Is Mass Effect the Best Sci-Fi Franchise of Our Time?

pop bioethics mass effect

With Mass Effect 3 on hot approach, it seems that related articles are crawling out of the woodwork. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that’s we’re prone to sensationalism here at GamerSushi, there’s no denying that we’re jonesing pretty hard for that game.

Much like the Zelda article I posted a couple days ago, this essay on Mass Effect has been making its rounds today. It’s not about fixing the series, though, but rather examining why Mass Effect is the greatest science-fiction universe of our generation. It’s a very long read, but just like the Zelda article, it’s worth it. The author, Kyle Munkittrick, picks apart the many facets of Mass Effect and analyzes everything from the medium it’s presented on to its messages and philosophies.

One of my favorite parts of the article is where the writer touches on my favorite conversation from Mass Effect one, and maybe the whole series: the point of Virmire where you encounter Sovereign and realize that Saren is merely a pawn in this living, almost god-like, ship’s plan to destroy all sentient life in the universe. That’s part of what the philosophy of Mass Effect is, according to the author: the universe is large and uncaring, and what place does humanity have in it. By extension, what place do you as Shepard have in humanity?

I really like the recent surge in quality video game essays recently, ones that take a look at our hobby through a more refined lens. It proves that there’s more to video games than just explosions and scantily-clad women, so I hope this pace keeps up. What did you guys think of the article?

Source – Pop Bioethics

Written by

mitch@gamersushi.com Twitter: @mi7ch Gamertag: Lubeius PSN ID: Lubeius SteamID: Lube182 Origin/EA:Lube182 Currently Playing: Stardew Valley, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords, Battlefield 4, Tom Clancy Double Feature: Rainbow Six Siege and The Division

15 thoughts on “Is Mass Effect the Best Sci-Fi Franchise of Our Time?”

  1. Great article. Mass Effect is one of the best Sci-Fi franchise of our generation. I state this becasue of how Mass Effect takes so many bits and pieces from other franchises but still remains unique and creats it own universe without ripping off anyone else.

    This is also helped by the fact that Bioware created shuch a rich history/background for the franchise and continued to exspand it beyond the games i.e books (the good ones) set befor and after the events in the games. The only other sci-fi franchies I can say are near or close to gettin in the same league of Mass Effect are, Dead Space, Halo, Half-Life,Deus Ex.

  2. I loved this article, and not just because it got me even more excited for Mass Effect 3. I’ve always thought that the Mass Effect series was amazing, but I was never able to put into words exactly why I felt this way. Now I don’t have too, because this guy has done it for me. He’s picked up on things I just accepted. Things like humans being further down the galactic food chain I had caught, but I had never really noticed wandering around on the various planets just how out-numbered we were.

    God I can’t wait for part 3. After reading this, I’m kind of hoping that Bioware forces us to lose to the Reapers. It would really follow along with this article of humanity being insignificant and powerless. If Bioware can pull that off…. God just release the game already!!

  3. I haven’t read the article, but I’m sure I can guess at many of the major points that it brings up. I think it’s a great universe, and certainly one of the most well-developed sci-fi universes I’ve ever seen, but there are a few things in it that bug me. These are things that really get me in almost any sci-fi, universe though:

    1. Almost all the aliens are humanoids. Shouldn’t they be a little less humanoid? Turian, Drell, Asari, Quarian, Prothean, Geth, and even Krogan are all pretty much human in proportions and limb numbers and basic shape. Krogan the least, but even that wasn’t a big stretch.
    1.5 Not even going to get into the fact that their mouths match up to English far better than it should – ok yes I am. I think if the aliens actually speak another language it should look like a crappy Chinese Martial Arts film dub – that is if there are translator implants, which I will assume there are.

    Those are my biggest complaints that I feel actually detract from the universe, or at least remind me that the universe is in fact fake, and makes it harder for me to really get into the game. But like I said, it’s really a problem that almost all sci-fi has.

    The attention to detail, however, makes up for the flaws, and I hope that ME3 has a real, solid story to it. I loved ME1 for the story, but I felt like ME2 was a (very fun) filler game whose only major plot point was that [SPOILER] Protheans are Collectors [/SPOILER].

  4. I was always under the impression that the Reapers specifically designed most sentient life to fall under the basic “humanoid” appearance for some B-S reason I’m forgetting right now.

    When in doubt, plot-hammer.

  5. [quote comment=”18685″]Haven’t read the article yet, but can’t wait to.

    I just came here to say that I love that image.

    k, that’s it.[/quote]
    Is there a wallpaper for that somewhere? It looks so awesome, like a Blade Runner/ME crossover.

  6. Definitely an interesting article, and worth a read. First, though, I would just like to point out the difference between “best sc-fi franchise of our time” (your words) and “most important sci-fi universe of our generation” (article’s words). I went in ready to blast this guy to pieces, but it turned out he was pretty reasonable and argued well. Like everyone here, I can’t wait to see how the saga ends.

    I would also put Oddworld in there as an important sci-fi universe, though it was nowhere near as popular as ME is, and could be argued that it’s not sci-fi. Especially when considering Stranger’s Wrath, Mass Effect’s decision to make the main character completely moldable hurts the franchise’s “importance” rather than helps it. Whereas the Stranger had a personality of his own and we get to see him react in meaningful ways to his environment, not always in altruistic ways, Shepard’s actions have little connection from one to the next, and there is very little room for shades of grey (as in the entire world of Mass Effect, it seems, though Cerebus certainly challenges that idea).

