Mass Effect 3: Old, Unhappy, Far-Off Things


Previous entries in this series here (“Help Me Get Back Into Video Games After A Decade Off“), here (“What Ever Happened To Me Getting Back Into Video Games?“) and here (“Mass Effect 2: You Had Me At Martin Sheen“)

Well.  I knew it would be good.  I just didn’t know it would that good.

There’s a tipping point with good fiction.  When the story is good, when the audience is really listening, there comes a point where – temporarily – it becomes the main focus of your life, instead of a diversion.  The light side of this phenomenon is commitment.  Being involved with the fan community, discussing it with friends, maybe even dabbling in fan fiction.  The dark side is obsession.

There’s a great scene in The West Wing where Josh has a conversation with an intern who’s a Star Trek fan.

Janice Trumbull(speaking about Star Trek): I’m not obsessed. I’m just a fan, and I care.
Josh Lyman : I’m a fan. I’m a sports fan, I’m a music fan, and I’m a Star Trek fan, all of them. But here’s what I don’t do. Tell me if any of this sounds familiar. Let’s list our 10 favorite episodes. Let’s list our least favorite episodes. Let’s list our favorite galaxies. Let’s make a chart and see how often our favorite galaxies appear on our favorite episodes. What Romulan would you most like to see coupled with a Cardassian, and why? Let’s spend a weekend talking about Romulans falling in love with Cardassians and then let’s do it again. That’s not being a fan. That’s having a fetish, and I don’t have a problem with that except you can’t bring your hobbies into work. OK?
Janice: Got it.
Josh: Except on Star Trek holidays.
Janice: There’s no such thing as a Star Trek holiday.
Josh: Well, work hard around here. We’ll make one.

Putting aside the fact that some of what Josh lists hits a little too close to home considering what we do on this very site, his point is well taken.

I bring this up because after I finished Mass Effect 3 there were a few dicey moments when I felt myself going over that ledge.  Not content with the story being over, I was ready to dive headfirst into the internet and grab on to whatever I found – fanfiction, commentary, videos – like a life raft.  I’m glad I didn’t.  Sometimes it pays to take a breath, get some perspective.

I imagine the way I approached this is atypical.  I’m not sure I’d have appreciated Mass Effect more or less if I’d done it the normal way.  But all I have to say is, doing it like this – not playing video games for 10 years, then playing all three back-to-back-to-back with every single DLC – was a fairly massive experience.  One that I’ll remember for a long time.  It was like being in the desert and then finding an oasis that also had a bar, that served endless gin and tonics, and that also had a live band which was made up exclusively of beautiful/witty women.

Point of the point: amazing, awe-inspiring game.  A few hours after I finished it, I spent an hour furiously writing down my first impressions, and instead of polishing them up, I’m going to show them to you as-is, unedited:


Mass Effect 3 notes

Reapers = Deep Thought/Hactar from Hitchhiker’s Guide.  Taking the presented problem and going to a place that’s at the same time logical, and also batshit crazy.

Urgency – wow did this game do it well.  Every mission, never had a second to breathe.  Felt like if I ducked into a room to see if there was an item, I was costing people their lives.

Thessia, and parts of the last mission, literally, actually felt beat down by war; overwhelmed.

The ending is a test.  It’s not “like” the rest of the game at all, but the theme is very much in keeping with spirit of series.  Really looking forward to researching internet.  I’m sure I’m not the first one to point it out, but if you look at the end from the top down, it’s a red/blue dialogue choice.

Remember what EDI said – find video if possible – cut through the bullshit.  When you get right down to it, the Reapers are repulsive.  Control/merge options can’t be right.  Doomed to repeat because organic/synthetic can never get along – um, say hello to the combined Quarian/Geth fleets that are currently pummeling your ships.  Get DS9 quote from that Bashir episode with genetically enhanced people – like Miles said, you thought you could predict the future, had it all worked out what would happen in 1,000 years, but you couldn’t even predict what was going to happen in 10 minutes.  When you get right down to it, Reapers are evil.  Look at their words and deeds.  You don’t get to just get away with that.  Control = become one, basically.  “Assuming direct control,” doesn’t Harbinger literally say that?  And merge… you want to be part that?  Isn’t that just a husk?

Shockingly, it was the fact that EDI would die that gave me pause.  Her arc in ME3 was so beautiful. Long tradition of computers becoming human.  Data.  Heinlein, TEFL – Athena? Minerva?  Battlestar – that’s the Athena one.  Huh, maybe there’s a thread here with greek mythology / sentient computers?  Very compelling trope.

Sat there for a few minutes.  Took it all in.  ME3 could be about 5 separate posts.  Or 50.  there are so many threads.  so many things this game did right or did in a way that was so seamlessly good I didn’t realize until later that video games never do that.

Can’t think of another video game where I actually teared up.  Mordin, Thane, Tali/Legion pretty much wrecked me.  EDI self-realization/Grunt survival was the happy version of this.


  1. thatsmrsnyder February 27, 2014
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    • Indy Z February 27, 2014
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