Mass Effect took the world by storm when it was first released back in 2007. It had one of the most expansive and deeply developed video game universes out there. It had a deeply thought out plot and a highly intricate galactic society with dozens of alien races that were explored in depth.
The internal encyclopedia in the game contains entire books worth of data on the worlds, the species, the places, individuals, quest items, and a whole myriad of stuff to show that the developers weren’t cutting any corners, as they wanted to make a world as expansive as possible. This didn’t just apply to minutiae of the objects and locations, but also to every single planet you could visit, as they had a biography page that was richly detailed.
The characters are also major scene stealers, if not the main focus. Actually scratch that, they ARE the best thing about the game series by far. Each character is a fully developed person in their own right with their own personal history, motivations, and personality. They’re also so appealing on so many levels that if they just made a show about them going about their daily lives it would be a massive hit. They really knew how to make the players fall in love with them. Thankfully they didn’t hire George R. R. Martin as a writer, otherwise he would have killed them off just to see our reaction.
But even in the most developed of worlds, there are still a lot of questions to be asked. They presented so much information, but at the same time they gleefully hid a lot of factoids, or just neglected to add even more information for fear of opening more holes than they could close. But regardless of that, here are some questions that we absolutely must have answered from Mass Effect.
Turians are a militaristic alien race in the Mass Effect universe. They’re like a combination of Sparta and the United States Marine Corp, except IN SPACE!!! (I promise it’ll be the last time I make that joke).
All Turians are required by age 15 to enlist in the military and learn how to fight. Their culture is so militaristic that they have no concept of civilians in any conflict. That being said, you know what else is on the minds of many 15 year olds other than venting all the adolescent rage into military training? It’s sex. Mass Effect goes into the reproductive habits of the Asari and Salarians in quite some detail.
That being said, they have absolutely no information on how Turians reproduce. Why? Is it because they’re so into being a militaristic race that they’ve forgotten what emotional bonding is like? Are they a bunch of Chuck Norris'? As in, they cannot love, only not kill? If that’s the case, then were do baby Turians come from?
Yeah, this one is probably a cheapshot, but it will always raise some interesting questions. They have such a variety of alien body shapes in many species, which is refreshing, but for some odd reason, too many humanistic aliens seem to always have breasts. Is there an in-universe reason for this or are they just putting it in to appeal to a male audience? Or maybe it was just there so people would ask this question?
I mean there were quite a few alien species where they could have added them for comedic effect, like the Hanar and their long tentacles that could easily land them a job in the Japanese adult industry. Or the Elcor, with their large bull-like bodies, could clearly use a pair of udders for the females. I’m just kidding by the way, no one wants to see that.
But while still on the topic of sexual reproduction…
The Asari are an alien species that is somehow capable of reproducing with another species and making healthy off-spring. This applies to even ridicules and blatant violations of biology. In Mass Effect 2, there is an Asari female who is being pursued by a smitten Krogan who writes a lot of heartfelt love poetry to her (no seriously, I can’t find anything creepy about what he’s saying. The guy is totally in love with for real) and you can convince her to give the guy a chance and date him. They end up marrying if you do. Whether or not they had any kids, I don’t know, but in Mass Effect 3 he ended up dying in battle and leaving behind one last poem to his now widowed love.
So we know the Asari can have kids with almost anyone, but if born of an Asari, they look 100% Asari without even the slightest influence from the father. This is not how sexual reproduction works…
Legion is one of my favorite characters in the Mass Effect series. He’s a robot friend who is part of a robot race that are surprisingly complex for a bunch of people who were conceived to basically be terminators. Now there’s a pretty big part of his character arc that involved some kind of robot religion that is partitioning his program into numerous subroutines that are turning them into religious fanatics. Alright, so that wasn’t entirely how it was described, but I’m poking fun at a robot who must think like a computer.
With that being said, the ultimate choice rests on you, Commander Shepard, to destroy the heretics or to rewrite their programming to remove their heretical beliefs. Now he tells you he doesn’t want to make that call because his own inner runtimes haven’t reached a majority vote or something. But despite this, if you choose to destroy the Heretics, he says you made the ‘right’ decision. Then, if you choose to rewrite them, he says you made the ‘wrong’ choice. What gives here?
The Krogan Genophage is a specifically engineered disease to increase infertility in Krogan females to stop the Krogan from having lots of children and expanding in the universe.
The reason for the Genophage was answered in game and forms a major plot between the Salarians and the Krogan. But that’s not the question. The question is why is the Genophage portrayed so inconsistently? The disease apparently works by making most of the Krogan eggs unviable for fertilization… or does it make their females infertile? Krogan females also are written inconsistently. Do they experience pregnancy like mammals or do they just lay eggs? Even with the Genophage, the Krogan have a fairly long life span of around 100 years or so. Females apparently produce one surviving child out of the 1,000 eggs they lay, meaning they should still have a massive amount of children despite the Genophage.
The Reapers are the bad guys in the series and those who believe in them are terrified of their arrival. So, how did they get so close to Earth and attack it without anyone noticing? Earth in the Mass Effect universe has some pretty long range sensors and, on top of that, they also have a lot of sensors planted on the moon and Mars. Did everyone just take an extra-long break from their jobs for the Reapers to emerge unnoticed? Did the Reapers managed to knock out all communications in the solar system? If that was the case, it should have raised so many alarms and red flags that they should've known they were coming. What happened exactly?
There aren’t that many actual Reapers in the Mass Effect universe, which is why when one is knocked out, the game is usually over or it at least progresses into another act within the same game. You knock off Sovereign in the first game and several more in ME2, and those are just the ones we see. Yet, despite these causalities, the Reapers just keep coming. This is a pretty big deal and here’s why.
