I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all had that moment when a game came along and convinced us that everything was about to change. More specifically, I’m referring to that one game we can all remember looking at and saying to ourselves “no video game will ever look better than this”. Graphics aren’t everything, obviously, but I can still remember the days of yore when the sheer concept of having models that even vaguely resembled human beings was a pipe dream. The irony, of course, is that I finally reached that point looking at previews of the first Mass Effect and its various non-human races. I wanted to see and interact with these giant hulking war machines and question the pretty blue lady about the history of her people.
Despite my very pronounced dislike of space as a fictional setting, I was immediately drawn in by all of the promises that were made by those previews; this idea that my choices were actually going to matter and shape this huge multi-game narrative. For the most part, it delivered, though obviously I, like many, have my issues with how it all ended. Revisiting the first game so long after I let that wound heal, there’s still that sense of wonder that I felt in my first playthrough. Mass Effect was a game-changer, though not exactly how I predicted it would be. It felt like a living world, something that’s still very hard to convey and likely always will be. The more I got caught up in that universe, the more convinced I felt that the characters would continue to exist and live their lives even without my contribution. Of course, I was still the only one that could save the world, but I don’t think a game that announces that someone else beat you to it whilst you were at work would go over too well.
Note to self – make that game.
Coming back to it, there are certainly parts of that first game that don’t hold up, mostly of the combat and weapon management variety. I also feel like I’ve been rather spoiled this past decade or so, seeing those low resolution textures up close and immediately seeking out a mod. But that universe is still a very special thing to me. I suppose that’s why I joined the outrage brigade during the aftermath of ME3 – I got attached. I still am, content to start all over again just to have another wacky elevator ride with Wrex and Tali. It’s that same attachment that gives me pause when considering Andromeda and what form it’ll eventually take. I don’t know how a game like that can be made without being overly referential and/or sentimental about games and characters past. I love me some Tali. Don’t get me wrong. When she finally became a love interest, I couldn’t bear the thought of pursing her because my Renegade womanizer wasn’t good enough for her. That said, I don’t need to see her again. I can get all of the Quarian awesomeness I want elsewhere.
It’s the conundrum of a living world; you want to see it continue to live, but never exploited. Luckily, there’s usually someone with an IP and a want for profit that can help you with that, at least halfway.