Celebrating Mass Effect Day

Over a decade of saving the galaxy

I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. My hometown is known for a few things, most notably the Edmonton Oilers, the golden boys of the NHL in the 80s, winning a number of Stanley Cup championships. To others though, it’s also home to one of the most renowned studios in gaming, Bioware. Over the last two decades, Bioware was always a place where you wanted to work if you were even remotely into gaming and lived in Edmonton. I had been a fan of their games for a few years but until Mass Effect came out I wasn’t a full-blown Bioware fan. After I started questing with Shepard and the crew, well, everything changed.

I remember playing Mass Effect for the first time and loving the setting, and the characters. Commander Shepard quickly became one of my favorite characters, and the supporting cast also grew on me quickly. The first time I had heard Seth Green as Joker, I was grinning ear to ear. I’ve always been a fan of his and he just fit the character perfectly.

Taking on Saren and the Geth was a fun challenge, and I loved just doing one more mission to see where the story would take me. Driving around on the planets was also a ton of fun and the first time I took down a Thresher Maw, well it’s something I won’t likely forget. The game definitely did have some issues though, most notably the incredibly long loading times AKA riding on elevators, but at least the dialogue between teammates helped alleviate some of those lengthy load times.

When Mass Effect 2 came out, I was living with some roommates and one, in particular, was totally obsessed with the game, perhaps even more than I was. We both were playing through the game at the same time and enjoyed the story, even more, this time around. The world just seemed to be even more fleshed out than in the first one, and I even preferred the more streamlined approach to characters and stats.

The game was a bit less RPG than the first one, and a bit more 3rd-person shooter, like Gears of War, but it still had the same great characters and narrative that I loved. The fact that the game read your save files from the first game and choices you made carried over was just crazy to me. Some games had done that but nothing on this scale, for me anyways. It’s easily the best adventure in the series and ranks in my top ten games of all-time.

Mass Effect 3 came out after I had moved away from Edmonton, but it was still the talk of the town, and this time around I even knew some people working on it or just doing QA on it. It was one of my most anticipated games, and at PAX in 2011 I stood in line for a number of hours just to get some hands-on time with it. I even got an inflatable Omni-blade, which provided minutes of fun later in the day, until it popped from aggressive attacks with friends.

When I finally got my hands on it and continued the adventures of Shepard and the Normandy against the Reapers, I was back in action and loving every minute of it. Of course, as we all know, many people had issues with the ending of the game, and it resulted in one of the first big public backlashes from fans towards game developers. I don’t think I can recall another time before that where so many fans had complaints about a game. I was a bit so-so about the ending, a bit let down but not enough to launch petitions for Bioware to change things. Still, my saga with Shepard and his gang had come to an end and it’s still a series that I love to come back to every couple of years.

I’ll be honest though when Mass Effect: Andromeda was coming out I was very excited for it. I had pre-ordered it and I was excited to see what adventures were awaiting Ryder and his crew. Sadly, I was annoyed with all the same bugs and issues that many other people were, and when some new Destiny content came out, well I just put Andromeda back on the shelf. However, I have finally been getting back into it, and with all the little patches that have come out, plus the recent Xbox One X optimization update, it’s not looking too bad. I’m excited to see where it goes finally, and to check this story out.

Now, while I have kind of given a chronology about the games and my experiences with them, I just needed to delve in a bit more about why I love the series so much. I touched on some things like the characters and the story’s continuation between games, but that’s a surface level statement. Not since some of the Final Fantasy games, like VI and IX have I really grown to care about characters. Doing all of the side missions and stories especially you get to know Shepard more, Garrus more, Tali more, and so on.

These aren’t just one-dimensional companions in a standard point A to point B story. They all just seemed to be living, breathing folks that you could imagine conversing with in real life. Bioware’s writers and artists just did an outstanding job creating a world that is so much more than a video game. I know that many Mass Effect and Dragon Age fans are very intense and love their franchises more than other fans of other games and genres. They care about these characters and these worlds, as do I. I definitely got sidetracked by the loot and shoot aspects of Destiny, but I am happy to be back in the Mass Effect universe.

On this N7 day, let’s remember the characters that have shaped some of our favorite stories. That have helped us defeat Saren, the Geth, the Reapers, and anything else that has threatened the galactic civilizations. Let’s celebrate friendships and relationships, the deeper aspects of the series that Bioware seemingly does better than almost any other developer. While it seems that Bioware stumbled a bit with Andromeda, and the series is now on the back burner for now with Anthem coming out and Dragon Age 4 in the works, here’s hoping for a return for the series, sooner rather than later.

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Zac LaRocque-Walker

Gaming dad, living life out on the Best Coast. Communications degree, concert promoter extraordinaire, writer of words.

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