On #TheDopeness, we look back on specific things within the worlds of gaming, hip hop, and pop culture and discuss why they’re special to us. On this installment, we share our experiences with Mass Effect and why we think it’s great.
Tony Polanco – Executive Editor
The idea of going into space and exploring new worlds and new cultures always fascinated me. This is why I love Star Trek so much. Playing games set in space always frustrated me however. For the most part, you go to alien worlds and just kill everything that moves. I could never really take the time to explore the planets and talk to the various species since it was all about the pew-pew-pew.
Then Bioware dropped Mass Effect unto the world. It’s almost as if they had a secret meeting and were like: “Hey, you know that space game Tony’s always wanted? Let’s make that!” I heart these guys.
Being a PlayStation 3 owner, it was torture to see Mass Effect be an Xbox 360/PC exclusive. I saw the videos and was in agony. It looked so amazing but I wasn’t able to get my mitts on it! You can imagine my joy when it was announced that Mass Effect 2 would be coming to Sonyland. Mass Effect on PlayStation, YES! Problem was that I wasn’t about to dive into this series without having played the first game so I sucked up my pride and borrowed a friend’s 360 along with his copy of Mass Effect. My life as a gamer would never be the same.
Mass Effect is full of exotic worlds but I didn’t see any of them until six hours after I booted up the game. Why? The Citadel–the game’s first location after the intro–had me transfixed. Here I was, in the heart of an alien United Nations and I could talk to EVERYONE. You have to understand how much of a revelation this was for me. The intro, while fantastic, was the same old “kill anything that moves” which I’ve done in plenty of other games. In the Citadel? I could walk up to anyone and find out more about them and their species. Fucking. Incredible. I talked to everyone and everything I could until I completely exhausted all dialogue options. I hadn’t even gotten to the REALLY good stuff and I was blown away.
Then of course the game gives me what I’ve always wanted. “Hey, you’re the commander of this mission now. Here’s a space ship, go wherever you want.” ARE YOU SERIOUS? I’ve always loved it when I got to the part in an RPG where I was given a ship to fly to wherever I wished. This always happened at the final parts of a game however. In Mass Effect they gave you a ship and an entire galaxy to poke explore just hours in. I remember looking at the map and mentally salivating over the possibilities. THIS was the Star Trek game I’ve always wanted and it only got better from there.
Now this isn’t a review so I won’t go into super details. I’m sure most of you have already played this game. If not, shame on you and all your kin. But man, did this game continue to build upon itself. I could follow the story path and just hit the main planets or I could go off the beaten path and go to all sorts of other worlds. Yes, the Mako was a horrible vehicle to drive but it allowed you to go anywhere you wanted. Exploring certain planets was dangerous which made it all the more exhilarating because you may not survive certain encounters. Did I mention the game was super tough?
I remember gorging on all of the codexes. I mean, I do this in games with codex entries already but this wasn’t fantasy (not exactly my forte) but sci-fi and I ate it all up. Combine the deep lore with the rich characters and I felt like I was in this world and not just a passive observer. Every decision I made felt like it had a profound impact and I would have to stop sometimes because I wasn’t sure what I should do. Do I kill the Rachni Queen or let her live? What do I do about these deranged colonists? Ashley, why did you kill Wrex when I was trying to calm his ass down? Games have made me feel like a part of their world before this but Mass Effect took it to a whole other level. I also had sex with a hot blue alien girl which is yet another fantasy fulfilled. What?
I could write more paragraphs about my love of Mass Effect but I’m not trying to keep you here all day. Now yes, the actual gameplay of the title left a lot to be desired (what was up with that funky inventory system?) but the overall package gave me something that I had only dreamed about up until that point. Even when I replayed the game when it eventually came to the PlayStation 3, I still loved it. In some ways, this was the best Mass Effect since it did so many innovative things and brought me something I longed for. It isn’t my favorite (that honor goes to Mass Effect 2) but Mass Effect definitely made a big difference in my gamer life.
Tatjana Vejnovic – Operations Manager
As a kid, I was always fascinated with space. I had cut out little planets and taped them to my ceiling, bought all the books I could with as many space pictures possible, and watched the reruns of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on PBS. To this day, nothing has changed. I have now played through the first Mass Effect thirteen times, the second one sixteen times, and the third about ten times. I have every single Mass Effect graphic novel and book made to date. I have Paragon and Renegade stud earrings, five Dark Horse figures, and a poster of Liara from the graphic novels signed by the artist.
I’m sorry, what was that? You think I’m obsessed with Mass Effect?
You’re right. Damn straight I’m obsessed with Mass Effect.
I want you to close your eyes—wait, no, don’t do that—I want you to clear your mind, and focus on the words you’re about to read:
You’re about fifteen or twenty years older than you are today. NASA has finally received enough funding and done enough research to send a group of civilians and astrophysicists alike to outer space. You went through a series of interviews, and both mental and physical stress tests to prove that you are someone that can be sent to space. The day has finally come for you to say goodbye to your family and loved ones, and make the journey to space. You are now a part of a team sent out into the last frontier to find a new home for us humans on Earth.
You take off in a large space ship, and are traveling through our solar system, and eventually out of ours, and into another. You’ve been traveling for several years now, communicating with Earth via recorded messages, and photos. You begin to wonder if any of this is worth it, and if your mission will even be remotely successful after all this time and hard work.
You see something on the radar, and you decide to go to the window and get a closer look. You pull yourself up to the window, holding onto the bars (that you hold onto to prevent from floating away) with a tight grip, making your knuckles white. Your jaw drops, and chills run down your spine. Outside is a planet. A planet you’ve never seen before and you can see civilization. Bright lights. Bodies of water. You have finally found the first sign of an outside civilization.
