Despite having a very full gaming plate right now (I’ll be back someday soon with more Twilight Princess), my recent experience replaying Red Dead Redemption seems to have infected my gaming motives, as I now very strongly want to revisit other “favorite” games from my past. To that end, I recently started playing Mass Effect. Again. The first one. The one that I played through four times (almost five and six) before deciding it was time to move on. Though its sequels remain fairly fresh in mind, it’s been a good eight years since I played the original game. Thanks to having a very robust urge to trade games in the past, we no longer had the original games, but we picked up the full trilogy for the Xbox 360 over the holidays. Now with this new impetus to revisit games, I couldn’t resist the call of the Normandy any longer.
Having completed Mass Effect once with a Paragon female Shepard, I decided this time that I was going to go all the way with a Renegade male Shepard. If there’s one that made me put off starting the games until now (Wolf Link and John Marston notwithstanding) it’s that I was worried that the game just…just wouldn’t be the same. That it’d instill a “you can never go home again” feeling. That I’d feel like an old hack trying to recapture glory long gone. I really wanted to lock away my nostalgia glasses and try to see Mass Effect for the game that it is. And much to my delight upon starting the game, it felt good. Really good.
Most everyone possesses a space in which they feel wanted and content. Maybe it’s your apartment, or a particular corner of the library, or that back table in the coffee shop, that one bench in the park, or, heck, your office space. It’s that one place where you feel truly comfortable. That’s how I felt almost immediately upon seeing, and hearing, Mass Effect‘s start screen. The sense I got was not one of go away outsider, but welcome home. The music was and is especially affecting. Sometimes I don’t realize just how great a game’s soundtrack is until I hear it again for the first time. I had forgotten just how pervasive music is in the game, from the small, beating rhythms behind conversations, to the serene tones of space travel, to Shepard’s own triumphant march, to the eerie and sinister atmospheric wails accompanying Saren and Matriarch Benezia, and even, to a certain extent, the Galactic Council. It was so very soothing to hear Mass Effect once again.
I traveled through the opening screens with ease, choosing my personal history, psychological profile, and class (Earthborn, Ruthless, Infiltrator), and then spent far too long creating my Shepard. (In the end, third time was a charm. Mostly. I think I his eyes are still too small.) But after that, there I was, gabbing with the Normandy’s crew and chatting up Captain Anderson and the Turian Nihlus about our mission on Eden Prime. It took me the bulk of that mission to remember exactly how to function within the game, from performing basic combat to decryption to commanding my team. But the muscle memory eventually returned, and I was taking down Husks and Geth, finding loot, and revealing the main story as if I had never left.
I remained somewhat concerned about taking the Renegade path, which I had tried and failed years ago. At the time, all the “mean” choices just seemed to make my character out to be a jerk. I didn’t like him, and neither did anyone else. But this time round, the Renegade choices read to me as determined rather than malicious. True that he’s not very diplomatic, but he definitely speaks his mind, even if it leaves an unhappy party on the receiving end.
Though I’m only a few hours in and have yet to want to get off the Citadel, I’m really looking forward to traveling through the Mass Effect universe, again and for the first time, with this new Shepard and with new (old) eyes. It’s going to be a very exciting, and welcoming, journey.
What games, new or old, instill in you that “welcome home” feeling every time you return to them?