For me, the best part of the entire Mass Effect trilogy was the narrated codex. You can laugh at the ridiculousness of that statement all you like, but that’s just how I feel.
Now that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the story or I wasn’t impressed by the sheer scale of the series. Far from it. I regard Mass Effect as one of my favourite video game series and that’s solely down to the engaging plot. I can often overlook sub par game mechanics if the plot is strong enough, and not only is Mass Effect‘s story brilliant, it’s mechanics are sound too.
Well, except for the first game but that’s a discussion for another time.
One of the main reasons I play video games is for the stories. The ability to interact with the narrative and make decisions that could greatly alter it fascinates me. Mass Effect is a perfect example of this. Decisions that you make in one game can have far reaching affects in the next.
A branching narrative is all well and good, but in order for it to truly work the way it’s intended to, there needs to be a vibrant, interesting world for the story to exist in. A foundation, if you like. As foundations go, Mass Effect‘s is rock solid.
However, there’s only so much of the lore that you can absorb from dialogue options, navigating space and just generally blowing shit up.
This is where the codex comes in.
Every little facet of Mass Effect‘s plot, characters, settings and even technologies is explained in full in a codex that can be accessed from the pause menu. Codices such as these are usually great walls of text containing all of the exposition that couldn’t be squeezed into the game, but the most important thing about this codex is that it’s narrated.
Sometimes I find it difficult to digest information when it’s presented to me in text format. Sometimes, if I don’t concentrate hard enough, the words just blend together, or I read the same sentence over and over again and still not have a clue what I’ve just read. Maybe it’s just me being a bit thick, but I seem to soak up way more information if it’s verbally communicated to me. I can switch off and still let the words sink in.
Obviously, if it was someone like Joe Pasquale relaying the information to me it wouldn’t have the same effect. For me, the narrator needs to have a deep, authoritative tone to their voice. In Neil Ross, Mass Effect has the perfect narrator. His silky voice and calm reading has a real fluidity to it that lends a certain gravitas to the whole codex.
Hopefully the upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda will continue to implement the narrated codex. I’m not saying that my enjoyment of the game will depend solely on its inclusion, nor would I deride the developers were they not to implement it, but I will be a little disappointed if that will be the case.
For me, having a narrated codex to listen to is just an easier way of digesting the excellent lore; it’s laid back, can be taken in at my own pace from a pause menu without the stress of having to make world-altering decisions every five minutes.
Why wouldn’t I want that?