I played through the Mass Effect games for the first time this year and they quickly became some of the best games I’ve ever played. I’ve formed emotional attachments to each character, I have favorite places I keep returning to, and I only have a few hours of Mass Effect 3 left before I’m done with the trilogy. I’m sure there’s a happy and satisfying ending waiting for me very soon, isn’t there? Right?!
The launch of the Legendary Edition combined with an adoration for the series by a number of my colleagues has finally convinced me to give Mass Effect a whirl and I look forward to playing through all three as quickly as possible, having need to know what’s next for Shepard and the rest of the crew. However, due to the need to play a few games that were released this year, I left a gap of a few months between the first two titles. The forgetful gamer that I am, by the time I got the chance to start the sequel, a lot of what happened in the first game had slipped my mind.
In most cases, this is not a major problem. I can read what I’ve been through to refresh my memory. It’s not that simple with Mass Effect. I had made decisions that influenced the path I took and even said goodbye to teammates who continue to exist in other people’s Mass Effect universes. Fortunately, bioware had my back. Upon starting Mass Effect 2 and selecting the option to import my save, I was prompted to browse through a virtual comic book reminding me of what happened in the first game. Naturally, I jumped at the chance and it reminded me of everything that had happened so far, including my inability to save Wrex on Virmire. Yes, I’ve been told before how terrible it is and will carry that guilt with me long after I finish the last game.
It ended and I was thrown straight into Mass Effect 2, ready to continue my adventure with all the decisions I had made so far in my mind. More than that, at least at the time, I was struck by the sheer genius of a series of still images at the start of a sequel to remind players of what had happened before. It made me wonder why more studios haven’t used this tactic to make sure key moments from previous games aren’t forgotten. Even in games where the decision-making doesn’t alter what comes next, it reduces the chance of someone you bump into before being reintroduced and prompting a “who’s that guy?” of you.
The gap I left between Mass Effects 2 and 3 was much shorter than the gap between the first two games because, well, the less time I had to dwell on the midgame suicide mission, the better. A side note at this point, when people who sung the show’s praises for me called it the Suicide Mission, I had no idea that was the name BioWare actually went by. Brutal. Anyway, even though no recap was needed since I was coming right back, I was still bummed to not see the comic return. Such a great idea not to be repurposed, especially when there were now two games that needed to be recapped to keep players up to date. Maybe BioWare figured that whatever happened in our respective suicide missions would be so etched into our brains, the last thing we needed was to show who we’ve lost frame by frame again. Or maybe the comic was really a reaction to the revelation that a lot of people are actually skipping the first game. You heathens.
All that being said, if I had played the Mass Effect games when they first launched and had to deal with a three year gap between those first two games, the recap comic would have been an even bigger lifesaver great than when I played the remasters. Not only would I have had a hard time remembering the plot and the decisions I made, but Mass Effect 2 launched in 2010, at a time when far fewer people were creating content that thoroughly explained the history and lore of a game. Well, actually, maybe not, but it was a time when I was much less aware that it was there. And back to my previous point, even if I had played the games at the time and read a recap, it wouldn’t have been unique to my own playthrough of Mass Effect.
Even though this doesn’t apply to most games, I would still like to be reminded of what happened before when I go back to a series. Like many of you, I’m about to play God of War Ragnarok, and four years later, I struggle to remember some of the finer details of what happened. Sure, I remember fighting Baldur to kick things off and the emotional finale of the last game, but a recap to remind me of everything else to kick off Ragnarok would be awesome. To my surprise and delight, there is an option to kick off the sequel with a recap of the first game. It is clear that the debut of Mass Effect 2 marked more than me.
I am also very aware that some of you will read this reacting in the same way as someone who insists on playing every game on the hardest difficulty as a Real Gamer™ does when hearing people dare do less. “It’s a random Salarian you helped in a minor side quest on the Citadel when you played this game half a decade ago, how can you not remember that?” As I would say to those who hate easy mode, let those who need it enjoy it.
On the other hand, maybe I just have a bad memory, or I take too long to play a game because I get distracted every once in a while by a new release. This comic was included at the start of Mass Effect 2 for a reason, but it also wasn’t included in Mass Effect 3, so what do I know? With a new Mass Effect coming, one that seems to take place just a few years after the end of 3, I’m probably going to need an encore before returning to the series. I still have Andromeda to play before that, though. It won’t make me any less reminiscent of a series that has quickly become one of my all-time favorites, right?