Yesterday brought the release of Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut to the public. Barring an unforeseen sequel, novels or fan fiction, this ends the Mass Effect Universe with an ambiguous ending. (Note: As of writing this blog, I have not seen the extended cut…so please forgive me on that.) It turned out that Mass Effect was one of the more popular science fiction franchises ever built. But is it the best?
As many of you who listen to the show know, I am a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I really feel that it’s the standard for what good science fiction should be: memorable characters, good storylines, and just pure entertainment. People out there now have made arguments that Mass Effect is now the shining example for what Sci-Fi should be. Could that be true??
I’m doing my own investigations to find out. Here’s a categorical argument for which one is better. Make it so!
Main Character– Mass Effect has Commander Shepard, ST:TNG has Captain Picard. That’s pretty much trying to decide whether you like puppies or sunshine as the thing that makes you happiest. Shepard has got some things going for him/her, the main one being the fact that (s)he CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD! Although, Picard might have been given a fate worse than death by being turned into a Borg. Unfortunately for Shepard in this argument, we just don’t have enough definitive evidence into his/her character. The medium that Mass Effect is played on allows us to pick and choose how our Shepard acts. If we wanted to kill the Rachni Queen, SHE DEAD. if we wanted to force the Quarians to make peace with the Geth, it’s gonna happen, so it’s impossible to judge the “canon” character that Shepard is. Picard shows us his character and moral grounds every episode. What other captain in the universe wouldn’t have blown the Borg “Hugh” out of the airlock the moment they found him? Yet Picard spoke to him and even empathized with him enough to not send him back as a weapon of mass destruction. (For further explanation if you have no idea what I’m talking about, look at this link.) Shepard could go either way depending on how you play him/her. For consistency’s sake…
EDGE: STAR TREK
Enemies – The Reapers vs The Borg is how this should be titled. There isn’t any debate that the most admired villain in the Star Trek Universe is the Borg Collective. It combines the unstoppable nature and cold logic of a machine race along with the fear that they can either kill you or just take your individual will away from you. The Reapers kill you, and your family, and friends, and enemies…basically everyone who can form a sentence is slaughtered when The Reapers come. So this argument will come down to the lesser enemies of our respective crews. The parallels are simple to draw between the two franchises: Salarians = Romulans, Krogan = Klingons, Cerberus = The Maquis. How can we differentiate? Well…We can’t.
Ship’s Crew – Like a good basketball team, you’re only as good as your supporting cast, and that’s no exception for these crews. Let’s look at theEnterprise’s crew: Geordi is a head engineer who is blind, yet overcomes this to go on away missions, Riker is second in command and can absolutely run the ship in a pinch, and Worf rules security on the ship with an iron fist. Comparing that to theNormandycrew, there aren’t specific roles for our crew in the alliance, and most of them are castoffs from other societies who are accepted by Shepard for one reason and one reason only: The Reapers. The follow Shepard for their desire to save all organic life, but they also follow because Shepard is so charismatic. TheEnterprisecrew is the best of the best and worked extremely hard to get their position on the ship, and follow Picard not only because of his leadership, but because of their pride in the federation. Not only that, The Enterprise has Data. No one can beat Data…at anything.
EDGE: STAR TREK
Personal Connection – Well, one is a TV show where the writers tell me what the characters think, the other gives me options on how to live vicariously through Shepard. As awesome as Picard is and how I want to emulate my life to his example, Shepard IS me because I made him/her that way.
BIG EDGE: MASS EFFECT
Technology – In the Mass Effect Universe, almost all of the major technology is just given to our galactic neighbors. The Citadel and the Mass Relays, the foundation for space travel and government, were basically just floating there waiting to be used. Meanwhile our friends at the Federation built everything from scratch, starting with Warp drive and ending with replicators and transporters. However, regardless of how we obtained it, we have to go with what we’ve got. Upon initial thought, having the Mass Relays would seem to be amazing. We can literally move from one end of the galaxy to another in the blink of an eye. The Citadel is an amazing structure, hosting an intergalactic government that influences the decision of the entire galaxy. However, when I compare that to the fact that The Enterprise’s crew doesn’t have to fly shuttles (due to the transporter) and never has to stop to pick up food (due to the replicator) I have got to say that sounds better to me.
On a side note, due to the replicator, it makes Star Trek’s utopian future very believable. There’s a reason money has been phased out in their future, and it’s because replicators can give people anything they want. Mass Effect is still using credits, still has people fighting over food on certain planets, and Earth still has crime. Money is the root of all evil, but is a necessary one. Replicators remove the necessity of money. That’s awesome.
GIGANTIC EDGE: STAR TREK
Ending – Star Trek: TNG’s final episode, All Good Things…, is regarded as one of the best dramatic episodes of all time, even winning a Hugo award in 1995. Mass Effect’s ending was so hideous that lawsuits were threatened, and the creators were forced to design an extended cut to describe just what the hell happened at the end. All Good Things…to this day remains my second favorite episode of the series (The Best of Both Worlds beats it, but just barely). Not only did TNG end the series well, they also tied the plot back to the pilot episode. That, my fellow Trekkies, is brilliant writing.
BIG EDGE: STAR TREK
So what did we learn? The fact that I’m a huge Star Trek Fanboy? That I know way too much about both of these franchises? No, we learned that Star Trek is much better than Mass Effect. As good as Mass Effect was (I would say that from 1-3 it’s my favorite video game of all time.) it still doesn’t hold a candle to the experience that Star Trek gave me as a child and still does to this very day. Let’s see what happens if they make a movie about Mass Effect, (which, by the way, absolutely NEEDS to happen) and maybe revisit this topic then, but for now, I’d much rather live in the Federation with Picard and the Enterprise than on the Citadel with the Counsel and Shepard.