Well, honestly the title is a little bit of a lie, but just a little bit. I played some of Mass Effect 1 when it was released, which was a long, long time ago, but I never finished it. I had a phantom memory from the end of Mass Effect 2 but nothing else, so it's most likely I briefly saw somebody else play. Thus, I consider my 2023 playthrough to be the first one.
This will be a whole bunch of emotional rambling so don't really expect a well-structured essay. I just have a lot to say about Mass Effect, having played it for the first time in its entirety just now. Mass Effect is an absolute classic, and it's always a little bit scary for me to play a classic for the first time because I have no nostalgia that makes me more lenient or makes me overlook the drawbacks the series might have. You know, when you love something very much and it's been with you for a long period of time, you tend to ignore, even if partially, the downsides of this something and just let things slide. Before I dive in I want to say that overall Mass Effect is great and I am looking forward to whatever the next installment will be.
Spoiler alert! I'll be discussing literally everything: companion quests, main quests, endings, everything, across all three Mass Effect games.
I played the Legendary Edition, so I won't speak for vanilla, and I also made it my own little quest to complete the whole trilogy as an Infiltrator with a sniper rifle with the ideal being not ever switching the sniper rifle to anything else.
If some sentences strike you as familiar — hey, thanks for watching my "Best of 2023" video and\or reading the blogpost! I talked about Mass Effect there, and that whole section was taken from this post that was in development at the time.
Mass Effect 1 is perfect, I love it to bits. The defining feat of Mass Effect, something that only the first game could do, is that it does a great job both explaining the world and the setting and introducing characters. It juggles the scale of the Galaxy and your personal story as commander Shepard astonishingly well. It has a really good introduction sequence, although I have to say, it is rather naive in places, especially when a super-Spectre Nihlus gets shot by Saren 10 minutes in, and also the sheer meme of the Council accepting some obscure voice recording as IRREFUTABLE EVIDENCE. I later learned that the Council is a meme. Still saved Destiny Ascension. Still think I probably shouldn't have...
The first game has a fairly small cast of characters that you grow really attached to, despite the fact that they do not have proper companion questslines; it's just small fetch-type quests that you can complete even if you do not currently have that particular companion in your squad. However, the game has a lot of dialogues, and well-written ones at that, so I'd rush to the Mako garage to talk to them. I also looked forward to elevator rides because those dialogues were priceless — my party of choice was Liara and Wrex, and these two generate some hilarious lines.
Most of the characters have solid progression curves: Liara went a bit fast though, she was romanceable on the second dialogue, and I wasn't ready! Also, one time she dumped a book's worth of asari lore on me, which was an awkward expository dialogue. Honestly, whenever I hear asari lore, my head just starts hurting, I always have more questions than I get answers :D Tali is an awesome companion to talk to, her stories about the Flotilla, the Pilgrimage and the quarian society were always something I really looked forward to. Wrex has the most hilarious and macabre stories. I love Wrex, he is my top-1 character of the whole trilogy, I absolutely adore him. He has a solid character evolution from a krogan merc who I met on the Citadel by accident to our stand-off on Virmire. It was a really tense moment: the whole conflict felt incredibly real, and I was so torn.
Mass Effect 1 also started the tradition of the default companions being so insufferably boring that I couldn't even think of including them into my squad. Kaidan has at least SOME core characteristic — he has an old chip in his brain that might one day glitch, and Ashley... well, Ashley has family stories and racism.
But Garrus! Garrus is an incredibly funny character, and he gets a lot better every sequel. Here he is just a young C-Sec officer who has his own moral code and wants to straight up murder criminals bypassing the bureaucracy of the legal system. He is like an A+ student but with actual murderous intent, the combination that I found incredibly entertaining. He is a greenhorn who thinks everything is just black and white, and even though he doesn't really change all that much during Mass Effect 1, I think his character evolution across the trilogy is amazing.
Not only squad members get writers' tender attention. There are notable characters in Normandy's crew that I loved coming back to: Joker, of course, Dr. Chakwas, who always seemed to be the center of stability and sort of a mentor figure, and Navigator Pressly. Pressly is a fantastic character, particularly notable because just in the span of Mass Effect 1 he managed to achieve something that Ashley Williams couldn't in the whole trilogy: abandon his discriminatory ways, see the value of all crew members regardless of what race they belong to, conquer his fears and make friends. I shed a tear when in ME2 I found his voice recordings where he regretted treating the non-human members of the Normandy crew unfairly just because they were aliens, stating that now that he has known them for some time, he considers them dear friends and would risk his life for them just as he would for any human crew member. Truly, Pressly is a titan of character development in Mass Effect.
