The history of Mass Effect is unlike any other video game franchise in modern times. Its highs are almost as legendary as its lows, and all unforgettable.
Earning itself blockbuster status and comparisons to Star Wars for its narrative, characters, and world-building, the original Mass Effect trilogy garnered critical acclaim. But sadly, it’s a case of how you leave them, and Mass Effect 3 infamously left audiences with a sour taste in its mouth for its ending. Many dark years followed for the franchise, which is only now starting to see some light.
November 7th marks N7 day, the annual celebration of the series, and this year its fifteenth anniversary. What better time to look back on the history of Mass Effect? From its first game to its future, follow us on this trip down memory lane.
Elevators and Excellence
Before the first Mass Effect game, developers Bioware had already built a stellar reputation as a studio. Through titles like Baldur’s Gate and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, they displayed their talent for building immersive worlds, compelling characters, and stories, as well as meaningful player choices. Three pillars would later be key to the success of their brand-new IP.
Releasing in 2007 exclusively for the Xbox 360, the original Mass Effect was a true sci-fi epic. As Commander Shepard, players went on an epic quest across space to stop the rogue Spectre Saren Arterius from releasing a destructive race of sentient machines known as the Reapers. Although its mainstream attention was focused on some, um, ‘blue’ romance scenes in the game, it garnered acclaim from a passionate and dedicated fan base.
From Iconic crewmates like Liara, Garrus, and Wrex, to iconic locations, fascinating alien species and customs, to one of the best spaceships in all of gaming, Mass Effect was a home run for players. It would come to PC in 2008, around the same time as its first DLC pack, the dramatically named Bring Down the Sky. Combat, as well as never-ending elevator rides, was given scrutiny for being a little clunky and unrefined. But that problem disappeared very quickly.
A Blockbuster in Gaming
Living through the pre-release marketing for Mass Effect 2 was a special time. As well as setting the game up to achieve blockbuster heights, it came with a fiercely compelling hook – Commander Shepard is dead. Of course, that wouldn’t last, but the opening mission that saw the original Normandy destroyed and Shepard left to die in the vacuum of space set a new bar. One Mass Effect 2 continued to raise.
Everything about this game was bigger. Built around the need to tackle a dangerous Suicide Mission, you recruited a larger squad with bigger personalities, acquired an even more spacious – and less elevator ridden – ship, and set out to explore even greater swathes of the galaxy. Behind the scenes, big names like Martin Sheen and Yvonne Strahovski were brought in to help make all the new faces feel larger than life.
With better-tuned combat on top, Mass Effect 2 rode this momentum into a well-received bevy of DLC. Adding new squadmates, weaponry, and meaningful new missions including the iconic Lair of the Shadow Broker. Momentum was behind the franchise heading into the trilogy’s conclusions. Expectations were through the roof. What could possibly go wrong?
Peaks and Troughs
Mass Effect 3 is an excellent game. Refining combat even further, cranking up the cinematic feel at every turn, and delivering on big, emotional moments players had been anticipating for years, this title was doing everything right. But where it infamously fell flat was in its ending. The trilogy had made a big point of how much player choices mattered. Mass Effect 2’s Suicide Mission showcased this, as any of your squadmates or Shepard could die. But no matter what you did in this game or any that had come before, Mass Effect 3 would only ever have one of three endings you chose in the final moments of the game.
Fan backlash was such that Bioware created and released the free Extended Cut version of the ending to try and placate players. It was a nice gesture, but only served to expand on choices you had made earlier in the game rather than overhaul the arbitrary nature of the ending itself. Further paid DLC packs did dive into parts of the game that had been underserved, and the final Citadel add-on was a wonderful sign-off for the series as a whole. A love letter to the fans and characters, it did not remove the cloud that was now over the series’ head after Mass Effect 3’s original ending.
It would be five years before the series returned to our consoles and computers. During that time, Bioware would lose Casey Hudson who had served as Mass Effect’s project director and been seen by many fans as the force behind the franchise’s success. When the spin-off title, Mass Effect Andromeda, came out, it was not to thunderous applause. Aside from less depth to the story, uninteresting worlds and quests, plus characters that failed to connect like the original trilogy’s did, Andromeda was a broken game. No amount of patching could fix the damage done by launch day bugs to this title’s reputation, and it was quietly forgotten by players and Bioware, who moved on to make Anthem.
That did not go much better.
A Bright Future for Mass Effect?
After another hiatus of three years, Mass Effect came back to the joy of many in 2020. On N7 of that year, two announcements were made. The first was for Mass Effect Legendary Edition. This remaster of the original trilogy allows fans and new players to experience the games in their best possible forms. All the DLC and bonus content was included, and the first Mass Effect received extensive work to hide its age and align all three games visually. The collection came out soon after in May of 2021.
The other announcement is what continues to excite longtime and loyal fans – that a new Mass Effect game is in development. Better still, a teaser was released a month later confirming additional news; this sequel would continue the original trilogy’s story of Commander Shepard, Liara, and more.
Although nothing more has come out since then, the restraint of the announcement and direction has fans excited. Mass Effect is filled with beloved characters and exciting stories. Despite its conclusion, the trilogy is often hailed as possibly the finest in all of gaming. So ultimately fans just want to return to this exciting world for more adventures. If it’s going to be done right, they’re willing to wait for it.
Celebrate Mass Effect…With Sims 4?
While N7 Day 2022 sadly did not come with any big news on the next Mass Effect game, it did come with reveal of an unexpected crossover! Bioware revealed that from November 17th you’ll be able to get some N7-themed wearable items in Sims 4. Another great bundle you can get for the newly free-to-play game!
Experience Mass Effect on These Gaming PCs
Ready to travel across the Milky Way and end the Reaper threat once again? Whether it’s the first or the fiftieth time you’ve slipped into Commander Shepard’s N7 armour, these gaming PCs will make a great fit for your squad. You’ll be happy to know we’ve done all the calibrations for you and they’re perfect for Mass Effect Legendary Edition.
Refract Gaming Celeste (FS-1DH-EP)
Available for £1,399.99* with next-day delivery
The Celeste is a perfect gaming PC for setting off on the Normandy across the Milky Way. Equipped with an AMD Ryzen 5 5600G APU and 16GB of DDR4 RAM, it has all the power you need to blast away the Geth and Collectors. With its NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Graphics Card, the Celeste has plenty of graphical prowess inside it
’s gorgeous case. Plus, all Refract Gaming PCs come with a three-year parts and labour warranty as standard.
Refract Gaming Indigo (FS-1DN-EP)
Like Cerberus rebuilding Shepard and the Normandy, our team of experts has built the Indigo using premium hardware. It has a mighty Intel Core i9-12900KF CPU as well as lightning-fast 32GB DDR4 RAM. You can fight the Reapers in glorious 4K resolution thanks to the powerful NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 OC graphics card. This gaming PC is perfect for playing, streaming, and for creative endeavours. Plus saving the galaxy on the side.
Available for £2,499.95* with next-day delivery
OcUK Gaming Germanium Z7 (FS-1EC-OG)
Available to order £4,499.99*
Stacked with the kind of hardware you’d find on the Citadel, the Germanium Z7 is a beast of a gaming PC. In its incredible Phanteks Evolv X case is both a thirteenth generation Intel Core i7 CPU and an NVIDIA 4090 graphics card. That kind of hardware will have you blazing through interstellar adventures at actual lightspeed! Plus, when the next Mass Effect game comes, you should be more than ready for whatever it can throw at you.
*All prices correct at time of writing (01/11/22)