30 day mass effect challenge, day 30: in which mass effect inspires me …

I need to make this quick because I have a big test in chemistry that I have to do well on (the teacher actually postponed it because of technical issues, and guys? I nearly cried with joy), but I will say this: Mass Effect is one of two pieces of art in my adulthood that has inspired me as much as Star Wars and Buffy the Vampire Slayer has, the other being Battlestar Galactica. I’ve had other things change how I think (Fallout: New Vegas is actually a really good example), but when it comes to showing me how to create worlds and characters, Mass Effect is the winner here. The level of detail Bioware went into in order to flesh out an entire universe was so damn ambitious (see also: Dragon Age) that I don’t think I can ever get to that point. I mean, they did have an entire team of people working on it, but still. It’s impressive.

I’ve remarked on this before, too, but I think it bears repeating: Bioware knows how to make you care about their stories. Say what you will about the ending of Mass Effect, be that you thought it was brave and innovative or the absolute worst thing ever, you cared about the ending. They built a cast that you wanted to be friends with in real life, helped you connect to and love people not like you (hi, krogan!), and made you want to save the reality in which they lived. That’s a significant accomplishment.

And that right there is what inspires me. I want to create something like it, even if it falls short. It gives me something to aspire to.

Art Credit: eTeknix

30 day mass effect challenge, day 29: in which I discuss what I’d like to see next …

In case you hadn’t heard, Bioware just recently announced they were releasing a remaster of the original games (seriously, just take my money), so they kind of ruined what I was planning on writing about – the first game, in particular, really needed a rework – which means I have to come up with something else.

Now, I’ve already mentioned that I would love to see a story starring Gianna Parasini (honestly? I’d love to write it), and that’s actually more of what I want to see from this series: stories of people not firmly connected to Shepard or, even better, not connected to the main Reaper storyline. One of the strongest aspects of Star Wars: The Clone Wars was that the episodes didn’t always focus on major movie characters or even Jedi/Sith. We got a better picture of what the galaxy was like: how regular people were handling the consequences of war, how the clones were just as varied as any naturally created people, etc. Star Wars felt fresh again.

While I haven’t read any of the novels yet – it’s on my to-do list, okay? – I have had a chance to look at the comics released by Dark Horse, and I can’t say I’m too impressed. It just seems phoned in, an attempt at the fan service of the Citadel DLC but without the heart, and the art wasn’t even that great. I mean, they were better than the Orphan Black comics, and I know there are plenty of people that love reading backstories of characters we see in the game, but that doesn’t mean they were any good.

I’d almost like to see an anthology series like Animatrix. Gianna is obviously a great place to start, in my humble opinion, and then the stories could go from there, maybe even touching on the salarian League of One or even Ashley Williams’ grandfather. There is just so much potential in an expanded universe, and I hope that Bioware/EA capitalizes on that. It is EA, so they’re going to figure out some way to eke as much money as they can out of this franchise. See above: remaster.

Art Credit: eTeknix

30 day mass effect challenge, day 28: in which I have an opinion on the geth/quarian conflict …

Unlike my opinion on the genophage, it’s more difficult to take a side on the conflict between the geth and the quarian people. On one hand, the quarians did try to kill a newly sentient geth populace, but on the other, the geth did drive the quarians from their homeworld into a state of exile. Both responses were due to fear, and god knows humans have no room to point fingers there. We’ve done a lot of unconscionable things in the name of survival.

That being said, though? Fuck the quarians. Specifically their admiralty board. They chose to go to war with a technologically superior species when the Reapers were invading the galaxy for … reasons. If 1) I didn’t care about the war assets and, by extension, the final outcome of the game, 2) I didn’t care if Tali committed suicide out of grief while seeing her people being slaughtered, and 3) most of my Shepards didn’t believe in working together despite differences, I 100% would have sided with the geth in ME3. The quarians prove themselves to be too rash and short-sighted to be helpful (I’m looking at you, Han’Gerrel), and if the heretics were dealt with in ME2, the geth are consistently willing to fight against the Reapers with all of their might, given they weren’t under Reaper control.

