I knew I was going to love Mass Effect almost from the very first moment I launched the first game for the first time.
Although I remember looking forward to the series after I played Dragon Age: Origins, I don’t remember exactly when I decided to purchase the first Mass Effect game — only that I raced out of work at 5 PM that day to buy it at Gamestop. The first copy I purchased was used and didn’t work, so I had to drive back to the store just to exchange it. I couldn’t wait another day. In the car, I was already brainstorming what my hero would look like, even though I didn’t yet know her name was Shepard or anything about what she would face throughout the series. I thought of Mass Effect as a science fiction Dragon Age, and I couldn’t wait to start playing. Launching the game for the first time, seeing the title screen with the curve of our planet in the background, and then seeing it seamlessly shift to my Shepard gazing at that view out the window of a spacecraft gave me chills.
Not that everything about the series gave me chills. Those long, boring elevator rides in Mass Effect 1, the bumpy rides in the Mako, the mind-numbing tediousness of having to scan planets in Mass Effect 2 – those were not highlights for me, but they’re things that get talked about a lot among fans of the series. It’s like somehow all of those “negatives” are blurred together into a series of endearing memories and talking points that I share with other Mass Effect players. When you love a video game series this much, you come to love its flaws, too.
Since it’s N7 Day, I figured I should write about a few of my favorite Mass Effect memories. Although each player’s experience of the game is unique based on their choices, these are moments that other fans will probably also remember as fondly as I do.
The Archangel Reveal
In Mass Effect 2, there’s a mysterious mercenary commander who’s been taking down bad guys on Omega outside of the law. It turns out this vigilante is actually someone Shepard knows from the Normandy: Garrus Vakarian, a turian sniper who worked with her before. This reveal is not exactly a huge surprise, but there’s something magical about being reunited with an old friend from the series, and this is one of the first times it happens.
Mordin is a salarian scientist who speaks fast in fragmented sentences — usually in the most cerebral (and socially awkward) way possible. It’s always fascinating to talk to him, but there’s one special instance when he breaks the stereotype of serious scientist. That’s when he starts talking about the arts — specifically his singing abilities. It’s one of those silly, magical, unexpected laughs from a well-loved character.
Headbutting a Krogan
I’m not sure if Paragon Shepard can do this or not, but Renegade Shepard can headbutt a krogan in Mass Effect 2 Headbutting is a krogan ritual, and the fact that Shepard understands that and is brave enough to make that gesture with a burly, badass dude she just met is pretty awesome and wins her major points with the locals.
Liara’s Time Capsule
There are at least two or three moments in Mass Effect 3 that make me tear up, and this is one of them. After all Shepard has been through over the years, she’s a battered hero and exhausted by this one last mission to save the galaxy. Liara, an archaeologist who has been a part of Shepard’s squad and a friend for years, is creating a record of the galaxy for future explorers to uncover — and she’s making a special entry about Commander Shepard. Coming from Liara, this feels like an intimate record, and hearing her speak well of Shepard makes their bond even more apparent. It’s one of the most touching moments in the series.
Last Night with Kaidan
I’m really a Garrus girl at heart, but I romanced Kaidan in the first Mass Effect game and have seen what happens when you’re loyal to him through the series or, at the very least, romance in Mass Effect 3. It all culminates in your last evening together before the final fight, when Kaidan comes to Shepard’s room to spend the night. He has a bottle of wine and wants Shepard to relax for a little while. Maybe it’s just how supportive he is of her, or maybe it’s the fact that the way he acts with her — fumbling with his words sometimes, compassionate, nostalgic, a little horny — feels very realistic. To me, it’s one of the most romantic moments in the series and is written perfectly.
Shepard’s romantic goodbye with Garrus before the final fight in Mass Effect 3 always gets me choked up. Garrus is as funny and badass as he always is, but hearing him talk about retiring with Shepard, having kids, and the possibility that they might not make it out of the battle alive is just too much. I really believe Garrus is the best character in the series and even one of the best video game characters ever, and his goodbye suits him and his relationship with Shepard perfectly.
There are a lot of other moments I could talk about here; I can already tell this post needs a part 2. In any case, what’s most fun about Mass Effect is how grounded the series is because of the intimate friendships and romances Commander Shepard forms with her Normandy crew. Science fiction can be a cold genre, but this series is one of the warmest, most emotional stories I’ve found.