First Impressions of Mass Effect: Andromeda, Part 2

In a blogpost from 2017, I stated that I wasn’t able to play Mass Effect: Andromeda all the way through. And that I would when I obtained a computer that was more capable of running it.

Both wishes came true in February 2019—though I encountered a string of unrelated bad luck that kept me from trying out my new PC right away. When I finally got around to playing Andromeda again, I was happy to see I’d be able to continue the game that had been gathering dust for quite a while. Jumping back into Andromeda after so long, however, was a little jarring. For several days, I debated whether I should start a brand new game or continue with the current one. The latter option won when I regained a feel for the gameplay.

It has been quite an experience so far. After progressing the story on the Angara homeworld, I set out to tip the scales of a war on an ice planet called Voeld. This undertaking brought its own share of headaches. After exploring the planet for some time, I headed for the enemy stronghold to take it out, only to be deterred by a forcefield at the entrance.

I had to look online to figure out how to disable the shield—and got a bit aggravated when I found I needed to complete several quests to obtain a shutdown code. It had taken me some time and effort to reach the entrance and the idea of backtracking was frustrating.

I’m not one to give up in either case. After a short break from Andromeda, I dived back in, completed the needed quests to infiltrate the stronghold, and proceeded to eliminate the enemy units. I did get a scare at one point when I was watching what looked like an entry point in the ceiling—only for the enemy units to come up through the floor instead.

It was a little disappointing to find that eliminating the stronghold was only a side quest rather than part of the main storyline, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable for me. For the remainder of my time spent playing Andromeda that day, I focused primarily on completing side quests for the Nexus space station, the planet Eos, and for my crew members.

The next day I played was likewise spent completing side quests, of which there are a lot. My next headache arose when my save file from that entire session was corrupted and all my progress was erased. I’ve since had to do it all over.

One of the funniest things I’ve encountered was when I accidentally drove my vehicle off a cliff. Each time the game loaded me back in, it was in a bad spot that resulted in the vehicle falling into the same abyss over and over.

Overall, I like that the game has so much content or environments to explore. The jungle planet Havarl is particularly beautiful. I aim to experience as much as I can rather than rush my way through the game.

My only nitpick would be in regards to my character’s appearance. The way her lipstick is applied gives her a permanent Joker-esque smile. And her eyes are visible through her eyelids—a gaming term known as clipping—when she blinks. I don’t know if this is a widespread problem with the game or if it’s due to how I personally modeled my character’s appearance. But I may find out with my next playthrough.

I don’t know how long it may take me to get through to the ending, but I look forward to seeing what awaits me. And I hope to see a sequel to Andromeda someday that expands on this sci-fi series I love so much.

My Top 10 Video Games with Variant Stories

As a child, I was a huge fan of the Choose Your Own Adventure book series. There was something about the notion of getting a different story with each read that guaranteed I would keep coming back to these books. Most story-based video games can also be considered as choose-your-own-adventure. Especially those that allow you to personally decide how the story will play out.

Below is my top ten list of video games that offer a lot of versatility with each playthrough.

10) Phantasmagoria (spoiler alert) – An interactive horror game released in the mid-90s, Phantasmagoria tells the story of Adrienne Delaney and her husband Don after they’ve moved into a haunted century-old mansion. The house was previously owned by a 19th Century illusionist who was married five times and whose wives either went missing or died under mysterious circumstances. The game features hours worth of content. There is much to explore to uncover the truth and discover what’s happening to Don when he gets possessed. It’s easy to miss an aspect of the story if you don’t thoroughly examine everything in each chapter. What keeps Phantasmagoria from a higher rank is the fixed singular ending – Adrienne is forced to kill her husband to keep him from killing her.

9) Life Is Strange (spoiler alert) – Life is Strange is a coming-of-age drama game that centers around teenager Max Caulfield and her discovery that she can rewind time–an ability she uses largely for selfish gain. Life is Strange gives you the option to look at both choices of decisions to make throughout the game before locking one of them in. While this game offers two conclusions, the bad ending doesn’t really delve into the repercussions of Max’s decision to sacrifice the townsfolk to an f5 tornado to save her dearest friend. I still love Life is Strange in spite of the lackluster ending for its many different paths over the course of the game.