In-game, the Reapers only produce one additional Reaper per cycle. A cycle is when the Reapers allow civilization to build, before they come along and destroy it. Now this happens once in many millennia (achieving a space-born civilization takes time and a lot of growing pains). So with all the Reapers being knocked off left and right, how do they sustain themselves without going extinct? It isn’t the current cycle that kills the most. Civilizations generally don’t go down without a fight and they did say that many cycles before have killed two or more Reapers as well, so where are these guys coming from?
Time dilation is one of those aspects that should be taken more seriously in Science Fiction, but rarely is. In Planet of the Apes, they did most certainly use it (and it becomes evident what happened towards the very end of the movie that a LONG time had passed since Charlton Heston left Earth), but most sci-fi pieces with space travel just doesn’t bother, even if it is something that they should be concerned with.
During the suicide mission in Mass Effect 2, brave Commander Shepard and his stalwart crew go to the galactic core to destroy the Collector Base in a daring attempt to save the universe. Even if traveling faster than the speed of light won’t cause time dilation, being that close to a massive black hole will. Yet, not a single bit of it is evident either in-game or from the reactions of the characters. This is pretty huge and anyone with a mild interest in science would just be dying to know what the writers were thinking.
Mass Effect is an action shooter with varying game mechanics depending on which one in the series you’re currently enjoying. And like most shooters, there are a wide variety of shooty gun thingies that go pew pew or boom boom, depending on how childish you’re feeling and what kind of gameplay style you’re going for. That being said, there are also a wide variety of weapons in-game that you can use and modify if you feel like playing future gunsmith.
But one thing that is strange is that while you can discover new weapons, you cannot pick up guns from fallen enemies like you can in most other action shooters. There is no in-game explanation as to why you cannot do this, since you can go ahead and change your load out from mission to mission as you see fit. There is also an interesting situation in Mass Effect 2 where Garrus gives you his sniper rifle to pop-off a few bad guys, but you cannot pick up the same rifle from one of the dozens of Blue Suns mercenaries that you killed along the way…
This one is really strange. As I mentioned before, the sheer level of detail in the Mass Effect universe is astounding. However, there is one aspect that could have made the Mass Effect universe even better and much more alive… language. They do give a handful of phrases and some names that are clearly in an alien language, but they don’t flesh out any of them. I understand that creating languages is something that is very time consuming, but for a game with the size and budget of Mass Effect, it could have made it even better. There's need for complete languages like Esperanto, just having more than an alphabet for a few, a basic pronunciation system, basic words and pronouns, and basic grammar, which wouldn’t have been that hard to do. It would have made for a much more interesting game and attract even more gamers to the franchise.
We mentioned reproduction before and the Salarians clearly describe how it happens for them (if anything, they give too much detail). Their biology is also clearly explained as they live to a maximum of only 40 years, hardly enough time to do anything.
With such a low maximum life span, they must mature very quickly. If they age at the same rate as humans, then most Salarians won’t reach adulthood before their parents die, and you’d have mostly a bunch of teenagers and 20-something running the place, which is a terrifying prospect. For all the aspects of a Salarian’s life, they focus on the beginning and the end, but never the middle. Would they reach full adulthood at the age of 10? It’s never addressed.
Here’s the thing, Mass Effect is a real thing. I don’t mean that there will be Reapers coming in the future or that there will be a Commander Shepherd who will team up with a gang of misfits that will save the galaxy from them. No, what I mean is that the concept of ‘mass effect’ is a real thing. Mass effect is the means through which dark energy is harnessed to travel faster than light.
However, what is it really used for in-game? Weapons. Basically they don’t cover much of anything else of what this amazing technology can do. Sci-fi can be an amazing way to explore what the future can be based on our current understanding of science or it can just be a rehash of sci-fi tropes...
Mass Effect has a massive, well developed universe that is bursting with intrigue and culture. However, for the first two games, all you do is basically fight and shoot up places. It makes sense in-game, since the humans were trying to make a name for themselves in e first two games and you don’t have the time to really explore worlds (not to mention a huge time crunch at the end to save your crew).
However, in the third game in the series, you need to really forge some friendships and alliances to get the best possible result. But with the sole exception of Tali’s dilemma in Mass Effect 2, this really isn’t handled very well. We’re left with a massive universe that begs to be explored and discovered, but we’re only giving tiny glimpses of it. A taste will only do so much, people… especially if it comes from a 3-star Michelin restaurant dish…
This one is a biggie. The Reapers are a super advanced race of aliens who like to come and harvest civilizations every cycle (which we defined above) and we learned that it only takes them 600 years to travel to Andromeda, our closest galactic neighbour. So, why do they wait thousands and thousands of years to harvest humanity from the Milky Way when they could be going everywhere to just collect the various civilizations from other galaxies. They never answer this particular question. Instead we’re left to believe that they just enjoy travelling for 50,000 years into dark space before coming back.
What ARE they doing during this time?
Amid all the major league questions, this one is small potatoes by comparison… but this is a personal one for the player.
If you finish the SAM Node memory unlocking quest chain, you will find some pretty interesting information about Commander Shepherd’s father and his relationship with the founder of the Andromeda Initiative, Jien Garson. Apparently the Initiative sent a few thousand workers to build the Nexus Space Station and to set it up as the seat of the galactic government. Things went awry due to the Scourge and lots of people died, including Jien Garson.
It might not seem out of the ordinary, .but that isn't what happened here. After you unlock the Node, you discover that Jien was murdered and her diary notes show that she was afraid because she knew someone was going to kill her. The whole thing was unnerving since you have no idea who wanted her dead and why? Did she have too much information on the Reapers? Was 'The Benefactor' involved? This is one question that wasn't answered in Andromeda and totally should be…