Mass Effect Review

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WADE MANNS – The Corsair

By Electronic Arts and BioWare

Genre: Epic Role-playing

In the near future of the story of the human race, a strange weapons cache is discovered on Mars, one whose weapons employ a bizarre new technology involving accelerating the molecules in ordnance to very fast speeds via lowering their mass. This technology was soon to be called mass effect, and was reverse-engineered into all aspects of life, from space travel to evoking the latent abilities of so-called biotics (those exposed from the womb to a substance known as element zero, the catalyst for mass effect).

All this, however, is deep ancient history to the events of these epic RPGs, which will see a third and final installment this fall.

Commander Shepard, in the Alliance Navy, is assigned by the Citadel Council (named after the most important artifact left behind by the Protheans, the progenitor race; the Citadel is a massive space station, basically) to investigate the decimation of Eden Prime, an important colony world, and recover an ancient beacon. This does not go well, as the Spectre (one of an elite group of special operatives selected by the Council) previously assigned to the task, Saren, goes rogue, killing a fellow turian Naval officer scout, and boards a strange, living ship, effectively defecting from the Council and from galactic society.

Saren’s aims now seem to be aligned with that of the Reapers, a race of sentient ships who are involved in the most vicious cycle the galaxy has ever seen; every 50,000 years, it is wiped clean of all life and allowed to start all over, apparently simply to feed the Reapers’ voracious appetites. The Reapers also have the power to enslave the minds of those they feel that they can use, and have done so to Saren. They’ve also re-awakened the dormant machine race known as the geth, created then discarded by the mysterious quarians, and repurposed them for the accomplishment of their grisly goal.

In this and the second (and the third as well), the overarching goal is to save humanity (and all other races, preferably) from the Reapers. Though there is a major story arc, you are left to pretty much explore the galaxy as you see fit aboard the starship Normandy, except for a few points at which the story is forced to continue.

The second game, in particular, focuses on gaining followers for your assault on the home region of another pawn race of the Reapers, the Collectors, who join the geth in helping to decimate the galaxy. Shepard is recruited by the terrorist organization Cerberus, who through their leader, the Illusive Man, reveal their human-centric attitudes and outlook. The Illusive Man orders Shepard to recruit followers old and new, and gain their loyalty to more effectively use them for the battle ahead. But it’s up to you whether you do, or don’t right away; the galaxy is again opened to you, allowing you to explore as you wish.

A unique feature across all the games is the ability to import completed game save files from the previous game in the set, which is why I describe this series as Epic; many decisions you make in the first game have a direct impact on the story of the second, and both games will affect the third similarly. I won’t spoil things, but you’ll be surprised at the effects some things you do will have later.

A wonderful series and an excellent sci-fi tale, this will keep you busy for a very, very long time. I give the first and second games five stars; the third will no doubt be excellent as well!