The Mass Effect

Having successfully managed to breathe new life into George Lucas’ spluttering francise with the KOTOR series, BioWare decided to test their mettle with an original sci-fi / action roleplayer of their very own. Set in a spanking-new and completely Jedi-free universe the result, Mass Effect, was a highly enjoyable character driven Geth-fest that reignited my interest in current generation RPGs.

The plot and dialogue were handled in such a way that I had a real, palpable sensation I was actually involved in the proceedings; that what I said, who I said it to and even how I said it made a difference to the story that was unfolding. I’ve mentioned before that a good RPG should pride itself on its ability to deliver a unique gaming experience to each and every person who picks it up. When two players complete the same RPG, player X should be able to run over to player Y and tell them things they didn’t know about the game. I played through Mass Effect as a paragon, opting for only the most virtuous and kitten-friendly of gameplay decisions presented. When I decided to replay the game as a tortured and largely amoral interstellar badass, the game had me impatiently punching out NPCs whom I had given a big cuddle and a warm glass of milk to the first time around. This was as satisfying as it was cathartic, and gave me the feeling that my second incarnation of Commander Shepard was a different creature from the first.

Mass Effect 2

It appears that ideas, good or otherwise, come along in threes nowadays. Every big budget blockbuster movie and its dog usually claims to have another two sequels waiting in the wings ready to greedily devour your housekeeping fund in exchange for a sense of closure. Trilogies can come about either as a result of the demands of the source material (LOTR) or a Matrix-style ‘damn, that flick made me enough cash to gold plate my house, cars and entire family, let’s make out like we always had a trilogy in mind so I can get the private jet up to spec’ cash-in exercise. Mass Effect thankfully falls into the first category, not because the game is based on pre-existing novels but because the developers had announced it was to be a trilogy before the first title was even launched. It was conceived as a three-part story rather than hastily retro-fitted to resemble one, and this does something to assuage my concerns for the future of the franchise.

Mass Effect 2 screenshot

Mass Effect 2 is set to hit stores early in 2010. Shepard is now a Spectre, and thanks to mankind’s increasingly conspicuous role in universal events it’s time for the human race to step up to the intergalactic table and represent in the face of the Reaper threat. Casey Hudson, Executive Producer of the Mass Effect trilogy, has blogged that important characters will return (provided you didn’t kill them off in the first game of course) and that the combat system has been tweaked to make fighting more intuitive and squad interactions more dynamic. The biggest lure for me, however, is the ability to carry over my save from the first instalment into the sequel, literally allowing me to pick my character up where I left off. This is a bold move on Bioware’s front, and something that I can see more developers incorporating into their own franchises. When you have created a character and built up a relationship with them over 20-plus hours of gaming, discarding your achievements, accomplishments and emotional investment in that character for the next chapter feels wrong. This is not to say that you have to play the first game to get your teeth into Mass Effect 2; the original story will be recapped at the beginning and the option to create a new Shepard will be available to veterans and noobs alike. Personally though, I cannot wait to bring an existing character into a new story, to reunite with an old and trusted friend on the deck of the Normandy and accompany them on another journey into the unknown.


One of the hotter topics surrounding Mass Effect 2 has been the true nature of the ‘suicide’ mission hinted at in the E3 trailer. Hudson later confirmed that it is indeed possible for Shepard to make the ultimate sacrifice at the end of the sequel for the sake of humanity and sentient life-forms everywhere. It does raise the question of how the final instalment would cope with the loss of its leading character, but in a universe of infinite possibilities and a genre that warmly embraces concepts such as biotics and telepathic impregnation, I’m sure that everyone’s favourite Spectre will be unwilling to go gently into that dark night. Keep your eyes to the skies for next year’s faster-than-light follow up and, whatever you do, don’t delete that save file!







5 responses to “The Mass Effect”

  1. Tony avatar

    I haven’t heard of a game letting you load up the old games save since Dungeon Master: Chaos Strikes Back let you load your old Dungeon Master save.

    And they came out in 1987 and 1989!

  2. Michael avatar

    Oh, I had wondered about that character saving idea… but I then wondered how that would affect the story of this game from the outset, if it would at all. Interesting… 😀

    You reckon levelling will be carried over too?

  3. James avatar

    Apparently you don’t keep your level, but your skills are assimilated into the new stats system so that you keep some of the perks from the abilities you gained. As for the story, Hudson says it is directly affected by what you did in the last game – who you chose to put in charge of the council, who died and who lived, the allegiances you made – all have a bearing on the way the sequel will play out. Provided you’ve still got your save file of course.

  4. Michael avatar

    See, that idea – that the choices you made, no matter how inconsequential they seemed, will have a bearing on the story of this game – is something I’ve dreamt about since I started playing Western RPGs. Just the sheer audacity of it, for all the different approaches taken by players, is breathtaking! 😀

    I do still have my save file. God, I hope it’s not corrupted… :

  5. Celeste avatar

    Very interesting stuff. Devs will surely incorporate this feature into more games after this. I’m really interested in seeing how this is gonna go. Only way I can even remotely relate to this idea is through the save file from Silent Hill 2 that would allow some novel comments from Heather in SH3 to occur in relation to the game. Of course, these had no actual effect on the gameplay itself.

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