I’m a fan of RPGs and I’ve played many of them and I think I can safely say that Mass Effect (1) is likely the best one I’ve ever played. Everything about this game was done well and done right…excepting maybe the impossibly agile and unflippable Mako, but even in that, the wrongness of it all was incredibly fun.

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Trying to learn what we can from such an excellent game I found their execution of the Hero’s Journey tale brilliant. It also hit all the themes John Eldredge would appreciate: A battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. Except here the beauty is a space marine who’d just as well deck you as kiss you. (Never mind Liara, she’s odd) ME was able to hit all the points of the classic hero formula without ever feeling formulaic and that is hard to do. As I was playing through the game I found myself watching cut scenes that were so classic in their direction that it reminded me of some old hero movie like Sparticus or something, and BioWare wrote this borderline melodramatic tale without any hint of the self-aware post-modern junk I see so often these days.

What this game teaches me, and I hope we can put this to work inside Soma, is that the classic themes of sacrifice, betrayal, and even the damsel in distress are classics because they work. Because they call out to something deep inside us that longs for a life that’s bigger than our own and these themes reach far back into our subconscious to remind us that we were once much more than we are today…and that glory may yet be regained.

(Read about the 24 best RPGs of all time)

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  1. Mass Effect is one of my favorite games from the last couple of years. Bioware is clearly one of the best when it comes to storytelling, but that fact that they are able to take such a classic formula as the Hero’s Journey and make it feel fresh is inspiring. Makes me wonder if all of the truly great stories can be broken down to classic archetypes like that, and how that does (and should) impact the modern storyteller.

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