Hello Mass Effect Acolytes, it's time for one of the most provocative questions I'm approaching in this series: which ME entry in the trilogy is the best, so far? This is a quandary that fans and critics will debate for as long as the series exists. However, it's a question that needs more than my own input so that we can gain a better appreciation of the series, so I called the usual suspects and they've responded in the final round of the Building Consensus segment in my Mass Effect blog series! As I'm sure you'll hopefully remember, these Spectres have to keep their identities secret while completing their nigh impossible missions, so we'll be using codenames to refer to them.

Here with me in this discussion are Blake Shepard, Marston Shepard, Dave Shepard, Chris Shepard, Archibald Shepard, Batman Shepard, James Shepard, John Shepard, John C. Shepard, Dood Shepard, Jotale Shepard, Catherine Shepard, Colin Shepard, Cameron Shepard, John S. Shepard, and Phil Shepard. I'd like to thank them all for participating in this dialogue, and I'll now surrender the floor to them, before offering my own closing remarks on the issue. As usual, there will be spoilers so those wary should avoid.


So, let's see these legendary figures offer their input, in alphabetical order:

"Which ME is the Best?"


Archibald Shepard:

"Ah, this is the easiest of the four questions for me to answer without feeling a need to elaborate a whole lot. Mass Effect 1 is my favorite game in the series... so far!

"Don't hate me, let me explain. I have an appreciation for pedigree; I believe that any solid structure needs a strong foundation. I like the original in almost every situation. In this situation though, it isn't just because it was first, it is because the first was more my style of game. In short, the first had more RPG elements and character/setting/plot development built into the gameplay than the other two. Frankly, ME3 was lacking in that stuff in a major way in my opinion.


"ME1 felt like an open-world game; I could travel the galaxy and end up on a desolate planet, I may find materials, I may find a mission, or I may find both. I liked the MAKO, I liked the roaming around aimlessly. I was engrossed in the newness of everything, I read all of the descriptions for the planets, every datapad, anything I could find out more about the backstory. I was able to take off in the Normandy and just explore, uncover and solve mysteries, make some serious decisions, upgrade customize my weapons, armor and team. I would take 1 over 2 over 3. In short, while I really enjoyed ME3, it was without a doubt my least favorite of the trilogy.

"Another reason is perhaps that I was a relatively "new" gamer when I played ME1 for the first time. It amazed me on so many levels, and as somebody who sucked at traditional shooters, I could actually play this game and not have to restart every three or four minutes. I agonized over several key decisions: Ashley or Kaidan, Ashley or Liara, what to do with Wrex, etc. They were decisions that shaped my entire journey through the end. I also enjoyed being able to go through a second time as Commandress Jeremina Shepard, and even though I could make different decisions if I wanted, the game impacted me in such a way that it felt cheap to do so, so I rarely make drastically different decisions when I play my alt. fem shep in any of the games.

"In the Kaidan/Ashley moment of choice, I literally turned the game off, went outside, had a smoke(I no longer smoke), went to an AA meeting, came home and then made the call. I was going to go to AA anyway. But I actually reflected on this during the meeting! Here I was, proud to be clean and sober, in a situation where I was supposed to be reaching out to others and helping them, and all I could think about was who to kill off in some video game!

"Mass Effect 1 is not only my favorite ME game, it is probably in my top 5 of all time, right up there with the likes of Bioshock, FF9, etc."

Orochi: I think Archibald's experience is a pretty fascinating example of how powerful and emotionally authentic the first Mass Effect was for a lot of us. I myself recall a similar experience, except it was with the confrontation between my Shepard and Wrex. In this instance, I'd killed off the famous Krogan everyone loves, and I felt so guilty that I literally shut my console off and reloaded my save, choosing to save him instead of kill him. I just haven't been able to kill this guy off since.


Batman Shepard:

"Ouch. This is a tough question for me. The most well-made game from the series is without a shadow of a doubt Mass Effect 3... but as far as enjoyment goes it's really tough for me to pick one out, as all three made their own names. The first game was out of left field, and sits to this day as one of my favorite games of all time, but somehow they completely trumped it with the sequel. The same could be said with 3, as it took everything that Mass Effect 2 did, and somehow managed to make it even more emotional. To end this rambling, I'll just have to say that ME3 was my favorite. That sounds about right."

Orochi: Definitely. While I don't feel it's the best overall, ME3 most certainly trumps the others in terms of production value.


Blake Shepard: 

"Mass Effect 2 was by far the best Mass Effect in my opinion. I know a lot of people like to point at the original because "it was more RPG".  Personally, I see Mass Effect 2 as BioWare finally mastering the art of having strong supporting character and having a great main narrative as well.