8) Resident Evil 2 – The first Resident Evil game may have launched the survival horror franchise, but it is the second title that really breathed life into the series. Resident Evil 2 introduced players to Leon Kennedy– a rookie cop on his first day on the force–and Claire Redfield–a college student in search of her missing brother. What sets Resident Evil 2 apart from the rest of the series is that one character’s actions impact how the other’s story plays out. For instance, starting with Leon’s campaign dictates the path taken by Claire through the police station and vice versa. The game’s developers gave players two differing narratives–Leon A\Claire B or Claire A\Leon B–to offer a unique experience with each playthrough. What makes Resident Evil 2 even better is that you can also assume the role of one of the antagonists in a separate scenario or play as a block of tofu armed with a knife–a joke character thrown in by the developers. But like Phantasmagoria, Resident Evil 2 always ends the same no matter which character you start with.

7) the Mass Effect trilogy – Mass Effect 1, 2, and 3 earn top marks for having the most variance in their narrative, but fall flat due to a disappointing penultimate ending. To get the most out of the trilogy, you’d have to play through all three games. Saved data can be imported from one title to the next to keep track of the choices you’ve made, such as whether you saved or sacrificed a given character. I love the trilogy for letting you decide whether your main character will be male or female, peacemaker or badass, or monogamous or field-player. I just wish Mass Effect 3 had featured multiple endings as well.

6) Marvel: Ultimate Alliance – Well before the ongoing series of films featuring Marvel Comics superheroes were on the horizon, the video game Marvel: Ultimate Alliance was the definitive guide to the comic book characters. The game takes you on an epic journey from the bottom of the ocean to the far reaches of space, from the depths of Hell to Asgard, home of the Norse Gods. The basic storyline of the game sees members of the X-Men, Avengers, and the Fantastic Four–as well as other superheroes that operate solo–band together to combat a massive team comprised of their respective arch-enemies. In between missions, you have the option of learning all sorts of trivia about every character–and then some–featured in Ultimate Alliance. What makes the game even more interesting is that you can customize your team at the start of each mission. Even better–each time a hero and antagonist who have a history come face to face, it will trigger a unique bit of dialogue. I would definitely recommend giving this game a look if you’re a big fan of Marvel Comics–you won’t be disappointed.

5) Dragon Age: OriginsDragon Age: Origins is a game that I have yet to play through to the end, but what little I’ve seen has earned it a spot on this list. The fantasy fighting game starts with you selecting one of six characters to join a warrior faction called the Grey Wardens for the purpose of combating an ancient evil. Each character has their own unique background and origin story–the game gives you a glimpse into their lives prior to their arrival at the academy. I don’t know a whole lot about Dragon Age, but I’ve heard that your character’s gender also has an impact on how the narrative plays out.

4) Beyond: Two Souls (spoiler alert) – Beyond: Two Souls is a game that tells its story in a non-linear format, jumping back and forth to different points in the life of heroine Jodie. She is a character who has lived with a spirit guide named Aiden her entire life, and she has the unique ability to see the world through his perspective. Unfortunately for Jodie, she is taken from her mother at birth and is exploited as a spy by the government due to her ability to obtain information from a distance. The game largely revolves around Jodie’s journey to find where she belongs in an unforgiving world. Beyond: Two Souls is a great game not only for its variant story, but also for its multiple endings. There is even an outcome where Jodie dies and herself becomes a spirit guide to a young girl born during the course of the game.

3) Until Dawn (spoiler alert) – A survival horror game where even the slightest miscalculation can get a character killed, Until Dawn is definitely a nerve-wracking experience. The story follows eight friends vacationing at a mountain lodge owned by one of them, where they are besieged by a group of violent supernatural creatures. Until Dawn is not a perfect game–the story is chock full of plot holes and a few characters are downright annoying–but it does offer a lot of variance. It can end in any number of ways–ranging from everyone making it through the night to zero survivors.

