Granted the early Mass Effect looked like it belonged to the fairly generic sci-fi video game aesthetic but then I saw this:
I couldn't deny the appeal of this whole concept: You've got well framed cinematic shots which was becoming normal - to see cinematic content in games, but unlike all those other games where there's the "gameplay" and there's the "cutscenes" the cutscenes in Mass Effect are gameplay, or at least they're as interactive as anything else should be in a video game, but unlike normal RPGs we're no longer looking at textboxes or bland front and reverse shots of static NPCs. Developers would refer to this as "Digital Acting" and it's not as simple as putting people in motion capture and directing a scene which is then rendered into the game with 3D environments, 3D props and character models, to be rendered by the console hardware. It's run through a conversation system designed with a lot of presets, lip-sync generation and finally hand-keyed touchups, allowing thousands of lines of dialogue to be recorded and implemented in the game to look on a level similar to ultra-directed cutscenes.
I've modded the series enough to realize how much work they put into this system and it's novel. There's map artists creating entire "stage" maps that contain all the camera blocking for actors and nodes which you can then toggle between and then a gesture system with hundreds of variations of walking, non-verbal reaction, turning, action with your fists and so on, and they would use all of that to generate cutscenes that ocassionaly pause at dialogue wheels, quite frequently, so the player gets to direct their character in the scene. It's just fucking brilliant.
And alongside that they evolved the series as a shooter. Mass Effect 2 hit the gold-spot for not just having fantastic writing and world-building alongside its dialogue system as 1 did. No, it perfected the dialogue system with better pacing, more hand-keyed actions between choices, interrupts and on top of those things it had turned into a shooter that is fun enough to play if that was all you did. I get that it's a bummer and they sacrificed some of the uniqueness of the original by going the "Gears of War" route (probably due to EA and focus testing) but I really think it hit the sweet spot. The boring, sluggish moments were gone, you have a perfect symmetry of Conversation, Exploration and Action in just about any hour of gameplay in this game. I did appreciate the occasional side-quest and Loyalty Mission like Thane and Samara's where you don't shoot anything and it solely relies on using the RPG systems to reach a series of possible outcomes, so I feel Mass Effect 2 hit the perfect balance between all the features that made Mass Effect good. Can't say the same for ME3 or Andromeda where they both started stripping the foundation of Conversation down and further, in MEA they were no longer competent to create convincing digital acting.
There were always naysayers and toxic assholes just bullying BioWare as soon as they shifted from the core cRPG format into cinematic RPG (CRPG!) or dudebros complaining that Uncharted had better cutscenes (because you're stupid) but c'mon, Mass Effect moved the industry forward. Look at Witcher 3, Assassin's Creed Odyssey, look at MCU movies and other forms of TV and cinema even. Its musical style of bleepedy bloopedy and even its rusty space armor designs have left a mark in popular culture.
2010 to 2012 was a time to be alive. Everyone just gushed about ME2 and you really felt like gaming had hit a new stride with this ultra-blend of action and thoughtful roleplaying and writing, like more sophisticated qualities had a place in AAA video games. It was an example to behold.
Dragon Age by a mile. The lore and world building are great. The world feels lived in and playing the games feels like you're playing a part in the ongoing history of Thedas. Can't wait to finally see Tevinter in person.