Mass Effect 2

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Mass Effect 2 is finally here on the PS3, and it was worth every agonizing second spent waiting for it.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: February 7, 2011
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Those of you who have read the site over the almost 15 (!!) years it's been around will likely know my... affinity for all things cosmic. I adore space, and all aspects of it, but so many stories that take place in the medium outside of books rarely actually delve into the meat of how that world came to form. Like so many galaxies across the millennia, any game having to do with space travel must, necessarily, have some kind of explanatory background. It doesn't just give the idea of the future of mankind living among the stars a kind of suspended plausibility, it takes us along for the full journey.

Or at least me. I can't count the number of times I've read Carl Sagan's Cosmos or watched the TV series when heading to bed. It's as innumerable as vast as the man's mentions of those words in the text and series. But it also cultivated a very real feeling of awe and wonder and hope for what we as a species might be capable if we don't blow ourselves to kingdom come. It's also why I glommed onto any number of sci-fi epics like Battlestar Galactica (past and reboot), Star Trek (again, past or reboot) and Star Wars (yeah... just past, thanks, although even the reboots were rife with hints at what tech was like eons ago). I crave that sense of made-up legacy, a kind of mythos and history of something that will never happen -- or at least will never happen in any real sense in my lifetime.

I imagine it's what kids must have felt like heading into the 20th century, except they didn't even have the concept of electricity as part of common life, much less appliances or even light that wasn't provided by a lamp. Think about that, for a moment: chances are 100 years from now -- particularly if you live out on the West Coast -- the idea of light from something other than a lamp was utterly alien. Think how far we've come since then, and how much of a technological acceleration we've experienced even in the past few decades with the advent of the Internet.

I ask that you consider this because BioWare did -- not in terms of such comparatively miniscule ideas as even getting to the moon -- but for true faster-than-light travel. It's explained here (carried over from the brilliantly deep original Mass Effect that we PS3 owners will never see) in painstaking detail, via a vast and impossibly deep codex, offering literally hours of nothing but reading and listening for those that care. I care -- deeply -- about how we as a species might finally leave our little marble and explore the stars, but I also know the incredible odds of us actually encountering other sapient life. Here, I get to play make-believe for hours on end by just... reading.

That's an entirely bizarre concept: reading in a video game. This is, by its very nature, a visual medium, and yet so much of how games are given depth and context to their world is delivered by way of audio logs that make one wait and listen or text entries that must be read. This is the pacing of Mass Effect 2. You listen. You talk. You learn. You genuinely experience. And the result is a world that is so deeply explained and imagined that everything just seems so much more real. It's not unfair to imagine this is probably the most deeply explained fake world ever seen in games, and for people like me that let out little squeals of glee in reading about how a fake planet was created or how guns now don't use bullets but shave off little shards of a giant block of metal and fire the shards as bullets, using heatsinks as "clips," it's the sort of thing that makes that escape so much easier.
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