N7 Day: Looking Back at Mass Effect

Despite the row that was the ending of the Mass Effect trilogy earlier this year, it’s hard to deny the lasting impact and immensity of BioWare’s action-RPG games. Today is “N7 Day” among the Mass Effect die-hards — a reference to Commander Shepard’s Alliance Special Ops status — and we thought we’d take this Nov. 7 to look back on how Mass Effect impacted us.

This isn’t our favorite moments, since we have a list of those already; more, it’s a look at a few of those moments that made the series something special and resonated with us throughout its life.

Ross Lincoln — Blasto: Partners in Crime

I feel a bit weird singling out this particular moment, considering how often the Mass Effect series managed to be genuinely touching and definitely thrilling. But in retrospect, especially considering how the ending of Mass Effect 3 turned out, I’ve come to the opinion that the series greatest achievement is in the creation of a believable universe in which the various people you come in contact with actually live.

In the first game, the Mass Effect universe had an amazing backstory, but seemed largely to exist as a backdrop to exciting space adventure. The hints of a much larger world full of regular people doing the kinds of things regular people do were mainly understated: stray dialogue between NPCs, and the Citadel-based sidequest in which you have the option of siding with, or shaming a human supremacist political agitator. However, with Mass Effect 2, great care was put into establishing that the Galaxy was just as full of mundane humanity (er, sentient being-ity?) as our own. For instance, one bit of stray NPC dialogue featured an inter-species couple trying to make their relationship work, and another featured a bachelor party for a Salarian.

What really stood out though is the way the Galaxy’s popular culture was far more developed. Items available for purchase from shopkeepers at various locations now included a science fiction novel; Commander Shepard’s bedroom came with a stereo system featuring several different musical genres to choose from; we even got to see Shepard get falling down drunk. The best of these moments came from the glimpse into the Galaxy’s popular entertainment, which included a hilarious all-Elcor version of Hamlet, and of course, a series of movies based on the adventures of Blasto, the first Hanar SPECTRE.

This was a nice touch, not only because Blasto started out as a joke in the BioWare forums, but because it demonstrated that SPECTREs in the Mass Effect Galaxy had the same kind of romantic appeal that MI6 agents do in our own world. It was also hilarious, so of course BioWare decided to double down on the joke in Mass Effect 3 with the amazing Blasto: Partners In Crime easter egg. The 6th movie in the Blasto series (so you were told), Partners In Crime is a pastiche of Tango & Cash and Lethal Weapon 2, and pretty much the entire script can be listened to on a Citadel billboard. More than anything, this moment established that the universe Shepard was trying to save was full of people living their lives, people who really seemed to like generic, blockbuster action movies.

That you could return and listen to it even after things really went to hell for the Galaxy only made the greater tragedy more apparent. At the risk of sounding pretentious, it reminded me of the Pompeii brothels preserved by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius, the sexual habits of ancient Romans forever recorded for an incredulous (and jealous) posterity. We can giggle at the incredibly kinky things they got up to, and then remember the entire city was killed in the most gruesome way possible. A nice touch by BioWare, marred only by their failure to get the ending of the game right.

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8 Comments on N7 Day: Looking Back at Mass Effect

JawaEsteban

On November 7, 2012 at 6:30 pm

I got into the trilogy in odd order, my first entry was actually ME2. I ended up getting so hooked by ME2 that I bought ME1, and loved that as well. Having no prior experience with the Mass Effect universe, I have to say that the opening sequence for ME2 will always be the standout for me. Up until then, I had never seen the title character get killed-off in the first minutes in a game. Just a great piece of story, it was all over for me after that. Totally hooked.

Although ME3 has been banished from my hard drive (indeed, banished from my house, back to gamestop) , I was thinking about doing another ME2 run. Just for old times sake. There’s no such thing as too much Miranda.

RCY

On November 7, 2012 at 6:37 pm

wow ,you just described my 1s time experince with the Mass Effect series. That opening og Mass effect 2, strong stuff.

john

On November 7, 2012 at 7:07 pm

First experience with Mass Effect was a demo of ME2. Had quit WoW, finished Starcraft 2 several times, and was looking for a new game to play. Two friends of mine were talking a lot about this awesome game they were playing, so I gave a go to the demo – enjoyed it a lot. A few days later, found ME1 and ME2 at my local game store, 9 euros each. Bought both and started to play the first one, to be propperly introduced to the story. By the time Shepard reaches the Citadel, I was already completely hooked.

Best moments? Every moment involving Tali and Wrex on the first game (Wrex’s sense of humour kills me); the suicide mission of the second game (that was so awesome); and the last Tuchanka and Rannoch missions on the third game.

I still find it hard to believe Bioware screwed things up as they did. Tried a second complete playthrough after the Extended Cut released, but lost the interest after the Rannoch missions and moved to The Witcher instead.

R.J.

On November 7, 2012 at 7:26 pm

For whatever reason I had been avoiding the series, and I don’t have much of a reason. However, I was really into Dragon Age: Origins, and after I finished that I couldn’t wait for the next DA game to get more Bioware. I got ME1 and ME2 and just tore through them. There was something special there, namely the characters and the sense that other stuff was actually happening, even if I wasn’t participating directly. The sad part is that practically as quickly as Bioware made me fall for them, they turned me away as well.

