For a lot of gamers, the perfect video game world is probably big, colorful, and full of things to do. Things come to mind like Hyrule’s Castle Town or a hub city in an MMO. However, for me, my perfect video game level is a cramp, grey, and at times empty of things to do. My perfect video game world is the Normandy.
My feelings about the Normandy are similar to those of my childhood home: I feel like I could close my eyes and navigate it. I know all of its quirks and the best way to get around it. I know what is in every room and where the best spots are. It is comforting. It makes me happy.
As I mentioned earlier, the Normandy isn’t full of things to do. You can talk to people, and there are a few easter eggs. Oh and you can feed your fish! It is a lot like an apartment. You say hi to all of your roommates, chill out in your room and listen to music. It isn’t exciting, but that is what the outside world (galaxy) is for. The Normandy is where you go to relax after the exciting bits.
All of the player’s friends are there too! A lot of the times the NPC’s have new things to say or an interesting cutscene. I spent hours over the course of the trilogy checking in with every NPC after each mission. Most of the times my efforts were rewarded. Part of what makes the Normandy better than an RPG town is the writing of its inhabitants. They would react to your choices. Sometimes, they would even just have idle chitchat. It felt like a real place. Like a real home.
The Normandy’s cool interior does get wrecked sometimes: seeing the ship I grew to love over my dozens of hours in ME1 get blown up was a devastating, if compelling, opening to the game. It happens again when the collectors invade it later in ME2. I felt frustrated not being able to stop them from wrecking my home. It was a smart choice having use play as Joker. The player was helpless as these monsters invaded our home.
The Normandy would change from game to game. Its basic structure would stay the same, so it still felt like “your” Normandy. However, it could be annoying. Like why did you change my home without asking me first? There were always constants though: the medbay with Dr. Chakwas, Joker flying the ship, and Garrus calibrating something. These grounding forces made it feel like the soul of the first Normandy in ME1 was carried all the way through the trilogy.
The future of the Mass Effect series seems to be on shaky ground for the moment. Mass Effect Andromeda did not even warrant single player DLC. Maybe that is a good thing though. I am not sure I could ever call another ship home or accept a pilot besides Joker flying it.