Mass Effect: Legendary Edition offers a fascinating opportunity to revisit a classic. The series had a lot to say when it was released, but after a decade of chaos and scare tactics, its moral storytelling is more relevant than ever.
I was just a naive youth when I first played Mass effect. I was excited to hear that acclaimed RPG developer Bioware was working on a title that shot for the stars of science fiction instead of sneaking around the dungeons of fantasy.
Although both genres were accessible, the prospect of a space opera RPG had something new to it. Especially one that has been rendered in stunning 3D and created by a team with a proven track record that combines immense reach with compelling, humanistic storytelling.
Unfortunately when Mass effect was originally published, I was a card-carrying member of the PlayStation Brigade. The Xbox exclusive release meant I couldn’t play the game initially and almost lost interest in it.
When I finally got my hands on a PC copy, I wasn’t ready for the reveal that turned out to be. Quite simply, it changed what I thought was a video game.
If you were like me and were missed Mass effect when it came out then, then Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is a wonderful opportunity to correct that. The characters, along with the fully realized distant future world, are full of detail and depth. The trilogy tells an epic story you won’t soon forget, and the performance upgrade means it has never looked better.
The moral center of Mass effect
What immediately impressed me about the original Mass effect Spiel, on my last return, is his optimistic tone. The game does an excellent job of immersing you in its world without knocking you over the head with unnecessary exposure. You learn important information by asking questions. This means that patient research and conversation is vital to progress.
As I strolled through the Citadel’s starting area, refreshing my memory, and getting back to the mechanics of the game, I was talking to all sorts of aliens.
A short and beefy volus explained to me the tribal nature of his species and how, despite their physical limitations, they rely on trade and diplomacy to be successful. An Elcor, with no hint of emotion in his voice, preceded their sentence with what they were feeling so that I could better understand their situation.
These seemingly trivial details and the route Mass effect encourages you to notice them come together to make a tapestry that is rich and complex. However, the underlying philosophy is that understanding and empathy are virtues that you should embody. You have to understand the universe if you are to save it. You need to have compassion for other entities, no matter how different they are, if you are to resolve their conflicts.
Make no mistake: violence exists in the world of Mass effect. This is not a utopia of the distant future where everyone just embraces and understands. There are inter-species wars that involve generations of bloodshed, with colonial themes such as racism, genocide, and the conservatory work to anchor fiction in the shameful history of our own world.
As humanity searches for its place in the stars, we are reminded of the pitfalls of our own nature; the way we fear what we don’t know and then destroy what we fear.
The extraterrestrial races of Mass effect You have the same problem but the game urges you to work against it, using compromise and a balanced mind in the process for the most acceptable results. The barrel of your gun, while sometimes necessary, is not portrayed as an effective solution.
Welcome to the gray area
The Mass effect The trilogy encourages the player to look for different solutions to the problem at hand. As I wrote earlier, it is important to ask questions so that you can best understand the consequences of an action. Despite a somewhat clumsy reputation system between Paragon and Renegade, you will find yourself crawling around in morally gray situations.
Most characters are very well written and generally have reasonable reasons for the moral positions they hold. Potential Love Interest Ashley Williams, once you get closer to her, will begin to use more racist rhetoric against aliens. Like most racists, she will try to explain why she holds these views; good enough that you can understand her, but not good enough that it looks like she’s right.
That debate can continue for much of the game’s main narrative arc, and there are signs of development at the end, although there isn’t exactly a reversal.
During this time in discussing foreign politics and racial relations, I thought about how the same issues are addressed in our own world. Most of us aren’t brave enough to tackle problems so directly – the only way we feel comfortable is through Commander Shepard’s avatar.
Nevertheless, I am convinced that this virtual, moral problem-solving has real value, even though it is carried out via proxies. By forcing players to make moral choices, you get them to examine their own thought processes, experiences, and prejudices. Especially when you consider how most of the characters in the game will question your actions when they don’t match.
This process reminds us of our own agency and thus of our ability to change ourselves and others.
The ability to change the world
The nature of role-playing games means this Mass effect focuses on consequences. When you play role-playing games, it is assumed that your behavior can change what is happening. Otherwise, what is it about? What does Mass effect The scope and emotional response of these consequences is different.
Much has been written about the final ending of the trilogy and a perceived lack of cause and effect. Focusing on that conclusion, however, means forgetting about the real themes of the series. In the heart of Mass effect is not a war with the Reapers, it is a war with our own nature.
We are defined by our actions and understood by our intentions.
This type of message may sound a bit preaching and indulgent, although it really never comes off that way while gaming. The moral framework is imprinted on the player through the game mechanics rather than explicit communication, which means nothing will stop you from acting like an asshole if you want to. But as I moved through the game I was filled with an optimism that is difficult to explain.
The moral core of Mass effect focuses on making a difference; Use your empathy, intelligence, and courage to fix the things you can. It’s an old-fashioned ethos that, in my experience at least, has become rather rare in video games. In a way, it seems like the perfect antidote to the cynical malaise so often associated with our times.
Modern games often tell moral stories, but few allow the player to participate in a way that relates to their own thought process. The fact that Mass effect insists that you make it a remarkable artifact in video game history that still deserves to be played.
While there are certainly aspects of the game, including that Mass Effect: Legendary Edition Facelift that feels dated, the core of what makes the trilogy so special, is completely intact.
Few games have managed to create a world that is so complicated, concrete, and full of mysteries. Even fewer have managed to get you to care.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition Releases on PS4, Xbox One and PC on May 14th.