Throwback Thursday: Mass Effect – Reflecting On An Epic Franchise (VIDEO)


On November 20, 2007, Mass Effect was released for the Xbox 360. Presenting the premise of a cinematic space epic, the sprawling action RPG put players on a galaxy-saving quest across the cosmos, making alien friends and difficult plot-altering decisions along the way. The game’s interactive story and vivid design has received wide acclaim from critics, also kicking off the formation of a massive fan collective.



During Mass Effect‘s three-year development cycle, nearly one fourth of that time was spent achieving a distinct sci-fi look, BioWare taking influence from iconic film properties such as Star Wars, Star Trek, and Blade Runner. Much of the remaining months laid the foundation of the project’s core gameplay of tactical shooter combat, space exploration, and advanced “digital actors”. Envisioned as a trilogy, this heavy initial workload was to ensure minimal development time between any planned follow-ups.

The main goal of Mass Effect‘s development was to ultimately leave players with a sense of discovery. This feeling was not only fleshed out in the game’s numerous explorable areas, but the decision-based, interactive story, both of which also required immense work to pull off. BioWare had to develop all new tools to craft the explorable large-scale landscapes in over 100 different locales. The writing was also arduous, as the intricate branching narrative exceeded over 400,000 words and 20,000 lines of spoken dialogue.

A major part of Mass Effect‘s mature storyline features a potential romantic relationship that culminates in an intimate encounter. Upon the game’s release, news of the sexual cutscene spiraled into controversy when several talking personalities took issue with the supposed graphic content, some even going as far as to claim the game actively promoted depravity. However, after the scene was revealed to be considerably tame, most detractors eventually backtracked their statements.



Players inhabit the role of Commander Shepard, an interstellar marine tasked with hunting down a rogue threat and uncovering the mystery of an ancient alien beacon. At the player’s’ disposal is the starship Normandy and several colorful allies encountered throughout the game. The action-packed journey takes Shepard and his squad across the galaxy in pursuit of answers and reveals an even greater threat lurking from within the shadows.

Mass Effect‘s combat closely resembles that of third-person shooters, following Shepard with an over-the-shoulder perspective and two AI-controlled squadmates. Where the differences lie is with the game’s RPG-inspired loot collecting and tactical ability to issue orders to squad members. Each character comes with unlockable “talents,” granting incremental advantages in battle such as new biotic abilities or increased firearm capacity.

For story portions of the game, players engage in conversation using the Dialogue Wheel, which presents various radial responses to in-game characters. These options often factor into how Shepard is received by other characters, with polite exchanges being met with appreciation and aggressive ones received with fear or hostility. As Paragon or Renegade paths are pursued, additional skills are made available, including more persuasive dialogue options that further affects the overall story.



Mass Effect has spawned numerous sequels and spin-off media, with two direct sequels bringing Commander Shepard’s story to a close. Outside the main series trilogy, mobile games Galaxy and Infiltrator have expanded on the series lore, as have numerous novels and limited-run comic books. Most recently, a semi-reboot featuring an all-new protagonist was released as Mass Effect: Andromeda, taking place in the distant setting of the Andromeda galaxy.

What’s your opinion of Mass Effect? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to follow Don’t Feed the Gamers on Twitter to be informed of the latest gaming and entertainment news 24 hours a day! Also, be on the lookout for the next Throwback Thursday where we’ll highlight yet another title from gaming past.

Eric Hall653 Posts

Phone-browsing Wikipedia in one hand and clutching his trusty controller in the other, the legendary Eric Hall spreads his wealth of knowledge as a writer for Don't Feed the Gamers. Be sure to catch his weekly "Throwback Thursday" segment for a nostalgic look at games of the past.


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