Although my own attitude toward the geth started to change after meeting Legion in ME2, the recordings in the virtual geth city/construct are what sealed my opinion on this. Not only did the geth merely defend themselves during the Morning War, they allowed the remaining quarians to flee their system because no consensus could be reached on the short or long-term consequences of eliminating an entire species, something the quarians did not consider at any point.

If Shepard is able to broker peace, the geth offer an olive branch to help the quarians adapt to life on Rannoch, and the quarians are way more skeptical of this than they should be – it’s infuriating. Y’all remember you tried to kill them, right?

Art Credit: eTeknix

30 day mass effect challenge, day 27: in which I have an opinion on the genophage …

Given my pretty overt love of the krogan, it’s safe to say that I’ve given the genophage a lot of thought, and my opinion is not going to surprise anyone. I am consistent when it comes to my giant warrior turtles.

I am firmly on the side of the krogan. To force a species to endure a slow and painful genocide, just because the salarians, turians, and asari couldn’t (or wouldn’t, if the dalatrass’ response to the cure in ME3 is any indication) come up with a better solution, is not just cruel; it’s short-sighted. And what’s even worse is that they continued to tweak it in secret, recognizing that the krogan were adapting and that would eventually escape the invisible bonds tying their hands behind their backs. Over the course of two games, Mordin Solus truly understands that his and salarian interference with krogan development was wrong, and despite knowing that there would be consequences to undoing what they had done, he still [spoiler alert, I guess] gave his life to make sure that the krogan were freed.

Side note: all of the above comes with this caveat: Wrex and Bakara have to survive. I still think the other species were wrong with what they did to the krogan, but Wreav and his followers would have abused the gift they were given, wreaking havoc upon the galaxy that doomed them to such a harsh life. That’s even hinted at in ME3 when Wreav is instructing his people to watch their “allies” tactics and such. I don’t like it, and it’s not like I don’t think the rest of the galaxy deserves it, but I just couldn’t bring about another major war where the fast-multiplying, nigh unkillable krogan decide they want revenge.

Like I alluded above, I have a very hard time believing the genophage was the only possible solution to the krogan rebellion. No matter how many simulations are run, there will always be another avenue for resolution that doesn’t involve the decimation of an entire species. Kind of like the atomic bomb that was used to bring about the end of World War II: it may have sped the process and saved the lives of United States citizens, that doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do. One could argue the ends justifies the means, but look at the repercussions:

  • The krogan had devolved into even more brutish creatures than they were before, only now with an acidic loathing for everything – salarians and turians, more specifically. They sowed chaos pretty much wherever they went, owing allegiance to whomever would pay them the most. I mean, this isn’t exclusive to krogan, but they are a tad bit more physically dangerous than your average human.
  • Without krogan “shock troops” that would have been readily available without the genophage, the galaxy was woefully ill-prepared for Saren’s invasion of the Citadel in the first game, as Maelon speculated in ME2.

Which then brings us to the historical purpose of the genophage. I have a hard time believing that the genophage was the only possible solution to the rebellion. No matter how many simulations are run, there will always be another avenue for resolution. I have the feeling that it was a sort of World War II situation, where the atomic bomb was used to bring about the end of the war, but whether or not it accomplished its goal, it doesn’t mean that it was the right thing to do, either in the real world or its fictional Mass Effect equivalent. One could argue the ends justifies the means, but look at the repercussions. The krogan had devolved into even more brutish creatures than they were before, this time with an acidic loathing for salarians and turians – well, pretty much everything, actually – and, as Maelon speculated in Mass Effect 2, an increased krogan population might have left the universe that much more prepared for Saren’s invasion with Sovereign. It seems that, too often, those in power look for a quick solution and deem a short-term gain to be worth the long-term loss. And everybody suffers.

Art Credit: eTeknix

30 day mass effect challenge, day 26: in which I choose destroy, control, or synthesis …

Alright, I’m just going to get this out of the way. It’s Thanksgiving, and I have cooking to do.

Out of the three options – destroy, control, or synthesis – the only one that I refused to choose was “control.” None of my Shepards, renegade or not, would willingly elect to become a Reaper, unless given no other choice, so that leaves us with “destroy” and “synthesis.”

