I’m a pretty traditional guy. At the start of Mass Effect, I knew I wanted Commander Shepard to look like this.
So what followed was an impulse. Instead of reading the text and customizing anything, I rapidly clicked the ‘accept’ option. What I didn’t know was that you can customize more than your character’s appearance. As a result, Commander Shepard was a soldier, and a sole survivor. To be honest, I don’t even know his pre-service history. He might be Earthborn, I don’t know.
I regret this. Playing the game as a soldier made everything harder. The battle with Liara’s mother was an eye-opener. I thought to myself, “why don’t I get those cool powers?” I didn’t realize that it was my fault. Half-way through the game, while browsing some forums, I saw people claiming that they were “Vanguards” and was so confused. Then it hit me.
It was too late to restart the game, so I just lived with it. Anyway, Shepard was a soldier, but more importantly, he was a Commander. When I got access to my ship and my crew, I felt overwhelmed. I got to know everyone. I had conversations with them, asking them how they felt about their mission. My most valuable crewmembers were Ashley Williams and Wrex. They were always chosen to accompany me on missions. Joker was also pretty cool, but he is a pilot. My relationship with my crew grew stronger throughout the game. The level of development really set this game apart from the rest.
I also got to know my ship, The Normandy. Every good Commander knows his ship. So I explored. The Normandy was massive, but more importantly, the Normandy was believable. There was everything you would expect to be on a spaceship. This is where the game really grabs you. The level of detail and life onboard was literally jaw-dropping. In most games, this would be considered the HUB; a central location that you would always return to. It is hard to argue otherwise. The Normandy was the HUB in Mass Effect, but it felt more like a home. Take a look at Skyloft, from Skyward Sword. You would always return there, running towards the market or talking to old friends. This felt more like a HUB. The Normandy felt far more personal. For this, I applaud BioWare.
As I progressed, I noticed how the characters reacted to my conversations. In particular, Ashley. She started calling me “Skipper”. By that point, I rarely talked to Kaiden Alenko, who was with me from the start. That’s why the decision on Virmire was an easy one. Not because I didn’t appreciate his loyalty, but because his sacrifice made more sense. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only loss on Virmire that day. When we found out about the Genophage, Wrex got angry. He started to snap, and I did what I had to do. This was, in my experience, the most emotional moment in the entire game.
Eventually, I battled through Saren, Sovereign, and the awful combat system. One of my last choices was in the heat of battle. The Council was at risk, and I had to sacrifice them or a large group of soldiers. Throughout the entire game, I have been trying to prove humanity’s worth and assure peace in the galaxy. Sacrificing the Council would have compromised it all. I know the importance of a government, and the mass hysteria that could result in their absence. I saved them. I still feel like I made the right decision.
And that was Mass Effect. The first game had its technical problems, but it felt like it was setting the path for something grand. The blueprints were there, leaving me more than anxious to play Mass Effect 2. I had already heard about Mass Effect 2’s ability to export my save file from the original Mass Effect, so I wondered what my choices would impact. Will my relationship with Ashley continue? Would the Council be gone in ME2 if I ignored their plea for help? Would Wrex be in Mass Effect 2 if I hadn’t killed him? Can I change my ‘class’ at the start of the next game? I sure hoped so.