By Adele Chapline Smith | Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — The action-adventure role playing game “Mass Effect Legendary Edition” (Electronic Arts) is a masterpiece of narrative design.
Yet seamy elements make it not only strictly grown-up fare but an option even adult players in search of casual entertainment may wish to avoid.
Those who do take it on will at least get their money’s worth. This compilation not only includes the original “Mass Effect” trilogy — first marketed between 2007 and 2012 — but over 40 downloadable content packs as well as improved cutscenes, voiceover dialogue and textures.
Gamers pick up the helmet of Cmdr. Shepard (female voice of Jennifer Hale, male voice of Mark Meer), a famous soldier in the 23rd-century Systems Alliance, the political body that represents Earth and all extraterrestrial human colonies. At the behest of the Citadel Council, which governs a large swath of galactic space, Shepard hunts a rogue warrior named Saren (voice of Fred Tatasciore).
Working in alliance with a synthetic species called the Geth, Saren has been plotting the destruction of the Citadel and of the various species who adhere to its authority. Saren himself, however, is controlled by a set of puppet masters in the form of the Reapers, an ancient race of machines that eliminates all advanced civilizations every 50,000 years.
The game features unique decision-based mechanics. Thus Shepard’s moral compass is in the hand of the player. Good choices, labelled Paragon, open up possibilities and motivate others to aid Shepard while bad behavior, identified as Renegade, leads to opposite results.
Unity is the central theme of “Mass Effect” with gamers encouraged to bring different people, species and worlds together to advance a common cause. Loyal friendship and self-sacrifice are also celebrated, which helps to account for the franchise’s enduring popularity.
Other aspects of the game, however, are more troubling. The depiction of battle, for instance, includes some gory sights. Shepard, moreover, can form straight relationships or homosexual ones, with interactions in either case ranging from mild flirtation to bedroom scenes showing the aftermath of sexual encounters.
While its underlying values can be appreciated, accordingly, this is a title that buys into misguided contemporary sexual ethics to a degree that suggests caution on the part of mature consumers.
Playable on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows.
The game contains combat violence with bloody effects, a benign view of homosexual acts, implied nonmarital sexual activity, scenes of sensuality involving rear and partial nudity, drug references and considerable rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, material whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Entertainment Software Rating Board rating is M — mature.
Smith reviews video games for Catholic News Service.