The Mass Effect series is one of the greatest fictional creations there is. It's an entire universe created from scratch, an almost unfathomably grand patchwork of ideas from almost every single member of the #BioWare team who worked on it. It's stitched together so perfectly and with such passion and detail, I can't help but be enraptured and awe-inspired, even when I replay the games years later.
What BioWare was able to create with this series — even for a company already famed for building deep, intricate worlds and narratives — was so far beyond anything that came before it, and anything that's come since. I'd argue that Mass Effect should be held in the highest regard and looked at as the example and standard for innovation and creativity in interactive media.
Building The Ultimate Universe
Mass Effect creates a universe that is both ancient and fresh. It feels lived in and has a breadth of history attached to it. Wars, attempted genocides, art, theater, religions, cultures and alien races that are extremely creative and unique are, for lack of a better term, humanized in their individual traits to feel real, and to feel like they've been growing and adapting on a personal and cosmic level as long as, or longer than, mankind has been around. There are also countless worlds, literally every single one with its own backstory — even the inhospitable ones you're never allowed to visit.
That leads me to another astounding thing about this game — the Codex. This is a collection of the universe's knowledge, not unlike the game's Hitchhiker's Guide. There are seemingly paragraphs about every species, world, culture, historical event, and even types of metal found in the universe. I love that kind of stuff and have spent many hours just devouring it.
If you can't do that kind of thing, interactions or standard exploration will fortunately provide ample amount of background for you to delve into. The dialogue is masterfully written, with snark, humor and philosophical discussions that hit every note to make you feel like you're talking to these fully realized people, even if it's a character you exchange one sentence with and that's it.
The Gameplay Is Not Sacrificed
On top of all this, there's an actually fun game series beneath it all; a large-scale story where seemingly every choice, whether minor or major, has ramifications, some of which you may not see for hundreds of hours and others you'll see right away. Some that will have massive repercussions that echo throughout the universe, others that result in an email from someone you met along the way. It adds such a strong personal touch to the games that it's impossible to not get immersed.
Your crew throughout the series is a collection of the greatest characters ever written, with their own personal histories, loves, hobbies, quirks — and none of them feel the same (with the small exception of Jacob and Vega, but they're still quite different). Every chance you get to talk to someone is another chance to learn about them, about the universe, or even about how your ship's hyperdrive works.
But The Combat Is Slightly Lacking
Admittedly, the combat is a bit sporadic in this series and I'm not sure BioWare ever quite nailed it down. In the first game, your weapons run on clips that reheat after a constant duration of usage and have to recharge for a few seconds. You can collect upgrades to add different effects to your ammo, like corroding opponents' armor or setting them on fire, and you can break the weapons you have into parts to create more weapons. In Mass Effect 3, it's basically technological and psychic powers for certain characters, a Gears of War-style shooter, and Mass Effect 2 is kind of in between. I like every style. Combat is the most fun in the two sequels, whereas it flows in and out more seamlessly in the first.
Almost a decade since the first game's release, I do not want to spoil anything for anyone who is yet to play the series. In such a short space of time Mass Effect has created a universe matched by the likes of #StarTrek and #StarWars (books, games, comics included), generated some of the greatest fictional characters, and given me hundreds of hours of entertainment. I admit, I may be more than a little, albeit cautiously, ecstatic for Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Sound off below. Tell me what you think about Mass Effect. Andromeda releases in March 2017. Are you excited?