Roy Batty

On November 8, 2012 at 6:27 am

I admit I got ME1 (PC) because of the negative press (“Sexbox”) which I knew was more than likely false (but one can always hope!). I loved the soundtrack and even though the story took elements from many different “mainstream” sci-fi, ME redressed these elements well without much outright plagiarism (mostly homage’s). I also liked the RPG aspects and the fact that you could play the game over and over and still not catch ever scenario possible.

I also admit that when they made Tali an LI I was not expecting it. I considered her a wallflower in ME1 (just a prop to introduce the Jews in space…err the Quarians – I guess the Bioware guys were Mel Brooks fans too). Needless to say this led to several more play-throughs of ME1. I felt that this was highly devious of Bioware…and I loved it (you knew they game was playing mind games but this was a new level…little did I realize :P ).

I also admit I did not like ME2 as much as ME1 in that it removed much of the RPG elements and I also thought the soundtrack was weaker than ME1 (but at least the story was still good”). In ME3 I liked the Rannoch and Tuchanka sequences best I especially like the Shai-Hulud (um I mean Kalros) vs. the reaper motif…reminded me of Mothra vs. Godzilla or Megatron vs. Grimlock for that matter. It would have been epic to see Harbinger vs. Godzilla.

First Play-through Character: “Malcolm” Shepard (Made him look like badass Malcolm from UT).
Best Character Play-through: Fenix Shepard (Fenix taken from StarCraft) – No LI in ME1 – Made him look Hispanic/Mexican – when showed to my nephew he said: “hey he looks Latino” (Damn I’m good!)

Favorite lines from ME1 (paraphrased):
In the elevator with Wrex and Tali…
Wrex: So Tali do the Quarians ever talk about how they unleashed the Geth and lost their homeworld?
Tali: No. Do the Krogan ever talk about starting a foolish war with the Turians and getting sterilized in the process?
Wrex: All the time.

Favorite lines from ME2: Mordin singing (must have replayed it 50 times)
Favorite character in the series: Legion (hey I am a technology guy)
Favorite LI: Tali
Favorite class: Infiltrator (I am a sneaky bastard and love to plan amusing deaths for my enemies)

Greatest disappointment with ME2:
That the LI with Ashley was not re-established in a DLC (like that of Liara)
Loss of RPG elements

Greatest disappointments with ME3:
The Ending :P
The incomplete LI story arc (Thanks for letting me use you like a doormat but I have to go and die now)
The disappointing LI story arcs with Miranda and Jack
Ashley’s Character is exceedingly shallow – no change from ME1/2 even though you could in essence “turn” her from the dark side in ME1 just like Morrigan in DAO.

Greatest moments in ME3:
Legion’s “death” (outstanding)
Mordin’s death (handled very well)

…And I’ll miss you most of all Scarecrow! :P

Disappointed J

On November 8, 2012 at 8:18 am

My first introduction to Mass Effect came from a magazine. Pretty sure it was OXM, but it might have been EGM. I had a 360 at the time, and was a huge Halo geek. When I saw Mass Effect in preview, I knew I would want it, eve if it seemed a bit… different. I bought it not long after it came out, and was hooked forever. I’ve written grad papers on Mass Effect, fought over the ending, paid way too much money for silly stuff, and put WAY too much time into the ME3 multiplayer. Amazing games, and even though I’m upset about the ending, I still love it.

Mr Glassback

On November 8, 2012 at 9:18 am

It was the entire ending to M.E 2 that I loved. The realisation that all my tedious planet mining, all the expensive and seemingly useless ship upgrades and loyalty quests actually made a difference to how effective I would be in the final battle. Replaying it again and again to get my entire crew through alive.
After M.E 2′s ending, I couldn’t wait to see what they could do with the ending of M.E 3…
Oh, and Liaras out of body goodbye in M.E 3 was pretty sweet.

S

On November 8, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Ah, Mass Effect. I discovered the series my last year of law school. I was heartbroken over the death of one of my closest friends and a little terrified of leaving the safety of school during an awful economy in which my industry had largely collapsed. I was looking for a good distraction and realized I hadn’t had the time to play an RPG in years. I asked for recommendations and immediately people started shouting “Mass Effect!” at me. I was skeptical because I tended to be more of the daggers and dragons RPG-player than a shooter fan, but I got an xbox and the game, and from the moment I stepped Commander Shepard out onto the Citadel, I was hooked. I’ll never forget the wonder of seeing and talking with an Elcor, or meeting that badass dinosaurbirdman who needed your help with an investigation.

While Mass Effect 1 is my sentimental favorite, Mass Effect 2 struck the best balance. The story overall seemed less compelling than the first, but The Illusive Man was a great ally/villain, and the Suicide Mission is easily one of the best end runs of a game I’ve ever experienced. It also capitilized marvelously on all the characters and things I had come to love in the first. I could feel a lump in my throat when Joker revealed the newly rebuilt Normandy, and I was elated when Archangel turned out to be Garrus.

The third was definitely my least favorite, but the ending aside, it did do a lot of things right. Both the Krogan/Mordin storyline and the Quarian/Geth mission wrapped up nicely and were extremely compelling. Fitting and memorable ends.