Monday, May 18, 2015

Review: The Mass Effect Trilogy

Every once in awhile, you come across a game so incredibly unique and amazing that it completely alters what you expect from video games. For me, Mass Effect is one such game.

Over the weekend, I finally finished playing the Mass Effect trilogy (my first play through) on my Playstation 3. I started with the 1st game, Mass Effect (2007), played that through a good four times, then played it's second installment [Mass Effect 2 (2010)], I played a good 3 times through, and then I finished the experience by playing that third and last installment, Mass Effect 3 (2012). I still have at least two more play-throughs on the third game, too. However, for now, as you can tell by those release dates, I am way late to this party. Probably because I didn't buy a PS3 until late 2011 anyway. Eh, whatever, my loss.

As they say, better late than never.

A short summary for the un-indoctrinated, Mass Effect is a third-person shooter that takes place in a Sci-fi future where space travel across the galaxy is possible, and humanity is one of many races. There is also a sort of "magic" element called element zero that allows Star-Wars-Force type abilities, tech abilities, and the game also allows the main character to make unique choices that drastically alter the game across all three installments, leading to over 1000 different possible outcomes so the same game can never be played twice. If I haven't caught your attention yet, read on.

In order to explain how and why Mass Effect is such an incredible game, I'll first have to explain what is defined, by me, as incredible. Shortly, incredible is a thing which either exceeds or subverts my expectations, leading to either a gained experience or knowledge that creates its own unique "shelf" in my head, thus becoming unforgettable. Incredible is unforgettable. There. I guess that's the short part, actually.

Every media source has its own area of expertise. Books tell the largest, longest, and deepest stories. By their shear length, no other media can compete with their level of depth. On the other hand, movies and pictures provide a wonderful experience for the eye, sucking the viewer in communicating things across language barriers. Pictures and movies can make people feel things without uttering one single sound, over several things using sound for movies. Games have the unique talent of challenging and engaging our minds like no movie, picture, or book ever could. They are puzzles to be solved, and I love them for that.

Mass Effect is a game that successfully combines the best all three of these elements, and for me, one of the first to do so.

Mass Effect is a book: It has a lush background and detailed world filled with full, three dimensional characters that tug at your heart strings as they go through trials and tribulations. You can explore a world with more history, knowledge, and backing than some books I've read. Everything has a purpose, a use, a history, and even a scientific explanation for why such a thing exists. It's amazing the level of detail that was put into this thing! I can hardly fathom the amount of work it must have taken, and it shows!

Mass Effect is a move: Stunning scenes and landscapes everywhere one looks with characters that twitch and move as if real, so much so that they can communicate their emotions and expressions without dialogue, sometimes through body language alone. The music is seamless, and the feeling of tensions ramps up at particular moments as the steaks continue to rise and the whole galaxy becomes threatened.

Mass Effect is a game: A true game, where you don't just aim and shoot but also have to unlock puzzles to access new areas, send your resources wisely, account for your actions and those of your allies in combat, and also have to politically out-move entire civilizations and colossal organizations in order to achieve the desired out come . . . or don't, and suffer the consequences! Unlike other games, no "Game Over" stops you from making the wrong move here. Besides your own character's death, you could literally royally screw yourself over and lose the game by your own standards at the end of the day just before the credits roll.

Simply put, incredible. The Mass Effect Trilogy has completely revamped what I've come to expect from video games.

Pardon me now, I have to go play it again!

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