Set roughly 200 years in the future, you are Commander Shepard, an exceptional Alliance soldier who is tasked with discovering the purpose is of a set of alien devices. As the mystery unfolds across the galaxy, you will forge alliances with various alien races, be forced to make impossible choices and uncover threats that could destroy all life as we know it.
The story is epic and ambitious. The characters are varied and do develop over the course of the trilogy; you get the sense that this is a fully fleshed out world/galaxy/universe here. It’s also a game that rewards you for playing from the beginning as your character and their decisions carry over between each game. Top-notch graphics definitely don’t hurt the experience either (you can customize your character’s look) and the game play gets better as the series progresses. I like that the developers listened to fans in between releases and worked the bugs out. While some of the missions were a bit similar, the variety of characters, powers and weapons kept things fresh. And most of the time the missions were tough enough to be captivating, but not frustratingly impossible. Also, the multiplayer feature added to the third installment is really well done and a lot of fun.
The ending of the third one is botched beyond belief—what a wasted opportunity. But the controversial ending aside, it is still a satisfying, if somewhat flawed, game. The first one suffers from too many pointless rock-finding missions and too elaborate of a weapons customization system. The second has a similar element-finding mechanic that is, thankfully, less time intensive. The third finally gets the side missions right, but is disappointing in the variety of characters from which you can choose. Also, there are some “adult situations” that are more laughable than titillating.
If you’re only going to play one of the games, then Mass Effect 2 is the perfect blend of story, character and game play. If you have the time (30+ hours for each), then this trilogy is definitely a series worth checking out.