Following up my posts about humans as latest additions to a multi-species universe, I would like to talk about the Mass Effect franchise. Besides being a huge Bioware fan because of their storytelling, I find that Mass Effect could be considered a “true” legacy to Babylon 5.
Mass Effect depicts a universe with multiple important alien species, which also have history among them. This is both brought to light in actual missions but also through discussions. One thing I love in video game is being able to interact and learn more about not only my character’s companions but also the larger picture thanks to the companions’ (or even other NPCs encountered) backgrounds.
Like in Babylon 5, the story engages at a point where humankind already works with alien species in an established setting. Yet, humans as the most recent addition still have to prove themselves and negotiate certain remaining barriers. The first game shows that well since the protagonist works on being the first human allowed into the prestigious Spectre force. This elite group answers directly to the Citadel Council. It is interesting to see that while nothing new in Science Fiction stories, Mass Effect featuring a hub of activity on the Citadel space station, also ties into the kind of successful setting Babylon 5 provided, as well in its treatment of political and underground organizations.
Mass Effect has a stronger military aspect than Babylon 5 did. The game is indeed strongly combat-oriented in how the player can progress. Yet Bioware storytelling approach, including the moral choices allowed in the conversations give a certain degree of realness to the interactions and the character development. The interactive nature of a video game is obviously different from how a spectator responds to watching a television show, but building credible characters, lead or supporting, remains a strong storytelling component.
It is interesting to see how humans are perceived and handle interaction with numerous alien species. The fact that the games allow for a solid level of customization as well as choice span, which can impact friendships, rivalries, or even romances, helps the player get a more complex experience. The game can be enjoyed for gameplay, story, the pondering on a possible trajectory for humankind in the future can certainly be a very engaging asset of the franchise.
If you played Mass Effect, what did you think of the different civilizations interacting? Did the evolution of humankind’s place in the grand scheme of things have an impact on your experience?