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Hey folks, I am working my way through the Mass Effect series (finally) and I believe it to be an excellent series of games.

I am interested to hear your thoughts on the creature designs in this game? It ranged in my view from excellent to very weak (though I don't think that detracts from the game much).

My reviews are only my opinions so feel free to disagree :)

Asari - Archetype 'Sexy Blue Lady's' in the mold of Na'vi, Twi'ilek etc. They are appealing and interesting to interact with but they are almost entirely human. I like the head tentacles but surely it doesn't really count as creature design, more reskinning a human.

Elcor - I like these guys. The reason for their ponderous nature and alien speech patterns are excellent, being from a high gravity world where falling could be fatal. They are still tetrapod-like, but seem plausible.

Hanar - My favourite, although they don't seem to do much. I enjoy creatures based of invertebrates generally and their method of speech using bioluminescence is cool. However the translated human voice seems a mismatch as they appear more feminine, and the game lacks for female aliens generally, apart from the Asari

Keepers - (SPOILERS) As they are possibly engineered its hard to criticise them design wise. They look quite cool, but the four equally space walking legs would seem to make moving about rather slow and clumsy.

Salarians - While they appear to be 'Greys', with a human body shape and such, their personalities and hyperactive characterisation is most entertaining and compensates for the uninteresting external designs.

Turians - Although their body plan is implausibly human, they certainly look COOL, so I quite like them. And the character of Garrus is compelling further elevating the species in my eyes.

Volus - I like the suit design, although once again they follow a human body plan. Its hard to know what they look like under those suits.

Batarians - It looks like someone experienced an error in their 3D program and just accepted it. I hate this design personally as it is both aesthetically ugly, and unimaginative. Like a pug with some kind of facial disease.

Geth - A race of AIs, I like them however apart from the fast geth troopers they seem too primitive. With snaking cables and awkward joints, they don't look like a hyperadvanced AI race which I would imagine having synthetic muscles and appearing more organic perhaps.

Krogan - Tetrapod again, however their face design and voice acting is excellent, making them compelling. I do like that head shield and those reptilian eyes.

Quarians - They are human in body form, but the character Tali is interesting and attractive, as is their species history so I approve of them.

Vorcha - I guess elements of the face look cool, however their idiotic cartoonish Jar Jar Binks level voice performances irritate me and lower the material.

Reapers - One of the best evil voices I have heard, the reapers are a lot of fun. They have an alien body plan suited for space. Though they have what appear to be... windows in their armor seams. Seems weird for an AI to have rooms inside, but perhaps they are sensors or something. They also seems very clunky and mechanical for beings that claim to be beyond our understanding.

Those are all the species I have encountered so far.

I believe the main reason for so many human like aliens to be a simple one - It takes time and money to develop non-human animation rigs that the studio probably simply didn't have.

What do you folks think yourselves?

As a closing note, how do you feel gender is handled in the game?
  • Mood: Zest
  • Listening to: Devin Townsend
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  • Watching: Clone Wars
  • Playing: Mass Effect 2
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:iconjakuryusei:
Jakuryusei Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2012
In this video here: [link] Matt Rhodes says that they've actually been saving some body types for the right moment in the series. The example he gave here was Mordin, who is the oldest salarian yet seen on screen; but I could easily see this approach applying to other things as well. Namely, the reveal of the delightfully memorable female Krogan in ME3.

(Am I the only non-Krogan that wanted to tap that? Yes? No? Maybe so?)

Oh, but there has already been some female Salarians on screen so far. If you let the council die in ME1 they appoint a female replacement, and in ME3 you're graced by the presence of the oh-so-unsavory Dalatrass, but nether of them look very different from the males... They're apparently a very androgynous people, Salarians. There could be scores of female Salarians hidden among the crowds and we'd never know!
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:iconwbyrd:
wbyrd Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
aqmong all the races I think my favorite are the elcor. Big, powerful, but restrained. I'd hate to see if one of them decided to take up sumo wrestling.

