‘Mass Effect’ Isn’t Just The New Star Trek – It’s Better

Published 2 years ago by

Mass Effect vs. Star Trek (USS Enterprise vs. SSV Normandy)

Editorial from guest contributor Michael Crider.

The venerable Star Trek franchise turned 45 years old last September, leaving many a tear in nerds’ eyes. But not just because it’s a major milestone in one of science fiction’s most beloved franchises – for many Trekkies, it’s also a lament over the sad state of the Trek universe. Roddenberry’s final frontier is a long way from what it could have been, and in many ways should have been, by now.

The last two television series were passable at best resulting in there being nothing currently on the air for the franchise, and the lion’s share of the spectacle that was the original Star Trek movies are best forgotten. Even the shiny new J.J. Abrams Star Trek of 2009 leaves a lot to be desired to long-time citizens of the Alpha Quadrant, being much more popcorn flick than thoughtful speculative fiction. But there is a bright new hope in the eyes of Trekkies everywhere, and it’s coming from an unexpected source.

BioWare’s Mass Effect games capture the spirit of Roddenberry’s futuristic vision in a way that hasn’t been seen since The Next Generation, and the fact that it’s taking place in an interactive medium doesn’t just make it different, it makes it even better.

These Are The Voyages…

Like many PC gamers, I picked up Mass Effect when it was made available on one of Steam’s fantastic online sales. I jumped in immediately, expecting a run-of-the-mill cover shooter with a fairly basic sci-fi backdrop. What I got intimidated me at first: not unlike the Star Trek premiere ‘The Man Trap’ from 45 years ago, there’s almost no context or guidance to steer you through the ruthlessly complex world. But after a few hours of trudging through the relationships of the Federa… er, I mean the Alliance, the pseudo-military powers, the rich environments of the Normandy and the Citadel, it was clear: BioWare was building a brand new Star Trek out of scratch.

Captain Kirk vs. Commander Shepard

It shouldn’t be hard at all for Trekkies to spot both the overt and the subtle shout-outs to the Star Trek universe. Commander Shepard lives and works with diverse people of different races and species. He serves a higher, if somewhat idealistic power through his superiors, but isn’t afraid to defy them when he knows he’s in the right. Exploration (at least in the first game) is a reward of its own, and players who want to dive into the backstory and history of everything from the different races to that annoying guy who always asks for your autograph can do so at their leisure.

The similarities aren’t just thematic, either. The Normandy is the newest and coolest in universal conveyance, just like every main Trek ship since TNG. Your crew is split along three basic skill trees (though they can intermingle) even if they aren’t wearing red, gold and blue Lycra. Even the major races have their parallels: the Krogan are a dead ringer for Star Trek III-era Klingons, the Salarians are even pointier than the Vulcans and the Geth and their human husks are spiritual descendants of the Borg.

Not that BioWare is trying to hide the similarities. A host of voice actors from Star Trek (including Michael Dorn as an ME2 Krogan -natch) and other sci-fi TV favorites are present in both games, and feature heavily in Mass Effect 3 as well. Trekkies will note a feel and similar layout to the ship’s interior, and you’d have to have all the subtlety of a brick not to pick up on the Normandy II’s highland engineer…

Mordin singing Gilbert and Sullivan (Mass Effect 2)

New Life and New Civilizations

All this isn’t exactly revolutionary. TV series and video games have tried to replicate the Star Trek formula before – the difference is, BioWare is succeeding.

After just two games, Mass Effect’s backstory and universe is at least as dense as Star Trek‘s was when the original series finished out its third and final season. Players can spend dozens of hours just piecing together the cultures of the various races and factions – and they have. BioWare’s experience in the likewise dense lore of Star Wars was no doubt a big help in this area. The subsequent DLC, novels and comic books have only made the backstory broader.

Continue to Page 2 to see why Mass Effect is better than Star Trek!

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TAGS: BioWare, Electronic Arts, Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3, Movies, Star Trek

66 Comments

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  1. This seems like a pretty desperate attempt to compare apples to oranges. There’s very little about Mass Effect that has anything to do with Roddenberry’s vision–especially if you take the darker roads in your ME storyline.

    Star Trek is about humans learning to overcome their differences on their own, to become a central, unifying force in the galaxy. Personal ambition is replaced with self-betterment and the search of knowledge and peace is paramount.

    The humans in Mass Effect are radically different. They’re basically us, today, thrown into a future setting. You can certainly play a role akin to your moral Star Fleet captain, but the backdrop of humanity is completely different.

    I enjoy the storyline options of ME and all, and I like Star Trek. But one’s an apple and one’s an orange–they don’t have the similarities you imply.

    • This.