Side quests didn't really impress me in terms of the actual gameplay: they were mostly fetch quests or "kill them all" quests that played out in similar bunkers that were just copypasted onto various terrains. The planet exploration also wasn't all that great, driving Mako around to come across something and learn that my decryption is too low. There were some side quests with important setups, like the Cerberus quests and maybe a couple more, but otherwise the side quest scene is completely unexciting.
The main quests however! That's where all the juice is at. The final battle on Feros was tedious but I loved the story. Noveria, Virmire, Ilos — I cherish these memories because they feel like I actually was there saving people and then racing against time. I was completely blown away by the fact that the Citadel is a mass relay, and the Keepers are actually sleeper agents of the Reapers. The revelations on Ilos and that conversation with Sovereign are burned into my heart forever. I loved every minute of it.
Mass Effect 1 is also notable because it shows the tragedy of its antagonists. Didn't you race to Benezia to just kill another villain but instead discovered that she was a powerful and benevolent asari matriarch enslaved by the insidious will of Sovereign? I remember this scene so well, how in just one moment I went from "you're evil and I will defeat you even though you are Liara's mother" to "oh my god, how can I save you, how can I help you?" I felt so sorry for Saren during that last conversation on the Citadel where I used all my Paragon dialogue options and he realized he was indoctrinated but it was too late. Making both Saren and Benezia not just bad by nature but victims in their own right and then slowly unraveling this fact to the player was an incredibly powerful move for setting up Reapers as the main antagonists of the series, and the final battle with Sovereign further strengthened Reapers' position as this incomprehensible existential threat. The main questline in Mass Effect 1 is solid from the start to the very end, and, although it pains me to say so, this is the only game in the whole trilogy where the finale doesn't disappoint and really feels like a logical culmination of all the events that led to that moment.
I completed Mass Effect 1 in accordance with my little challenge: I used exclusively sniper rifles and boy did I murder people by the end of the game. My squad members were Liara and Wrex. Mass Effect 1 has this trademark BioWare charm where Normandy does truly feel like second home. When it comes to games and books — and honestly, stories of any kind, — it has always been really easy for me to immerse myself into them completely, ever since I was a little kid. But as I grew older, fewer and fewer stories triggered this kind of child's immersion that I used to experience. But Mass Effect 1 did that. It was a sweet and forgotten feeling. I was ready to immediately jump into ME2.
To give you an idea of what ME2 looked like for me, here is a list of my major decisions that got transferred into the sequel:
- I romanced Liara;
- Wrex survived our confrontation on Virmire because of course he did;
- Kaidan died on Virmire, and I rescued Ashley. Now, listen, I did that SOLELY because Ashley was leading a squad of salarians and I didn't want all of them to die. RIP Kaidan;
- I saved the Council on Destiny Ascension even though those quacks did not deserve it;
- I supported Anderson as a human representative on the Council because I like Andersen and Udina can go... do sonething else with his life;
- I saved the Rachni Queen on Noveria;
- Captain Kirrahe held the line and survived.
and I also did some other things that I consider to be minor. So, off to Mass Effect 2 I go.
Well, I hated most of Mass Effect 2. The game, is my humble opinion, is hot garbage. After the incredible inspiration that I got from ME, ME2 felt like someone punched me in the face and broke my nose.
Of course, a part of it, in the very beginning, was the setup itself: the Normandy is gone, the crew is gone, Shepard is resurrected by Cerberus and forced to work with them, and we all know that Cerberus is bad. I knew that my aversion was exactly what I was supposed to feel, and I waited for it to just pass after some time, but it honestly never did.
As you can probably imagine, I wasn't terribly happy when I discovered that neither of my chosen companions from ME were available in ME2. Liara has a lukewarm DLC where she is a part of the squad because the DLC requires it, but outside of that mission she is not available. Wrex has turned into a politician and is trying to unite krogan clans on Tuchanka — well, at the very least that makes more sense than Liara being like I dunno Shepard, you've been gone for two years, so much time has passed. For an asari who lives a thousand years. Okay.
