I did not want to fill this list full of Bioware games, even though I love so many of them. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic represents one of my favorite worlds ever created, but I’ve replayed the game at list three times and the combat mechanics are just lacking when looking at the overall gameplay mechanics. That game will be forever remembered for it’s story and the plot twists that take the player through a realistic and enjoyable Star Wars world. But the actual gameplay is not fun, and as a role playing game, the character development seems secondary. Mass Effect came along and added some functional gameplay to an award winning formula that was developed in Knights of the Old Republic, and it has forever remained one of my favorite games of all time.
When I first created this list I included Mass Effect 3 as one of my favorite games of all time. I’ve had some time to reflect on the trilogy and realized that the first game still stands as the best game in the series. Mass Effect 3 focused on big cinematic storytelling and fast action, compared to the first game it seems almost alien. I feel like I can appreciate refinement within video games well and often lean towards refined gameplay over innovative gameplay when thinking about my favorite games. So while Mass Effect 2 was a clear refinement of the principles established within the original Mass Effect, it removed some of the aspects that really drew me into the world.
Designers at Bioware have said in multiple interviews that they are world creators. My favorite thing about the Mass Effect was always the world. I remember reading about Mass Effect in an issue of Official Xbox Magazine that detailed their initial idea of creating a trilogy of games that allowed the player to transfer their character along with all the decisions that they made along the way. This was a huge undertaking and probably much more difficult than the studio realized at the time. My favorite moment in the trilogy comes at the end of Mass Effect 3 when Shepard is pulled away from his squad in order to end the Reaper threat once and for all, by himself. The camera focuses on the companion that you had the closest relationship with, usually your in game lover interest. At that moment my camera focused on Liara T’Soni, a blue alien that I had remained faithful to for half a decade.
This initially influenced me to include Mass Effect 3 on my list of favorite games. But that moment would not have been possible if not for the original game. The original game established my love for the characters, the relationships, and the world. Something that future games would only be able to build upon. I have played the first Mass Effect about four times, I played the second one three times, and I have completed the third game at least twice. I have only played Mass Effect: Andromeda once, so far. Even though these are games that take dozens of hours to complete I kept coming back to them. I wanted to explore a different corner of the richly detailed world, choose a different dialogue choice, or finish up a quest that I missed in a previous playthrough. Maybe once or twice I wanted to experience a different love scene.
I have always drifted toward science fiction over fantasy worlds. Even though they are flying through mythically light speed relays, it feels more grounded in reality than dragons and magic. One of my favorite pieces of lore comes from the first game’s use of ammunition. Guns in the first Mass Effect have unlimited ammo. Which seems like a design choice to smooth out the gameplay, but it is actually explained in the lore of the game. The game establishes the technology of magnetically propelled space metal that use so little material that guns never run out of resources. Or something like that. I poured hours over each game’s codex, which allowed me to learn about this great new world.
Even though some players loathe the Mako space vehicle from the first game, I enjoyed the sense of freedom that it gave me. You were able to land on any planet and drive around discovering things. Driving around Earth’s moon felt like an adventure that I could not experience anywhere else. The planets were mostly empty and I spent way too much time gathering every small resource, but I enjoyed the adventure. Especially with my favorite companions. I still enjoyed Mass Effect: Andromeda for the same reasons, you were able to explore a new world, full of colorful characters, with engaging gameplay. Maybe someday we will return to the world of Mass Effect.
Tomorrow I will go over a quick discussion of Civilization Revolution. See you then!
Jake “prettyboyplaid” Fredericks