Why Mass Effect Story Is Not As Great As Everybody Think

Let’s get this out of the way: We love Mass Effect. We love the gameplay. We love the universe. We love the lore. I love the characters (even Kaiden Alenko, although he’s, like, right at the bottom of the pile, just below Keeper #6). And the story? Well…



Had to be here, didn’t it? After years of ME’s creative director Casey Hudson promising us that the end of the trilogy wouldn’t just be some cop-out three-way choice, Mass Effect 3 gave us a cop-out three-way choice. Which was weird, considering plenty of other decisions in the game were fairly nuanced.


It was always going to be tricky to draw the adventure to a close. The narrative had been building up to this incredible, jaw-dropping moment, and after spending years in this world, moulding the characters and deciding the fate of others, we all had our preconceived notions of how the galactic finale should play out. BioWare didn’t drop the ball here, they just kinda let it roll out of their hand because they couldn’t be bothered holding it any more. Probably.


Even the updated ending didn’t change the fundamentals of the narrative – all it did was throw a few cameos at us. The best we can do is repress those brutal memories, and celebrate the hundreds of hours that preceded it.


Why does Shepard do what s/he does? You know, besides saving all life in the known universe. An unquenchable death-drive and depression? An aversion to blue-eyed demagogues? Maybe it’s just something to do to pass the time.


The plot is Shepard’s motivation – and as a character, that’s somewhat weak. Very few characters are driven by plot alone, because it implies a lack of personality. Movies develop their characters by offering motivation – Luke Skywalker was initially motivated not by the Empire’s weapon of mass destruction, but by wanting to escape a humdrum life; Clarice Starling stops Buffalo Bill because of past traumas, not just because there’s a serial killer on the loose.

You could argue that, being an RPG an’ all, it’s about the player’s motivation, but this falls down for two reasons: Other games manage to offer an ulterior character motivation (Fallout 3’s Lone Wanderer wants to save their dad, for instance), and simply wanting to 100% a game doesn’t usually offer drive enough to prevent the actual destruction of the galaxy.


The hallmark of a character is that they develop over time. They mature and their experiences fundamentally alter who they are at the start of their story. But can we honestly say Shepard grew as a character?


S/he starts out with those Reaper visions. S/he ends up sacrificing their life for the good of the galaxy. But everything in between? It’s water off a Krogan’s back for this Alliance commander. Few quests ever force our hero to re-evaluate their preconceptions. Suicide missions that see your crew decimated are almost shrugged off as inconsequential after a little dialogue. Even being resurrected from death doesn’t really change who he is at heart – once Shepard’s out in the field it’s business as usual.

Shepard makes a vast impact the world around him, but the world never really impacts on him. Or her. You get the point.

Source – Whatculture