In Mass Effect 2 the tradition of the blandest default companions continued with Miranda, a genetically engineered super-manager and Jacob who is probably the most boring character in the whole trilogy. The milk in my fridge goes bad every time he appears on screen. Well, at least Ashley wasn't shoved onto Normandy this time, that would've been the last straw.
In ME2 the whole combat system was seriously overhauled, and I didn't like that. Well, I liked that they were improving certain aspects of it that needed a more modern take, but I didn't like that almost none of it worked properly. Shepard would glue himself to walls when I didn't want him to and unglue himself randomly when I wanted him to stay put; I couldn't jump over an obstacle unless I hid behind it first which was ludicrous, especially when there weren't any enemies. My sniper rifle quest started driving me insane because the middle of the road sniper rifle that I spent the longest time with, was hideously bugged, and the scoped slow motion would or would not trigger unexpectedly and the rifle won't shoot even when fully loaded. Later I got a more powerful rifle, and the problem went away, so thankfully it appears that one weapon was bugged, and not the whole concept. Honestly, ME2 fights were a great pain not only because I was fighting the game too, but also because they were way too long: just waves of identical enemies washing over the room, and as soon as the last wave was cleared, I would go forward but then be pushed back again by another wave that spawned late for some reason.
It would be unfair on my part not to admit the things that got better: levelling system got better, the inventory got way better. Now I did really care about the guns that my squad had because it was not a headache-inducing scrolling through a list of random names with Roman numerals attached to them. I also could customize my armor now which I almost never did but I appreciate the thought. Oh, and I got a fish tank, and a ship model stand, and a space hamster. Almost made me like ME2.
The main problem of ME2 is that it has too many companions, way too many, and almost all of them are astonishingly unlikeable. It's harder for me to explain now because they become more likeable in ME3, and I kind of ended up having warmer memories of them by the end of the trilogy but I won't let it cloud my mind. My main drive in ME games was companions and their personal stories, and ME2 has some of the weakest writing in the whole trilogy when it comes to that.
Companions are reduced to 2-quest checklist: recruitment quests and their personal quests, and this is basically 70% of the game. It is obvious that even the devs didn't really know how to write that many quests for that many new characters because it's just painful to see how weak the new companions' quests are when they are not backed by something established in ME1. You know who has the best quests? Garrus and Tali. They have the best stories, multi-layered quests, additional characters, huge setups, multiple areas. Baby krogan's quest is quite unremarkable but is hugely improved by Wrex's involvement. Mordin's got a lucky card by being entangled in the genophage storyline, which is impossible to ruin because the setup from the ME1 is too solid. All the rest are just whatever. Let's talk about them in a little more detail.
Garrus has a hilarious setup that I cracked immediately, which made it all the more hilarious. I arrive on Omega, and everyone is telling me about this vigilante under the name Archangel who's been serving some justice to the gangs but managed to have antagonized literally everybody. The setup was more enjoyable than the mission itself but seeing a familiar face in this whole mess was priceless, even if for a moment Garrus decided to sacrifice half of it to a random rocket for no apparent reason. His loyalty quest is nothing special though, it's a case of vengeance that I absolutely denied him, he spared Sidonis.
On the opposite, Tali's recruitment is nothing exciting, but her loyalty mission is super cool. We get to visit the Migrant Fleet, talk to the admiralty board, learn more of the quarian society and history, and also about Tali's relationships with her father. I managed to get the best outcome and Tali didn't get exiled and her father's legacy wasn't ruined, that was nice.
Grunt's quest, as I've already said, was made 100 times better by Tuchanka and other krogans, like my bro Wrex or the Shaman. Otherwise it's just an unremarkable arena shooting sequence.
Mordin was the only new character available in early game that was likeable, and that was mostly because of his incredible voice actor. Mordin's story builds heavily on the krogan genophage plot that was set up in ME1, so it felt like an organic progression of that. He was also one of the few characters that I visited between missions and in whose opinion I was genuinely interested.
The second character that saved me from abandoning Mass Effect 2 was Samara. Her recruitment mission was really funny, but it's her character that made her my chosen companion in all the missions. She is a thousand-year-old asari justicar cosplaying a strawberry. Her personal mission is kind of short and confusing — I am really bad at social stealth I guess — but she unloads a whole bunch of ASARI LORE, which is always a very particular sort of experience. Samara is great.
Legion was also a curious character, it's a shame you get him super late, he was one of the few characters I was genuinely interested in.
