This week my copy of Mass Effect 3 arrived. I've been waiting for this for years, ever since I first played the original instalment in the series. Mass Effect takes the best elements of Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and many other sci fi settings and rolls them all into one awesome package. It presents a deeply developed galaxy where humans, rather than being the most important of races, are considered among the lesser-regarded sentient species. It's only the actions of Commander Shepard in Mass Effect 1 that elevate them to full membership of the Galactic Council, something some species have been trying to achieve for millenia.
You won't find any "token" characters here. There are as many female characters as male. As many aliens as humans, if not more. The actions of characters and even governments cover different shades of morality. From choosing whether or not to kill the last of an alien species, to the straightforward determination to make a stand against seemingly unstoppable forces bent on the eradication of all organic life.
Through it all, the series is defined by the idea that the player should feel like the hero, the protagonist of their own space opera. Commander Shepard is larger than life, a force of nature whose personality is largely dictated by the choices of the player. As such, each player's Shepard is a little different. Choices as personal as choosing which friend's life to save, or as huge as determining the fate of the rulers of galactic civilisation, give each player a unique experience. Bioware have worked hard to ensure that every decision matters. Mass Effect is Shepard's story, but in being so, is the player's story. I've never seen a game do such a good job of making the player feel like a hero.
I love that video games are becoming their own unique form of storytelling. And, just because it's awesome and I feel like getting all psyched up for the rest of the game, here's the official launch trailer for Mass Effect 3: