Mass Effect Andromeda is out next year and although we have no real information about the gameplay or story, it doesn’t mean we can’t get excited. Me, I’m overwhelmingly jolly about the prospect of playing another Mass Effect game, especially on the current gen. BioWare can make a great RPG – hell, they’ve made loads of them already. Dragon Age: Inquisition and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic are prime examples of their handiwork, but in terms of fantastic gameplay and engrossing worlds to explore, Mass Effect owns it. To celebrate my love of the series, I wanted to write about why these science fiction masterpieces stole my heart and made me judge every other game to be released since by their enormously high standards.
About three years ago, I decided to buy and play through the Mass Effect trilogy in its entirety. For one reason or another, I’d never managed to find the time to do so, and with me being a bit of a science fiction enthusiast, I felt like I was doing the games a great injustice by not playing them. I’d heard all about how much the fans had lambasted its devastatingly cruel ending and why it was considered a huge slap in the chops, but I wasn’t deterred. I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. BioWare are the team behind some of the greatest RPGs in existence and I couldn’t see why a much-revered trilogy could be shunned by an entire audience of gamers because of a bad finale.
In January 2013, I turned my Xbox 360 on and boarded the Normandy for the first time. As I immersed myself in its stories and its galaxies, I fell in love with Mass Effect and I knew that I would never experience anything else like it again. The ending of Mass Effect 3 bothered me for a while, but not as much as it did other people. For me, it was about the man I’d become along the way and how I managed to overcome all the death and destruction. I had watched those closest to me die because I’d failed to protect them, my home world get decimated by the Reapers and my own ship blow up right before my eyes, but I carried on.
I won’t ruin the end, just in case you’ve yet to play it and intend to before Mass Effect: Andromeda comes out, but I do want to share a little story with you, so maybe skip this paragraph to be safe. One of the most shocking and upsetting moments in my time playing video games came towards the end of Mass Effect 2. Throughout the game, you are given the option to fortify your ship, build it up and advance its weaponry, but it never makes it something you definitely need to do. In many games I play, this is something I almost never really indulge in. It presented itself as an optional task – one that certainly wouldn’t impact the story. Sadly this wasn’t the case. I watched most of my crew die. Jack, Legion, Tali and Thane all succumbed to the onslaught of the Collectors. Each death was like a knife to the heart, but none more so than the death of my best friend: Garrus Vakarian. He had been with me since the beginning, and when he was shot down trying to protect me and my team, it was very hard to take. As sad as it was, watching it unfold opened my eyes to decision-based storytelling and how well it can be done. I will always remember how incredible Bioware were in making me feel that way. It was storytelling at its finest, and to feel that strongly about the outcome of a video game is a true testament to its great development.
Yes, the story is phenomenal, but the gameplay is just as good, especially in the heat of battle. Throughout Mass Effect, you always feel like survival is within your grasp and one wrong move could jeopardise everything. Whether fighting Saren in the first game or fighting in the broken streets of a futuristic city in number 3, you are always moments away from death. The combat grew as the series went on, obviously moving from seldom gunfights to all-out warfare, but whether you’re fighting a Banshee or a horde of Husk, the combat is exhilarating and intelligent. The threat of extinction adds to the thrill of playing and these moments of gameplay are when Mass Effect is at its best.
With all the frantic fights and fast-paced action, having the chance to quietly meander around your ship and talk to your crew helps to form the bonds you’d potentially end up breaking, but it’s in these solemn moments that Mass Effect shows its more sentimental side. I used to like engaging with Garrus about nonsensical topics because I could, not because I needed to. These people were my friends and I enjoyed getting to know them.
That’s the thing about Mass Effect: you don’t play it, you live it. In the couple of months it took to finish the three games, I fell in love with everything. The story, the universe, the characters and the music – everything. The Mass Effect trilogy is the greatest trilogy I have ever played and by far the greatest science fiction story I’ve ever been lucky enough to play through. There is very little information swanning about the internet regarding Mass Effect: Andromeda. After its glorious first trailer reveal at E3 2015, we haven’t heard a great deal. Does that matter? Not at all. BioWare has kept quiet, but with their track record, I feel confident that Mass Effect: Andromeda will blow our tiny minds. We know the Mako buggy is back, as is the N7 logo, meaning there will be nods to the previous trilogy, but it will be refreshing to get a completely new story. I’m happy to never revisit Shepard and the crew of the Normandy because those deep cuts have left their scars on my mind. Getting the chance to see BioWare’s vast universe through new eyes will be a welcoming vision.
Only time will tell, but if the new entry into the Mass Effect franchise is half as good as what we’ve played so far, I’m confident that Mass Effect: Andromeda will be one of the best games of 2017.