It's been over seven years since the Mass Effect trilogy concluded. A space-age role-playing series that defined the last console generation, the series has since fallen by the wayside on current consoles. The only bit of Mass Effect we've had in the time since has been Mass Effect: Andromeda, a spin-off of sorts with its own aspirations away from the Milky Way. That, and some backward compatibility with the Xbox One.
Today, November 7, is N7 Day; the unofficial-official day for remembering Mass Effect. Official BioWare accounts have been boosting artwork and fond memories of the series, Ars Technica asked some lingering questions about it, and to kick off the day, BioWare project director Michael Gamble asked one simple question: Where do you want Mass Effect to go?
Where do you want Mass Effect to go in the future? #N7Day- Michael Gamble (@GambleMike) November 7, 2019
The thought of a future for Mass Effect feels exciting. Whether it's a much-needed tune-up for Andromeda or some other adventure back in our galaxy, fans are certainly hungry for it. BioWare members are even teasing how many stories there are "yet to tell."
But while we're looking ahead to a new console generation and new possibilities in the Mass Effect universe, we need to look at what's falling rapidly behind. The case for an original Mass Effect trilogy collection isn't just based on a desire to play that series again. It's to preserve it for the future.
Right now, there are only a handful of ways to play the original Mass Effect trilogy. There's the original consoles, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. (Mass Effect 3 got a Wii U version, but, why would you ever only play Mass Effect 3, and why would you do it on a Wii U?) The Xbox One can play the trilogy as well through backward compatibility, though digital rights are a fickle beast and physical copies can grow scarce over time.
And then there's PC, which is the most optimal place to play Mass Effect, even with some concessions. The first one absolutely needs at least one mod, not just to polish the game up a bit for modern standards, but to fix some odd issues like Garrus having a strangely blurred face. It's not at a Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines level of "needs mods," but as someone who has replayed the entire series on PC in the last year, they make a noticeable difference.
This series represents the best of BioWare's work in the last generation, and some would argue, ever. Mass Effect was representative of major steps forward in games. Choices carried through games, alongside a Shepard you could call your own, is something only a few other studios have attempted or managed to pull off, and often not nearly to the scale or impact of Mass Effect.
Even Mass Effect 1, for all its dated combat and an endearingly chaotic physics experiment called the Mako, withstands the test of time. It's hard to think of what modern role-playing games would look like without the influence of Mass Effect, but then again, there's really nothing else like it.
The original Mass Effect trilogy had a massive scope for its story, yet still made small character moments shine, in ways even its own successor Mass Effect: Andromeda couldn't. At one point, you could be fighting a Thresher Maw or a Reaper, barreling through a field of Geth, or darting from cover to cover while hurling biotic powers at hapless mercs. Then, the next, you'd be talking to a crewmate aboard your ship, learning about their tragic past or exploring aspects of their life, outside the roar and fury of galactic warfare.
The original crew has even become some of the most immediately recognizable and beloved characters in gaming. Garrus Vakarian, Tali'Zorah vas Normandy, Urdnot Wrex, Liara T'Soni, Mordin Solus, Thane Krios... I can get side-tracked just thinking about how memorable and compelling these companions are, head-and-shoulders above the pack of most other RPG party members.
And yet, it seems like in 2020, we could be moving on to a console generation without easy access to this piece of history. Being able to pop in a disc, or load up a digital bundle, and re-experience Shepard's journeys throughout the Milky Way and the fight against the Reapers, is already tough, and it could get tougher.
There have been a number of well-crafted remakes and collections this generation, from Nathan Drake to the Master Chief Collection. Mass Effect has the same level of impact as both those classic series. Having them readily available means that even as these series move on to new adventures, or their studios shift to new projects, we can still remember one of the most pivotal points in their history.
So when fans, like myself ask and tweet about a remaster, it's not just because we want more games on our Switch. It's not just because we aren't digging Anthem. It's because for a lot of us, these games carry a lot of weight. They're what got us into games in general, or even encouraged us to pursue careers in games, from writing about them to making them. Having some record of that carry forward, when games can so easily crumble away over time, gives us something to remember it all by, and maybe share the same connection with others.
I'm not expecting a lot. N7 Day has rarely been a day of announcements or reveals. But even if it's just a fun tease at future potential, I hope Mass Effect doesn't fall behind as time goes on. It's worth remembering on more than just one day a year.