As you may have guessed, we love single-player games. We share our love every day through the work that we do, but the pace of this industry means that we rarely get the opportunity to stop and look back.
Join us this week as we celebrate the best that single-player gaming has to offer as part of Single-Player Appreciation Week.
The original Mass Effect released exclusively on Xbox 360 in 2007. I didn’t pay much attention to the release of the game as it wasn’t coming to the platform that I called home: the PlayStation 3. Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 released for the PS3 in 2011 and 2012 respectively, but the first in the series remained exclusive to the Xbox 360. I could never allow myself to jump in the middle of the story without having played it from the beginning. The buzz around the trilogy began to grab my attention as I started to follow the gaming industry more. My interest in the franchise had officially been piqued.
At this juncture of my teenage life, I was in search of what I wanted from games. My multiplayer days were past me as my older siblings went away to school. Gaming had become my primary hobby throughout the years, but needed to fill the void that had been left. So I started to dabble with single-player games as a result, and set out to play the best stories games available for thePS3. The more I read about the Mass Effect trilogy, the more I considered getting an Xbox 360 just to play those games. Until December 2012, that is, when the trilogy was released as an official collection with the first entry finally playable on the PS3.
The trilogy set was released at a perfect time in my life as my school was gearing up for winter break. The break allowed me to pour endless hours into the trilogy. After breezing through the first game, I imported my save to Mass Effect 2 and immediately knew the wait was well worth it—especially when the second game in the narrative is centered around a suicide mission.
The suicide mission has become the gold stanard of what single-player missions need to be for me. Each time I replay Mass Effect 2, I am awestruck. The premise of the game being that I need to gather the proper resources for a squad to bring the attack to the enemy was unlike anything I had played prior. While the concept excited me, it also made me nervous. I could not go back once I entered the Omega-4 Relay, ready or not. The mission counter provided a sense of urgency, making it to where I could not just delay the final confrontation either. Activating the final mission encompassed why I think this is the best single-player mission that I have and will ever play while also being the reason why I love a single-player games so much.
That final suicide mission is a test. A test that put more stress on me than any multiplication or vocabulary I took throughout my educational career. A test that I was not too sure that I was even ready for, yet it arrived nonetheless.
The near 40-hour journey had been a wild range of emotions. From seeing familiar faces like Garrus to settling disputes between squadmates, I had really grown attached to these characters. Now I, as the player, had to put my knowledge to the test to make sure everyone survived the suicide mission.
The many decisions and consequences makes every little thing I did matter. Who did I send through the ventilation shaft? What biotic do I have as the escort through the seeker swarms? Who do I take with me and who do I leave behind to hold down the line?
I remember setting the controller down and pacing the apartment contemplating these decisions. I didn’t want any of my squad members to die, of course, but knew that each decision, however minor, could cost one of my beloved squadmate’s lives.
What really puts this in a class of its own is the fact that my Commander Shepard could also have died. Permanently. This knowledge felt like the last essay question on an exam; it held the heaviest emotional weight, knowing that not only could my squadmates die, but I could be so ineffective that my main character could die too.
The thrill of taking the attack to the enemy, making decisions with dire consequences, and trying to escape with all of my squadmates alive makes the suicide mission the best mission I have ever played. This final mission is the standard that I have compared every finale of the games I have played since then and yet, seven years after playing it for the first time.