Mass Effect

I know… Mass Effect is an ancient game (2007). But I’m playing it and loving the detail on these planets.

I wanted to mention this video game in relation to Stainless Steel Droppings’ Science Fiction Experience that was running a while back.

First, a tiny bit about the game. This game world surprised me. The Hubs has been playing these games (there are three in the series) since they’ve been released. But they’ve just been one of “Duncan’s video games”. My video game background is obviously a lot slower, and I thought there would be a few folks more my speed who might appreciate a quick intro to the Mass Effect universe.

If he’d have said to me ages ago, oh, this game is much like the 1986 StarFlight for the Radio Shack Tandy, I’d have been all over Mass Effect in a much more timely manner.

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There’s a first person shooter aspect to the game, but “casual” level renders that down to a minor inconvenience, allowing me to get to the good bits, namely, the story, the aliens, the planets.

So, on to the planets and the Science Fiction experience.

In the story, you are tasked with duties that take you to other planets. Your character, Shepard, and his/her team must explore these planets in order to uncover sinister truths, deep galactic past, and cool stuff like crashed probes.

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The art of the game stunned me. They’ve gone and mapped all these worlds, given every one of them unique astrophysical characteristics. Paula, I’m thinking you’d have fun reading these descriptions. Heh!

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And the aliens rock. They’re ugly, weird, short, huge, gas-breathers, or maybe even possess ethereal beauty.

As if the extensively mapped, fully explorable planets plus the detailed background and interactions of the alien races weren’t enough, the story is immersive, asking me to make decisions that will affect the outcome of the rest of the game. The story is *expansive* and just doesn’t quit.

Anyway, I found myself totally immersed in the experience of the fiction of science, something I haven’t really found outside a select few space opera books. I guess we kind of become numbed to the sense of awe that science fiction can bring when we fixate on it, but playing this game, and especially playing with the beautiful galaxy maps, looking at the stars twinkling behind these fictional planetary systems, triggered for me that science fiction wonder: …what if…? …what’s out there? …how would life develop under those planetary and ecological conditions?

In 1986, we were holding down the arrow keys to maneuver an 8-bit space rover against a 16-color backdrop, knowing, dreaming, that there must be extra-solar planets out there. In 2007, the graphics and sound are exponentially better, and we had identified a few exoplanets, the first confirmed 12 years prior in 1995.

Now, we’ve been able to determine that there are more than 100 billion planets in the Milky Way.
And at least one is earth-like and a candidate for extra-solar life. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/KOI-172.02

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11 thoughts on “Mass Effect

  1. I recently played ME for the first time as well. I loved it so much that I bought the next two. Unfortunately I’m not enjoying ME2 quite as much and with my broken arm, gaming is goig to take awhile to get back into!

  2. I was late to the party on this series as well – I played through ME2 first (because the first isn’t available on my PS3); picked ME1 up for cheap in a steam sale a while back, but i’m not much of an action gamer on the PC,so progress is slow. ME3 is sitting, still in shrinkwrap, on my shelf waiting its turn. One day I’ll get sick of Skyrim…maybe.

    The depth of description and the story and worldbuilding is pretty great overall, as is the fact that your choices really do impact how things turn out – plus, I love that everybody’s experience is different, because every player has “their” Shepard upon which they apply their own personal motivations and aspirations (mine’s FemShep, not too far off from stock – Jennifer Hale’s voice work is excellent) – you get invested in your Shep and his/her adventures.

    Also – not every game has very “alien” aliens singing Gilbert and Sullivan!

    • Yes, the aliens are wild. I love most the art in this game. That’s a seller for me. I *hate* those Japanese games where the characters are all eleven year olds. ::soapbox avoided::

      I play it on Xbox, I don’t know of I could sit and play it on the PC.

      • I’m growing a little tired of JRPGs – the tropes are all a bit stale, and the youthful characters a bit spastic for my old fogie tastes. Though I’ll never quite give up my devotion to several of the Final Fantasy installments – I loved X, with it’s whole tragic road movie plot. Some of that appreciation probably comes from the fact that it was my first “modern” gaming experience after being out of consoles for all the years between the original NES and when I bought a PS2.

  3. I wrote a post about Mass Effect a few weeks back, gushing about how much I love the way in which you can get immersed in this world. The graphics get better with each game and I think the story and gameplay gets better with each one as well. There are differing opinions on that, this is merely my opinion. I am nearly finished with Mass Effect 3 and I am not looking forward to the day where there are no more adventures to be had aboard the Normandy with this crew. That will be a sad, sad day.

    I’m glad you finally decided to discover for yourself just how cool these games are. Enjoy!!!

    • Well, what made me think of your SF Experience thing was, well, this experience again of wonderment at science fiction. I’m generally an ass and am very stuck in the camp of “If it’s not a book it’s garbage” so when I found myself enthralled by the galaxy map, I thought… Ah. This is what Mr. Stainless Steel meant by that SF Experience thingbob.

      p.s. I FOUND TREASURE! The first three Stainless Steel (very short!) novels by Harry Harrison at the used bookstore, they’re the european editions. This place charges 1/2 off the cover, and the fellow didn’t quite know what to do with AUS 1.00c. He tells me “ah… I’m just gonna put fifty cent.” Ok!, thanks.

  4. It sounds like you’re having fun – not to mention snagging goodies – fifty cents! I bet you paid and got out of there as quickly as you could! Whenever I see a book in a used shop I almost snatch it off the shelf as though somebody might just get to it before me – then look round all pleased and yet guilty at the same time, as though I’ve found a real treasure. Very silly I am sometimes.
    Lynn :D

  5. Mass Effect 2 is stunning but the story doesn’t grip me. I appreciate the fact that the aliens genuinely do look and feel alien though. I think I’ll try and complete Mass Effect 2 over the Easter weekend. It has been a year since I started playing it but whenever I turn my computer on I’d rather write and watch Japanese films/TV… It’s the same thing with Skyrim. Gorgeous setting, interesting world that has been built up but eventually the story falls flat and I have to make myself complete them.

    Also, I’m playing a Japanese games where some of the characters look like eleven year olds. Etrian Odyssey. Bloody hard. Even the butterflies and moles are merciless killers. Not all JRPG’s have protags like that. You could try Nier and Lost Odyssey. Very underrated and probably cheap to pick up at this point. Lightning will be returning in another Final Fantasy as well.

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