I used to think that synthesis is what my Shepard would have chosen, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to think she might have chosen destroy without a second thought. Well, not without a second thought: she had a respect for the geth and a genuine friendship with EDI, but she kept referring to the cycle being different from previous ones: organics were getting better, learning, growing. I mean, maybe it’s because I believe that, no matter how bad things are in the world, people can be good and can evolve beyond our base instincts – there will always be outliers and general shits (hi, Nazis!), but I feel like humanity has improved, even just during my lifetime.

And there is no guarantee that the promises the Star Child spouted would actually happen with synthesis. I’m sorry, I don’t trust the little fucker. Shepard isn’t gullible, and synthesis just seems like a ploy to take over the organics under the guise that it’s their choice. It just feels wrong.

Plus, there’s that little sliver of hope that the last little breath that comes from what appears to be Shepard’s body is actually proof of her survival. Even with EDI and the geth no longer existing, she can adopt a krogan baby with Garrus, dance shittily at a club with Jack, watch awful romance movies with Tali, compete athletically with James … she could have a life.

And maybe that is it: I want a happy future for the character I played for years, and after the past year of bullshit, I feel like I deserve that happy ending.

Art Credit: eTeknix

30 day mass effect challenge, day 25: in which I have favorite music (part ii) …

And here, my friends, is Part II! Mass Effect 3 had some great pieces in it, some of them bumping earlier favorites down my list – in particular, “Rannoch.” I just love its epic feel. So freaking great.

MASS EFFECT 3

“Leaving Earth” from Mass Effect 3 OST
“Rannoch” from Mass Effect 3 OST
“Cerberus Plot” (extended) from Mass Effect 3 OST
“Reaper Chase” (suite) from Mass Effect 3 OST

MASS EFFECT 3 DLC

“Mahavid Mine Suite” from Mass Effect 3: Leviathan
“The Voice of an Empire” from Mass Effect 3: From Ashes
“Fight Theme” from Mass Effect 3: Omega
“Citadel Underbelly” from Mass Effect 3: Citadel
“Farewell and into the Inevitable” from Mass Effect 3: Citadel

And there we have it: my favorite bits from the soundtracks! I could listen to every song from the beginning – and have done so several times – but I’ll let y’all do that on your own.

Oh, and if you missed Part I? <<< click here!

Art Credit: eTeknix

30 day mass effect challenge, day 25: in which I have favorite music (part i) …

The music entries are almost always my favorite posts in the challenges I do, and they rarely distill into a single track. By rarely, I mean never, and this trend continues with Mass Effect. So, without further ado, I give you my favorite pieces from the whole series:

NOTE: I’m splitting this into two parts because I do not want to overload the page with a bunch of YouTube videos.

MASS EFFECT

“Mass Effect Theme” from Mass Effect OST
“Noveria” (extended) from Mass Effect OST
“Vigil” (extended) from Mass Effect OST
“From the Wreckage” from Mass Effect OST

MASS EFFECT 2

“The Normandy Reborn” from Mass Effect 2 OST
“Tali” from Mass Effect 2 OST
“The End Run” from Mass Effect 2 OST
“Callista” by Saki Kaskas (Upper Afterlife)

MASS EFFECT 2 DLC

“Third Theme” from Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker
“Final Combat” from Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker
“Combat Troops” (extended) from Mass Effect 2: Overlord
“Death from Above” from Mass Effect 2: Stolen Memory

Alrighty, continue on over to Part II!

Art Credit: eTeknix

30 day mass effect challenge, day 24: in which I have a least favorite part of the games …

As much as I love sandbox style games, there is one part of them that I detest: traveling. Even if they give you a vehicle, like the horses or carriages in Assassin’s Creed or Dragon Age: Inquisition, the simple idea of roaming through the countryside, after a while, gets … how to put this lightly? Fucking annoying. And then you have otherwise awesome games – Halo: Reach, for example – that insert driving levels into otherwise total FPS gameplay. I get it, the developers wanted to give some variety, but fuck, if those weren’t my least favorite parts to play. Which, of course, brings us to today’s challenge: the worst part of the games. And, if you’ve played Mass Effect, you probably already know where I’m going with this.

Fuck you, Mako.