Thane isn't bad as a character but I found his loyalty mission primitive: it's a whole lot of just stumbling around doing nothing. I enjoyed a few of our conversations, and watching his vivid flashbacks was always interesting, although a little bit unsettling.
I didn't care much for either Jack or Miranda: Jack is mentally an 8 year old child with a cliche super-child backstory, and Miranda is just tiresome. Kasumi and Zaeed, 2 DLC characters, are very isolated and as soon as I finished the DLCs they just sat there on the ship having no additional lines even as we were going on the suicide mission. Kasumi's DLC mission was okay, I don't like social stealth but parts of it were entertaining, but Zaeed's mission is straight up boring, it's the second worst in the whole lineup.
You know who has the worst loyalty mission? Jacob. It's simply embarrassing. It starts off really strong, very much Lord of the Flies-ish but it gets resolved in 10 minutes with the dialogue in the lines of "Dad, how could you do that?" — "Idk son, kinda seemed like a good idea". I'd rather watch paint dry.
About halfway through the whole ordeal I decided that I'd recruit everyone, do everyone's loyalty missions, install all Normandy upgrades because they look suspicious as if we'll engage in space combat at some point, and then just go along the main quest. No wandering about, no side quests. I have to admit that scanning planets and mining them was kind of fun, I had to do quite a bit of that for the upgrades and I didn't find it all that tedious.
The main areas of the game didn't really impress me either: Omega is basically Deponia with attitude and Illium is a more pretentious Omega. Tuchanka is great though, I enjoyed every moment on that pile of radioactive garbage but that's because I just love krogans too much. They are good folk.
While I was doing the last missions before going after the Reaper IFF, I felt like you know, the game kinda grew on me, albeit at this late point. I got some news from the Rachni queen that I saved back in ME1, met the news lady from ME1, got to shoot Conrad in the foot, which might have been the highlight of ME2. It was good and it felt good, but I always thought to myself: I enjoy these things because they were established in ME1. But towards the end my heart kind of melted, and I was like — okay, maybe the game is fine and it just took me unusually long time to see the bright side.
And then I got to the suicide mission, and for a moment there I thought I would flip my desk because of how dumb it was. My squad of choice was Samara and baby krogan. I found it comfortable to go on missions with them, and I was interested in their input as the youngest and oldest members of the team. I couldn't wait to take them on the suicide mission and go through it with them. So we go. I put Tali into the ventilation — this was that phantom memory I had from many years ago: Tali in the ventilation during the suicide mission. I took Grunt, my strawberry justicar and I proceeded to play through the whole mission using my best judgement as to who needs to be doing what. Turns out, the game didn't give a damn about my judgement because there was only one way for me to play this mission if I wanted everyone alive. Just a reminder: I had all the companions, and all of them were loyal.
I thought Miranda was a good pick to lead the second squad, and indeed it turned out to be a good choice — or, rather, a good guess. As we proceed further, we find the survivors from the last Collector attack including Normandy crew members, and I need to pick someone to escort them back to the ship. I reckon it might be a dangerous endeavor, they can get assaulted on their way back to the ship so I need to send someone strong who can protect them. So, I send my trusty boy Garrus. Next on the agenda is choosing who'll maintain the biotic field as we move deeper into the area. Miranda says any biotic could do that (spoiler, she is wrong) and I choose Jack because I haven't interacted much with her during the game, I want to see how she does. And lastly, I need to assign a leader of the distraction team, a role similar to that of Miranda in the first part. Now we are much deeper in all this mess, I figure that the next stage would be probably much more brutal, and I doubt that Miranda will be able to succeed. So, without missing a heartbeat, I choose my super-asari, my strawberry justicar who's been dishing out justice for the past thousand years across the Galaxy and is possibly one of the deadliest creatures out there. I send her, take baby Krogan and someone else from the rest of the team and move out, pretty confident in my decisions.
This all happened on stream, and as I was on my merry way deeper into the Collector base, the chat told me that "Samara doesn't fit the role, she will die". And I was like, "HWAT??" But why? She is possibly the most capable warrior of all, how could she fail in leading a small team to distract the enemy? She probably could smash them all herself.
It was kindly explained to me that she is a justicar who's been leading a solitary life and she's not a team player at all. Then it made even less sense to me, because why would she die if she's a bad leader, someone else should die because of her incorrect orders or something. As I later discovered, she's not the only wrong choice here, you basically have no choice: you must pick either Miranda whether she's loyal or not, or loyal Garrus, who in my case was already chilling on Normandy, or loyal Jacob who's basically furniture, I forgot he was even with us.