"In this game we got introduced to some of Mass Effect's most beloved characters like Jack, Miranda, Grunt, Legion, etc. We also had a strong (although arguably less potent than the original) main narrative in the conflict with both the Collectors and Harbinger, as well as having to deal with the Illusive Man and Cerberus. This game was just utterly perfect in those regards. I wanted to keep learning more about the Mass Effect universe after Mass Effect 2. I wanted to know more about how the Protheans became the Collectors, the Illusive Man's story, and about my team.

Truly, Mass Effect 2 is a game I frequently revisit, even after so many games worthy of times releases. That's the impact that this game has had. It was BioWare at their A-game. To this day I still get goosebumps during the suicide run. This game was just so memorable for so many different reasons that I could dedicate hours of my time talking about it.

"Mass effect 1 had a great main story. Sovereign and Saren are some of the most iconic villains of this generation.  But I never really got to bond as much with the supporting cast. I felt like I was introduced to them, rather than actually getting to know them.  The main story was stellar, but I will always consider ME1 as the prototype of how BioWare can create the best worlds in creating a compelling main narrative with a strong cast of characters.

"Mass Effect 3 had a strong supporting cast as well, but that's only because it was comprised of characters we got to know in the previous games. I couldn't care less about James or Traynor. Javik was interesting, but perhaps that was because of him being the last living Prothean (a character that I wish would have been available for everyone right out of the box).  Add in the fact that there was less dialogue options available for the crew and it just falls short of the second but above the first.

"Overall, the gameplay in Mass Effect 3 was arguably the best in the series, with it leaning towards a more traditional TPS in the tradition of titles like Gears of War. I think that BioWare found a happy middle-ground between typical TPS and RPG mechanics.

"The main story is another beast entirely. Seeing the franchise come to a conclusion after 5+ years of hype was extraordinary to experience first-hand. In many ways, BioWare succeeded on delivering a compelling main narrative for the concluding chapter. We got to see the plot threads of many lingering main storylines: curing the Genophage, Cerberus, Quarian vs. Geth. Many of the supporting cast got their own moment to shine. Some of my personal favorites being Garrus and Shepard's date, Mordin and the Genophage, Miranda vs. her father and watching Liara's planet falling to invading Reaper forces.

"Then there is the elephant in the room. Mass Effect 3 had/has one of the single most polarizing endings in the history of gaming. This is the kind of stuff that you cannot plan under any circumstances. And instead of going into my thoughts on the endings (as if it hasn't been done to death by everyone and their grandma), I'm going to end my thoughts on Mass Effect 3's story with one last sentence.

"The main story was fantastic... until the last 5 minutes."

Orochi: "...until the last five minutes." I swear that's turning into a meme.


Cameron Shepard:

"Since us PS3 users were only limited to 2 and 3, I'll say 3. 2 was longer, but I felt more emotionally involved with 3. That might have to do with it being the final part of the trilogy, but from the music to the final battle on Earth with the constant wave of enemies, I really got the feeling of 'Oh damn! This is serious," that I really never got with 2."

Orochi: Yeah, that does indeed suck. I hope they release a port of ME1 for PS3 players to enjoy one day. It's a game that you guys deserve to experience so that you can have a complete Mass Effect experience.


Catherine Shepard:

"Mass Effect 2 is easily my favorite game in the series. My preference has a lot to do with the structure of ME2's plot; with its focus on the Normandy's crew, the importance of the player's ultimate goal is secondary to how they approach it. The result of this is non-linear, organic progression. The way ME2 gives players the freedom to tackle its challenges as they please, all while preparing the Normandy for the Suicide Mission (which is, by the way, a much more satisfying process, than say, bumbling around the galaxy trying to raise your EMS) is sheer genius. Of course, it doesn't hurt that ME2 has the best cast of recruit-able characters, the most gameplay variety, the best locations, the best sense of exploration, and the most memorable moments in the series."

Orochi: Yay, someone other than me used "organic"! See, I do know what I'm talking about. I think. There was definitely something special at work with Mass Effect 2 that I can't possibly forget, especially with all of the content made available.


Chris Shepard:

"Mass Effect 3, regardless of the ending, as a whole, was an absolutely brilliant package, the best in my opinion, simply because it provokes the most profound emotion out of all three, you’re fighting a fight you cannot win by yourself, you’ve been hit at earth, and that hits home no matter who you are, because this is our planet (**BRAAAHHHH**!) and we’re gonna fight to the death for it."

Orochi: It certainly provokes the most profound emotion out of all three... trololo. I wish they'd went more in-depth though on the Earth mission. 


Colin Shepard:

"I liked ME3 the best. Graphics mainly."

Orochi: I will concede that in terms of overall graphical power, ME3 outshines the others. My relatives kept mistaking it for an actual film.