much as my Shepard did.

Here she is.  My Shepard.  Spacer, War Hero, Inflitrator.
Mass Effect was a phenomenal game. Mass Effect 2 was even better.  They kept what we loved about the first one, and tweaked a few things that got on our nerves, improving the entire experience ten fold.  The characters we loved were back, and more were added to the docket to keep the list of adoration growing.  New romance options opened up, two of them quickly becoming the more popular options among fans, and the emotional attachment continued to deepen.  The story of your Shepard continued.  Bioware continued to blow me away with the amazing stories and options, and I fell deeper into this universe.

Mass Effect 3 was finally released a few months ago, in the beginning of March.  Take Earth back was the slogan.  The largest of wars was finally going to take place.  This game tapped on my shoulder from behind and really made me realize how much I cared for the characters I'd been interacting with for the past 4 years.  I've never been so invested in a series as I have been with Mass Effect.  The finale of the series made me cry harder than any game ever has made me cry.

Now that I have beaten Mass Effect 3, it allows me to sit back and really take everything in.  And here's my what my instinct tells me.  This series is one of the best I've ever played, and no one writes characters and relationships that mean so much to me as Bioware has.  This game has also infamously made its' way across the internet as having one of the shittiest endings in a long time.  Avoiding spoilers, here is my take (as unpopular as I have found it to be).  The ending did not bother me.  The way they went about it did not piss me off.  I do have many unanswered questions, but I have faith that Bioware will answer them with DLC.  So I remain patient.

What I found most interesting was the way my feelings and reactions changed from seeing my husband beat the game, to when I beat the game.  When he beat it, I felt rather indifferent.  I sat there, let it sink in, and found myself saying "Okay.", and went on my way.  When I beat it, though... I cried hard.  I surprised myself by how upset I was.  And I realized why.  I was watching the end of my Shepard's story.  Kerry Shepard, we had been through so much together, and here it was coming to close.  And even now, as I sit here typing this, I miss her so much.  Yeah, I know, I can go back and play through again.  This isn't the end of ends.  But it ended.  And that hit hard.
(and I realize how big of a nerd I am saying stuff like this)

Say what you will, but people cannot deny what a phenomenal job Bioware did with this universe.  Even those who HATED the end of Mass Effect 3 can't ignore that they had one of the best journeys of their lives.  And to those who have yet to pick the series up, please do so.  I swear that you will have the time of your life.

Come now, I couldn't go the whole post without a picture of my favorite pairing in the entire universe!
Garrus and Shepard forever <3

Thank you Poppers for allowing me to indulge myself a little bit.  Let me know how you guys feel about the series!  Do you adore it as much as I do?  Or do you think I sound ridiculous caring about a fictional universe this much?  But that's the effect this universe has had on its fanbase over the years, and I've loved every minute of it.



Matt Seckman said...

Great article Kerry! I really need to finish the first game. I just got stuck...and got away from it for so long...and I was playing as a Renagade...which a grew to hate, cause I'm a nice guy by heart. But I LOVE the look of my character, so I'll forge through someday!!

James Edwards said...

awesome take.

Don't feel weird about caring about these characters, think of it this way...

These characters are made from real minds and hearts, 80% minimum of the people you meet in reality are playing parts to placate who they think you want them to be given the situation.

Which means most of the time, characters in books, games, storied television and movies are the most real experiences one can have with developing actual relationships.

Games like Mass Effect rank higher in this regard because you're not a fly on the wall and you get to actually make decisions.

I hated the ending because I felt like I deserved better or nothing. If the game ended right after I saw the effect of my choice, I'd have been fine. But to tease me by showing me so little of an aftermath without actually telling me anything after ALL THIS TIME with these characters? No. Simply no.

There's a theory about 3 and most of the series actually being a slow indoctrination but even if that is the case, it'd suck because you went through the "end" of 3 for basically nothing if there isn't going to be a whole other game or one hell of a DLC

As for my credentials...well, first of all, I had a hell of a lot more renegade points than you did (lol, I made a full para/full rene set as alternates, though)

my love interest in the first game (I thought) was liara...but then it didn't register (according to 3) but by that time, my wife convinced me to date Thane (I played a I do in just about everything) That didn't exactly have a happy ending, though and I ended up with the receptionist-ish girl because I thought she was funny.

Also, my character was an Engineer and here's how personal it was. I wrote a story about this character before the game existed and I played the game how this character would live it. Every choice I made (especially the final one) came from her love of tech, family, or just being a good person who isn't afraid to do what she feels is necessary for the greater good. And oh did I love my combat drones.

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