2) King’s Quest VI – The Kings Quest games as a whole chronicle the story of a knight who earned the title of king and his family. The sixth game in the series follows the king’s son, Alexander, on his quest to rescue his true love, Cassima, upon receiving word that she and her kingdom are in danger. What’s most unique about Kings Quest VI is that you can either speed your way through it or take a longer path through the narrative to obtain the best possible ending. While the game ultimately concludes with Alexander and Cassima’s wedding, the ceremony can either have a sparse amount of guests or be a large, joyous event attended by both their families.

1) Heavy Rain (spoiler alert) – Heavy Rain is a dramatic mystery game that largely revolves around Ethan Mars, a father desperately racing against time after his son is abducted by a serial murderer known as the Origami Killer. The game also follows three other characters–journalist Madison, FBI agent Nathan, and P.I. Scott–investigating the killer and their crimes. What I like most about Heavy Rain is that there are dozens of ways in which it can end based on the actions of its four leading characters. There is even a scenario where the killer survives and escapes justice. Heavy Rain offers so much variety with each playthrough that I wish there were more video games like it.

While I love video games in general, the ones that offer flexibility in their story-telling definitely make me want to play through them multiple times. I do wish there were more games out there that let you choose your own adventure, but I am satisfied with what’s out there for now.


My View on Game to Film Adaptations

I’m of the opinion that reimagining a video game as a movie is a double-edged sword. I’ve seen this work in some cases, resulting in a nicely fleshed-out film that tells a good story. In other cases, the adaptation is a directionless, over-the-top mess and not worth the money. Granted, I prefer not to pass judgment until I’ve seen a film for myself, but I’ve found video game adaptions to be either hit or miss.

I believe part of the problem is that it’s hard to condense a game that contains hours upon hours of content down to a two to three hour movie. Or Hollywood will try unsuccessfully to build a story from a game that doesn’t really have one, as is the case with Angry Birds.

Below is my list of the video game adaptations that I’ve seen and my opinion of them.

1) Resident Evil live action films – I am a huge fan of the Resident Evil video games, and I was excited when I first heard there would be an adaptation back in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, I have been disappointed with the live action movie series as a whole. Too many liberties were taken with the franchise, such as the films revolving around a character named Alice and her struggles against the villainous Dr. Isaacs, neither of whom were present in the games. Of the dozens of iconic monsters in the video games, only five or six actually made it into the film adaptations. Even more frustrating, especially to me as a writer, is the lack of consistency in the movie series even though all six films were directed by the same person – the story in the sixth movie even directly contradicts the plot presented in the second. If you wish to discover what the game series is about, the live action films with Milla Jovovich are not the way to go.

2) DoomDoom is a film that worked because the game had a simplistic plot that translated well to the silver screen. It’s hard to go wrong with the basic premise of combating creatures coming from a portal to hell that was inadvertently opened at a Mars colony. The film adaptation added an extra layer to this concept by introducing a pair of estranged siblings – a marine and a scientist – who must band together if they hope to survive. Granted, I know the film bombed at the box office, but it is one movie that I thoroughly enjoy and find worthy of a spot in my DVD library.

3) Mortal KombatMortal Kombat is perhaps the best game-to-film adaptation I’ve seen. It is the one and only movie on this list that is the most faithful to its video game counterpart. The first Mortal Kombat film did a fantastic job fleshing out the characters and conflicts in addition to telling a good story. I wish the same were true of the sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. But I’ve yet to see another video game adaptation that’s on the same level.

4) Assassin’s Creed – Assassin’s Creed had potential to be a really great film since it had an excellent premise to draw from. Granted, I’ve never played any one of the games as of this point, but I would say that the film suffers from poor direction and lackluster storytelling. While Assassin’s Creed has some good elements, the pacing is too slow and it fails to delve into what motivates each of the central characters. In the hands of a production team with more vision, this movie could easily have been much more compelling.

5) Super Mario Brothers Super Mario Brothers is a film that I initially liked in spite of its childish plot and over-the-top acting. The movie had some interesting concepts, such as a world where dinosaurs evolved to a human state. And I still get a kick out of hearing Dennis Hopper as the evil King Koopa, to get his men to hunt down the title characters, issue a “Plumber alert” like it’s an everyday occurrence. Super Mario Brothers isn’t necessarily a bad film. It is simply one that would appeal more to kids than adults.

