Why I Love the Mass Effect Universe

 

There have been some big steps into the Sci-fi world lately; a world I really love and enjoy pretty much no matter what.  This has got me thinking (dangerous I know) about some of my favorite sci-fi universes from the past.  Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, Star Trek, Masters of Orion, Firefly, and countless others have haunted my imagination for decades; constantly popping up with another wistful daydream of warp drive and the possibilities it might entail.  There is one sci-fi property that was a more recent addition to my mental dreamscape; I’m talking about Mass Effect.  I was late to this party (didn’t get an X-Box for a while so I was out of the loop for the first one and just didn’t bother with the second when it hit PS3) but have completely enjoyed everything about it I’ve come across (yeah I even liked the ending to 3 so there).  While I still wait for the promised DLC to “finish” the story I’ve been musing about what it is exactly that I enjoyed so much.

 

Well there’s the whole believability and feasibility to the universe.  The universe feels lived in and tangible from the minute you arrive to when the final credits roll past.  There’s hard science behind just about every aspect of the story.  AI is illegal because of the mistakes the Quarians made with the Geth, and how about the “brain” power of the Geth becoming stronger the more of them linked and in an area – completely believable when you think about how modern computers and networks interact.  The mass effect relays themselves are one of the more plausible ways of achieving FTL travel.  They never make the mistake of telling you EXACTLY how they work, only how they theoretically work.  The relays treat matter and space as interchangeable (and they are, just look at the math) in order to send bodies of mass from one end of the galaxy to the next.  Granted the amount of energy needed to convert matter to energy, move it from point to point, and then return it from energy back to matter is enormous so I don’t see us doing it anytime soon.  Though it could explain the size and volatility of the relays (most of them seem at least the size of a small moon and they explode with the force of a supernova).  Then there’s the Citadel itself; were I in a crazy awesome super space future I’d want a somewhat neutral meeting place for the delegates of (granted a very loose) whatever galactic government to be open to all, and self-sufficient.  Also the Citadel itself being an artificial construct means that all the races HAVE to work together to sustain it and keep it working for the benefit of all (nothing like FORCED cooperation to bring people together).  Lastly how about those other races huh?  You can see the ways evolution has had an effect of each one; from the Salarians newt-like origins to the ways the Quarians were forced to evolve without a proper home world.  Even the ways biotic abilities emerged seems like a natural evolutionary reaction to a cataclysmic event (future generations genes respond to radioactive threats in the atmosphere by mutating and adapting new ways to survive – yay mutants).

Two of my favorite races that got less attention than they deserved. Elcor (left) and Volus (right).

Mass Effect also boasts some pretty impressive yet totally possible technology.  The weapons don’t so much fire bullets at they do high energy projectiles that cause massive amounts of heat on the one end and trauma on their target; this is offset by the thermal clips (yeah I know this wasn’t introduced until the second one but the tech was still cool) that eject automatically after absorbing a set number of rounds.  Communications was another one I really thought impressive and could imagine seeing in use in some wonderful future.  The quantum communicator used between the Normandy and the Illusive Man was one such instance; two identical vibrating (that’s quantum vibrations) isotopes that can locate and communicate with each other anywhere in the universe was amazing and made instantaneous communication from one end of space to the other seem not too farfetched.  The ships themselves, especially the Normandy, were also amazing examples of tech just down the road.  From their drive cores to their weapons systems I could easily see space faring humans one day traveling around in them.  The technology available in the ME universe made it hard sci-fi for me, and gave me a small bit of hope that maybe one day we will make it out to those stars. 

Man that ship was super sexy.

Finally people are still people; there is no great galactic government to oversee everything (such as in Star Wars) and humanity hasn’t united into some altruistic science conglomerate ( i.e.; Star Trek).  I’m not saying either of those scenarios could ever come to be I’m just saying I more readily accept the fact that there will still be people whose only motivation is money and some people who are just gutless cowards.  The great thing about the game was that your Shepard could become whatever you wanted them to be; a tyrant or a savior.  The rest of the galaxy always responded to you believably no matter which way you swung.  It made the crew of the Normandy more natural and relatable and the rest of the galaxy itself seem much more familiar ( no one liked that damn Ambassador  Udina, but we all loved Mordin).

 

And we all loved to hate the Illusive Man, one of the best characters in fiction ever.

This is the kind of galaxy I’d like to live in were I to choose (well aside from the whole Reaper invasion thing) a time and place to settle down.  It just feels like this is the kind of future waiting for us just around the corner (if we make it that far…).  If you haven’t had a chance to sit down and get to know the exploits of Commander Shepard and the crew of the Normandy I highly recommend it; you won’t be disappointed (and if you are in fact disappointed in the games I’ll ask you to kindly go lie down in traffic).  I gladly look forward to any more excursions into the ME timeline and hope to see the same attention to detail and celebration of science the previous installments have shared.  In the meantime I guess I’ll just keep staring at those stars and wistfully sighing about warp drive.

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About Jeremiah Cochran

The last minute addition to the party that really brings it all together. Let's face it how else could you get past that Balrog without your Gandalf? (Yes I just compared myself to Gandalf, deal) A fan of comics, video games, sci-fi, fantasy, rolling dice, and tapping cards. Essentially he's the nerd renaissance man. Also he can cook. And do laundry (sort of).

Posted on June 12, 2012, in Occurrences, Sci Fi, SCIENCE!, Video Games and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I came into this article with absolutely no knowledge of this series. That said, excellent write-up. You clearly express that one of the biggest reasons you like Mass Effect is because you like how grounded the series is in logic and our reality for being science fiction.

    What do you like most about the Illusive Man?
    (I don’t mind spoilers that much, especially if the result draws in my interest even more.)

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