The demo for Mass Effect 3 came out on Valentine’s Day.
In the ancient times, this would have been known as “a test”. Thankfully, everyone in our household was sick and, as such, the Valentine’s Day can was kicked down the road a ways (next weekend). This allowed me to play the demo and get back into the idea of Shepard.
Now, if you haven’t played Mass Effect or Mass Effect 2 (wait for the Game of the Year edition, though), you should. You remember Sturgeon’s Revelation, right? Ninety percent of everything is crap. Well, these games are an exception. You could change Sturgeon so that he said ninety-nine percent and these games are *STILL* an exception.
However, they take, like, sixty hours to play the first time and if you don’t like shooting games then you won’t like these even if you’re a big fan of sci-fi and, as such, you should know that you can skip the experience of playing the games and get the major plot points of the games and, yes, The Demo after the cut. (Repeat: Major spoilers for the first game and Middlin’ spoilers for the second and details from the dinky pieces of story the demo gives us after the cut.)
Okay, you start out as Commander Shepard. Pick your gender, pick your appearance, but the default is the guy on the front of the box and so we’ll run with that for the sake of this post. (But know that you could easily pick a female Shepard and you aren’t limited to that lunkhead.)
The universe you’re in is one in which humans very recently (only a handful of generations) discovered Faster than Light travel… this discovery had them end up at The Citadel where they discovered that they were one among many really awesome races who had a lot of shared history between them. Humans are the new kids on the block. Danny, Donny, Jordan, Jonathan, and Joe. Of course, Humans being Humans, they figure that they deserve to run the place and do everything they can to demonstrate that they are the peers of all the other races and, to be fair, Humans do a pretty decent job of adapting to everything. They’re close to getting a seat on the council and they’re also very, very close to having a Human actually be accepted into the elite membership of the off-the-grid law enforcement arm of the council: The Spectres.
This is where you come in.
You’re the first Human to have a *REAL* shot at passing the audition.
Which is where everything turns to crap. On the mission to recover some seriously ancient technology, the spectre you’re teaming with gets killed by The Bad Spectre and your interaction with the tech blows it up even as it dumps terabytes into your brain. You quickly find yourself deputized into the spectres once the assassination comes to light and suddenly have the fate of the galaxy in your hands. Right after you finish the 15 side quests.
Well, you get a crew, you get a handful of people from The Citadel, and, along the way, you learn a *LOT* about the stuff that happened in the past.
The Rachni were going to take over the universe but the Krogan stopped them. The Krogan were too brutal, however, and the Salarians hit the Krogan with a genetic disease (the Genophage) that made the Krogan only reproduce at around replacement level rather than the “holy crap!” level. The Quarians were so good with robots that they invented Artificial Intelligence and, of course, once they realized this tried to shut it down and thereby created Skynet. The Turians are really good tacticians. The Asari are an all-female race. The Elcor communicate with each other with all sorts of non-verbal language so when they speak with anyone else, they have to open with an adverb (“Happily. It is good to see you.”) Cerberus is a Human-Supremacist group that engages in some seriously unethical science. And so on.
As you make new friends in the galaxy and buy new guns and upgrade them and upgrade them again and again and finish quests, you find out that The Bad Spectre was trying to bring the Rachni back, to undo the Genophage to get the Krogan on his side, and is working with Skynet to get all of the self-aware robots to work with him too. Dang.
Well, you have to unravel each one of these plans one by one (and, of course, have to overcome such things as the Krogan on your team really, really wanting the Genophage to be lifted when you’re working on that particular mission) and when you take on The Bad Spectre, you find out that, oh crap, he’s the puppet of the *REAL* bad guy.
The real bad guy is The Bad Spectre’s ship. It’s intelligent. It’s worshiped as a god by Skynet. It’s a Reaper. On top of that, it’s one of millions that are going to be coming back any day now to wipe out the galaxy and start over and The Citadel is the central hub of how they do this periodically. Oh, yes. They do this periodically.
