Just yesterday, we gave Mass Effect 2 the retro review treatment as one of the best sequel games ever made. One reason for the qualifier has to do with the Mass Effect series as a whole, and how its development left some large dangling plot threads. This discussion really isn’t relevant to the review of the larger game or the series, but is interesting to those who really dig into the Mass Effect story. Mass Effect 2 introduces an unresolved plot about dark energy, stars going bad, and other space magic mysteries. It’s a central theme to one character’s story arc, it pops up in things like emails or background conversations as you play the game.
Clearly meant to be foreshadowing, the mystery of dark energy is never solved making it a big unresolved plot thread from Mass Effect 2. It doesn’t really harm the overall story, as the main focus is on stopping the Collectors, a race of not-quite sentient aliens who are kidnapping humans. Still, for some fans who play through the game multiple times, the dark energy question feels like a mistake. And, in a way, it is.
Why the Dark Energy Idea in Mass Effect 2 Became An Unresolved Plot Thread
Image via screenshot
Drew Karpyshyn, a lead writer on the first two games and expanded universe novels, was the source of all this dark energy business. In between Mass Effect 2 and the final game in the trilogy, Karpyshyn left BioWare and writer Mac Walters took his place. Walters took the series in a much different direction than Karpyshyn wanted the story to go, but he freely admits he hadn’t worked everything out yet. The reason “why” the Reapers would cull the galaxy of advanced organic species every 50,000 years remained an open question. However, the unresolved dark energy plot in Mass Effect 2 was the start of the answer.
Shortly after Mass Effect 3 came out, Karpyshyn left BioWare and video game creation in general. He returned to both, and now works for Fox’s gaming division Foxnext. Their fate remains undecided in the wake of the Disney merger at the time of this writing. (Unless Disney rolls them into EA, and Karpyshyn ends up back at BioWare again.) Still, when he left is probably around the time the ultimate fate of the Reapers neared finalization.
In an interview, he explained the unresolved dark energy plot in Mass Effect 2 as best he could since they never finished it. It all centered around “biotics,” essentially the game’s Force users. The energy they used was the same that caused the titular mass effects allowing space travel. Karpyshyn and his team decided that only organics could be biotics (“bio” is in the name, after all). Thus, the synthetic enemies believed using this energy might destroy the universe. Biotics caused “an entropic effect.” Then the idea evolved.
As he told podcast Video Game Sophistry in 2013:
“Then we felt, let’s take it to the next level. Maybe the Reapers are looking at a way to stop this. Maybe there’s an inevitable descent into the opposite of the Big Bang (like the Big Crunch or the end of the universe. And they’ve realized that the only way they can stop it is by using biotics, and since they can’t do it that’s…why they have to keep rebuilding society…. They are trying to find the perfect group to use biotics. The asari were close but they weren’t quite right, the Protheans, maybe, were close. And they kept trying again and again, we’re all just sort of a giant experiment as they are trying to find the right mix of, you know, mental fortitude and biotic ability….
“Again, it’s very vague and not fleshed out, because it was something we considered…but we went in a different direction.”
Still, Mass Effect fans still disappointed with how the team led by Walters ended the story point to this as the “better” version fans missed out on. Still, it’s worth noting that Karpyshyn didn’t leave BioWare over “creative differences” or anything like that. He consistently only says lovely things about BioWare. So much so that he either truly enjoyed his time there or is the best actor on the planet.
So, it’s possible that this was just a thread that was dropped. Yet, the prominence the unresolved dark energy plot got in Mass Effect 2 was considerable. There may be more of a story there then we’ll ever get.
What do you think? Did the unresolved dark energy plot bother you or do you not even remember it being in Mass Effect 2?
Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.