Thereís never been a video game franchise quite like Mass Effect, a series that truly embodies narrative perfection and has laid new ground for all future video games.
Sometimes, Gamer Woes isnít just about something thatís pissing me off in the world of gaming that given week. Occasionally, I try to focus on more positive aspects of my favourite pastime (This brings to question why the column is called Gamer Woes in the first place, so we might change that in the near future).
With Mass Effect 3′s launch this week, itís hard not to rave about BioWareís vision of a three game epic sci-fi tale, finally coming to fruition.
I recently wrote a piece about Tom Bisselís Extra lives: Why Video Games Matter, a non-fiction book that tackles video games from a personal perspective. Bissel believes that video games offer an unprecedented form of interactive entertainment, but that they need time to mature. If Mass Effect 2 and 3 came out while Bissel was writing it would have changed the tone of his book. BioWare has epitomized his vision.
Never before has a game series tried to emotionally involve the player at such a deep level as Mass Effect. The cinematic cut scenes, the heavy emphasis on character involvement and dialogue tree selection, even the fact that youíre encouraged to get to know your crew, all combine to create an unparalleled interactive narrative experience. To me, the Mass Effect franchise boils down to this: itís a deeply involving choose your own adventure novel making no two player experiences alike.
I understand that their are flaws in the Mass Effect experience. Some gamers long for the complicated menus and customization that Mass Effect 1 offered. Since EAís involvement in the series, itís become increasingly simplified in an effort to reach a wider audience and wrangle in the first person shooter demographic. Contrary to how most people feel, I actually like how the franchise has evolved and simplified itself.
As Iíve gotten older, I have less time on my hands and consequently want to spend less time fiddling around in menus when Iím playing video games Ė I just want to play the game. I totally get where hardcore fans are coming from, I do miss the armor customization from the first Mass Effect quite a bit. I know thereís a simple version of it in Mass Effect 2 and 3, but itís not the same as in the first game. Also, EAís large coffers seem to have given Bioware the ability to secure top notch voice talent, and the gameís voice acting is one of the main reasons why itís so engrossing in the first place.
The feature that most amazes me is that decisions I made in the original Mass Effect Ė four and a half years ago! Ė affected not only the outcome of my play through of Mass Effect 2, but even Mass Effect 3. When Bioware mentioned that they were planning on implementing this feature years ago, I didnít believe it at all. I figured it was just a Peter Molyneux style pipe dream. (On a side note, looking back, I really donít know why I saved Kaiden Alenko. Today, he seems like a giant asshole. But five years ago? I guess I thought he was cool or something.)
I know the entire face import fiasco has caused a bit of a stir in the gaming community. Itís almost like Bioware is punishing their longtime fans for playing the original Mass Effect. For me, this really wasnít much of an issue, I was more concerned with the decisions my character made over the course of the two games, not his actual appearance. This is mainly because my Shepard looked rather ridiculous after being imported into Mass Effect 2. For some reason his hair started growing into his forehead, not exactly the look of the savior of the entire galaxy.
So thatís enough of me raving about the series, but I wanted to share why I feel that the Mass Effect franchise is one of the most important video game series of the last 10 years. It shows the potential video games have for creating a deeply engrossing narrative and has furthered the medium in unprecedented ways. Mark my words, Mass Effect will be the go-to example of video game series story development for years to come.