It is one of the most beloved video game series out there and took us on three magical, terrifying, uncomfortable trips across the galaxy. To the eye of someone who doesn’t know any better, it may look like Star Wars a bit closer to home, but we all know it is so much more. Mass Effect combined entertaining cover-based combat (so many chest-high walls), with a brilliant story, intriguing characters and an amazing role playing experience to make games that are as fun the second (or eighth) time around as they are the first.
The series offered much of what science fiction RPG fans liked, while also adding to the genre and blazing a trail of its own. Many (including this writer) who considered their own choice science fiction franchises to be the be-all end-all (in my own case I was loyal to Star Wars) but were blown away by the immersive gameplay and now consider themselves fans of this franchise, practically salivating at the thought of a fourth game; even if it will not include any of our favorite characters.
It was 2012 when Mass Effect 3 was released to the tune of rage and controversy over an infuriating ending. While the game itself was amazing (debatable which of the games is the best, but most agree that ME2 takes the cake), and ended the Commander Shepard series, fans hoped that they had not seen the end. Sure enough, Mass Effect: Andromeda was announced back in 2015, and will be released in March 2017. To help with your Mass Effect withdrawal until that time, here are fifteen things you didn’t know about this amazing franchise.
15 Original Name
Before the game was finished being produced, it was not even called Mass Effect. In fact, there were ten other names presented for the original game and one of them was the name the game had gone under while it was in production. For much of that time, it was called Science Fiction X, but primarily went by the abbreviation SFX. Many other names were suggested and, in an interview, producer Casey Hudson said that SFX was decided against primarily because it was already the name of a magazine.
The name “Mass Effect” was already used in the game to refer to many of the technological features, but after further discussion and reflection on the part of the creative team, they decided that it would also be a perfect name for the first game and subsequent series.
14 You've Heard Shepard's Voices Elsewhere
If you're a dedicated gamer, you've likely heard commander Shepard's voices, both male and female, in other games, especially those made by BioWare. The two voice actors for Commander Shepard are Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale. Both are Canadian and have worked on many video games.
Meer was originally intended to be replaced for the final cut of the game, but developers thought he was doing a great job and decided to keep his voice. He has worked on many other BioWare games including the Baldur's Gate series, Neverwinter Nights, Jade Empire, along with the Dragon Age games. Aside from Commander Shepard, Meer voiced the Vorcha and a few other minor characters. Outside the realm of games, he is an actor, comedian and writer.
You'll probably recognize this name, as Jennifer Hale is considered one of the most renowned women in video game voice acting. She's worked with BioWare a few times outside of being female Shepard, including playing Bastila Shan in Knights of the Old Republic and providing voices for Baldur's Gate and Dragon Age. Her other video game work includes dozens of other franchises including Metal Gear Solid and Halo.
13 Facts About The Illusive Man
We know that The Illusive Man is the main villain of the series, who sort of becomes a good guy, then a villain again. In reality, he's far more grey than black or white, in terms of morality, and uses his corporation Cerberus to help humanity gain an upper hand in the galaxy. We also know that he is voiced (brilliantly, by the way) by Martin Sheen. Other than what we are told throughout the games ,however, there is a lot to know about this character.
In terms of behind the scenes facts, Martin Sheen, a non-smoker, said that he sucked on the end of a pen to simulate smoking while voicing The Illusive Man's lines. Furthermore, Sheen has said that while he enjoyed working on the series, he hated the character (Sheen also came out as a celebrity critic of Donald Trump, make your own conclusions from this) and would never trust him.
Before he founded Cerberus, The Illusive Man went by the name Jack Harper and worked as a mercenary. He was originally going to turn into a Reaper-type monster at the end of Mass Effect 3, but this battle scene never panned out for that game.
12 Other Stories in the Mass Effect Universe
Many fans who loved the video games don’t know that there are novels and comic books out there that tell stories within the Mass Effect universe. It’s nowhere near as in depth as something like the Star Wars: Legends/Expanded Universe, but there are some interesting pieces of literature that have been produced about the other characters in the series. Five novels have been written, along with two that are going to come out in the near future to accompany the new game.
There are several comic book series as well. Most of them focus on the lives of crew members or other characters such as The Illusive Man (Mass Effect: Evolution), Aria T’Loak (Mass Effect: Invasion), and Liara T’Soni, who goes after Shepard’s corpse for the Illusive Man in Mass Effect: Redemption.
11 Hidden Romances
Whether your Shepard is male or female, there are plenty of romantic options throughout the three games. For the first, your choices are limited to Ashley Williams for male Shepard, Kaiden Alenko for female, and Liara for both because Asari swing both ways.