So, I load my save file and replay the whole thing again, only this time I pick Miranda as the leader. Alright. GREAT.
I pass the next checkpoint, everyone is alive because of the impeccable leadership and teamplayerness of Miranda, it's all going very smoothly except for me being very mad. Luckily, I don't have to make any more choiceless choices, I need to just select my squad that'll be with me until the end, and the rest of the crew will stay where they are defending the door. Of course, I choose my baby krogan Grunt, and my asari justicar who apparently hasn't picked up any team skills even though she's been with me on every single mission ever since I recruited her. I've been waiting for this the whole game, I bonded with these guys, and I chose them to be with me during these epic moments. Great! Off we go.
There's a bunch of tedious fights that I go through with my super squad. Then there's an unexplainable Human Reaper and I didn't even understand what it did because it didn't hurt me once and I was shredding it with the sniper rifle. As I am nearing the end, the chat goes, "We think Mordin will die defending the door". I wish I could've seen the backflip that my face did that moment. I couldn't even understand what this sentence meant because I wasn't really thinking about Mordin the whole mission. Why him? Why would he suddenly die? I did his loyalty mission, I talked to him more than I did to anyone else, WHY HIM
TURNS OUT that Mordin dies because of the dumb chart where every crew member has an innate value that can be increased if they are loyal. Then you take all the values of all the crewmates that you left to defend the door and calculate the average value. Loyal Zaeed, Garrus and Grunt add most juice to the final value, but I sent Garrus to Normandy and took Grunt with me, so there's only Zaeed at the door. Samara is in the next tier, granting a lower value than the first three but still more than some others, and I also took her with me. So, my average value of all the crew members left to defend the door wasn't great, and if it isn't, they start dying according to a dumb list, and Mordin is the first to go. The only way to save him is to load the game AGAIN and take him with me to the final battle that he will survive. But then Tali is in danger because she's next on the list, so to be on the safe side I need to take both of them into my squad, and that's the only way for everyone to survive. Of course, you could send Mordin to the Normandy, but I definitely wasn't going to load the save file from an hour ago. So, I loaded again, pretty dead inside, took Mordin and Tali and did the tedious stuff again, with the crew members that I did not want in my final battle, just because of some dumb chart that I, with my preferences and good judgement, just couldn't beat. You might say that I cheated by saveloading and I should have faced the consequences of my choices. Nope. Those weren't choices, Those were wild guesses. After all the effort that I put into the team, into earning their loyalty, I refuse to be punished by some obscure BS.
Overall Mass Effect 2 seemed like a clunky setup for Mass Effect 3, full of half-baked concepts and ideas. There were interesting plotlines that didn't lead anywhere: for example, Tali's recruitment mission had to do with the data that showed a young star rapidly aging due to unknown reasons. It was implied that the Reapers were somehow involved but that storyline never bore fruit. The construction of a Human Reaper was utterly bizarre and also was never properly explained, it's like a bunch of writers worked on ME2, each one doing their thing, and then they forgot to tie all these hanging threads.
Here is the list of all my decisions that carried over to ME3:
- All my crew members survived, including the NPC crew;
- I did not romance anyone in ME2 and thus stayed loyal to Liara;
- I saved Maelon's cure, which was another wild guess that I just happened to guess correctly;
- I chose Samara over Morinth;
- I destroyed the Heretic Geth;
- I also destroyed the Collector Base.
I debated whether or not I should even start ME3 after ME2 had pulled every last bit of my soul from my body but then I thought, 'Well, I didn't like ME2 and I don't have to play it anymore'. I took a short break and started Mass Effect 3. This was the only game from the trilogy that I didn't stream because I kind of felt burnt out from streaming ME2, and even though chat tried to help me the best they could, I really wanted the final installment of Mass Effect to be a solo experience.
To my great surprise, BioWare managed to create an interesting default companion for the first time in the whole trilogy: James Vega. Even though I didn't take him with me on many missions, I enjoyed hanging out with him, and his story was also quite decent. James seemed to me like a well-written character with a lot of nuance and a steady character arc throughout the whole game.
