As we near the end of the current console generation I have been taking a lot of time to reflect on everything that we got to experience and about all the changes this time has brought us. We saw the introduction of motion controls, full-fledged online stores have flourished, we have seen games in 3d and most of all we have seen games themselves take a massive leap in many key areas. In my opinion there is nothing that shows this leap quite like the Mass Effect trilogy. In what is unquestionably the most ambitious and impressive feat in gaming history, Bioware crafted an experience that allowed players to carry their characters, choices, consequences and successes throughout 3 games and over the course of 6 incredible years. It is a ride that many gamers, myself included will never forget and one that has made a lasting impression on me that will forever be the definition of what gaming is and can truly be.
When the team at Bioware first announced the concept of a sci-fi RPG that would take hundreds of decisions and use them to shape the world of their trilogy I was excited but admittedly a little bit skeptical. To say that the team delivered on their promise would be an understatement of monumental proportions. Our Shepard’s have grown with us, we have made all of the tough choices and lost more than a few friends along the way. We truly grew to love the squadmates who watched our backs throughout and even fell in love with one or more of them.
Over the years we have picked up 19 different members of a team that has either served aboard the Normandy SR-1 or SR-2 at some point during the trilogy and every single one of them has their own back-story and personality. While there are only 2 of them can say they served on Shepard’s team throughout all 3 games it didn’t take long for each and every one of them to make an impression upon me and earn their place aboard my ship. It seemed that each character had their defining moment, each one of them stepped up to the plate and made it possible to stop the Reaper invasion once and for all.
While the story was evolving as the games were developed, the way that the finished product came together makes it all the more special. In the 1st game Commander Shepard and his or her band of galactic misfits chased rouge Spectre Saren Arterius across the reaches of the galaxy and proved that humanity belonged alongside the rest of the council races. In the 2nd we meet an untimely demise only to be resurrected and fight back to erase the collectors from existence and save humanity from being harvested and forged into the very thing we were fighting so hard to eradicate.
The 3rd game brought the war right to our front door, the Reapers have made it into our galaxy and they are tearing our forces apart like a lawnmower cutting through grass. The odds seem bleak at best and there is only one person in the galaxy that bring every race from the precipice of destruction into a new future devoid of the threat that chased us throughout the best 6 years of gaming any of us have ever seen. It goes without saying that the hero in question is none other than the Shepard we crafted in our own image, the person who we agonized with over and over as the touch choices had to be made and those close to us had to die. Whether it was facing down Wrex on Virmire, debating with Mordin about the Genophage, or even sending one of your crew to their death and saying your goodbyes over the radio as they bravely give themselves for the mission, none of MY team will ever be forgotten.
Never before have we seen a game series put all of the necessary elements together to craft such a mesmerizing experience. Bioware has always been known for great story telling but the way they built an entire galaxy teeming with life and conflict really left a lasting impression on me and left me wanting to experience and learn as much as I could about every race and every planet.
To clarify I have played through each one of the Mass Effect games multiple times, the original I have 5 complete games, 5 for the second and 3 for the trilogy’s finale. Each time I have been able to craft a story different enough to be sold as its unique game and franchise. I think it’s that very fact that further expands upon the monumental accomplishment achieved by the development and writing teams that made this possible. For me Mass Effect 3 should be celebrated in the way that Peter Jackson’s epic conclusion of the Lord of the Rings series was at the Oscars. Even if you found another game that was slightly more entertaining or one that had tighter controls as a gamer and a fan of the advancement of games, you have to admit that no one accomplished what the men and women at Bioware did.
The Mass Effect series has obviously made a giant impression in my gaming life and I love the fact that a series was created that I could put so much love and attention into. There were moments that I was furious at the back-stabbing and political BS, times where I have shed a tear at the loss of a dear friend or when an entire race was wiped from the galaxy. So many memories and so much emotion being garnered from a video game solidifies Commander Shepard’s story as the greatest ever told in my personal opinion, not only within games but across all forms of art and media.