Tag Archives: mass effect 3

Who Is Commander Shepherd?

He's come a long way from Mass Effect, or has he?

Who is Commander Shepherd? Is he simply an avatar for players, or is he a distinct character who evolves over the Mass Effect series? Since beginning Mass Effect 3, I began pondering this question. In the most recent game, BioWare and EA made this game more open to new players by introducing a mode where decisions are taken out of the player’s hands, in essence creating a Shepherd with a personality, morals, own thoughts, et cetera. Not only that, but Shepherd has dreams in Mass Effect 3, implying further that he is his own person.

I believe Commander Shepherd is a blank slate. Through the decisions the player makes, he gets filled in. As the three-game story arc progressed, Shepherd grew, maybe. As the player, we can make any of the available decisions we want willy nilly. I assume that most players are role-playing their Shepherd as either a paragon (good) or renegade (bad). However, we can ultimately make nearly any decision we want, whether it fits in line with our Shepherd’s alignment or not. So long as we’re role-playing Shepherd with an eventual goal in mind, he does grow as a character. Otherwise, he’s just a mishmash of what we’re feeling at the moment.

I argue that Commander Shepherd is an avatar for the player so they can build an emotional connection to fully enjoy the depth of the games. The positions Commander Shepherd takes are entirely representative of us. My Shepherd had distinct characteristics that are also found in me. I imagine this is the same for anyone who describes Shepherd as “their” Shepherd. The only reason we would ask ourselves what Shepherd would do in a specific situation is because we have already crafted what Shepherd would do because he is a version of ourselves. Shepherd isn’t a distinct character that has his own viewpoint, his viewpoint is ours.

However, for Shepherd to truly resonate with us and allow us to build an emotional connection, he does have to be a distinct character. He has a back-story and interacts with others more so than a silent protagonist. In reality, he’s akin to the silent protagonist of so many other video games. In a way though, Shepherd is the next step of the silent protagonist. He is a blank slate for players to utilize and choose their own choices thereby creating a character, but he does have a voice (figuratively and literally).

Writing down my thoughts about Commander Shepherd has made me think more about the avatars we play as in video games. There are many ways to get players involved in a video game and there are a lot of variables. Commander Shepherd can’t be pinned down as a silent protagonist or a distinct character because he’s a combination of these two alternatives. Truly though, I’d argue he’s closer to a silent protagonist because the decisions he makes are in the player’s hands and therefore, they’re really the stars of the game.

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Mass Effect 3 – N7 Collector’s Edition Review

In the Mass Effect fiction, N7 denotes a Systems Alliance military member of the utmost caliber.

I had a difficult time tracking down a copy of the Mass Effect 3 collector’s edition because I didn’t preorder it. It’s readily available at online retailers, but it’s pretty pricey – seventy dollars used. Still, it’s a collector’s edition that packs a punch.

Like most other collector’s editions worth their salt, or money as it were, Mass Effect 3 comes in a flashy tin case. On either side are images of the stock male and female Shepherd. Fleshing out more of the game’s art is the miniature art book the collector’s edition comes with. I’m usually opposed to these miniature art books (especially in Skyrim’s wake) but Mass Effect 3’s is okay thanks to its detailed descriptions. Then again, it’s actually excerpted from a larger (page count and size) art book that’s available for sale.

There’s also a short comic book starring the queen of Omega, Aria T’Loak. It’s interesting and accounts for her time between Mass Effect 2 and 3, but it seems more like an advertisement for the related graphic novel, sort of like the art book being a “taste” of the full-size art book. Also related to the art is a lithograph of the Normandy. It’s really just a postcard without the necessary information, but it’s a cool picture of Normandy nonetheless. Another inclusion is a code to download a digital version of the soundtrack. I’d really like to give it a listen, but I wasn’t able to redeem it because I accidently have more than one EA account. To redeem it, I need to know what my EA account is that I signed into Mass Effect 3 with, and I don’t know what it is.

There’s a ton of digital content included too; namely, the From Ashes downloadable mission, character, and so on. It’d be great if used copies had unredeemed codes for this, but they probably don’t so it’s not much of a bonus for most. The rest of the digital content isn’t worth the extra money, and like From Ashes, they’re probably not available in used copies. Still, there are plenty of weapons, extra outfits, and other digital gear.

At twenty dollars over the standard edition, I think the extra content is worth it. Especially considering that From Ashes alone costs ten dollars itself. Oh! The collector’s edition also comes with an N7 patch, so yeah… There’s no dearth of content in the collector’s edition. Plus, Mass Effect 3 is a pretty darned good game.

In Between Posts, April 15, 2012

I completed Mass Effect 3 last week! I know the internet went into a fury over the ending, but I don’t think it’s the worst thing ever. More on that sometime, as well as a review and an article discussing Shepherd’s role as a character and as the player’s avatar.

If I play any games in the following days, it’ll only be casually. I have a major project coming due Tuesday and there’s still much that needs to be completed. The focus of the class is on an enormous accounting software package: SAP ERP (Systems, Applications, and Products in Data Processing Enterprise Resource Planning). It can track ANYTHING that happens in the company and lets users view it from a multitude of dimensions. Unfortunately, it’s nigh impenetrable. Rather than allowing users to track everything (because that’d be infinitely too much) individuals are assigned a specific task, accounts receivable or asset depreciation for instance. Therefore users handle very specific tasks and don’t understand how everything SAP tracks comes together. The people who understand SAP get paid well – six digit income – but according to my teacher, there’s little understanding of the software. It’s very complicated and I’m stressing over this project, but man will I be so relieved Tuesday.

