Over the last few years, I’ve heard the Mass Effect trilogy’s story described a number of different ways, usually focused on the larger narrative arcs of impending universal destruction. It’s a story of a soldier trying to fight impossible odds to save sentient life from extinction. It’s about someone who just plain refuses to die as they save biotic life single handed from the clutches of machine extinction. It’s about finding a way to rally the universe against the impending tide of the all powerful Reapers.
To me, that was never what Mass Effect was about.
Mass Effect was a story of friendship. A story of finding people who you care about more than the fate of a galaxy.
A story of small interpersonal relationships, insignificant in the grander scope of what is approaching, being so important that they ultimately eclipse everything else.
I really didn’t care if I stopped the Reapers or not. I didn’t care about the lives of the countless races across space fighting for survival. I cared about a bunch of lovable idiots I had fought wars to keep safe.
I cared about Mordin, who sacrificed himself to cure the genophage he was in part responsible for creating. I knew I could not stand in the way of his self sacrifice, but hearing him sing “I am the very model of a scientist Salarian” as the world fell down around him broke my heart.
I cared about Legion, who sacrificed himself to finally grant free will to his species, at the cost of never getting to experience the fruit of that sentience. After a life as a hive mind, he would have to die alone.
I cared about Tali, who so vehemently disagreed with my actions that she ultimately took her own life. She took the name Vas Normandy, and I care that I failed her.
I cared about Thane, an assassin who not only held every kill in his heart, but ultimately sacrificed himself for me. I cried at his funeral. Hearing others words of his deeds brought me to tears.
I cared about Liara, and ensuring she got to safety rather than push on with the final assault. If I died, I at least wanted her to live on without me. I wanted her to live on.
I cared about Jack, who’s unbridled anger, rage and passion was eventually channeled into doing something truly good for the world.
I cared about Garrus, and fighting to end up on a beach somewhere nice with him one day.
I cared about Wrex, a hot headed mercenary who managed to bring order and diplomacy to a race with more than enough reason to hate indiscriminately.
I cared about Edi and Joker, a perfect duo if ever I had seen one. So much of what I did at the end of my journey was for them.
I cared more about them, than I cared about the galaxy.