There are times when I look at the gaming industry and I ask myself if I really want to keep pouring money into it? It is, after all, one extremely expensive hobby to partake in. But then along comes a game (or in this case a series of games) which tug at that part of my psyche that just says, “you’ll never leave us,” and I know I’m in for life.
Last night, with the Mrs out at a work party, I got comfy in my man-den with a beer and finally completed Mass Effect 3. Over the last few months I have been working my way through the Mass Effect Trilogy, Bioware’s action RPG space epic and I’ll freely admit that I knew next to nothing about them before I started playing. I had seen them, but had decided they weren’t really my cup of tea. But then my friend Michael started asking, “have you played Mass Effect?” I’d tell him no, but the next time we spoke he ask me again. This went on for months until in the end I bought the trilogy just to shut him up.
But oh how glad I am that he’s a persistent pain in the arse. What I discovered was a series with a huge, rich universe, full of amazing characters and a gripping storyline that had me hooked from start to finish. It has everything I like: an epic battle of good verses evil; a struggle against all odds and with little hope; an brilliant female protagonist who is actually vastly superior to the male counterpart; space ships; weird aliens; and most importantly, supporting characters who I actually care about and mourn the loss of.
That last point is particularly noteworthy I think because there are lots of games that have the other things from my list, but not that one. The only other game I’ve ever played that made me care so much about the NPCs in my squad was XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Oh and Dogmeat in Fallout 3 but he doesn’t really count, he’s a dog.
Garrus Vakarian is a bit of an oddball who you meet early on in ME1 while he’s a Turian member of the Citadel police force. When he became a member of my squad I thought nothing more than how it was useful to have someone with his skills on the team. Fast forward to ME3 and I found that my palms were sweating at the thought that he was going to get killed. I vowed then that should that be the case, I would have to load up a previous save to prevent that from happening.
He become a true comrade to my Commander Shepard, a friendship built out of respect and loyalty. It become unthinkable to go on a deadly mission without him at my side, even if another team member had more suitable skills. During ME2, there was an incident when some innocent flirting went a bit too far and the friendship between the two was almost ruined. Luckily they both pulled back at the brink and decided to remain just friends. I’m glad they did, as their’s is a friendship for the history books.
Tali’Zorah is a young Quarian, who you meet on the Citadel in ME1, who has gotten herself into some trouble while on her pilgrimage. You help her out and she joins your ship and crew. By ME2 she’s been accused of treason by the Quarian Migrant Fleet and as her ship’s Captain, it’s up to you to represent her at the trail.
The other Quarians give Tali the name, “Tali”Zorah vas Normandy”, in an attempt to shame her. But it backfires, making the bond between Shepard and Tali unbreakable. By ME3, despite feeling like I was going into battle without my clothes on, I chose to leave her back at the base instead of taking her with me. I just couldn’t handle the idea that she might get killed in the assault.
Towards the end of ME3, when I went to check on Garrus before the final mission, I walked in on him and Tali’Zorah making out (or what ever it’s called when trying to introduce a mandible into a Quarian’s emergency induction port).
They were surprised by the interruption and a little embarrassed. My Shepard told them she was happy for them, and you know what? So was I. Like, actually happy. I had a big stupid smile on my face at the thought of those two together. It made the idea the I might die in the final battle a little easier to bear, thinking that those two had found each other.
It is moments like this that remind me why I play video games, why I commit the time and resources to this passion. You can watch a movie and feel for the characters. You can read a book and be made to feel empty by the death of a beloved character. But only in video games can you feel a part of the story, to influence the outcome. If Shepard and Garrus had not decided to stay friends, I would never have witnessed him and Tali finding love together, and the world today would seem a little emptier for it.
To have created a universe so full of character and meaning as the Mass Effect trilogy is a truly remarkable feat. From start to finish I’ve been gripped by the story and carried along by the cast of brilliant characters. Even the ending I chose seemed perfect to me, despite it having received a lot of (unreasonable) backlash. As far as I’m concerned, video game development doesn’t get much better than this.
I await Mass Effect 4 with anticipation.
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Sebastian has been playing games since the age of 8, cutting his teeth with Nintendo and Sega, and now can usually be found dying repeatedly in online FPS’s. Really, he should just quit. Open world RPG’s and grand strategy games also see him lose his sense of reality for several months of the year. You won’t find him on twitter though since he lives in a cave