Released in 2008 by Bioware, Mass Effect was the first in a trilogy that would leave a mark on action RPGs. Set in 2183, the game has players take the role of Commander Shepard in a mission to save the galaxy from rogue agent Saren, who betrayed the Council to work with the machine race of the Geth. Onboard the spaceship Normandy, Shepard will travel around the galaxy with a tight-knit team to find Saren and defeat him before time runs out.
In Mass Effect diversity offers multiple options
The universe of Mass Effect is full of different aliens species. The major political institution, the Citadel Council, is wary of humans, considered too young and brash. When the task of stopping Saren is given to Shepard, a human, the response is unenthusiastic at best. The Normandy, a human stealth ship designed with the alien Turians, holds a mixed crew of humans and aliens. As some officers are distrustful of extraterrestrials, the mission is a lesson in tolerance. In stark contrast to the Geth, the machine collective opposed to the players, each member of the team is different. From the disillusioned policeman to the gruff warlord, everyone brings something to the table. Through cooperation, they employ the best skill for the task, creating a group similar to Star Trek’s cast. Going beyond stereotypes, the crew learns that through combining their differences they can be stronger than any foe.
The players’ journey
Mass Effect allows for a variety of choices. For instance, the main character Shepard can be customized completely, from physical appearance to personality. As commanders of the Normandy, players are free to roam the galaxy, choosing to play the missions in the order they prefer. In addition, players can tailor each character to their style, building up powers and abilities. Diversity of equipment and skills offer tactical advantages during combat. In typical Bioware fashion, the story is approachable from multiple angles and quests and missions offer multiple resolutions. For example, some fights can be avoided with the right choice of words. Moreover, additional routes can be unlocked by digging for clues. The game doesn’t shy away from hard moments and asks players to make difficult decisions. Furthermore, the game uses a karma system to track the players’ choices, giving them a reputation based on their actions.
Exploring space in style
Mass Effect is a love letter to classic sci-fi. It uses a lot of stylistic choices and cues familiar to the genre. For example, the soundtrack employs electronic instruments only, creating a synth atmosphere reminiscent of the 70s and 80s sci-fi. The game takes inspiration from movies like Alien or Starship Troopers, never plagiarizing but giving homage in its own way. Mass Effect is a space epic. The sleek style of the starships, the shots of alien vistas give players a feeling of awe. Each planet is unique, providing players with diverse environments and settings.
The future is closer than ever
Mass Effect was a hit thanks to its characters and gameplay. Bioware fused its classic character tropes with shooter gameplay, moving away from traditional turn-based combat. The game helped the spread of roleplaying mechanics in pure action games, like Horizon Zero Dawn. Envisioned as a trilogy, Mass Effect spawned two massively successful sequels, in 2010 and 2012 respectively. In addition, the universe also boasts numerous books and comics expanding the narrative.
In 2017 a spin-off game, Mass Effect Andromeda, launched on all major platforms. The Mass Effect Legendary Edition, a remaster of the original trilogy, was released in 2021. Moreover, Bioware is still believing in the universe. They have announced a fourth main title, though much of it is still left in the shadows. Even now, Mass Effect‘s vibrant characters are still in the mind of many players, who populate dedicated social spaces and produce fan content.