Countless lives have been lost in a battle that has raged across the galaxy. Alliances have been formed, enemies have been made, and the final battle looms. In just a few days, Bioware will deliver their conclusion to a trilogy that has truly blurred the lines between video game and narrative.

When the original Mass Effect roared onto the gaming scene in late 2007, Bioware turned the world of science fiction in video games upside down. Yes, the interface was clunky, and the shooting mechanics were loose. Yes, the all-too-samey outposts and seemingly unending rides in the Mako were widely derided. Yes, there were countless elevators. But you know what else there was?  A sense of greatness beyond the player, a sense that we truly were but specks in the dust of a single galaxy. Mass Effect’s universe pulled inspiration from many different places, but it made that inspiration its own; the title was truly an experience no gamer would ever forget, and it became an instant classic.

Mass Effect 2 upped the ante, providing tighter combat, a streamlined interface (some would say a little too streamlined), and a massive expansion of the series’ lore. A huge amount of focus was aimed at your companions and their backstory, eventually becoming integral to the epic battle that capped off the second entry in the trilogy.

For myself, the first two Mass Effect games represent some of the best and most-cherished memories I have in a single-player experience. Their atmosphere leaked out of my TV, transported me from my chill room, and sent me careening out into the vast expanses of space. I tend to lose myself in whatever game I’m playing, but the number of games that grabbed me the way Mass Effect and its sequel grabbed me are few and far between. This is something I’ve given great thought to…after all, I’ve read a lot of science fiction, and have watched a lot of it as well. I’ve experienced games that strived to pull me into the outer reaches of human knowledge, to travel the stars, to broaden my horizons. Still, none of them have succeeded as well as Mass Effect has.

On the cusp of Mass Effect 3′s impending release, I find myself being transported back to those experiences. Listening to my squadmates bicker back and forth while we waited for an elevator to take us to our destination. Unraveling the mystery of the Keepers, exploring the history of the Protheans, and struggling with the heavy burden of driving the fate of the Rachni. I’ve uncovered conspiracies, small-time criminals, and befriended a misguided Specter who sought out whatever opportunity was necessary to accomplish his goals.

I scanned countless planets, in an attempt to create that which an all-powerful corporation refused to provide. I reunited with old friends, some of which had grown far beyond the shackles of my command. I brokered deals with the underworld, pledged my allegiances, and buried my enemies with a sniper round between their eyes. I dictated the future of the Krogan, provided a dying assassin with a chance to atone, and befriended an Asari Justicar. I’ve assisted countless allies with solving mysteries of their own…fixing their past, and cementing their future. I infiltrated a Reaper, delving into the bowels of the once majestically alive creature.

With all of these memories, my hope for Mass Effect 3 boils down to a single bullet point: a way to seal these experiences. Currently, as amazing as they are, they’re incomplete. I feel like I’ve been cooking an elaborate dinner, and it’s finally time to open the oven, remove the covers from various pots and pans, and examine what I’ve managed to produce. Every decision I’ve made, both as a Male Paragon and a Female Renegade, will finally reach their end results.

Mass Effect 3 is not just the end of a trilogy: it’s the end of an era in my gaming history, one that has provided me with memories I will remember forever.