In ME3 I had only 6 companions, which positively impacted the quality of their personal stories and interactions with Shepard — and with one another. Liara finally came back so I could enjoy her company once again; Wrex was still on Tuchanka but I had already made my peace with that in ME2. ME3 companion list has a good combination of already familiar characters like Liara, Garrus and Tali — and optionally Ashley or Kaidan — and new characters, like EDI, Vega and Javik, a Prothean who is available through From the Ashes DLC. I liked his hilarious old-man comments like "Amusing. Asari have finally mastered writing" and his generally condescending attitude that fit very well with his whole character. I didn't really take him with me all that often, but I thought his interactions with Liara who spent her whole life studying Protheans and now met one, contributed a lot to both their personal stories. It was a good choice on the writers' part to add a Prothean companion, even though initially it seemed unnecessary to me.
Admittedly, my sniper rifle challenge became harder to execute in ME3 because they finally nerfed sniper rifles. I was wondering if they'd do that because in the first two games sniper rifles just annihilated everyone. I had to use other weapons too, but I still tried my best to rely on the sniper rifles as often as possible. Combat in ME3 evolved a lot since the previous installment and became really enjoyable. Enemy placement was more thoughtful and less wave-like, so every encounter felt like something new and meaningful.
The same can be said about exploration and quests. In Mass Effect 3 pointless wondering around the Galaxy and the inevitable tedium that comes with exploring new places while not really having any exciting context was nearly fully eliminated. Every quest feels like a main quest — because they all kind of are, you're rallying everyone to protect the Galaxy from the impending doom that is Reaper army. It does feel very epic: engaging with conflicts that you've only heard about in the last two games and actually solving them. It's kind of funny in hindsight: you get to solve the quarian-geth conflict in a couple of quests and they've been stuck at war for generations. But Commander Shepard doesn't have time for minor feuds, there is a whole Galaxy to save! Besides, it really does feel like the apocalypse is imminent, and this fact greatly contributes to the overall immersion.
As I've already mentioned, ME3 does make ME2 better in retrospect, at least when it comes to characters. Their clunky setups from the second game get payoffs in the third, and everyone is nicely wrapped in a cute little bow. Jack is now a professor at Hogwarts, Samara, who was already the best part of ME2, has another good quest concerning her remaining daughters, and even Miranda managed to get some friendship points from me even though I couldn't stand her in the previous game.
While all the companions' stories were tied up nicely, the same, unfortunately, cannot be said about the main plot. I think, the idea of an existential threat of some sort being the main antagonist of a story is a great choice. It's not easy to execute, that is why it is a fairly rare device, but when it's done well, it's incredible. Mass Effect 1 left me yearning for more knowledge about the Reapers. I was genuinely terrified of them. What do they want? Why do they repeat the cycle and wipe the Galaxy? Who created them? How on Earth are we going to fight an army of them if it took us so much effort to take down one Sovereign who wasn't really in its best shape?
ME2 didn't really contribute much in terms of answers; multiple times it was said to me that the Reapers and their doings are incomprehensible to tiny human minds — for a while I hoped it meant Shepard and the team but apparently it meant me too. The ending part with the Human Reaper being constructed confused the hell out of me and I expected ME3 to start explaining that, but it never really happened. The brief explanation that Reapers construct new Reapers based on the last purge cycle raised more questions than gave answers because there's been a bunch of cycles, but all Reapers look the same.
In the end, ME3 did give an explanation about the origins of the Reapers and their purpose, and I swear, I'd rather not know. But since I cannot really unhear it, in case you've forgotten or didn't know, there was an ancient AI created a zillion years ago by a very advanced spacefaring race called Leviathans that ruled the Galaxy. This AI was tasked with solving the problem of organics and synthetics killing each other, which already raises a bunch of questions but whatever. Then, as is customary, the AI revolted, slaughtered almost all Leviathans and constructed Reapers in the likeness of Leviathans. But it kept operating according to its initial protocol, "solving" the conflict between organics and synthetics by wiping the Galaxy every 50 thousand years or so. Not a very delicate approach, is it? Somewhat crude. The thing is, I solved this conflict mid-game: the only synthetic race in the current cycle is the geth, and they were in conflict with the quarians. Aaaaand I solved it. They will live happily ever after. And yet, the Reapers are still a threat because their protocol is ancient and could use an update.
