I have a soft spot for sci-fi, in particular the socio-psychological stuff. Give me Clarke and Asimov any day. I’ve read a pile and a half of books on space exploration and the impacts on people. There’s a fairly solid foundation of possibilities when that topic comes up, as well as a whole lot of tropes.
Space, as it is, is immense. It would take years to reach the next star, let alone the next viable solar system. Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem series tackles that issue wonderfully. The time to reach that space would be time-locked, where you would not progress but everything around you would. Haldeman covers that in the Forever War. You just have to look at the past 10 years of progress, to see that we grow at a near exponential rate. People from the 1800s would consider us magicians.
And there’s Robinson’s Mars series (Clarke’s Rama series to some extent) on the effects on sending the brightest people you have to a remote area without direct supervision. It doesn’t ever bode well. The reason these people are trailblazers is exactly because they don’t follow the rules.
So when I read about Mass Effect’s “space colonization” plot line… I can’t help but shake my head. It’s like a bad Star Trek (TOS) episode.
- The trip takes 600 years and the expectation is that nothing changed (space telescopes!)
- Of course they land on a planet with existing humanoid aliens
- Of course the humanoids speak a language we can understand
- Of course they are hostile
- Of course there’s some “magic god race”
- Of course some massive disaster that occurred
- Of course the lead protagonist gets thrust into a god-like role early on
- Of course everyone accepts this fact without question and without ensuring you’re qualified to do the work
- Of course everyone wants to sleep with you
This is pulp fiction, not science fiction. People are up in arms that the possibilities that this concept had were wasted. So what?
I will compare to Horizon, given that it has some similarities. Space isn’t the factor, but time certainly is. You start as an outcast and only gain admittance so that you can prove them wrong and get answers. You deny that you’re any kind of savior and are generally bitter than you’ve been given that mantle. The previous generation has a logical growth of issue, decision, action – and you live with those repercussions. The overall lore makes logical sense, given the data at hand. Even though the plot revolves near entirely on gods in the machine, that is not the plot device. Every decision/action is based on human choice. There’s a logical flow to events. It isn’t complex, and it doesn’t take large tangents, but it is cohesive.
I’m not upset that ME4 is taking this approach, not in the least. Pulp fiction has it’s place. The irritant here is that expectations for Bioware games are higher. People expect some level of “great” when playing the games, and expectations are always a challenge to meet. If the game was made by anyone other than Bioware, I’m rather certain that there’d be half the fuss going on. Maybe it’s just time to realize that the glory days of amazing games from that studio are long gone, and that they are aiming for breadth rather than depth. Nothing wrong with that at all.