What is Mass Effect all about? Yeah, killing the Reapers, saving the galaxy, blah, blah, blah. That’s the plot. What are the overarching themes of Mass Effect? What concepts drive the narrative? There are a bunch: racism, artificial intelligence, genetic modification, and so on. But there is one, that to me anyway, stands above all others. For me, Mass Effect is a tale about the power of teamwork. It is about accepting each other’s differences and embracing the unique talents that each individual brings to the table. It’s about believing in each other and the cause and persevering in the face of overwhelming odds. It is about Shepard’s ability to bring out the best in people and to bring them together, to accomplish what no single person ever could. There are two trophies in Mass Effect 2 that summarize it perfectly: “Against All Odds” and “No One Left Behind”.
Which brings us to my problem with the ending of the series. It all comes down to: we can’t do it through teamwork, we can’t do it at all, we need the Prothean’s tech and a star child to do it for us. Shepard makes the final choice, but it doesn’t have to be him. It could have been anyone or no one. All that matters is that in the end, teamwork, loyalty, and friendship aren’t enough to get it done. And that my friends, flies in the face of everything the Mass Effect series is about right up until that final moment.