6) House of the Dead – I’ve never played any of the House of the Dead games, but I do know they generally have you fighting zombie-esque creatures created by a mad scientist named Dr. Curien. The film took a step back to serve as a prequel to the first game and explain where Dr. Curien acquired the formula to manufacture these monsters. The House of the Dead movie presented an interesting plot in the trailers, which is what drew me to watch it. The ending, however, was anti-climactic and left a lot to be desired. That’s not to say I dislike this film. In my opinion, the fight choreography and some aspects of the cinematography balance out the flaws in the movie.

7) Silent Hill Silent Hill is another film adaptation that is quite good. It does a fantastic job of matching the spooky atmosphere and nightmarish world presented in the first game. Not so much with the story – some liberties were taken there. The most notable difference between the movie and the first game is the inclusion of the iconic monster, Pyramid-Head, in the film – this particular character features only in the second game in the series and is not quite as threatening as he’s made out to be on the big screen. I would say the biggest failings of Silent Hill and it’s sequel is that there’s too much of an emphasis on acts of violence instead of quiet subtlety.

8) Prince of Persia: Sands of Time – I’ve never played the Prince of Persia games and I honestly don’t know how the movie compares to them as a whole. But I really like the film for its fantasy premise and use of a mystical dagger that can allow the holder to go back in time a few minutes to undo life-threatening situations. There are enough twists and turns in the movie to keep it interesting until the end. The only downside I encountered with Prince of Persia: Sands of Time was watching it with a drunk older brother who kept making me pause it so he could rant about the historical inaccuracies.

9) Mass Effect: Paragon LostMass Effect: Paragon Lost is easily the poorest piece of cinema to make it onto this list. It seems to exist only as a way for the game creators to milk some more money for their franchise. Paragon Lost delves into the backstory of James Vega, a supporting character introduced in the third game in the Mass Effect trilogy. Overall, the film is a waste of money, doesn’t contribute anything meaningful to the games, and is poorly animated. My advice – find something better to watch.

10) Final Fantasy: Spirits Within – I know that the Final Fantasy game series started with medieval fantasy games before morphing into contemporary or futuristic adventures. But I don’t know if Spirits Within came before or after this transition. The first animated Final Fantasy film is set in the future and sees humanity struggling to survive against ghost-like monstrous entities set to wipe out the last dredges of mankind. Unfortunately, Spirits Within lacked a solid story and the ending didn’t make a lot of sense. While I got a bit of enjoyment out of it, I definitely would not recommend it.

Honorary mention: Wreck-It Ralph – The only film on the list that wasn’t adapted from a video game, Wreck-It Ralph is still one of the best movies out there for gaming enthusiasts. It is chock-full of characters from popular retro games, such as Q-Bert, Pac-Man, and Sonic the Hedgehog. And it tells a fantastic story centered around three separate fictional games – Fix-It Felix Jr., Sugar Rush, and Hero’s Duty – that exist together within the same arcade. I’m a lover of video games and stories with good plot twists, and Wreck-It Ralph has both. Two thumbs up.

I hope you enjoyed my critique of some of the video game adaptations out there. Do you agree or disagree with my views? Please let me know in the comments below.

First Experience with Mass Effect: Andromeda

Note:  There are spoilers in this article.


Being an avid fan of the Mass Effect series, I had been looking forward to Mass Effect: Andromeda for what seems like forever.  Enough so that I couldn’t resist purchasing the Super Deluxe Edition to get twenty weeks of bonus content for the multiplayer side game.  As with Resident Evil 7 and Dead Rising 4, I was certain that Mass Effect:  Andromeda would not run on the computer I have.  Even more so in this case, since my PC is an i3 with only 6 GB of RAM and Andromeda required an i7 with 16 GB.

I still had to try, if only to cash in on the multiplayer content, but my PC became the Little Engine That Could.  I watched in awe as the game not only booted up, but actually ran without crashing.  I launched the multiplayer to collect whatever booster packs were available – I got an ultra-rare combatant and some nice weaponry in the process – before delving into the main game.  The picture is very grainy and there are a few minor bugs here and there, but nothing that really ruins the overall experience for me.