    Which brings me to what I think might be the “most important sci-fi universe of our generation”. While pretty much any Miyazaki movie could take this title, I’m going with “Howl’s Moving Castle” simply because it’s the most “sci-fi”. In a much shorter time span than Mass Effect, Howl’s movie covers all the same areas the author points out in the article (a huge, godless universe in which things happen that are beyond our control), and also manages to flesh our pretty much every character in a way Mass Effect could never accomplish. There’s no villains in Miyazaki’s worlds, just characters who shape the world in ways they think are best. It’s on a much smaller scale, but equally, if not more, poignant.

  7. I would say that it most certainly is. The thing that I love about Mass Effect (and other Bioware games) is the world building. I care about the other races as much as humanity in that game purely because they are all a loving creation with history and unique ways of life.
    When the author brought up the question “Why fight for survival in a meaningless universe?” I really gave that a lot of thought. Not just about Mass Effect, or evem games in general, but about my life too. Mitch, you’re 100% spot on about the surge in quality of video game essays. I can’t think of the last time I really put so much thought into discussing games. Movies and books? Yes, all the time. Games? Only recently.

  8. Even if Mass Effect 3 isn’t awesome (I don’t know why it wouldn’t be, although it’d probably have something to do with Mr. Jersey Shore), I can still revel in the fact that Mass Effect 2 was definitely one of the most fun games I’ve played, and as I reminisce, I feel it was more and more awesome. I loved all the loyalty missions and ending mission, especially Tali’s, and it was an excellent example of how to pace a game. The voice acting, animation, and world design were fantastic. The combat, while ridiculously watered-down, was still fun, and since you only spend maybe 8 hours in combat total, the weapons and biotics / tech powers that were available made for some nice shootouts in between the dialogue that was so fun.

    Anyhoo, I agree that Mass Effect is a very IMPORTANT sci-fi series, and it’s mainly because of how much time and effort Bioware put into the backstory of Mass Effect’s universe. The whole galaxy feels alive and real, and I’m excited to see more stories from Mass Effect’s universe after this original trilogy. Who knows, with more installments, the series might find that perfect blend between combat, RPG, and story.

  9. @ dp: I like your point about Howl’s Moving Castle. Miyazaki has a consistent theme in his movies that there are no bad guys, simply people with opposing visions for the world. In Princess Mononoke, my personal favorite, everyone is a bad guy, except for maybe Ashitaka. Lady Ebosha is trying to get to the ore under the forest because that’s the only way Irontown will survive. The animals want to destroy Irontown because it’s an irreverent threat to their life and land. I always love the stories that don’t have good vs evil, but have more realistic conflicts.

    After reading the article, I’ve got to say I have even more respect for the Mass Effect Universe. The theme that life, and specifically humanity, is insignificant is powerful and frightening. I love how Mass Effect explores life in all its beauty and futility, whether its organic or synthetic. I think what I like most about Legion is that the faceless mooks from ME1 are finally given a face (and awesome voice) in Legion, and he explains what the Geth are as a society. What really struck me was the Geth dream; to exist in perfect harmony in a megastructure like a Dyson sphere. That’s a noble dream even in human terms; to end conflict through communion. The Geth have a tangible idea of how to achieve perfect coexistence, yet their dream is just as hopeless as any human dream because of how scattered the Geth are and how expensive it would be to build a megastructure. Instead of being puppets under an evil robots control, the Geth were a race which I could sympathize with, particularly because Legion’s Geth rejected the Old Machines’ plans to control the Geth. That too, the urge to craft one’s future by one’s own means, is a very human-like feeling that defies the argument that humanity is insignificant. I want to see what happens to Legion as much as I want to see what happens to humanity.

    I just hope that ME3 doesn’t focus too much on the invasion of Earth because there’s no hope, bro. An army of Reapers descending on the puny humans?! Even the Citadel was barely a match for one! Plus, if Earth were to stage a massive resistance effort or even if all the Council Races were to step in, that undermines Mass Effect’s theme, that humans are insignificant. I want to see Earth be destroyed, because it’ll be a lot more interesting to see how humans recover from the loss of their homeworld, from whence they’ll have to seek a new identity among the stars, than to have the Council or some elite team of humans come riding in on their horses, magically fending off the vastly superior Reapers. C’mon, Bioware. Mass Effect is an edgy sci-fi. I want to see Earth fall, and humans rise from the ashes!

    Oh, and quick note: Remember in Mass Effect 1 when Shepard speaks directly to Sovereign for the first time, and Shepard notices that Sovereign is a Reaper. Then Sovereign responds and says:

    “Reaper? A label created by the Protheans to give voice to their destruction. In the end, what they chose to call us is irrelevant. We simply…are.”

    That’s a reference to God, as in the Christian God. God says that He is Who is. He is the Entity Who Exists.

    That’s probably what terrified me the most; that these Reapers could be gods, by definition. Such an awesome enemy!

    Man, I should really buy and replay Mass Effect 2. I borrowed it from a friend the first time; I DIDN’T PIRATE IT!

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