Review: Mass Effect Trilogy

The Mass Effect Team by lesime at

Apologies for being so late to the game. I don’t normally play American games as you may know. But I think this series requires some discussion. By the way, this is why no new content has been published here and why I haven’t worked on my book in a month. Not sorry because it was worth it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt said something akin to “no idea is original and all ideas are born off other ideas”. Since Mass Effect falls under sci-fi, I always wanted to play it to see how my story matched up with it. Also there are lots of spoilers. Either you played it or you didn’t at this point. I’m going to assume you didn’t and explain to you as if you haven’t played it.

First, I played on the PS3 and while we can buy the full trilogy on their store as a digital copy, one of my ex’s left his entire video game collection behind. What I didn’t want, I sold. No regrets there either. He was awful. Moreover, going through the whole sub-account/master-account thing was a nightmare. TLDR: I only played ME2 and ME3 but I did have the Genesis DLC for decisions in ME1.

So, I played a Sentinel Paragon named Veena Shepard. I mainly used my powers and rarely used any guns. In ME3, I only carried a sub machine gun and a heavy pistol. It kept my power recharge rate high. I was basically a mage in a shooter, gg. I also played ME2 twice to ensure everyone’s survival and to have my picks on ME1 decisions since I didn’t know about the DLC till late into the first playthrough.

I really enjoyed ME2. I thought it was a bit short. I mean, I beat in a week both times. It was simple and linear and I knew whatever was in ME3, my decisions in ME2 were important. I also knew that there was no chance of me dying in ME2 which kept things (my mood) pretty light. It’s also important to me to play a role-playing game like I was actually the character. That made decisions harder which was important for me. ME2 was easy to digest so long as you can compartmentalise you’re working with terrorists (Cerberus).

So I hit ME3 and the opening is a huge attack on Earth essentially obliterating almost our whole civilisation. But you have to leave Earth to save it — so you can recruit alien armies to help you. ME3 was meant to have all of your seemingly easy decisions in the first two games culminate and you actually have to decide what you care about. Your first big decision is whether or not to cure the genophage, a disease that significantly reduces the fertility of the krogan. The krogan are a reptillian type of alien that are easily surmised as “the biggest gun wins”. They are a simple culture and love fighting and killing and proving their might. They’re also pretty good at doing these things. So the smart amphibious salarians, another alien race, come up with the genophage to reduce their fertility rate thereby making the krogan less likely to war with the other alien races. In ME3, you decide to cure the genophage or not which decides if you choose salarian or krogan support in the fight on Earth and you also decide whether your two close friends, a krogan and a salarian live or die. Granted, your krogan friend Wrex may’ve died in ME1 but if you cure the genophage, you also lose your salarian friend Mordin.

I chose to cure the genophage. I’d already killed Wrex in the first game, a decision I regret and won’t do in a future playthrough. But I also lost Mordin which was hard for me. Yes, he created the genophage but his mind was always focused on the greater good of the galaxy. He was willing to cure the genophage because that’s where the greater good now pointed to. What made me feel better is that Mordin was getting old and I couldn’t see him  in his self-described retirement plan: analysing seashells on a beach. His work was everything and he was nothing without his work. Him dying to finish his work was the best way for him to go. It doesn’t matter about my feelings at this point. It had to be him.

Mordin moments before blowing up to cure the genopage.

I took a day off after that to let my emotions settle themselves. I’ve never had to do that for a game but I’ve also never witnessed a close friend be blown up before. When Tidus in FFX died, he just faded into the light. I don’t think I could be a soldier. I care too much about things.

The war between the quarians and the geth was easier for me to swallow. Yeah, it sucked to see the geth being betrayed by the quarians who’ve touted to everyone that the geth rebelled for no reason. It wasn’t without reason. But I was able to keep both of them alive because of my decisions in ME2. If anything, the only annoying thing was that I had to forge a peace deal only so I could bring them both back to Earth. But that’s how diplomacy works.