In Between Posts, April 8, 2012

A Japanese role-playing game for the Nintendo Wii? How did this even get a release in the USA?

I’m at the end of Mass Effect 3! However, before I dive into the last set of missions, I’m going to blast through the multiplayer to make sure I get the best ending. Playing the multiplayer is necessary because of the way they’ve tied it into the fiction. Playing it isn’t necessary to complete the game, but to get the best ending, I believe it’s required.

Besides that, my friend and I finished Lost Planet: Extreme Condition and moved on to Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean. Besides having a ridiculous name, Baten Kaitos was known for being one of the few role-playing games on the Nintendo GameCube. We’re only an hour or so into it but I really like the battle system. It revolves around decks of cards, which usually get a bad rap, but the battles are fast-paced thus far and integrate a clever combo system.

Once I’m done with Mass Effect 3, I’ll move onto Xenoblade Chronicles. It’s another RPG, coincidentally developed by the same studio behind behind Baten Kaitos: Monolith Soft. It just came out for the Wii in the USA Friday, and we’re lucky it even came out here. It’s all thanks to Operation Rainfall, and GameStop. I played the first twenty minutes or so and it’s very British. Rather than localizing it for the American market, Nintendo of America simply brought over the European version of the game, complete with voice acting and differences in spelling. It seems like camera control might be a problem and the graphics aren’t outstanding, but the battle system seems interesting and I’m just glad to show support for what has become a niche genre.

In Between Posts, March 25, 2012

At night, the 66' tall soda bottle lights up in what else but neon.

Spring break was fantastic. I accomplished a lot, spent time with friends and family, and took a minor road trip, and played a lot of Mass Effect 3. I wrote more than I usually do, and I still have many articles I didn’t get around to writing. My friends and I hung out, played disc golf, and a ton of video games. Lastly my girlfriend and I took a road trip to Arcadia, Oklahoma to visit POPS (on Route 66) and then made our way to Oklahoma City and visited a few museums.

I’m not sure what this week has in store for me, but I guess I’m ready to get back into the swing of things, I don’t have any other choice. One thing spring break showed me? I can’t wait for summer and more free time!

Mass Effect 3: From Ashes – Review

In From Ashes, Commander Shepherd and crew get a more vivid look at the Protheans.

From Ashes is the first major piece of downloadable content for Mass Effect 3. It was included in the collector’s editions of the game and is available on each platform’s respective digital store. In it, Commander Shepherd receives word that Cerberus, the pro-human ne’er-do-wells, has unearthed Prothean artifacts on Eden Prime. Whatever they’ve found is said to be important and could aid Shepherd in his quest to defeat the Reapers. What he finds is much more important than simple artifacts though, it’s a living Prothean frozen in time.

Mandatorily joining Shepherd is Liara T’Soni, the resident Prothean expert. With her intellect and Shepherd’s insight into the Protheans (thanks to the visions he received in the first game on non-other than Eden Prime), they’re able to piece together how to release the Prothean from his contraption and keep him alive. As the crew searches the dig site, they discover evidence of Cerberus troops attacking civilians, a puzzling move that reveals ulterior motives for the dastardly group and ties into their work in Mass Effect 3 proper.

When the Prothean is revitalized he joins Shepherd to take the fight to the Reapers personally, after all, Javik is extremely distraught upon learning of the events of the past 50,000 years. Back on the Normandy, Javik answers many questions one might have about the Protheans, such as Liara, but what I got a kick out of the most was hearing other people’s reactions to him. When using him as a squad mate, people would occasionally reference his presence and the conversations that ensued were interesting.

As far as combat goes, I used him quite a bit after he joined up, but he’s fallen by the wayside now that I’ve found my “go to” teammates. He uses biotic powers like slam and pull so he’s still of use to my biotic-less soldier Shepherd. Javik also brings along a new assault rifle, one of Prothean origin. It operates differently from just about every other weapon in that it doesn’t require ammo. It had a meter that depleted when used, but if I used the gun properly and didn’t exhaust its charge, it’d fully recharge. Plus it fired a neon laser beam that melted enemies and that’s pretty cool.

When it comes to knowledge about the Protheans, no one can top Liara T'Soni. Well, except for a Prothean.

I’d recommend From Ashes. It doesn’t add to Mass Effect 3’s plot in any substantial way but playing through it will provide players a deeper understanding of the Protheans. The ancient civilization was influential in shaping the universe and they’re often mentioned, but details on them have always been a little murky. Beyond gaining a deeper understanding of Mass Effect’s lore, gaining a new squad mate is a great perk and personally I really like the new assault rifle.

In Between Posts, March 18, 2012

Spring break! That’s right, this week I have no school. I’m still working my normal schedule of around thirty hours in the produce department, but I’ll have so much more free time this week. I’m going to use it!

The biggest thing I have planned is a day trip with my girlfriend. We’re going to Arcadia, Oklahoma to visit POPS. It’s a restaurant on Route 66 known for two things: its massive selection of over 600 kinds of soda and the giant neon soda bottle that lets travelers know they’ve arrived. We’re also planning on visiting Oklahoma City and seeing a couple of museums. Coincidentally the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama will be speaking in nearby Cushing, Oklahoma so I would enjoy  trying to swing by there if we’re timely.

I’ll be productive with the rest of my spring break too. I’m going to finally get the chance to play lots and lots of Mass Effect 3 and be able to discuss the game in-depth with friends and coworkers. I’ll also have the opportunity to write more. Last, but not least, I’ll be able to partake in many outside activities. I believe rain is in my local forecast, but no matter what, I’m going to play some disc golf, tennis, and maybe even a little fishing.

Enjoy your week!

POPS