So now you have to stop The Bad Spectre, you have to lock the door to keep the Reapers from coming through it, and you have to do all of this without anyone at The Citadel believing you.
Well, the cool thing about everything mentioned above is that there are many ways to deal with all of the above. When dealing with the Rachni, you have a conversation with the queen Rachni and find out that they are, in fact, sentient and they now want to play ball and, if you let her go and leave her and her fellows alone, they’ll reciprocate… and you have the choice of letting her go or killing her and wiping out the Rachni again. When you have the final fight at the end of everything, you have the choice between putting all of your energies into the fight against the Reaper (and, maybe, wiping out the council (hey, perfect opportunity for Humans to fill the void)) or spending resources saving the council (and Humans getting back in line like before). The choices offered aren’t “Good” or “Evil”, per se… they’re painted as “Paragon” or “Renegade”… and it makes sense that you’d do one or the other depending on your particular inclination.
(Oh, I should also mention that there was a possibility of a relationship lurking in all of the between-mission moments that could possibly culminate in a Network Television-friendly (think “Santa Barbara”) “relationship consumation” scene.)
Now, Mass Effect 2 said “we have to do Mass Effect *EVEN BIGGER*”. And they did. They kill Shepard in the opening 5 minutes. It was Awesome.
You wake up two years later on an operating table having been reconstructed by Cerberus. After going on the opening mission, you find yourself talking to Martin Sheen who explains that, hey, there are bigger things at stake than we thought. The Reapers are coming back and while Shepard knows it, The Citadel is trying to forget, move on, and engage in those silly little power games. He wants you to work for Cerberus… and he has not only credits that can help, not only manpower that can help, but Science. Hey, you don’t even *HAVE* to work for me. Just do one mission and you can walk away… and, of course, the mission is a fat juicy worm with a thin, efficient hook. He’s got ya.
Interestingly enough, everything that you did in the first game now has effects upon the second. If you freed the Rachni, you get to have another conversation with the queen. If you saved the life of The Council, they won’t believe you when you say “it’s even worse than we thought” (If you didn’t save the life of The Council, the New Human Council won’t believe you.) And, of course, if you went on a date with someone in the first game, you get to hammer out that either you’ve changed or they’ve changed. Things have changed. There you go.
At this point the game becomes Oceans 11 where the entire game is getting people to join your team and then, once they’re on your team, doing a special mission on their behalf that will get them to trust you. This takes 40-50 hours. The final mission once everyone’s on board? 4-5 hours tops. (I understand that someone out there did a bare-minimum playthrough that took 10 hours and killed everyone at the end. Awesome.)
At the end of the game, you’re given the option of working even closer with Cerberus or, finally, walking away like you were told you could do at the beginning. Oh, I should mention: The Reapers? They’re coming.
Which brings us to the Demo.
It begins around the time that the Reapers, finally, show up on earth and start attacking. We find out that, yeah, no one believed Shepard again and he needs to step up and take on the Reapers… but first he needs to get off the planet because, hey, Reapers.
Once we get on our way, the demo flashes forward and makes us level 14 instead of level 1 (why was I level 1? I mean, I can understand being level 1 at the beginning of the first game because it was the first game and I can understand being level 1 at the beginning of the second game because I was getting over a case of the deads but why am I level 1 again?) and we’re dealing with a fertile female Krogan who is not affected with The Genophage… specifically saving her while Cerberus is trying to steal her. (I guess we walked away.) And, after that, we see a cute interaction between our Krogan and the fertile female Krogan before being told that Mass Effect 3 comes out on March 6th.
As I’ve said over and over again, Bioware is the gaming company that comes closest to making games just for me.
I’m really looking forward to finding out what happens with, among other things, the Rachni, the Genophage, and Skynet (which, I am told, *DO* get wrapped up) and finding out how the story ends (which, I am told, it does).
Which, to bring us back to our original point, I’m glad that Valentine’s Day (Rescheduled) isn’t the weekend after it comes out. That’s a test I’m pretty sure I’d fail.
You’ve got your copy pre-ordered, I assume?