Unfortunately I think the creature design in games in general is limted by economics. It's cheaper and easier to make a near human.humanoid than to model, animate and skin a truly alien species. The rachni were the most non-human species in the game and they were fairly limited to attack and movemnt animations.
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:iconabiogenisis:
Abiogenisis Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2012
I agree with your idea that it was probably economics that limited the non-human aliens in mass effect. An elcor team member would have been cool though, I bet they pack a crushing punch!
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:iconwbyrd:
wbyrd Featured By Owner Feb 29, 2012
{Enthusiastic Agreement} Yes, yes it would.... I have seen that the tendancy to use the human form is a pretty common trend. they have added a few odd leg types and faces but no one has been willing to spend the time or effort for something truly alien... I'm not sure exactly how complex a model would have to be for a say... hexapod alien but evidently it's more than developers are willing to commit to.
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:iconalexlyoko13:
alexlyoko13 Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2012
I Love the Hanar by virtue of them being invertebrates, the rachni simply for being insectoids, and the Geth for being a more Reasonable Race of S.I.s, And the Reapers for being such amazing lovecraftian-esq Beings (They also remind me the Borg, only more andvanced and taking a more active role in things). I belive that An Alien Species should either be humanoid (For humans to relate to), but radicly non human, or they should be completly diffrent from humans in all ways.
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:iconabiogenisis:
Abiogenisis Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2012
My strategy is to try and design creatures that I think are possibly, based on what I understand about evolution on earth, while keeping them physically possible.

Also, dont you think the reapers seem a little... Low Tech?
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:iconalexlyoko13:
alexlyoko13 Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2012
Yes there will always be similarities between life anywhere in the universe (if evolving on an earth like planet, possibly martian and Venusian like worlds as well) Under the constraints of biology (Even with different chemicals) all life will have commonalities (The most exotic life form I can recall from Sci-Fi are the Life forms on a Neutron Star)
As For the reapers, they looked low tech, but for me that adds to the mystery
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:iconabiogenisis:
Abiogenisis Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2012
What kind of thing do you think of when you imagine a god like AI?
Reply
:iconalexlyoko13:
alexlyoko13 Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2012
An Sphere aproximately 60 centimeters in diameter Glowing icreadbly brigtly (Cosmic AC in the last question)... Or an elspoid sevral cubic meters in volume but with a mass of many thousands of tons (Minds of the Culture)... (Both of thses things are small becuse the majority of there body exists within hyperspace)
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:iconabiogenisis:
Abiogenisis Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2012
Nice :) I did enjoy the culture novels, and they seemed an interesting take on AIs. I like the idea of vast machines with no seams, no clumsy joints. almost like a semi liquid that cant take any form it requires.
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:iconalexlyoko13:
alexlyoko13 Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2012
But as for the Reapers, I think there form represents the syles of who ever created them, dispite what they say, as AIs they must have been created by biological entity, There Desing might represent this orginal entity, They are advanced, they could decide to look ineffecent or what ever else they desire...
Reply
:iconeventua:
Eventua Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2012  Student Writer
I've never played any of the Mass Effect games: too be honest, I like money or consoles for it, but I might get one of the games in the future some time.

I did check the wiki though, and I have to say that I like some of the alien designs, particularly the more alien ones or the ones that rely on just a humanoid body shape. Salarians, Keepers, Elcor, Hanar, Krogan and Yahg: I quite like all of them.

Generally, I try to take a similar stance when creating alien races for my own sci-fi setting: try to keep aliens alien, but a basic human (or other earth animal) body shape is fine. As a result of this, exactly five of the seventeen sapient/sentient races in my setting are humanoid (though look nothing like humans past that), and an additional five have body types that are based on earth animals or mythological creatures. I've tried to keep the remaining seven as alien as possible, though I still seem to have wound up with them looking 'kind of like stuff on earth', though admittedly that extends as far as mutant cyborgs, two different species of sapient plant, a (species?) of highly advanced synthetic creatures made from light-refracting crystals, a species of coral/jellyfish/polyp type things etc.

Eh, I worry sometimes that I'm perhaps a bit self-righteous and like to say I'm original when I may just be being 'slightly less unoriginal'... tsk.