The story for Mass Effect: Andromeda is fairly simple.  You are playing as Sara or Scott Ryder, the default names given to a set of twins at the core of the story.  No matter which twin you choose as your character, the other still has a role to play.  You are part of an expedition to build a new home for humanity in a galaxy far removed from the Milky Way.  Such a task proves to be a challenge when it’s discovered that an unforeseen calamity has rendered all potential “golden worlds” uninhabitable.  It has also left the space station hub meant to be a waystation for colonists in dire straits.

To make matters worse for Scott or Sara, their twin is rendered comatose and their father, the expedition’s leader\Pathfinder, is killed at the end of the game’s first mission.  The task of finding planets to colonize and thus save thousands of people aboard the space station falls on the shoulders of Scott or Sara.

One of the things I love about Mass Effect: Andromeda is the character customization.  For my first outing, I picked the female Ryder twin, who I renamed as Claire.  The look I chose for her also determined the appearance of her brother and father.  The notion of having a non-playable character’s look be established by what is chosen for the main character is a feature I’d previously seen used in Fallout 4; I really dig the concept and hope to see it utilized in many more video games to come.

My character, Claire, and her father.

Though I had some idea of what to expect from having watched Youtube videos of the opening, I still felt like a out of my element at times.  The first thing that took some getting used to was jumping, particularly over long distances.  The game didn’t offer very clear instructions on how to leap over the more dangerous chasms on the first planet you explore.  I had to resort to trial and error and a lot of failed attempts before I made it across.

The next hurdle was in navigating the terrain.  I got turned around a number of times and was going in circles since there isn’t much deviation in the landscape.  The occasional fights I got into added to my confusion on which way I should be heading.  It’s a wonder that I even made it to a spot on the map where the story would advance.

It took me some time to get through the first mission, but all my roaming still yielded some discoveries about the planet I hadn’t seen in the Youtube videos.  Some landmarks I stumbled across got me inclined to think that this world will be revisited at a later point in the story.

Despite my eagerness to start exploring the next world to potentially colonize, I spent a good deal of time wandering around the space station hub – the Nexus – to talk to people and complete side quests.  After roughly two and a half hours spent “goofing off”, I finally ventured to the area of the Nexus where my character’s personal starship, the Tempest, could be found.  I might not have the best quality picture for the game, but I thought the ship looked beautiful when I first saw it.  In some ways, it looks nicer than the Normandy from the original Mass Effect trilogy.

The game crashed when I initiated a conversation with the Tempest’s pilot, but so far that’s been the only instance where it did.  There was no recurrence of this when I tried it again, so I gleefully surged ahead into the next part of the story.

Exploring the desert planet, Eos, came with its own set of challenges.  Soon after making my way to the planet’s surface, I uncovered a ground vehicle that could make it easier to get from one location to another – unless you’re like me.  As I’ve learned from many other video games that came before, I suck terribly at driving.  This largely led to me spending a half hour doing donuts around the derelict outpost where I found the vehicle or attempting to get up a very small hill with little success.  Part of the trouble associated with the latter was I couldn’t figure out how to shift from four-wheel to six-wheel drive.

After gaining access to and exploring an entire underground vault, I decided to shut down the game for the time being.  Mass Effect: Andromeda was set up so the game could be downloaded at the same time it was running.  I was disappointed when I saw the download, though near finished, had inexplicably halted.  I couldn’t figure out how to get it going again, so chose to cancel and restart it.  This turned out to be a mistake when the download started over from the very beginning.  I was unable to continue my saved game or access the multiplayer side game until it reached a certain point.  My internet connection isn’t the best, so it took two days to pick up where I left off.

As soon as I was able, I accessed the multiplayer game to participate in a few skirmishes.  I had no trouble joining a four-person team, but the load time to start the actual fight was unbelievably long.  After waiting several minutes to join in on the skirmish, I got a message saying my internet connection had been lost.  I subsequently tried a solo run.  While that one did launch after an excessive load time, I quickly got swarmed by the enemy units I was up against.  If that experience taught me anything, it’s to not stay in one spot for the entirety of the fight.