Instead at this point in the game: all of Shepard’s close calls make me nervous and afraid. Shepard nearly dies in her fight for diplomacy by a certain quarian general as she’s on a geth ship — that the quarians wanted her to be on — and as she’s leaving, this wonderful quarian general thinks it’s a great idea to blow the ship up. Barely making it through doors that are closing and barely missing bullets are easily racking up against my cool demeanour. Watching Shepard intellectualise everything to keep going was the hardest thing I’ve had to work with in a long time.

We’re at the point in the game now that all that’s left is returning to Earth. I know I skipped the asari section. Yes, watching Thessia, the asari home planet, be obliterated just like Earth was no easy feat. But we’d also heard Garrus point to Palaven, the turian home planet, and say, “See that big, bright, orange part? Yeah, the biggest one. That’s where I’m from.”

Palaven by Gelvuun at

Right now, in present day Earth, we have an apocalyptic Middle East. I don’t want us to look back and think we could’ve done more. Yes, the Arab Spring happened; yes the US might’ve led them to the Arab Spring and all this revolution, even if Blairites think it might’ve happened anyways. But Omran Daqneesh and his peers shouldn’t have to live in conditions like that. They will never know a happy childhood. War has consumed their whole lives. And I don’t mean just now: these memories we’re giving them will mould them into adults with frightful views of the world. Villages shouldn’t fear leaving town in search of food because there are land mines blocking them in. But they do. And yet, we in The West reject them because we fear them.

Image: Five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, with bloodied face, sits inside an ambulance after he was rescued following an airstrike in the rebel-held al-Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo

So, Shepard returns to Earth with her collectivised army and we go to town on the Reapers, the entities responsible for all the obliteration. Earth, at this point, has all but imploded. Everyone knows that they’ll probably die in this battle but it’s too important to not continue. And by everyone, I mean, Shepard, her squad, her army people, and people we meet for the first time on Earth. Everyone fears death but trudges along.

We get to the part where we decide the fate of the galaxy: shall we have order or chaos? Now’s a good part to note all of the Greek references despite this being a sci-fi game with supposed different alien cultures. Nah, we’ll just borrow from the Greeks. One thing I like about playing Japanese RPG’s like Shin Megami Tensei and watching anime like Noragami is that I’m learning about more than just one early Western culture. But I digress and we’ll move on. Interestingly, I picked chaos. Let me explain why. To pick order means all current civilisation dies. Because order in this case is the Reapers coming along every 50,000 years and destroying all advanced life. I had a choice to synthesise the two. And don’t get me wrong, I love Hegel. Hegel works systemically. But this is the first systemic choice I couldn’t allow myself to synthesise. Choosing synthesis didn’t work in ME1 with Saren (a puppet of the Reapers who thought he could control them) and it didn’t work with the Illusive Man (the leader of the terrorists who sought the same as Saren). Why would it work with me? So I pick chaos because surviving is important.

But Mass Effect brings up a good point: order needs chaos. Order likes to think that without chaos, all will be right. But what is there to order without chaos? What is the point of order without chaos? It is the very same question I ask in my own series.

I read online that many people were upset with the ending of such a gripping trilogy so Bioware made an extended  cut to satisfy. But I think the ending just as it is is fine enough. It didn’t need any extra. You did what you set out to do: make a decision about the Reapers. What more do you want? Mass Effect is about the story and not the ending. Asking for extra is so American and it’s annoying.

Thank you for reading this review. It served more as me digesting everything that happened and trying to settle my emotions with it. The gravity of the finale will stay with me for a long time. I think that was Bioware’s point and their point is well taken. It’s a lot of sadness but the sadness is necessary. One of the things I grappled with recovering from my own PTSD was trying to skip the sad part. I just wanted to be better automatically. However fortunately, humans just aren’t that efficient and I’m a little glad about it. The sad part is necessary.


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