Disclaimer: This post won’t be about law school, voice acting, or missing a country with sunshine. If you’re not interested in cutting-edge interactive science fiction entertainment, feel free to come back next time.
If you DO enjoy cutting-edge interactive science fiction entertainment, be warned! This post contains ALL THE SPOILERS for Mass Effect 1 and 2.
I appear to have started something.
The original Mass Effect was one of the games that broke my resolve to buy an X-Box, back when it was an exclusive title. A sparkling vision of humanity joining the galactic community accompanied by stirring themes and moral choices, I devoured the title with an obsessive completionist fervor, sleeping at night to the haunting theme song “Vigil“. My female protagonist Antigone Shepard, a “FemShep”, righted wrongs and saved entire species with determination and patience. I completed the first game and started the second, but only reached about the halfway mark.
Several years and a switch to PS3 gaming later, my darling Alasdair treated me to the trilogy boxed set for Christmas as a way to relax between terms. Because the decisions in earlier games have cascading stacked effects in their sequels, I decided to start a new complete play-through so I could import the saves as I went along.
And I thought what the heck, I might as well tweet along as I played. Then a dozen of us were chatting about decisions we’d made and memories, predictions and impressions. The #FemShepsUnited hashtag was born, and more people since have “blamed” me for taking up the controller or mouse once again to save the galaxy. Next stop: multiplayer team-ups for Galactic Readiness points!
It’s been interesting to compare the choices I made with this play-through and the first. I had a freer hand choosing a romantic interest, for one, letting Antigone be charmed by Kaidan Alenko’s quiet humor and difficult past. I found the youth and fragility of my previous flame, the Asari Liara, unappealing. The rest of my decisions were unaffected, however, and I maxed my Paragon score as quickly as I could. In fact of all my playing so far there’s only ONE decision I regret, the death of Jeong in the ExoGeni bunker on Feros because my score wasn’t high enough to talk him down.
A few days ago I finished Mass Effect 2, and had a serious debate with myself whether or not I should continue on to the third game. Christmas break is over, and the emotional payload is starting to ramp up seriously. The galaxy is facing genocide. I’m positive that despite my Paragon riddled actions, galactic war means casualties I won’t be able to prevent no matter how many times I reload. (I know you did your best Thane, but I should have gone with Jack from the start. Grunt dying to a seeker swarm wasn’t acceptable, and that’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back. Now go back to calling me your angel before Kaidan gets over himself for being such a brat on Horizon.)
I’ve decided to continue, for a couple of reasons. First off, I LOVE THESE GAMES. I would miss them. I can’t see another game taking the carefully hoarded 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. timeslot. The music is sweeping and evocative. The graphics and engine received a major upgrade which renders the already sweeping vistas breathtaking. I’m driven – nay, obsessed! – with finding out how all the small decisions I’ve made over the last two games will come to fruition. I love the company and commentary I’ve garnered on Twitter as I share my reactions to key plot reveals.
Most importantly, I need to develop a better relationship with relaxation. I don’t give myself enough enjoyable downtime during the term. Sleep is not downtime, and playing a game with such leeway and scope is like ticking little boxes of accomplishment. “I think I’ll scan planets tonight! Hurray!”
Taking a break until summer will cause all the crisp, sharp detail to fade, and I don’t want to miss a single thread in this complex tapestry I’ve been weaving. Even though it will hurt. Even though I KNOW I’m going to stay up too late some nights, and go to bed crying. That’s what a good story does, it makes you feel and ache and I don’t want to miss it. These characters deserve my emotional reactions.
Last night while the DLC was … DLing? … I wrote out a list of predictions I have for the third game based on my choices in the second.
- Shepard starts the third game on earth, in jail or disgraced for the choices she “made” in “Arrival”. (Seriously, this was the worst piece of DLC I’ve EVER seen from BioWare. It was CLEARLY rushed to market to bridge the gap between 2 and 3.)
- Joker and EDI’s relationship will continue to develop, and there will be more commentary on her as an AI
- The Asari and Turian homeworlds will be visited, adding to the Quarian Fleet and Tuchanka in ME2.
- War will be avoided between the Geth and the Quarians. Legion and Tali will play a key role in reclaiming the homeworld.
- Cerberus will be out for Shepard, somewhere on the spectrum between passive trip-ups to a full-scale Galactic coup. Probably involving Udina, that schmuck.
- The annoying Mr. Conrad Verneer will make some final, hopefully redeeming and epic appearance.
- Khalisah al-Jilani returns for a third punching opportunity.
- The following Citadel characters return: Mouse, Captain Bailey, the Consort, and Chloe the doctor.
- Former party members deaths that cannot be avoided: Wrex, Mordin, and Thane. Their stories have been told, and their natures are such to give their lives for the cause.
My final prediction? Shepard may win the war but lose the battle, committing the ultimate sacrifice to save a galaxy reunited with purpose and resolve.
I couldn’t think of a better legacy.