Anyhow, I tend not to worry too much about whether a species could evolve, since in the setting I created (the Stellarum) all of the races are the creations of a race of long gone precursors. It's also how I excuse dragons showing up. :P

So yeah, those're my two cents. I definitely like those six designs from the Mass Effect games and, eh, yes. That's about it, really! :D

Oh, um, one other thing I was wondering, do you do commissions? Your art is brilliant and you're very good at drawing aliens and such, so I was just wondering at the sort of prices you charge.
On another note, eh, would you be able to give me feedback on some of the aliens I've come up with and how I could make them 'more alien'?
Reply
:iconabiogenisis:
Abiogenisis Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2012
I dont have the money for consoles either, i play the PC versions ;)

I do take comissions. Send me how much you are willing to spend in a note.
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:iconakiman:
Akiman Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
krogan,geth,turian,keepers. My favs 1 to 4
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:iconnorcinu:
Norcinu Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Unfortunately I haven't played the game (I will some day dw) so my opinions will be based entirely on first impressions. I have to agree with you though, I really don't like always seeing aliens being so human-like but I guess the majority of people would rather see something more humanoid? I'm not sure, but it's a reason why I watch you - when you design aliens, they're aliens, not human recolours and whatnot.
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:iconabiogenisis:
Abiogenisis Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012
I think they do it both for that reason, and just because they need to use motion capture rigs of humans to save animation time, and you just cant mocap non humanoids.
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:icontarturus:
Tarturus Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Some of the best aliens in the games (in my opinion at least), would be one such as the hanar, the elcor and the rachni, as they were not based on a humanoid body plan like most of the other alien races were.
The Reapers were my personal favourites though, and they apparently had a lot of variation in their appearance (I won't give away the reason for this though, just in case anyone in this comment section has yet to play all the way through ME2 and doesn't want spoilers).
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:iconabiogenisis:
Abiogenisis Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2012
Thanks for the no spoilers :P I agree with you, shame those races were not given much screen time.
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:icontarturus:
Tarturus Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Well, the rachni did get a fairly big role in the first Mass Effect. Though if you're just referring to ME2, then yeah, they got hardly a mention.
The Reapers, of course, get a big role, what with being the main antagonists and all. :p
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:iconabiogenisis:
Abiogenisis Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2012
I do like, the reapers. And the geth. My new favourite character is *SPOILERS* Legion XD
Reply
:iconobligatoryonsen:
ObligatoryOnsen Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I thought about the "all-aliens-in-games/movies/...-look-like-humans"-problem for a while and think I found a reason for it.

We, as a public, just can't sympathise as easily with weird looking characters. I bet, for a majority of the players, the Hanar for example are a very boring race. They have no feet. They have no face. They barely have emotion.
The human brain always looks out for signs of emotion and is extremely sensitive to emotion in a human shape. And while it may still detect emotion in a completely strange and unknown being, it won't be as effective.
Think about when you played the game, which CHARACTERS (not designs) did you like the most? Probably (I don't know you personally, but I speak for the majority of players) the most human-looking ones. Even more: your favorite characters are probably the most idealised-human looking. Look at Garrus, Liara and Tali for example, they all have some exaggerated, idealistic human forms.
Now look at some enemies in whatever game: often, the more evil and dangerous they are, the further they stray away from the humanoid form.

The game makers made the characters mostly humanoid on purpose, they want you to like them. I bet the concept artists could come up with a thousand more races of all different shapes and forms, but they specially chose these because they wanted them to be real characters you could personify and sympathise with.
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:iconshadowwingedhunter:
ShadowWingedHunter Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2012
As for all of the other points, I wish the aliens were a little more extreme in design.
Reply
:iconshadowwingedhunter:
ShadowWingedHunter Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2012
play the Lair of the Shadow Broker dlc for mass effect 2. the Yahg are a new race and look pretty interesting
Reply
:iconludjia:
Ludjia Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
I think they chose human like aliens because it is a space drama, and your average videogame player don't associate to something that is too far away from us, unfortunately. I'm sure they could make lore to back up why everyone is human like, but I really wish there was more variety.
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:iconnemo-ramjet:
nemo-ramjet Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2012
I think the video game industry gravitates towards "skinjob" aliens as not to alienate (or lose the attention of,) your average video game player.

Even the really "alien aliens," such as the Hanar, in ME2 were basically humanoid - you stare at their "faces" at head level, they have an upright silhouette, etc. (BTW, the Elcor were my favorite aliens)

Most "industry" designers are either unwilling or unable to abandon this human frame of reference. They can add all the blue skin, weird frills or face ridges they want, almost no alien I've seen in any video game moves and acts in a manner as "alien" as this bird, for example: [link]

