Mass Effect 3 is the Star Wars of gaming without all the coyness. It’s a space soap opera with skirmishes, battles and diplomacy; spying and sparring, oodles of flirting and sprinkles of straight, lesbian, gay and bi sex. All that’s missing are the double-edged dildos, but it’s everything you’ve ever asked for; in other words, it’s probably one of this decade’s key games. The series (Mass Effect, ME2, ME3) has always been well-orchestrated, epic cliffhangers that play like choose-your-own-adventure novellas, where you pick your responses, your fate, and your destiny from over 1,000 variables.
Thankfully, the story isn’t confusing, or bogged down in ancient lore and whatnot. It’s simple. You get to create a character named Commander Sheppard whose sole purpose is to save the galaxy from an organic-mechanical race of beings called the Reapers hell-bent on wiping out all species specifically humankind, so as to restart evolution – the creation process. This story arc has remained pretty much the same across the three titles, so I won’t sit here and explore plot details that’ll confuse the shit out of first-time players of the game. Instead we’ll get into the minutia, because the genius of such a simple premise lies in its details.
Now, to fulfill your task you need to traverse the universe in your Normandy spacecraft (which has four levels – captain’s cabin, engine room, etc), with your crew completing various main and side missions on different planets, space stations and flotillas. These increase experience, weapon strength and powers to take on the Reapers. During these exercises you build friendships, secure alliances and maintain loyalty among teammates, all the while flirting with and fucking them. These can lead to love triangles or just plain man-whore behavior, but because the game is still pitched to teens as well as us hairy adults, the trysts are downplayed to a little slap and tickle – no pink bits, glory holes or butt-plugs. Cough.
But, and this is where it gets interesting, I decided to make my Commander a female. Yes. I went lipstick lesbo and had – as the song goes – the time of my life. I chased tail, shot men in the nuts, took out Cerberus soldiers then snuck in a quick shower with one of the women. It can really get addictive… like porn, but isn’t that the point? Anyway, it isn’t the action that gets you all worked up, it’s the conversations, the flirting, the quips, and the voices used in ME3 that are an incredible turn-on. These characters are probably the first I’ve ever dealt with that show an intriguing depth of feeling. Look, the game is pure masterpiece, its vision is euphoric and spacious; the developers, EA, haven’t sacrificed any of the flow and spontaneity of this game’s predecessors that made them legend. And I dunno, there’s something beautiful about a game that allows us eroticism and violence; it’s what makes the world tick. No?
[PC, PS3, Xbox 360]
By Damon Boyd
Published in Playboy South Africa March 2012