And lest it feels left out, fuck you, too, Hammerhead.

loathed having to drive around poorly-rendered landscapes in the first game. It took forever, and half the time, you didn’t even have the right team member to access the loot that was in the capsules or downed satellites or whatever. Or you got stuck in a crevice or upside down and had to go back up to the Normandy. Sometimes, the Mako wouldn’t have any issues climbing completely vertically, but at others, it was all, “LOL NOPE,” falling backward and then getting wedged in a hole. It was pretty helpful against thresher maws, as long as you could jump or accelerate fast enough to avoid that toxic goo it shot at you (Then? Two shots, and you were somehow sitting in a big, billowy fire. And dead.), and fighting the geth Colossuses and the Armatures was a lot easier than on foot.

To be fair to the poor Mako, I was begging for its return with the introduction of the fucking Hammerhead. Firewalker was the worst DLC, and a big part of that was the vehicle. The Hammerhead was somehow even more useless than the Mako.

Honestly, I’m just not much of a driving-in-games kind of person. If it fits well into the game and isn’t soul-crushingly difficult (Gears of War 3), I can overlook it, but for the most part, I’d prefer they stay out. I liked how, in ME3, they completely got rid of any driving segments (that I can recall) and instead focused on what happened once Shepard and Company got to where they were going. It’s like EA and Bioware read my mind and made it so.

Art Credit: eTeknix, Reddit, Mass Effect Wiki

30 day mass effect challenge, day 23: in which I have a favorite part of the games …

The best part of the Mass Effect series is also the one of the worst parts, so today’s challenge question is going to seem … kind of contradictory? I don’t know. You be the judge.

Anyway, player choice. It’s one of the most praised aspects of Mass Effect, and deservedly so. Leading into the third game, every player was wondering how the game would change if they chose to let Ashley or Kaidan die, to kill or spare Wrex, to destroy or salvage the Collector base, etc. Bioware knew what it was doing here: you needed a reason to return – as if the relationships you developed weren’t enough, you heathens – and what better way than to entice you with seeing the consequences or rewards of your choices, for better or for worse? It wasn’t just the big ones, though: whenever I saw a throwback to an earlier game – Rebekah and Michael Petrovsky and Char and Ereba are my favorites – I felt like the developers cared to give me a follow-up, even if I couldn’t interact with the NPCs directly.

Obviously, I knew that I was playing a game, but it was easy to just get lost in the character building, even if a great portion of it existed only in my head. I could see relationships – romantic and otherwise – develop, form alliances based on charm or brawn, aimlessly roam the galaxy or get right to business. And it was all at the tip of my fingers, playing a personalized What Would Shepard Do. I felt connected to the bigger picture by Bioware’s use of microcosmic elements, like I had a reason to fight for the survival of the known universe. Absolutely no other game has done that for me like Mass Effect, not even its thematic predecessor, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic*.

And here’s where the bad comes in. There was never any way that Bioware was going to resolve the game to everyone’s satisfaction, which was made obvious by the time gamers had reached the finale of Mass Effect 3. Any company that makes something for mass consumption has an understanding that, no matter how much they try, they’re going to piss a portion of their consumer base right off. Now, did they have to say that all the choices a player made from the beginning would make a difference? No, they didn’t. Because, let’s face it. Mass Effect was essentially a very complex “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. Only so many options can exist, unless you expect the creators to publish every single possible outcome, and well, that’s not a thing that can actually happen. There are just too many variables.

That being said, Bioware (although I’m going to place the blame on EA, because they are awful) did make promises they weren’t ever going to be able to keep. They essentially painted themselves into a corner, and even an extended version of the various endings couldn’t appease the majority of complaining fans. I don’t know how I would have resolved the series, but it wouldn’t have been their way, with an annoying Deus ex Machina character instead of the expected epic battle with Harbinger and his badass Reaper pals. But if choice hadn’t played such a large role in the rest of the saga – and hadn’t been handled as well as it had – I don’t think people would have been as upset about it. 

Art Credit: eTeknix

* And yes, I do consider KOTOR to be the progenitor of the Mass Effect series. If you look at the two stories, they’re fairly similar, at least in the grand scope: main villain thinks that they are doing the universe a favor by joining the bad guys, only obviously Shepard doesn’t turn out to be Saren … although that would have been … interesting.