However, the fact remains that ME2 was a great game - one of the first decent "movie-games" in history IMHO.
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:iconkatepfeilschiefter:
KatePfeilschiefter Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Yeah, I agree. I believe the concept artists could create realistic aliens if they were asked too, (and maybe shown some of Wayne D Barlowes work). But that doesn't appear to be what the game designers want. I'd like to say that if I was ever in charge of an alien design, I'd take it as far as I could, but ultimately it's up to your superiors and what they're sure will make money.
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:icongodofimagination:
godofimagination Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2012
Although I hate the humanoid nature of all the Aliens, their backstories make up for it. Even though the Asari and Krogan stereotypes are overdone, they were able to get away with it. It's difficult to describe in words. The Asari seem like sex aliens, and the Krogan seem like proud warrior race guys, but it's more complicated when you take a second look. Yeah the Turians and Krogan are the only Humaniod designs I like but I love all the backstories. What do you think of the Drell and Rachni, and what race would you be?
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:icontheta-ix:
theta-ix Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2012  Student Filmographer
The stuff about the Asari "tricking" people into thinking they look like them is presented as comedically wild speculation by a bit character. I'm 99% sure it's not meant to be taken as gospel. They're just immature wish-fulfillment characters (the devs basically admitted as much). But even though they're conceptually pretty weak, I do like the design--the head-tentacles are one of the most iconic parts of the game imo.

I like the Turians and Krogan a lot, Tali was good but the way the other Quarians all looked like palette-swapped xeroxes of her was disappointing. Volus felt like walking antisemitic stereotypes, which was pretty weird (not assuming any ill intent on BioWare's part, but they could have thought that one out a little better). Batarians are kinda boring, Vorcha are basically just space orcs and by far the shallowest race in the game. Salarians are fun.

Re: gender, there was this "designing Garrus" feature where they talked about trying to design female Turians and couldn't think of any way to do it except give them breasts or lipstick. They kind of laugh it off, but it was definitely a telling moment--they're willing to do all this crazy stuff with frills and scales and really animalistic stuff with the male aliens, but when they get to female aliens suddenly they all have to be "sexy" to human players or they're not worth designing--they gave Tali funky feet and hands, and that was about as far as they were willing to take it. It's a weird double standard that I think interferes with their ability to build a convincing world.

Besides that, I agree that most of the alien designs aren't very convincing from a hard sci-fi point of view, but ME leans toward the pulpy so I don't think biped syndrome is a huge deal.
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:iconabiogenisis:
Abiogenisis Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2012
If the devs really lacked the imagination to make a female turian without tits, that really shows a level of ignorance of evolution and biology that makes my brain bleed :P

Though I still love the game ;)
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:iconhunterki11er:
HunterKi11er Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2012
I'm just on my second play through of Mass Effect.
I would agree with most of your observations, although I had not previously considered these points.

While I have no real qualms about any of the races, because they all fulfil their purpose in the game quite well, I do think that the Asari are the least plausible.
Their aesthetic design and their physiological functions have nothing to do with each other.

As for genders, many of the female counter parts of the race make no appearance at all, which somewhat discredits their believability.
On the other hand, I feel this works in favor of the Krogans, as their females are supposed to be rare. What also takes away the believability is the lack of alien children, or even human children for that matter.
Of course, one must realize the enormous amount of extra work it would take to design the female and children of each race.

I am absolutely charmed by the Elcor mannerisms, however came up with that deserves a medal. Elcor Hamlet - hilarious!
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:iconchrispy92:
Chrispy92 Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2012  Student Writer
I think the mannerisms of the elcor might actually be an echo of of one of Bioware's old characters from Knights of the Old Republic: HK-47.

Look him up. He's one of my favourite characters.
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:iconabiogenisis:
Abiogenisis Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2012
Hmm I am not sure it need be hard to create female versions of species, as they could just look the same and have different voices, or maybe just less colorful head crests etc. Some species on earth have not external difference between male and female at all so they could have done that.
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:iconhunterki11er:
HunterKi11er Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2012
That is a valid point.

Good discussion you have started. May I suggest you hold more discussion like this? :)
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:iconabiogenisis:
Abiogenisis Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2012
Sure I would love to, any topic ideas?
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:iconhunterki11er:
HunterKi11er Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2012
Something similar, another game or film creature designs perhaps.
Hmm.. but come to think of it, there are few modern games or films that feature such a plethora of creatures as Mass Effect.
The closest thing I can think of is Starwars.
Reply
:iconmustardofdoom:
mustardofdoom Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
Haven't gotten around to this series yet. Been too busy w/ FFVII and Skyrim.

