Critipeg: Mass Effect trilogy

Available on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, ★★★★☆

BioWare’s Mass Effect trilogy is a collection of the third-person role-playing shooter video games that follow the customizable hero Commander Shepard. In this space opera, the player controls Shepard as they endeavour to save the galaxy from the Reapers: a mechanical race of beings hellbent on death and destruction. 

On Nov. 7, 2020, it was announced that a remastered version of the Mass Effect trilogy – entitled Mass Effect: Legendary Edition – was set to release in spring 2021 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. The remaster will feature Shepard’s unchanged story, but with a much-needed upgrade in terms of graphics and gameplay, giving the games a renaissance of sorts. 

Since the gameplay and graphics will soon be drastically improved, it’s worth taking one last look at the overall quality of Shepard’s three-part story.

Despite the controversial ending, the story features some unforgettable narrative moments. The games encompass a wide range of emotional scenes, from tense to lighthearted, downright hilarious to devastatingly bleak. The games have a little bit of everything, and some wacky shenanigans to boot. 

The trilogy excels at building up Shepard as a hero of legend while simultaneously making them a relatable and flawed character. Every time Shepard overcomes impossible odds, like gunning down deadly foes or uncovering ancient galactic secrets, it feels earned. Each success feels deeply satisfying, and failures feel justified. 

That said, a notable gripe some players have with Shepard is the paragon/renegade system. Like other BioWare games, the player is able to control Shepard’s gender, appearance, sexuality and dialogue. Unlike other Bioware games, Shepard’s dialogue choices contribute to establishing one of two personality types. 

Depending on Shepard’s dialogue, they can be known as the paragon (a righteous, peacemaking hero) or the renegade (a brutal, victory-at-all-costs rebel). By committing to one personality type over the other, the player is able to unlock special dialogue options that significantly influence the outcome of the story. 

This system works well to create distinct personalities for the commander. However, if players want to opt for a more nuanced paragade Shepard, including instances of renegade or vice versa, they will have to sacrifice the ability to unlock important dialogue options that typically lead to desired outcomes at moments in the games. 

In each game, Shepard recruits a ragtag team of aliens and humans. There is a great deal of focus put on Shepard interacting, befriending, romancing or even betraying their companions. Shepard’s squad features characters with interesting and well-developed backstories that they share with Shepard over time. What’s more, the squadmates react to Shepard’s actions dynamically, which incentivizes players to consider their choices carefully. 

It’s one thing to shoot down a giant alien monster on an arid desert planet, but it’s another to do it with a sassy companion making clever quips at the same time. 

All things considered, the Mass Effect trilogy is definitely one of those games to play, especially for fans of role-playing video games. 

Published in Volume 75, Number 14 of The Uniter (January 14, 2021)

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