It was honestly amazing in a way. The Reapers went from Lovecraftian existential horror to confused bugged software in a matter of hours. I was watching it unravel after being invested into their storyline for three games being like WHOA. It was an utterly cathartic experience, the only way I can describe it. It was SO anticlimactic, the disparity between the setup, the suspense and the expectations, and the revelation was SO wild that in its own way it was beautiful. While I cannot really imagine the worse way of treating the whole Reaper lore than what ended up being canon, I cannot deny the entertainment I got out of it. It was amazing :D
I didn't like a single ending because none made even a modicum of sense, so I went with the green one as the most acceptable out of the bunch. I got cyberkrogans! I have to admit that I quite liked the post-credit scene that occurs if you choose to walk away; Liara's recording telling the next cycle that we failed to stop the Reapers but maybe they'll be able to, was bone-chilling.
I liked Mass Effect 3; it completed the story in quite a convoluted way and many things either didn't make sense to me at all or prompted a dozen of questions with no answers but honestly? I was so invested into the characters and the fate of the Galaxy; I didn't really care that much about Reapers being the dumbest AI in history. I cared about the geth and quarians, I cared about krogans and the cure for the genophage, I cared about my romance with Liara, and that was plenty.
So here are the most important decisions:
- I had EMS of more than 3100 which means I had access to all the endings;
- Both Wrex and Eve are alive, and the krogan are cured of genophage. Considering that Eve's life depended solely on a wild guess from Mass Effect 2, I was glad that I am generally a proponent of preserving any form of knowledge;
- Virmire survivor, in my case Ashley, survived yet again, but I sent her to Heckett;
- Samara survived because she's my favorite strawberry justicar;
- The Quarians and the Geth are at peace. I bet the Reapers never thought of the possibility;
- I chose Synthesis.
Mass Effect is incredible in its moments, but not necessarily as a whole. When I think about it as a continuous indivisible experience, I think about how the structure of the story started falling apart mid-ME2, how the Reapers turned out to be a crude AI unable to even detect if the problem it was meant to solve was present at all, about how the remnants of what could've been remain forever trapped in Tali's recruitment quest from ME2. As far as I know, the plotline about rapidly aging stars was meant to be a big part of the story and of the Reaper's lore, but the development process of Mass Effect was troubled in some aspects, and unfortunately one of those aspects was writing. I think about the combat system that was okay in the first game, although the equipment was super boring, then it evolved in the second game but was clunky and unwieldy. However, when I think about the greatest adventures I had in Mass Effect, I don't even know where to start. The memory of talking to Sovereign for the first time still sends chills down my spine. The mission where I rescued Liara, so naive and sweet then. When I first met Wrex. Even though I didn't like ME2, it doesn't mean I don't have pleasant memories from the time I played it: the whole Garrus reveal was utterly hilarious; Reaper IFF mission was great; the introduction of Tuchanka and Krogan clans was one of the brightest highlights, as was travelling to Migrant Fleet. The collective sum of these moments — and many others — is far greater to me than the overall cohesion of the Mass Effect story. The worldbuilding and lore of the Galaxy turned out to be more important to me, and I felt like I was really living in this setting among these unique races. It was a great feeling.
I'd be amiss not to mention Commander Shepard specifically: he — or she, I played as a guy — is a unique hybrid protagonist. On one hand, Shepard is a clean slate with some minimal biography that you can set up for him in ME1 and then develop his character however you like. On the other hand, everybody knows who Commander Shepard is. I found him to be this unique mix of a character who has their own story with the world and established relationships prior to the start of the game and just a default no-name RPG protagonist that you develop from scratch. I found it very interesting that even though technically you do shape Shepard's character by your decisions, the Commander never loses integrity, and at his core he is still this iconic character that everyone recognizes, whether Paragon or Renegade. I enjoyed playing as Shepard a lot.
Part of the reason why I decided to play the Trilogy in the first place, was one of my good friends — it's his favorite game. He replays it regularly, and he told me that once I've played it, I'll be forever stuck in the Mass Effect Replay loop. I said, 'Nah, I don't replay games'. But lately I've been thinking about it more and more often, especially while writing this post. Despite its many drawbacks, this game has become very dear to my heart, and I am not at all opposed to the thought of going back and replaying it, reliving the adventures once again. My friend was right: it's impossible to resist the pull of Mass Effect.
Thank you very much for your time. There was a temptation to sugarcoat some aspects of this opinion piece, considering how Mass Effect is one of the most beloved gaming classics, and how much I don't like when people yell at me, but then I thought meh. There is no point in having a blog, or a channel, or anything really, for expressing your opinion, if you're going to lie about it, is there.
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