Mass Effect and that “Welcome Home” Feeling

Image by Flickr user Beautiful Games (CC)
Image by Flickr user Beautiful Games (CC)

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?

19 Comments Add yours

  1. Anidaan says:

    The very first Halo. The menu screen music will always hold that welcome home feeling and a ton of nostalgia from my childhood.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. cary says:

      It’s amazing how something as simple as introductory music in a game can really bring it all home again. Music is powerful stuff. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Anidaan says:

        Indeed it is!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ahhh I know exactly what you mean. Mass Effect is like that for me too. Though I’d say the number one for me is Dragon Age: Origins. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      Such a good pick! Hmmm…maybe after I run through the Mass effect series, I’ll go back to Dragon Age. Haven’t played the first one again in quite some time. It’s quite memorable…really, there’s no forgetting Alistair. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Completely with you about music – sound is incredibly powerful, but it’s also subtle, so you only realise how important it is occasionally! I have a few “welcome home” games, mostly on the N64. Mario 64 is probably the strongest though. I love going back to it time and time again, and like Mass Effect it has great music on the title screen:

    Liked by 2 people

    1. cary says:

      Wow, that song brings back all the memories! I played Mario 64 so much (and it’s update for the DS), and you’re right about that opening music — it just make you feel good! Plus, what other game can claim to have used a pipe organ like that in its soundtrack? Not many, I bet.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s a great piece and as you said, very original too! I like the Mass Effect title screen music, very soothing as well. I’m playing Panzer Dragoon Orta at the moment, and it’s really weird because it has no music on the title screen or the main menu… I don’t understand why anyone would choose to leave those parts of the game bare given there’s plenty of good music to choose from in the game itself :/

        Liked by 1 person

      2. cary says:

        I have played games where the music has cut out occasionally…maybe it’s glitches more than intention. But whenever it happens, it’s very obvious and stark. Even if you don’t always pay attention to game music, it’s pretty easy to notice when it’s missing.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Dina Farmer says:

    My husband played this game sooooo much, that my 4 year old knows the theme song. It is kind of funny.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      That’s amazing! I’ve already caught myself humming the theme song inadvertently. Frankly, I’m happy to have it stuck in my head over some other songs, haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Will_GSRR says:

    Well, now I want to play Mass Effect again…. Probably my favourite game series ever.

    I think before ME4 comes along I will have to play them all again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      Now there’s a plan! It wasn’t mine when I started playing ME, but it makes perfect sense. (Plus, you get to recall all the joys of the Mako and those elevator rides! 😀 )

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hatm0nster says:

    Oh man, the feels from that music! Uh oh…urge to play…rising!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      Yep…it hits all the right notes. Literally! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. cary says:

    Reblogged this on Recollections of Play and commented:

    We all like comfort. Cushy chairs, a big bowl of hot macaroni and cheese on a cold day, the embrace of a loved one. Comfort. The term can be applied to games too — those games that just make you feel good, feel competent, feel comfortable. I didn’t really think of Mass Effect as being my “comfort food” of games until I recently ventured back into its world. As I wrote in this article for United We Game, Mass Effect is a game (and a game series) that makes me feel welcome and feel like I’m really, truly home.

    Like

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