I completed Mass Effect 1 a couple weeks ago, and fell in love. With Shepard, the SSV Normandy SR-1, and the elite group of alien weirdos (cough, cough, Garrus.) Prior to completing this game, I had never experienced something quite like it. It’s a third-person shooter, yes, but also an RPG and dialogue with choices that matter.
The Alien Species
The attention to the different alien races and their distinct personalities and culture was amazing, and I looked forward to speaking to everyone and learning their stories. Among my favorites are the Salarians, who have short lifespans compared to Humans but are also highly intelligent. They live fast and speak fast; they are often frustrated by the slow rate of speech of the other species they interact with. They make gifted scientists, doctors, and brilliant strategists on the battlefield. Near the end of the game I encountered a group of Salarians and their commanding officer, Captain Kirrahe, who ended up selflessly sacrificing his life so that Shepard might succeed in her mission. Even though they’re often annoyed by Humans, they have big personalities and are endearing in that way.
The Elcor are another standout species, and in direct contrast to the Salarians. Elcor are large and talk slowly, and lack ways to express emotion. In order to express themselves to other species, such as Humans, they often outright say that they are intending their words to come across as “cheerful” or “sad.” Despite this block in communication, I find them fascinating and always listen to their wise words.
There are many other examples of interesting species to meet in Mass Effect, like the Turians or Asari. Both of these alien species are very common visitors on the Citadel, a large alien structure used to be a focal point of the union of many different species. It’s basically a station but also a city, for the purposes of bringing aliens together in the hopes of forming alliances and trading agreements.
Throughout the game, I couldn’t shake the feeling that whatever was going on is bigger than Humanity. It involves the universe and everyone living within it. Even the technology we use for long-distance traveling in space is left over technology of a more ancient and advanced civilization. In fact, a major part of the game is unraveling the mystery of what happened to the Protheans, the ancient civilizations that created most of the technology used in Mass Effect – the Citadel, biotic weapons, the Mass Relays. It isn’t until later that we discover that the Protheans were destroyed by the Reapers after they reached a certain technological advancement.
The Reapers claim that they are the most ancient and advanced species in the entire universe and seem to be, at this point, the closest things to Gods. The Mass Relays were indeed created by the Reapers as a way to travel to and from deep space, where they have presumably been in hibernation for thousands of years. The Citadel itself is one big Mass Relay, and has been the Reapers’ ticket back into known space for countless cycles. What a plot twist! It instantly reminded me of one of the famous lines from Battlestar Galalctica: “All of this has happened before. All of this will happen again.”
The reveal about the Reapers and their true intentions instantly give a larger perspective on the story and the world that these characters inhabit. They exist be design, and they’re all a pawn in a larger game for someone else’s benefit. Mass Effect 1 sets the stage for a universe-level threat and, if Shepard can’t pull it off, all life will cease to exist. The ending of this game seems very hopeful for the future of all living creatures – the Reaper that has been tasked with checking on the progress of their next extermination cycle has been killed, and a Human has finally been appointed to the alien council that helps to ensure peace across several galaxies. However, some choices were made…
My Ending Choices
One of the great, and defining, things about Mass Effect is that you can make tons of choices that will impact Shepard’s character and and story as a whole. Across my Mass Effect journey, I’ve chosen to play as a Paragon-aligned character. This means that I essentially choose to be a good guy. In situations where I could just outright kill someone, I attempt diplomacy. I chose to help people where I could just ignore them to finish the mission quicker. Generally I like playing as the good guy since I’m a goody two-shoes in real life, and murdering a make-believe character in a video game has been known to make me sad and reload the game as a result. However, I made a bad choice in the ending of this game. It haunts me to this day – fourteen entire days after the completion of this game, and I’m forced to live with my decision forever.
Instead of attempting to save the council during the Reaper’s attack on the Citadel, I made a split-second decision to order Normandy to focus on destroying the Reaper. In my mind this made sense and was the logical choice, since failure would mean all live everywhere would be exterminated. However, the actual scene played out very differently. Once I gave the order for the Normandy to ignore the SOS call from the ship carrying the council, Joker (the Normandy’s pilot and an awesome dude) immediately turned off the comms and the council’s ship exploded. I didn’t expect that at all, but hey, I guess it’s added some flavor and uniqueness to my playthrough. Hopefully in Mass Effect 2 I’ll make better choices…