Why Sovereign Is The Best Video Game Villain
Not only does Mass Effect flip all of its science-fiction-meets-action-thriller elements on their head, but it also nearly completely throws them out of the airlock to suffocate in the cold, harsh space that Shepard spends a majority of his or her time traversing. Instead, with Sovereign’s classic introduction sequence, Mass Effect becomes something akin to a classic giant monster film. Though instead of a mindless beast that roars and stomps through a singular city, Sovereign is a highly intelligent and massive living dreadnought looking to wreak destruction on organic life, with many more just like it simply waiting in dark space to be called back to wipe an unsuspecting galaxy clean.
On top of this, Sovereign doesn’t take Shepard seriously as an opponent at all, only setting aside the time to explain itself out of the sick joy it has in bragging and making Shepard (and more importantly the player) aware of just how hopeless their situation really is. This makes for a thrillingly terrifying third act of storytelling and writer Karpyshyn mines this for all its worth. Even in its action-packed finale on board the Citadel, it feels less like some kind of Hollywood epic action set piece and more like a desperate and suspense-laden attempt to just survive. That moment when Sovereign crashes through the Citadel, hell-bent on achieving its mission is perhaps one of the best video game moments of all-time.
It also helps that Sovereign is a genuinely terrifying antagonist. While Shepard is just a human – albeit a highly capable human with great reflexes and combat prowess that would make most shiver in their space boots – Sovereign is an ancient monster that has wiped out organic life countless times over. This helped make the Reapers a legitimate threat throughout the first two Mass Effect games before the third game turned them into what are arguably cartoonish villains with little in the way of genuinely captivating moments of terror and development.
While Sovereign is defeated in the first Mass Effect after melding its consciousness to Saren’s and being defeated by Shepard and the combined forces of the Citadel, its presence is felt throughout the rest of the trilogy. No other moment in the Mass Effect trilogy ( or arguably video game history) comes close to matching Sovereign’s introduction scene or the revelation of its plans for Shepard and the rest of the organic species throughout the galaxy. This easily makes Sovereign one of, if not the best, video game villains of all time. It’s just too bad the rest of the Mass Effect games couldn’t top it, but there’s still hope for the franchise yet.
How BioWare Can Top Sovereign In Mass Effect 5 (If There Is One)
Last year saw the release of Mass Effect: Andromeda and, instead of electing to answer lingering questions left at the end of Mass Effect 3, BioWare and Electronic Arts decided to take the series to a different galaxy (the Andromeda Galaxy, to be specific) and give players a new story and new characters. This again divided fans, but it also received a polarizing response from critics due to its facial animation problems and for what some perceived to be underwhelming voice acting and story.
Still, there are some genuinely good things from that game – like the spectacular combat system – that the franchise could build upon, should BioWare and Electronic Arts ever decide to make a Mass Effect 5. Most importantly, however, that game would need to find a way to top, or at least match, the impact of Sovereign from the first Mass Effect. Perhaps that means bringing the series back to the Milky Way and again focusing on a Shepard-like character and fixing the Reapers. More than likely, though, this would require BioWare finding a new kind of villain, something completely unlike the Reapers, but not as boring and trope-heavy as the Archon from Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Of course, the easiest method is to bring back Karpyshyn and put him in charge of the universe again. While Mass Effect 2 perhaps wasn’t as good story-wise as the first, it was still a near-brilliant entry in the series and still sold the Reapers as a massive threat that Mass Effect 3 failed to build on. Karpyshyn could probably right the Mass Effect ship easily. Of course, this isn’t likely to happen as Karpyshyn left BioWare for the second time after working on the upcoming Anthem for some time.
Either way, it’s probably best that the Mass Effect series goes into cryo-sleep for a while until BioWare can figure out a story that’s going to excite fans again. Part of that equation will be trying to find a villain that’s as compelling and terrifying as Sovereign, but that will be no easy task considering the character’s spot near the top as one of the best villains in video game history.