The first time I played Mass Effect I immediately broke my game.
I built my character and started the game. Then as I turned to head down the hallway of the Normandy I clipped on the wall and became stuck. I could spin in place, aim and fire but I could not move or get out from my predicament. Since the game had just started I could not even load a save.
Not the most auspicious start to a game series that would take up probably hundreds of hours and become my favorite game series ever.
This started back in 2007. I saw the ads. I remember in my math class in high school hearing from a guy who sat next to me saying how good the game was. My friend bought a copy and I first got a chance to play it there.
My first playthrough was inelegant when I think back on it. This next bit will mean nothing to people who have not played the game. My service history was Earthborn & Ruthless and I played on casual as a Renegade Adept and I barely used my powers. So I spent a good part of 20 hours shooting things to death with relative speed. I remember after I beat the game and experienced the Renegade ending I went upstairs and announced to my friends who were milling around in the kitchen I had broken the galaxy in my game.
I liked Mass Effect. I liked the interactive story it presented, the ability to influence how the story goes along. But the obsession did not really start until 2009.
That is when the madness began.
The first teaser for Mass Effect 2 was exciting. I remember distinctly during my sophomore year in college sitting in my room in the G apartments watching Hulu on my laptop. And being tormented by the trailers. But the excitement created something that usually is only birthed for fervor for the divine or a ball being played with in a field. I prepared for the games arrival in a way that went far beyond anyone I know has ever done. I had access to an Xbox 360 and Mass Effect in my apartment and I poured hours of my life into it. I could go find out exactly how much fairly easily since BioWare had the good sense to attach a cumulative time clock to all saves in the Mass Effect series. My purpose was twofold: One, to prepare for Mass Effect 2 by having saves ready to go that were as perfectly constructed as I could make them, every decision made, everything experienced, leveled all the way up to 60 so that I could gain all the bonuses in the sequel. Two, to get all the original 1000 points in Achievements. For those who are not as intimately knowledgeable about Mass Effect to get all the achievements in it requires at least three playthroughs. And I did just that plus some. About 80 hours and five playthroughs to be specific. And to get some of them it required me to create characters with the right classes and to use their abilities a certain number of times. I did it by using their abilities in rapid succession and then reloading the save, avoiding the cool down time. I did it in about an hour and change. The same seven seconds of gameplay over and over and over and over…
With one tiny, small, infuriating exception my save files were perfect in the end. I missed one thing in my Paragon game. I failed to speak to characters in the right order and thus failed to receive a small item that would unlock an event. I realized it about ten hours of playtime after I made the mistake and decided that it was not worth another 20 hour grind to get in that particular career. In the end it would not matter because the event, while flagged in the import data I later found out (trans. last week), played no role in the future of the games. It was a thread that began and ended in that game. I created two saves, each distinct from each other. One I was a Spacer War Hero, a Paragon who strove to be a diplomat and not let expediency get in the way of the right thing. The other I was an Earthborn Sole Survivor, a scarred Renegade who let violence solve problems, executing people who stood in my way but also making a few strategic, uncharacteristic decisions (I did not kill something because I foresaw it being useful later in the games). The desire to experience everything drove me to this dissociative style.
But I had done it on the 7th of February 2010. To put it all in a sorry perspective I had started this project on the 11th of January 2010. I bought Mass Effect 2 on the 11th of February 2010 and thus began the next chapter.
I had the game I had been waiting for. I built the foundations, I prepared for its arrival and I ended up buying it two weeks after launch because I was not ready and I am the world’s most economical man and thus will never spend money unless I have to. But I will tell that story later.