Now, if you can’t tell me feeling that for real isn’t on the top of your priority list, maybe you’re not as in love with space as you thought you were. All my life, that feeling, that moment, is something I’ve dreamed of. When Bioware created Mass Effect, they gave you the opportunity to feel that in the comfort of your own home.
I will admit, I was a late bloomer to the Mass Effect series. My ex-boyfriend had given me his Xbox 360 when we moved in together. I asked my boss, Erin, what game I should play for the 360. He immediately said Mass Effect. The next day, he came to work with the first two titles in hand for me to borrow. What Erin didn’t know, is he opened a door of endless possibilities for me.
The year 2010 was a dark place for me. My depression was at an all-time high, and my anxiety began to develop on levels I hadn’t experienced before. My mother and peers kept telling me to go see a doctor, and go to a therapist. I was a college kid working a retail job, and those things were way out of my budget. Instead, I came home from work every day to play Mass Effect. I played it so much, my roommate Bernard referred to my 360 as my “Mass Effect machine.” Good name for it, because that’s still what it is. After I played through the first two titles (the third was still far from being released), I felt happy. I felt like me again. I felt like I was Commander Shepard, and the galaxy was my playground.
The crazy thing about Mass Effect, is that none of it seems too far-fetched. The races are so elaborate, and developed. A race from a faraway land whose appearance varies depending on the race observing them, and another who has the facial structure of a bird, and hates water, yet are true warriors.. The list goes on. But none of it seems impossible.
Mass Effect gives you the ability to truly explore the galaxy at your fingertips. Nothing was left unexplained, not even why there wasn’t any ammo (there’s a Codex for that!). The series has one of the best stories known to gaming, and characters you can truly relate to, and feel, regardless of their race. With recent research finding the real-life equivalent matter to a Mass Effect Relay, the future may not be far off. Maybe if everyone on this planet gave the series a shot, our government and civilians alike would put more thought into the possibilities of the last frontier. Earth is getting overcrowded, and it might be time for us to look for an alternative solution.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you every little thing about Mass Effect. The game is an experience. If you haven’t played yet, shame on you. And if you have, and disagree with what I have to say, than maybe you need to give it another shot. There is no game I can think of that truly takes you out of reality, and immerses you into its universe. There is no comparable experience to Mass Effect.
Gary Swaby – Co-Founder
I’d owned a Playstation 3 for two years and I was loving all of the new I.P’s being created. Gaming seemed like it was at its peak in terms of innovation and I didn’t want to miss out on anything. I’d heard many people praising Bioware’s Mass Effect, and at this time I was unfamiliar with their work. All I knew was that as a Final Fantasy and Elder Scrolls fan, I wanted to get lost in yet another epic RPG adventure. So I made the decision to purchase an Xbox 360 along with Mass Effect.
Nothing anybody told me prepared me for what I was about to experience. I was hooked from the moment the game allowed me to modify Shepard’s appearance. As someone who loves customization, I instantly felt connected to the universe in Mass Effect as it allowed me to fill in the blanks of Shepard’s history. Being able to shape the world around my discussions with other characters was something I was also drawn to. People (or should I say beings?) were reacting differently to me based on which line of dialogue I chose, and I loved it.
I finished the first mission on Eden prime, which set up the antagonist nicely. But when it came to visit the Citadel for the first time I was in total awe. As I witnessed the amount of detail Bioware put into all the species and the individuals themselves, I told myself that this is truly an evolution in gaming.
Mass Effect wasn’t just a game that you rushed to finish and speak about with your friends. It really was like stepping through a mass relay to experience things you didn’t believe were possible. Mass Effect was a personalized adventure that bent around the player. I can’t say that no two playthroughs are the same, but I can guarantee you’ll have different experiences and emotional takeaways from the game to discuss with your friends.
This is also the first game to make me really think about my actions. We all know how much Bioware love throwing difficult moral decisions at us, but this was the first time I was exposed to it. When it came time to side with companions in arguments I would legitimately feel torn, and I would worry about saying the wrong things or making the wrong decisions for a long time after.
The infamous exchange with Wrex was one of the most distressing scenes to play through. I seriously had to put the controller down and think about each line I spoke. I felt like Wrex was my homie, but his outlook on things were seriously affecting the mission, and it didn’t help that I was courting Ashley, who made her dislike of Wrex well known. Somehow I managed to talk Wrex down and keep him alive, but after replaying the game again after I realized just how difficult this could be if you hadn’t been leveling up your Paragon or Renegade skills.
With so many layers to the story that change depending on your actions, Mass Effect was a game I wanted to play over and over again. The fact that all of these choices would be imported into the next game made it feel even more important to me. Bioware were doing things that we previously could only dream of in gaming.
Other things that made the experience great was the level of freedom. We were able to explore a whole list of planets, each with their own discoveries, lore and/or side quests. This was something rarely seen in any game. In Final Fantasy games you’d often get access to an airship that would allow you to backtrack and face mean bosses, or collect rare items. But Bioware elevated this concept to new heights by making exploration feel seamless with the overlaying experience.
Also, until Dragon Age Origins (and Skyrim later), I believe Mass Effect had some of the best DLC in a role-playing. The two DLC’s were short, but they added onto the experience and gave us something to look forward to with the sequel.
Mass Effect was nothing short of game changing… which is ironic, because I never wanted to change the game disc in my console again after playing this. When I think back to last-gen, there are a few games that really stood out, and this one with its sequels is up there without a doubt. There was nothing like playing Mass Effect for the first time. I’m just waiting for a game to come along this gen that will provide a similar feeling to experiencing this game.
We may be waiting a long time for that.