The Best of Mass Effect: Honorable mentions
I recently finished my third playthrough of the Mass Effect series, which means it’s time for me to devote some time on this blog to my favorite game franchise.
All week long, I’m going to be counting down my 15 favorite missions from the Mass Effect games. But in compiling the list, there were a few that didn’t make the final cut that I couldn’t just ignore. Here are the honorable mentions:
Mass Effect- Noveria
The mission on Noveria goes on perhaps a bit too long for its own good.
All right, scratch that, it’s way too long. By the time I actually reached Matriarch Benezia to fight her, I was ready to melt the entire miserable, frozen block of ice. But the showdown with Benezia is good stuff. The fight itself is challenging and forces you to use your wits, as wave after wave of Asari commandos pour in on you. After defeating her, the revelation that she has been brainwashed is a watershed moment in the game’s story, the first real encounter with the Reaper tactic of “indoctrination”: brainwashing people to aid their species’ eventual destruction. Benezia fights off her indoctrination for a moment, just enough time to tell her daughter Liara that she loves her before dying.
Did I mention that this mission can involve Liara T’Soni having to kill her own mother? For all my quibbles with how the Mass Effect writers handled Liara throughout the series (and the quibbles are many), it’s a legitimately sad moment, one that showed that these games wouldn’t hold back on any of their characters.
Mass Effect 2- Prologue: Shepard’s Death
No event in the Mass Effect games is quite as shocking as Shepard’s death in the opening moments of Mass Effect 2. Obviously, we can assume that this is not the end of the line for Shep, but it is still a standout moment that shakes you to your bones right out of the gate. The prologue begins with a rush of nostalgia: From that initial appearance of the Normandy, to Shepard stepping into the frame and telling Kaiden/Ashley to evacuate, to forcing Joker out of the cockpit. It’s all a very cinematic way to open the game. But the moment Shepard gets spaced, we know that this game is going to take a radically different route than the first.
Mass Effect 3- Prologue: Earth
Mass Effect 3’s opening sequence is more somber than the action-packed opening to ME2. Shepard is standing before the Alliance Council, pleading once more with higher-ups to help them with the upcoming Reaper threat. Before Shep can even begin to get frustrated with their waffling, the Reapers attack Earth. The mission itself is straightforward, working in the usual tutorial elements and some basic, easy combat. But it hits all the right emotional notes. Mass Effect 3 plays out under a Reaper-sized shadow of desperation and doom. The opening to the most somber entry into the trilogy features some of its finest music, the spare and despairing “Leaving Earth” by Clint Mansell.
The war on Earth is one of the primary emotional veins that Mass Effect 3 mines from. The prologue does a terrific job of making it personal without diluting the scope.
Mass Effect 3- Priority: The Citadel II
A lot of major action occurs on The Citadel throughout the games. It gets invaded perhaps a bit too frequently for a contained location that is the hub of all galactic civilization. Get some better security, damn it.
Regardless, Cerberus’s attack on The Citadel in Mass Effect 3 begins a pretty straightforward, entertaining mission, and rapidly ratchets up the stakes. It introduces Kai Leng, the merciless Cerberus assassin who harangues Shepard throughout the game. It features a Mexican Standoff with Ashley/Kaiden that can end with their death in a worst case scenario, or their joining your crew for one last spin on the Normandy in a best case. It’s a narratively rich and exciting mission that misses on my top 15 list for one reason: the shambolic way it handles the death of Thane. Thane, one of the best characters in the franchise, is given a brief moment in the spotlight, attempting to fight Kai Leng before being stabbed, as Shepard inexplicably watches without helping. Later, he dies in a rather muted scene that just does not have the sort of weight his character deserves. Mass Effect 3 caught some flack for how it handled the stories of its Mass Effect 2 cast, but no character was quite so manhandled as Thane. Still, the mission as a whole is strong enough that it merits mention. Without that drawback, it’s easily a top 10 mission.
Next up, #’s 15-11