When I was able to resume the main game, I went about establishing a military outpost on Eos to serve as the first successful human colony in the Andromeda galaxy.  I then journeyed to another planet called Aya, where I met with the peaceful alien race, the Angara.  Sadly, this is where my fun came to a screeching halt.  After I recruited an Angaran team member, the game went into an infinite loading screen.  I thought if I gave it enough time, I would be able to carry on with whatever adventure came next.  After waiting nearly four and a half hours, I decided I would have to call it quits.  It appears I will need a new computer if I want to play out the rest of Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Until such time, I am determined to stay spoiler-free on what comes next in the story.  But the game has done such a good job setting up several mysteries with the antagonistic Kett alien race and the underground vaults built by an ancient species known as the Remnants that I will anxiously await the day where I get to see how the narrative plays out.   I can promise a continuation of my impressions of the game when that day comes.


The Top Ten Things I Love About the Mass Effect Series

(Note: There are spoilers in this article.)

Finding a video game series that is well thought out and has a fully fleshed out history to its name is a rare thing.  One such series that does so is the Mass Effect “Commander Shepherd” Trilogy.  I don’t know of any other franchise on the same level, but the Mass Effect series sets the bar for how to make a trilogy outstanding.  Though the overall ending presented with Mass Effect 3 left many fans disappointed, that shouldn’t take away from the quality of the games as a whole.

The sci-fi series kicks off with the introduction of Shepherd, the second-in-command officer of a starship called the Normandy who leads a team to save a colony under siege.  Though only one colonist is found alive, he reveals the perpetrator as Saren, a member of an elite and exclusive galactic policing organization (SPECTRE) who’s gone rogue.  In addition, Shepherd comes into contact with an alien artifact that gives him or her a cryptic vision of a cataclysmic event to come.

Those are just the basic plot points that set the stage for a huge epic adventure that takes three games to tell.  Unfortunately, the setup doesn’t do much for telling just how great the trilogy is, so here is my top ten list of what makes the Mass Effect games so fantastic.

10) History/Backstory – The first game introduces players to a dozen different alien races.  While each race has a distinct look that makes them intriguing enough, the game’s developers took the time to establish detailed backgrounds for each and every one of them – even the Elcor and Hanar though they don’t play a central role in the story.  I don’t know of many sci-fi games that would build up a cultural and economic history for alien races who don’t get a lot of screen time, so kudos to the production team.

9) Game-save imports – It is not necessary to play all three games in the trilogy to understand the overall story, but it is recommended if the player wants to make the most of their experience.  There are at least a hundred different characters to interact with in Mass Effect 1 – most of whom Shepherd merely engages in conversation with.  However, supporting characters, provided they survive, will only appear in the subsequent chapters of the trilogy if the player imports a save containing data of what occurred in the preceding installment.  These imports add more depth to the overall story.  For example, saving or sacrificing a seemingly unimportant character in the first game has an impact of on how the second or third installment plays out.

Two versions of Commander Shepherd as created by me.

8) Character Customization – I know that there are other games that allow the player to decide how the main character looks or what their name should be, but the Mass Effect trilogy takes it to another level.  Shepherd’s look is not set in stone from one game to the next, even if a save is imported.  For example, Shepherd dies within the first fifteen minutes of Mass Effect 2, only to be brought back to life by expensive scientific means by one of the trilogy’s more shady characters, The Illusive Man.  Upon his or her resurrection, Shepherd’s appearance can be altered by the player if desired.  Though there is no clear reason given for why Shepherd’s appearance is prone to change between the second and third games, the option to alter the main character’s look is also present in Mass Effect 3.

7) Variety – One of the things I love most about the trilogy is how versatile the story is.  There are so many variants present in the games that you would have to replay them multiple times to experience everything.  Whether you’d like to see Commander Shepherd as male or female, peacemaker or badass, or engage in a relationship with one of the many romanceable crew members available, there is guaranteed to be enough variety to keep the games from ever getting stale.

