Introductions are out of the way now, so let’s move on to the actual game. That opening sequence is really cool, right!?
Except for people who maybe didn’t play that DLC in Mass Effect 2 where you saved everyone by blowing up a planet and preventing an early Reaper invasion. The context of this is just barely written in for those who don’t know about it and makes for a confusing introduction to the experience. We start off with Shepard going to a hearing because planets are just going dead silent on the edge of space and his old friend and mentor Anderson wants Shepard there to tell everyone for the thirdteenth time that “IT’S THE REAPERS YO”. So the Arrival DLC that people were intended to play at the end of Mass Effect 2 lays this groundwork of Shepard supposedly buying us time to prevent the Reaper invasion but really it just lays the groundwork for Shepard to not be a Spectre and be stripped of his office as a part of the Earth Alliance. It also just makes it easier for Shepard and his gang from Mass Effect 2 to split up and not be a part of Cerberus anymore. All this groundwork is what we call plot convenience because at the meeting more outposts go dead silent and then the Reapers invade Earth making all that setup completely useless (so much for buying time) except to have Anderson put Shepard on the remodeled Normady that he gave to the Alliance, leave Captain Anderson on Earth, and fight the Reapers while Shepard goes off and finds a magical way to destroy the enemy. Here’s where this DLC logic fails: DLC introduces imminent Reaper threat that forces Shepard into sacrificing lives to delay Reapers. Shepard gets stripped of position and surrenders Normandy to Alliance but he has bought everyone time. NOT HAVNG DLC means Shepard still quits Cerberus and gets stripped of position and surrenders the Normandy to the Alliance and this need for more time just doesn’t exist from the player’s eye. And it doesn’t matter or affect the 3rd game, it just adds in a blank hole in the story for your hard earned cash. Truly it was a DLC meant to lead into the third game since the writers needed Shepard & Co. working for the good guys again but it showcases difficulties of game production, writing, and the dreaded DLC monster.
Oh, and Shepard witnesses a child get super slaughtered by the Reapers along with hundreds of millions of other people trying to escape the planet, giving the start of Earth’s destruction a poetic scale to emotionally attach players to Shepard’s long fight with the Reapers. This would actually have been a really effective scene if the entire series had given Shepard any depth beyond the player’s own perceived / custom preferences for certain party members and their potential romantic interest in the series.
There’s even a nice tutorial sequence with Anderson and Shepard shooting their way across a war-torn Earth with a brief pause talking up how exhausting this has all been: Uncovering the Reaper threat, getting people to listen to you, killing Sovereign, fighting the Collectors, and now the war is here. Later in the game this child’s death comes up again in dreams and in conversations with characters like this long struggle has been haunting Shepard. And it probably would haunt anyone who lived to see those horrors. But Mass Effect as I’ve heard it put before is a game in which you’re practically interviewing the other characters in the game as they pose for the game camera and you act as their bartender as they tell you life’s problems. No one cares about your problems, you’re the Commanding Space Hero! And maybe it’s a flaw of the series across its development and maybe it is a part of that grand question that I mentioned before, “What would Mass Effect be like if it launched in today’s video game market?” But this is a thing (so far at least) of too little, too late. Reapers are here, it’s not time for Shepard to have an emotional breakdown. It’s time to kick-ass!
Next post we talk about extended intro sequences, the MARS MISSION, and Kaiden Alenko. OOOOOOOO.