Mass Effect is the first game in a three-part series of one continuing story about saving the galaxy from a threatening alien species.
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Story & Themes
The history of the galaxy is convoluted and complicated, much like political history is in real life. The Turians and Salarians, for instance, are bitter enemies of the Krogan, a warlike species who were used to fight Turian and Salarian battles. When the Krogan became too powerful and began expanding into other worlds, threatening to take over the entire galaxy, the Salarians manufactured a genetic disease that stopped the Krogan from having children. The Krogan are now a small and destitute species, and many have a deeply ingrained rage toward the Turians and Salarians, who continue to cause their children to be stillborn. The Turians and Salarians are terrified that the Krogan will make good on their word, however, and take over the galaxy once again if they should repopulate.
Another ongoing struggle is between the Quarians, a nomadic people, and their centuries-old mechanical creations, the Geth. The Quarians, upon encountering a problem with the Geth, decided to put them out of commission-but the Geth rebelled, and kicked the Quarians off of their home planet. The two peoples have been at war ever since, with the Quarians wishing for nothing more than to return home.
Meanwhile, the mysterious Reapers are threatening to literally wipe out the galaxy. The Reapers appear every few millennia to "restart" everything; unfortunately, no one will believe Shepard in the midst of the ongoing political squabbling. Shepard must gain loyalty from squad mates, fight enemies, and make strategic and diplomatic decisions in order to win the games. He/she may also pursue romance with other characters.
The themes explored in the Mass Effect series are myriad and complex. The series delves into some extremely heavy thematic material, including, but not limited to, genocide, mental illness, germ warfare, racism, militarism, drug use, and medical experimentation. It also addresses loyalty, love, friendship, self-sacrifice, family, spirituality, and other more positive aspects of life. Most of these ideas are dealt with in a thoughtful and critical way. The game is designed to force the players question their own preconceptions and biases, and it does a good job of it. However, these themes are meant for mature players.
There is some nudity. Characters strip down to their underwear in several scenes.
- Many of the issues brought up in Mass Effect are posed as questions for the player. For instance, should Shepard cure the violent Krogan of a manmade genetic disease—and risk their military expansion because of it—or let them suffer, and ensure the survival of humanity? Shepard must choose an action and suffer the consequences, whatever they may be. This game aims to make players think. That being said, here are a few examples of talking points for parents to consider if older children are playing Mass Effect:
- Do you think the “genocide” of the Geth A.I. is comparable to the genocide of the Krogan? Is genocide ever justifiable?
- When is it okay for people to break their spiritual/moral code? Samara would have had to kill Shepard if Shepard disobeyed her, but claimed she did not want to. Have you ever felt like you were in a situation where your moral code told you one thing, but your desires contradicted it?
- There are several scenes in which Shepard must help other characters make the decision to kill someone who has wronged them. Some of these characters exhibit regret, while others do not. Some are a danger to others, but are pitiable despite this. Why did you make the decisions you did, and do you think they were the right decisions?
Action/Adventure, Open World, Party/Group, Role-Playing (RPG), Shooter
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Cannot be played online