Nerd Journal – Mass Effect 2 is gaming’s The Empire Strikes Back

This is a heavily modified repost from my other blog. I originally posted this in April of 2010, back when I didn’t fully utilize spell check and wrote far more redundantly than I do now.

Mass Effect 2 is gaming’s Empire Strikes Back in more ways than one. Sure, it’s darker than the first Mass Effect like Star Wars 5 was to Star Wars 4, but that’s common for movies and games in general. This is more about the thematic similarities.

(As much as they’re both old and powerful, it’s hard to compare Samara to Yoda considering Samara’s brutally legalistic attitude.)

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD for the first two Mass Effect games. Also, if you haven’t played both games, this post probably won’t make much sense.

First, let’s talk about the first Mass Effect and how it’s similar to Star Wars: A New Hope. In the first “Mass Effect”, you start off by heading toward Eden Prime – a beautiful colony which just discovered a working Prothean beacon. Your mission is to retrieve it for the council. This also happens to be an evaluation mission for Shepard, who wants to be a Spectre. As you arrive however, the colony is under attack, complicating the mission big time. At the moment you have no idea what’s going on – you’re just thrown into this crazy situation.

(No, I won’t compare the Falcon’s technical problems to the Normandy’s destruction. That would be silly.)

A New Hope begins in a similar fashion. At first, Luke just believes that he and his uncle are simply buying new robots. However, it turns out that these robots are carrying an important message from a member of the Rebel Alliance, complicating things for Luke. In both cases, the main character is thrown all over the galaxy and ends up saving the Citadel/Rebel base. The reaper known as “Sovereign” must locate the Mu-Relay and the conduit to open up the citadel, just like the Empire has to find the location to the rebel base to destroy it. Shepard must find various people and artifacts around the galaxy to figure out what Seren’s up to just like Luke must deliver the death star plans. Both have to acquire a ship. In many ways, the first Mass Effect is similar to “A New Hope”.

The first Mass Effect is also about discovering a new universe, meeting allies/friends and joining the specters. A New Hope is about discovering the Star Wars universe, meeting friends and joining the Rebel Alliance. They’re both about defeating a very powerful enemy: the Death Star and the Empire in Star Wars; Sovereign and the Reapers in Mass Effect.

(There isn’t really a direct comparison between the Collectors and anything in the Empire Strikes Back either, besides the personal interest in Shepard.)

Continuing to the main point of this post, “Mass Effect 2” also shares much with “The Empire Strikes Back.” At the start of “Mass Effect 2”, Shepard dies by means of being spaced after being attacked by an unknown enemy at the time. Two years later, he/she is resurrected by “Project Lazarus.” After that point, the game continues. As the game goes on, Shepard must gather a team and gain their loyalty in order to prepare for a later fight. His/her eventual mission is to destroy the Collectors. Shepard faces traps, colonies under attack, and eventually attacks the Collector Base head on.

Similarly in “Empire Strikes Back,” Luke is nearly killed by a snowstorm in the beginning (cold just like being spaced,) and must be brought back to health in a bacta tank. The rebel base on that planet is soon attacked by Darth Vader’s fleet. This isn’t too much unlike a colony being attacked in “Mass Effect 2”. Throughout most of the rest of the movie, Luke is being trained in the force, as he will need it to eventually face Vader. Unfortunately, he rushes in too quickly. He manages to escape, and eventually wins in the next movie.

The trap at the end of “Empire” is similar to the Collector trap about half way through “Mass Effect 2”. In addition to that, training in the force is similar to building up a team. In both sequels, the enemy displays a personal interest in the main character. But probably the biggest similarity is that they both have a more intimate, personal story than the first entry into their respective series.

In both “Mass Effect” and “A New Hope,” the focus is more about being introduced to a whole new galaxy, and saving it. In both “Mass Effect 2” and “Empire Strikes Back,” the characters take center stage. Sure, the galaxy is still important, but you learn more about the characters themselves than what else is going on. You learn more about the relationship that Luke has with Darth Vader, just like you learn about the Collectors being ex-Protheans. You see Han and Leia fall in love, just like you see Shepard fall in love with, um…everyone. One could even draw comparisons between Illium and Cloud City – both places independent of the galactic government, yet still try to stay legit. In that line of thought, the Citadel is like Coruscant, and Omega is like Tatooine. One could even compare biotic powers to “The Force”.

One could also compare Lair of the Shadow Broker to the beginning of Return of the Jedi. In both, the main character heads out both to rescue a friend (or a friend of a friend in the Shadow Broker’s case). The end result is that a very powerful enemy (yet not directly related to the trilogy’s main threat) is permanently dealt with.

So if Mass Effect is to A New Hope the way that Mass Effect 2 is to The Empire Strikes Back, what does that make Mass Effect 3? Not Return of the Jedi believe it or not – the next nerd journal will explore that.

About healed1337

I am a relatively new comic book fan writing this blog for other new comic book fans and/or people who are interested in comics but don't know where to start. I've always been interested in writing, to the point where I have a college Creative Writing Certificate and I'm currently a year 2 Journalism student. I also have another blog where I mostly make fun of bad movies - As for how I got into comics, I've always had a passing interest in superheroes: most notably Batman, Spider-man and the X-Men. Until February of 2011 (I think,) my only experience with any of these franchises came from the movies and video games. Shortly after I bought Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 however, I decided to check out X-23, Wolverine's female clone. I ended up reading her Innocence Lost origin story and enjoyed it. From there, I started reading various X-Men comics and it quickly exploded into my newest hobby. My other interests/hobbies include video games, movies, music, playing sports, my dogs and weird news.
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4 Responses to Nerd Journal – Mass Effect 2 is gaming’s The Empire Strikes Back

  1. This is an awesome post. It’s very similar to what goes on in my head a lot of the time… =)

    I’d never considered similarities between ME2 and The Empire Strikes Back before… but now this post is making me see them all over the place. I agree that they’re both darker and more character-focused than ME1 and A New Hope, which is probably why I prefer ME2 and Empire Strikes Back to their predecessors. And I’m very curious what ME3 compares to now… Great post!


    • healed1337 says:

      Thanks That’s partly why I prefer Empire and ME2 as well. With fiction in general, I can forgive a lot if the character work is well done. I can overlook a mediocre story and even crappy action sequences (movies) and lackluster gameplay if the dialogue and characters are enjoyable and relatable. If the characters are flat and/or annoying, than I find it hard to enjoy myself even if the story and action/gameplay is amazing. Mass Effect 2 is a masterpiece when it comes to character work, and that’s why it’s my favourite of the trilogy.


  2. Pingback: Nerd Journal – Mass Effect 3 is gaming’s Return of the King | healed1337

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