Series Of The Generation – Mass Effect
With the impending arrival of the next generation of home consoles the temptation is to look back on the outgoing consoles to see what gems of games they have gifted us. The current generation has been around for so long now that they have not only gifted us some pretty amazing games but some entire series that have blown us away.
Instead of counting down on a number of games that have made a difference I'm going to take you through some of my favourite series and why they've made a lasting difference to the gaming landscape.
It's a rare occasion that such a massive trilogy manages to frame itself within a console generation. Although licensing issues meant that PS3 gamers were the last to play the first Mass Effect game it didn't stop BioWare bringing the series to the console as soon as they possibly could.
Looking back now the original Mass Effect was a bit ropey and felt a tad overwhelming at times. The combat didn't quite work the way a shooter should and there was just so many planets to visit and explore using the much-loved Mako that you could get lost in the galaxy just searching for a couple of medallions or a lost squad of Alliance Marines.
BioWare had managed to create the kind of epic feel that they had brought to their previous games though and they successfully created a completely new universe to do it in as well but it wasn't enough just to do it over one game. How about they do it over three?
Before this console generation that kind of continuation was unheard of. The best we could hope for was maybe getting one sequel out before we needed to buy a new console and there would be no reading of previous save games because they were still chained to the previous game's cartridge or lost in a sea of random memory cards.
But now, with hard drives built into your console, games could potentially know that you'd played the previous game in the series and adjust your experience accordiingly and that is exactly what the Mass Effect trilogy managed to do.
Even speaking to a seemingly innocuous superfan on the Citadel at the early on in Mass Effect cause ripples in the narrative of Mass Effect 2 and 3 even affecting the kind of assistance you received with the war effort against the Reapers.
Mass Effect 2 was without a doubt the pinnacle of the series. It was the Empire Strikes Back of the series taking a distinctly darker tone as Shepard moved off on his own to investigate missing human colonies and ending in the ultimate of suicide missions to take down the Collectors before they could help the Reapers gain another foothold on the galaxy.
It had everything. Shepard's companions were some of the most well-rounded and indeed enduring characters in videogames. Mordin Solus, Thane Krios and Urdnot Grunt all become like real friends as they help Shepard uncover the mystery of the Collectors. Should they survive their appearances in Mass Effect 3 greatly enhance the emotional impact of the final part which manages to be even darker than Mass Effect 2.
There are breaks in the continuity between 2 and 3 which are slightly disconcerting as a new lead writer took over after the departure of Drew Karpyshyn to pursue a career writing novels but the team remains fairly faithful to the overall vision of the Mass Effect trilogy and manage to round out the journey in Mass Effect 3 in the appropriate fashion.
It is at times exceptionally touching as we see meet our comrades from the first two games and we see Shepard head toward the inevitable choice that he must make but it never detracts from the epic scale of some of the situations that players must deal with.
Over the course of the three games the Mass Effect trilogy showed that gamers can become truly emotionally invested in the characters of a series and even more so given that their survival or less depends on the decisions of the player.
BioWare also managed to show a real character development arc for almost everyone that Shepard encounters and managed to tie up what could have been a never-ending cascade of loose ends in the ending of Mass Effect 3 (the Extended Cut, although the original ending was not without its merits).
The real test of how well the series has gone down is just talking to others that have played the trilogy from start to finish. In sharing my playthrough stories with others I have learned just how much the experience varies from player to player. It stands testament to just how well the Mass Effect trilogy was constructed to see just how personal other players experiences were.
There are plenty of other series that have managed to make this generation what it was but none did it in such an emotionally engaging way and, it makes me excited to see what BioWare have planned for the next console generation.