Kotaku's Mass Effect Retrospective Editorials Galore

During the course of their Mass Effect series retrospective week, Kotaku has published a series of editorials on the series, and given how, for good or ill, the series has provoked strong reactions from the RPG audience, I thought it was only a given that we'd round them up in a post.

On the comic book tie-ins:
Everything is better with comic books. This is a universal truth, and it's doubly universally true for the Mass Effect trilogy. Between digital comics and Dark Horse's series, Mass Effect series scribe Mac Walters and some excellent artists and writers have added magificent layers of depth to the series you'll never see unless you read.

Video games, as free-form and massive as some of them may be, are nearly as restricted as movies are when it comes to telling a story. Screwing around with different perspectives, telling side-stories that aren't completely neccessary to the main plot that's where novels and comic books excel. Printed fiction is the perfect way to flesh out characters as well. Odds are if you do go through all of these series, you'll come out the other end with a deeper understanding and appreciation for your favorite character.

On the Mako:
What the Mako plot missions do provide is a sense of speed that the game doesn't otherwise accomplish. For example, you're sent to Feros knowing only that Saren and his Geth are searching for something there. Your initial interactions in the colony reinforce and complicate that mystery. You switch to the Mako at the point when Commander Shepard and crew switch into a more active role in trying to solve the mystery. Speeding across the crumbling bridges of the planet in the Mako as Geth move to attack immediately, straightforwardly, ratchets up that section's intensity. From that point, the mystery moves toward resolution, and driving the Mako reinforces the feeling that the story is gaining momentum.

Driving the Mako also illustrates the sheer size of the game space, on both plot-necessary and optional planets. After all, space is big! The main point of the Mako, what gives it reason to exist, is that it illustrates the size of Mass Effect's setting. For Mass Effect to work as a science fiction epic with galactic scope, it has to feel huge. Flying the Normandy from system to system is abstracted to the point of irrelevance, while the on-foot sections of the game are small and limited, particularly when compared to open-world games like the Elder Scrolls or Grand Theft Auto series.

On the villains:
To my mind, evil operates on a continuum in the Mass Effect trilogy, with two poles that represent different kinds of malevolence.

The Reapers represent erasure. They want to wipe organic life off the cosmological map. And one of the scariest things about the eons-old machine race is the fact that they've done it before, over and over again. And then they retreat back to the edges of the universe and lurk in wait for a chance to do it anew.


But the Reapers are more fearsome than the Borg because of the universe they operate in. In Star Trek, Starfleet is the big, mostly-conflict-free space family that humanity, Vulcans and loads of other races belong to. And since the Borg have mostly come into conflict with Starfleet forces, it's never felt like the entirety of the Trek universe was at risk. Maybe the Klingons would beat them, right? But in Mass Effect 3, as homeworld after homeworld fell, it really felt like the Reapers were unstoppable.

On the series' fictional corporations:
Alliance News Network

Who they are: A galaxy-wide news corp. In Mass Effect 3, they are the main source of news about the Reaper war.
Role in the story: Shepard meets Emily Wong, one of ANN's reporters, and has the option to help her out with her research on two occasions in Mass Effect 1. She later dies while reporting on the Reapers' attack on Earth at the start of Mass Effect 3. Also in ME3, Shepard can allow ANN correspondent Diana Allers onto the Normandy to let her report from the front lines of the war.

On elevators:
Everman didn't think people were going to like the first Mass Effect's slow elevators.

He recalled a horrible glitch that he discovered late in the development of that original game. And he recalled realizing that the only way to resolve it was to "heavily slow down the elevators."

Turns out the backlash wasn't quite as bad as it could be.

"The fact that I'm still walking the earth with unbroken legs means that gamers reacted much better to the elevators than I expected."