6) Unavoidable decisions – Since nothing particularly bad happens to any of Shepherd’s squad mates\team members through much of Mass Effect 1, it’s easy to get attached to all of them.  So when a mission to take down Saren on the planet, Virmire, comes around late in the game, the player is forced to make a tough call.  Two squad mates – Kaiden Alenko and Ashley Williams – each come under heavy fire at separate ends of Saren’s complex, and Shepherd can only save one of them at the expense of the other.  While decisions don’t carry as much weight in the second game, there are several in Mass Effect 3 that pack the same kind of punch.

5) Multiplayer mode – In addition to its main story, Mass Effect 3 has a multiplayer mode where up to four players can team up via internet connection for a skirmish against one of the enemy armies present in the trilogy.  In this setting, you can choose to be a human combatant or one of the humanoid aliens present in the main game.  My personal preference is to play as a Quarian Engineer since their sentry turrets come in handy in keeping enemy units from sneaking up behind you.  For the most part, I like doing solo runs though those are mostly limited to easy/bronze mode.  Maybe one day I’ll actually get good enough to make it through a hardcore/platinum mode (which has the toughest units from all four enemy armies coming at you right off the bat) on my own.

4) Personal pratfalls – As much as I love the trilogy for its story, variety, and engaging characters, there are a few dumb things I’ve done at points that made it a truly unique experience.  For instance, I’ve come to learn from a number of games that I suck when it comes to steering a ground-based vehicle.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve crashed a car into something within a video game, but in Mass Effect 1, I somehow managed to drive off the edge of a wide cloud-level platform multiple times.  During my first playthrough of Mass Effect 2, I thought I was doing fine until I undertook the mission to recruit Archangel/Garrus as a team member – I got confused on what I was supposed to be doing and personally gunned him down myself.  In addition, I would often play the second game when I was dead tired.  This sometimes resulted in me jolting awake in front of the computer to find myself holding down the forward arrow key and Shepherd face-planted against a wall.

3) Monsters – No matter the game, there is nothing more jarring than being forced to combat someone you think of as an ally.  Mass Effect 3 uses this premise in spades by pitting Commander Shepherd against monstrous versions of the alien races that players had come to know and love.  While most are easy to take out with the right weapon or skill set, none of them are more frightening than the mutated Asari, or Banshees.  A long-limbed grotesque creature with a distinctive scream and the ability to teleport toward you at a fast pace, any one Banshee can kill Shepherd/the player with one blow if he or she isn’t careful.  FYI, Banshees are also included on my list of video game monsters that terrify me.

2) Romances – Pursuing a relationship in the Mass Effect trilogy is quite the experience in itself.  Between the three games, including the expansion packs, there are a total of 18 characters (or 19 if Aria T’Loak even counts) that Shepherd can get up close and personal with.  Romances are something that greatly add to the versatility of the games.  Shepherd can choose to stay true to his or her love interest from the first or second game or move on with someone else.  In most games that offer character customization, I prefer to play as a female character.  However, I have made an exception with the Mass Effect trilogy in the interest of pursuing a romance with one of Shepherd’s female teammates.

1) Humor\One-liners – The one thing that makes the Mass Effect series truly memorable is its unique wit.  The trilogy is filled with zingers guaranteed to get people chuckling.  Whether it’s Shepherd’s trademark statement for ending a conversation (“I should go.”), a snappy comeback to someone who confuses Shepherd with a very distinctive-looking alien (“Here’s a tip.  Two eyes – human.  Four eyes – Batarian.”), or humorous one-liners such as “I don’t need luck, I have ammo,” there is certain to be one bit of the dialogue in the games that will elicit a laugh.

This video game trilogy depicting the adventures of Commander Shepherd will always hold a special place in my heart, even if there is a forthcoming game to be released in March 2017 that may surpass them.  The upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda will be completely removed from the original trilogy by taking place 600 hundred years later in a separate galaxy and featuring an all-new cast of characters.  I don’t know much of what to expect from this upcoming game.  But if it retains the same elements that made its predecessors so great, I’m sure I’ll find it immensely entertaining.

I hope you all enjoyed this article, and please leave a comment below if you did.  Be sure to tune in next month for my first impressions of the soon-to-be-released Resident Evil 7.

©January 18, 2017