And then there's Dark Souls and 5 other games waiting to be played :I
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:iconabiogenisis:
Abiogenisis Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2012
Ha this is the first RPG I have played, I am tempted by Skyrim though...
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:iconmustardofdoom:
mustardofdoom Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
I've played a lot of games in my day*, and Skyrim is waaaaay up there. Be prepared to play for about 200 hours without feeling exhausted.


*phrased that way to be annoying :)
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:iconabiogenisis:
Abiogenisis Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2012
RPGs seem to be distressingly addictive
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:iconmustardofdoom:
mustardofdoom Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
true dat
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:iconkatepfeilschiefter:
KatePfeilschiefter Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Definitely try out Skyrim.
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:iconfishoffire:
FishOfFire Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2012
On the aspect of Reapers after playing through Mass Effect 2 i think it may be EDI who mentions that Reapers are constructed in the form of the sentient race used in their making?
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2012  Student General Artist
I haven't played any Mass Effect, so I can't offer direct feedback! I am curious, though, about your take on creature/alien design as a whole in the industry. I agree that a lot of the design elements are residual in the motion and sound, as well as the raw image. I'm a huge fan of Stanisław Lem, myself, and I have yet to see a movie or game that really explores the nature of alienness - whether aliens are knowable or not. This is the kind of thing that I hope they don't mess up with the eventual Ender movie! What do you think?
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:iconabiogenisis:
Abiogenisis Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2012
I think the designs of aliens in entertainment are very poor generally, though sometimes their characters can be very interesting. I also love the idea of unknowable beings like Solaris, however the recent movie seemed a bit too religious for me and didnt focus much on Solaris as a being.
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2012  Student General Artist
I've only seen the most recent 'Clooney' Solaris, and yeah, it was such a disappointment for me .. Solaris has to be one of my favorite science fiction books. I felt the same way with Super-8 though .. based on glimpses of the creature early in the movie, I thought it was going to be almost a non-terran body-type creature .... boy was I wrong!
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:iconsimkoning:
SimKoning Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2012
I pretty much agree in all points.
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:iconionizedian:
IonizedIan Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
In Mass Effect 2 it is hinted that the Asari use either telepathy, pheromones, or something to make them look less "alien" to other species. Still a weak errata but it is better than nothing.

This has probably already been said: Mass effect is being carried by the narrative and not by the realism of the organism designed. Bioware worked hard to endear alien sidekicks and NPCs to the player so they/we overlook any lack realism or cliches. This it comes at the cost of many of the human characters personality being cardboard cutouts or worse.
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:iconabiogenisis:
Abiogenisis Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2012
My only problem is that the narrative and the creature design was being handled by different teams, so it didnt need to be one or the other: They could have been written well AND looked alien I think
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:iconionizedian:
IonizedIan Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
That is very true.
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:iconartdoge:
ArtDoge Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Interesting review!

My thoughts on the whole creature design of the ME universe is that;

1) They're all too humanoid, or resemble that of earth creatures.

2) While each different alien race has a unique social structure, it's all based on human cultures of the past and present. IE: Quarians are nomads because they were exiled from their home planet by Geth extremists. Salarians making a plague that renders Krogans to become infertile relates to controlled breeding of a slave race in an empire ruled by another culture, evident throughout human history.

3) The Geth race stuck to me the most because, during ME2, Legion mentioned that there is really no need for a physical geth shell, other than to physically manipulate objects. While every geth is stored like data, so that was interesting and practical.

4) In terms of reapers, I would love to see them more than just being space squids in design, or being amalgamations of synthetic human corpses.

5) I find the challenge in creating creature designs for grand space opera games, are that firstly they have to instill a sense of relative feeling from the audience. IE: making them look humanoid so we can effectively feel for them, either to love or to hate them as we love or hate other human beings. Sure, villains like Geth and Collectors were genocidal, but they were all bipedal, symmetrical beings just like human beings.

6) The idea of having different gender Shepards is a huge step towards gaming evolution. While there is nothing wrong with female players taking on the role of a male protagonist (and vice versa). While the idea of a Female heroine in action entertainment is not new ie: Sarah Conner, Ellen Ripley, Selene from Underworld, Lara Croft etc.... It provides players with the actual choice of being female or male. I believe it's a smart move from Bioware on this part.

So there's my 2 cents on what I think of the ME universe so far.
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