Of course, ME2 offers some more choice; Miranda, Tali or Jack for males, Jacob, Garrus and Thane for females and Kelly Chambers, Samara and Morinth playing for both teams. The final installment allows male Shep to shack up with any of his previous babes, and can go to bat for the other team with pilot Steve Cortez. Female Shep can romance Thane or Garrus, along with Samantha Traynor, a new crew member on the Normandy SR-2. Of course, both can get with Liara, and Kaiden returns as a potential love interest, in addition to Kelly Chambers and reporter Diana Allers.
The Citadel DLC included additional romance options with James Vega, the return of Asari Justicar Samara, and Javik, the last of the Protheans.
Many people do not know, however, that there are a few romances in the third game that do not involve Shepard. If Shep does not start a relationship with either Tali or Garrus, you may walk in on them by the main gun of the ship. Engineers Ken Donnelly and Gabby Daniels also start something with each other in ME3, but it requires some input from Shepard. Finally, Joker and the AI Edi can have a romance, again, if Commander Shepard's interactions with both of them go a certain way.
10 Banned in Singapore and U.A.E.
The explanation probably isn’t necessary, but for the sake of those who may not know, while homosexual relationships are embraced and no longer considered taboo (for the most part) throughout many European countries and most of North America, other regions of the world haven’t adopted such views yet. For this reason, the original game was banned in Singapore, while the second and third were banned in the United Arab Emirates. Both are countries with laws heavily based in Islam and are still unfriendly to gays. In the U.A.E. the game was still available to purchase online, but was not allowed to be sold in stores. In Singapore, the ban was lifted after the country enacted legislation to rate video games; Mass Effect earned the highest rating, indicating it could only be purchased by adults.
9 The Film(s)
Of course, when a video game franchise gets big enough, there may be a movie. Mortal Kombat, Pokemon, and the more recent Assassin's Creed are just a few examples. At this point, there are two Mass Effect films, but only one has been released. Mass Effect: Paragon Lost was released back in 2012 and details the heroic exploits of Lieutenant James Vega prior to his becoming a main squad member in Mass Effect 3.
There is another movie that is essentially caught in "development hell" (may or may not be made). It was announced several years ago and a story was put together, but production never really took off. In short, Legendary Pictures was originally tasked with creating the film with Warner Bros, but the two entities went their separate ways in 2014 and it is unknown whether Universal will work with Legendary on the film.
8 Indoctrination Theory
The original ending to Mass Effect 3 infuriated many fans to the point that the creative team behind the game eventually rewrote the ending. Fans were given three options, to destroy the Reapers, to control them, or to join them; the "synthesis" ending. The availability of these endings depends on your choice in the final scene and of course your overall military readiness; influenced in large part by playing the multiplayer mode.
There are plenty of great fan theories about the series, but the one that stands out is Indoctrination Theory, which essentially holds that the entire final scene after Shepard chooses between these options, is a hallucination, caused by the Reapers, whose major power throughout the trilogy was controlling the minds of other sentient beings. Supporters of this theory argue that the previous scene is meant to manipulate the player into sparing the Reapers (using either the "control" or "synthesis" option) when the only way to actually accomplish the goal of the series is to destroy the Reapers.
7 Inspiration for Alien Appearances
Like any decent science fiction tale, the Mass Effect games feature some very interesting looking creatures. There are interesting stories about the appearances of a few of these races. We'll start, however, with the alien species about whom we are not too sure. The Turians look like giant cat-lizards, but there is no accurate story about their creation. The same can be said of the Hanar, who look like jelly-fish, but again, there is no indication as to where the design came from.
We do know a lot more about the origins of the appearances of the scientist Salarian Mordin Solus, the Krogan race and why Quarian women wear hoods. The Korgan are fairly simple, their faces are based off of the face of a bat. Yes, that's right, those blind jerks who fly around at night screeching.
Mordin Solus, the fast-talking scientist, was designed to look like Clint Eastwood. Of course, his neurotic mannerisms are nothing like Eastwood or any of his characters. Finally, the design for Quarian women was influenced heavily by old paintings of the Virgin Mary, who also wore a hood. This is interesting because many fans have argued that the Quarians are a metaphor for Jewish people. Reading into Mass Effect fan theories can be a great time, but it can cause one to stumble down quite a lengthy rabbit hole.
6 Syd Mead: The Artistic Influence
One of the constants for the Mass Effect series is that it looked amazing. Even the first game, when the graphics weren't nearly as sharp as they are today (it was late 2007), featured amazing visuals and some brilliant artistic views. If Mass Effect is in any way representative of what the future and other inhabitable planets will look like, we'd like to be frozen and thawed out at such a time we can see these things and visit these places.
