“Mass Effect 3” is right around the corner, and for some gamers, this is the best news they’ve heard in a while. For those unfamiliar with the “Mass Effect” series, this is a great time to get caught up and weigh the decision to jump into the battle to save the galaxy.

The original “Mass Effect” was released in November 2007 and earned 91 out of a possible 100 points on the Metacritic rating scale.

The storyline of the original game unfolds several hundred years in the future as you take control of a male or female version of the game’s protagonist, Commander Sheppard. Humankind has made technical leaps and bounds; space travel has become instant; and alien technology has finally been found on Mars.

When a Prothean Beacon is unearthed on the Earth-like colony of Eden Prime, it is revealed that Saren Arterious, a Spectre — agents who are entrusted with great authority by the Galactic Council — has gone rogue and is leading a race of artificial intelligent aliens known as the Geth. Saren’s purpose behind this attack was to use the beacon and find clues that would lead him to the Conduit, the key component in reviving the Reapers — a highly evolved race of mechanical and organic machines that reside in the deepest parts of space.

Saren’s attempt to cover his tracks by destroying Eden Prime fails when the Alliance Ship SSV Normandy responds to the distress signals from Eden Prime more quickly than Saren had anticipated. Commander Sheppard leads a ground team to secure the beacon. Commander Sheppard locates the beacon, but when approach the mysterious alien artifact, he or she sees visions of a future full of death and destruction.

Through a twist of fate, Commander Sheppard joins the Spectres, and is then made first-in-command of the joint-funded ship, the Normandy. You must now sift endlessly through the galaxy in search of Saren, and bring him down. You will see vast alien worlds, engage in futuristic combat and find lost alien technology.

Joining Sheppard in the galaxy-wide manhunt for Saren is Kaiden Alenko, a staff lieutenant of the Normandy; Ashley Williams, who at one point served in the System Alliance as a gunner chief, Second Frontier Division on Eden Prime, and is then assigned to Sheppard’s squad after the events on Eden Prime; and the Turian Garrus Vakarian, a former C-Sec officer who was responsible for the investigation of Saren. These are just a few of the characters that accompany Sheppard in “Mass Effect.” However, it is the player who determines their fates. The actions and choices the player makes can determine who will live and who will die.

“Mass Effect 2” was released on Jan. 26, 2010, earning 96 points from Metacritic.

Beginning in the year 2183, one month after the events of the first game, the Normandy is on patrol to locate and destroy any of the remaining Geth when it falls under attack by an unknown assailant. The Normandy sustains substantial damage, forcing the crew to make a mad dash to the escape pods and abandon ship. The ship’s pilot, Joker, risks his life to continue piloting the ship, but he is rescued by Commander Sheppard, who drags Joker to an escape pod. Before Sheppard boards the last escape pod, however, the Normandy takes another critical attack and an explosion sends Sheppard flying through a cloud of debris. When a piece of debris slices through Sheppard’s suit, his air supply is cut off and his lifeless body drifts through space and falls into a nearby planet’s atmosphere.

Sheppard awakens in the year 2185, aboard a Cerberus space station, a research facility involved in the Lazarus Project, which is then attacked by security machines. After Sheppard aids two agents of Cerberus in escaping the facility, Sheppard is then taken to Cerberus HQ and is granted an audience with the Illusive Man — a shadowy figure whose motives aren’t clear — who explains to Sheppard what happened after the attack on the Normandy, and the new “upgrades” the stout-hearted commander received during his two-year slumber.

Sheppard and the team are then dispatched to investigate an attacked colony of Freedom’s Progress, located in a nearby star system. Sheppard is reunited with Tali’Zorah vas Neema, one of Sheppard’s former squad members from the first game, and discovers that insect-like Collectors were behind the attack on the space station and are also responsible for a number of attacks on other colonies as well. Sheppard reports back to the Illusive Man, who places Sheppard in command of the Normandy SR-2, a larger, faster ship modeled after the original SSV Normandy. With guidance from the Illusive Man, Sheppard begins to travel across the galaxy once again to recruit a new team for what is turning out to be a suicide mission.

That’s the “Mass Effect” series in a nutshell. There is more content, story and characters to explain, but it would take a while to encapsulate everything. “Mass Effect” gives the player total freedom; cinematic dialogue gives players the option to replay the game any way they want. For example, you can take on the role of a paragon or a renegade. All of your decisions will open up choices in cinematic dialogue in which Sheppard can actually say what’s on his or her mind — and not care of the consequences.

The interesting thing about “Mass Effect” is that all of the choices and actions made in the first two installments of the series will carry over to “Mass Effect 3.” For example, if the player failed to complete a particular side mission in the first “Mass Effect,” he will not even know who or what the organization Cerberus is in “Mass Effect 2.” Missing out on this information isn’t detrimental to the player’s experience, but it does give the player an incentive to do more side missions rather that running through the main story. Rather than alienate those who haven’t played the “Mass Effect” series, EA has stated that “Mass Effect 3” will be widely accessible to people who have yet to play either of the first two games.

The demo for “Mass Effect 3” can be found on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

The conclusion of BioWare’s epic trilogy will launch March 6, 2012.