    • Right on.

      • I was sayin “right on” to Dave’s comments, not the article.

    • Cast.
      Michael Dorn and Marina Sirtis in almost identical roles.
      Martin Sheen in a role almost identical to the one he was almost cast as (Luther Sloan), with Cerberus being a parallel to Section 31.
      Armin Shimerman and Dwight Schultz as various characters.

      Races.
      Asari – Vulcans / Generic TOS Aliens
      Batarians – Romulans / Cardassians
      Krogan – Klingons
      Quarians – Bajorans
      Volus – Ferengi
      Reapers – Borg

      Characters.
      Legion – Seven of Nine
      EDI – Data
      Kaiden – Dr Bashir
      Garrus – Geordi
      Kenneth – Scotty

      I’m sure you get the idea. Oh one last thing, the scene where you find Liara is a homage to The Search For Spock including an exact quote.

      • I’m sorry. I just don’t see the resemblance between Kaidan and Bashir. Bashir was an ass up until the last few seasons on Voyager. A bit of a womanizer (as far as Dax went anyway). His best moments will always be with Garak though :) On that note: Garak would make a good Garrus

        • Bashir is the DS9 doctor.

          @Chiff

          “Legion — Seven of Nine
          EDI — Data”

          I would switch those. Legion is Data. EDI is Seven of Nine since Seven was added for the eye candy and EDI…well we know what happened to her.

          I look at Kaiden more like Tucker without the likable parts

          • The reason I picked that way around was because Legion and Seven are both enemy converts who blur the lines of trust, and EDI and Data both exist to explore the Organic / Synthetic / Doesn’t matter argument.

          • Hmm I didn’t take the gene tempting into mind when I was thinking about Bashir. Tell you the truth I think the Federation has a little too much of a hate on for the augments in every series. I always saw Data as Pinocchio and the Geth’s whole question of if they have a soul always struck me as a Data question. EDI on the other hand I can’t get Six’s voice or that red dress from nuBSG out of my mind whenever she talks.

        • The parallel I was drawing was the genetic engineering being similar to Kaiden’s L2 implants. They are also both wingey.

        • Yeah Garrus is something of a hybrid between Geordi (calibrations and eye-gear), Garak (voice and paragon/renegade obscurity) and Odo (ends justify the means style policing)

    • Also in ME3 the card game setup in Kasumi’s old room on the Normandy is a replica of the one from TNG.

  2. Yes, I’m sure that Captain Picard has beaten the Borg but in the process the whole galaxy lost the ability to use warp…

    • I’m getting really tired of these spoilers unexpectedly popping up everywhere.

  3. I always found Mass Effect to bear a much greater resemblance to Babylon 5. Oddly, Sta Trek never sprang to mind when I played ME. Citadel=Babylon 5, Spectre=Ranger, Krogan=Narn (the whole “screwed by a war with another race and desperate to strike back” and the planet being a wasteland)…even the soundtrack is much more similar to B5 with its blending of orchestra and synth.

  4. Mass Effect = Star Trek? No, mate. NO.

    Mass Effect = Star Wars wannabe, literally. Mass Effect was KOTOR 3 in everything but name and license.

    In what way is Mass Effect even remotely like Star Trek? The whole purpose of Star Trek is that by learning about other races and their cultures we learn about ours, and that it is important to be tolerant.

    The whole point of Mass Effect is that it’s just a squad-based shooter whose abilities are clearly inspired by Bioware’s KOTOR years – and that’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with that. Tolerance doesn’t even come into it though, not judging by what I played of it. Also, Alien Sex is not tolerance. It is awesome, but it’s not tolerance or anything like it.

    How many non-humanoid races featured as friendlies? I wouldn’t know, because I got really bored with the whole thing by ME2. I am guessing NONE though.

    To say that Mass Effect is Star Trek, instead of Star Wars – and ANYONE who was played KOTOR can see the influence, mainly in how the abilities work – is like comparing Tekken to Mortal Kombat. They are the same type of game (fighting), but are quite different in how they approach it.

    IMHO The author SHOULD have compared Mass Effect to KOTOR, not Star Trek. The only thing that ME and ST really have in common is that they are modern space epics. That’s it. But if that is the case, then Mass Effect is more like Halo than it is Star Trek.

    Go to Space, meet new lifeforms and kill them or be destroyed by them. And if you put it like THAT, you could say the ME and Duke Nukem are the same game.

  5. hey,there isnt anything wrong with the star trek franchise. so stop

    complaining about it. you were watching both tv shows and you werent

    complaining back in the day. anyway,this mass effect looks pretty good,

    maybe it should become a movie or cgi movie. the fans will love to watch

    both on the screen.

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