Many fans ,however, do not know the man whose work was behind many of these dazzling sights. Syd Mead is an American artist who is referred to as a "visual futurist." He's also the man behind the vehicles in Tron, Blade Runner, Aliens, and more recently Elysium. He's done much more but these are just a few career highlights. Interestingly, fans of Mead have said that Guy-Manuel de Homem Christo (the gold guy) of Daft Punk, actually copied the design for his helmet from an old illustration by Mead. Mead has stated that if it is a copy, it is a poor one, but that he isn't too hung up on that issue.
Mead's work was used extensively to inspire the designers of the Citadel along with a few other worlds and the interiors of buildings throughout the three games.
5 The Garrus Romance Option Was Due to Fans
If you have a problem with the inter-species relationships available to Shepard in this game, keep right on scrolling, you galactic bigot. The Mass Effect trilogy has been very inclusive and cemented itself as one of the most notable gaming franchises to allow for homosexual romantic options. They of course took it a step further and allowed Shepard to shack up with aliens. Garrus Vakarian wasn’t intended to be a romantic option, but the developers of the game realized that he had become a fan favorite. What isn’t to like though? He’s a rugged, tough guy with a heart of gold who has a great working relationship with female or male Shep. While male Shepard and Garrus can be bros throughout the entire series, players were given the option to pursue a relationship with him if they play as a female Shepard. There’s a mod that allows a gay Shepard/Vakarian romance, but it isn’t canon.
The character was made a potential romance option after the creators realized what a following he had.
4 The Models Used for the Women
While it is virtually universally known that Chuck actress Yvonne Strahovski was the voice and body of Miranda “the perfect woman” Lawson, many other characters in the series were based on beautiful women.
Stunning actress/model Jillian Murray was used as the body for Liara T’Soni. Jack’s striking facial features were borrowed from model Candice Neil. Asari Morinth and Samara look alike for a reason, and this is because their faces were both modeled after Rana McAnear.
Finally, journalist Diana Allers was voiced and modeled after real life IGN host and cutie Jessica Chobot.
3 Uranus Joke
Remember the highly necessary but incredibly tedious task of resource collection in Mass Effect 2? While sometimes it was a welcome change from driving around the damn Mako in the first game, it was dull and not very well done. If you were a very diligent prospector, however, you may have visited our own solar system and found a very funny butt joke. Clearly the creative minds behind this series know their fans like to have a laugh on their galactic crusades against the Reapers, because they included a couple of silly, subtle lines from the Normandy’s AI EDI when the player decides to probe the planet Uranus. When the first two probes are launched, EDI says “Really, commander?” and then “Probing Uranus.”
If you didn’t get a chuckle out of that you might be a bit too mature for sci-fi gaming.
2 It Might Not Be Around Without Star Wars
Way back in the early 2000s, BioWare and LucasArts teamed up to make one of the best Star Wars games of all time, with entertaining gameplay and a gripping story that blows away virtually anything else in the Expanded Universe (Legends, whatever). That game was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. While the team enjoyed the experience and came up with an amazing product, the storytellers ultimately became frustrated by having to play along with the rules of the Star Wars universe.
This was the birth of the idea for Mass Effect. KOTOR and Mass Effect have some similar themes and very familiar plots. The BioWare team's creativity was maximized for these awesome games and we all know how it played out; incredibly. Fans of this series owe Star Wars a metaphorical tip of the cap, even though many of us consider this series to have eclipsed Star Wars at this point.
1 What We Know about the Next Installment: Andromeda
Like we said earlier in this article, we’re just a short time away from an all new Mass Effect adventure. It is sure to be incredible, so here are some of the key notes we already know about this game.
Obviously there will be an entirely new set of characters and it will take place not in our own Milky Way Galaxy, but in our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy, as the name implies. It will take place about 600 years after the events of the original series. Your main character will be either Sara or Scott Ryder, and your official duties will be exploring the galaxy for prospective human settlements.
Leveling up will be far more customizable than in the previous games and worlds will be far more expansive, offering much more opportunity for exploration. Furthermore, while the original series was somewhat open world, the creative minds behind the new game have been presenting it as a vastly more "open-world" experience. There will be new races, but many of those from the original series will also be present in Andromeda.
The developers have done a great job of keeping many aspects of the new experience a secret (such as who the villains will be and what the actual story will entail), while also giving enough information to keep us salivating. We don't want to over-hype this, but Andromeda looks like it will be something very special.