Finished Bioware’s Mass Effect a couple of weeks ago, since playing the direct sequel without having seen how the original ends felt odd.
Mass Effect is a space opera role-playing game where the choices matter more than character’s statistics. The game combines traditional RPG elements with a third person shoot-em-up. This can lead to situations where perfect aim with a high-lethality sniper rifle leads to a miss, on account of the underlying random number generator.
The shooting is supplemented by “biotic” and “technological” powers. These are supernatural manifestations such as telekinetic tossing around of enemies or direct sabotage of their arms. The selection feels like low power force from Star Wars and as such does not stand out as being too much out of place.
The game plays well, apart from a one or two scenes, most of the combats are doable with the first try. Hence the sudden difficulty spike in the final combat feels almost unfair. Before that there’s no need to synchronize the use of weapons and powers too much, but the ultimate fight pretty much demands a much closer attention to detail.
The plot oozes sense of wonder. It’s once again a case of a hidden Big Evil menacing the galaxy, with the protagonist the only one available to defend. However, the game manages to sidestep being a mere collection of cliches, and actually produces a decent story. The main plotline is not that complex, but it is supplemented by scores of sidequests, the completion of which provides tangible benefits in the form of improved equipment and additional experience.
An even more attractive piece of gaming evolution is the interaction system. The faces have been rendered well, and the dialogue system is unparalleled thus far. It allows the player to select the mood of the protagonist, not the exact words he is going to utter.
Bioware’s attempt at providing downloadable content post-release for Mass Effect has been a failure. There’s been two pieces thus far, with especially the latter one, Pinnacle Station getting very negative reviews.
Achievements-wise, Mass Effect is not optimal either. A lot of them are pure boring collections (x number of kills with a certain weapon) whereas others require multiple playthroughs (finish the majority of the game using a certain NPC assistant). Then again, the 20+ hour duration of the minimal plotline is anyway not conducive to easy gamerscoring.
The most controversial part of the game was the inclusion of a very limited sex scene at the conclusion of a continuing sidequest. The couple of seconds of blurry camerawork are tame indeed, and nothing that isn’t shown on television on a daily basis. Nonetheless, the media storm resulting from its inclusion resulted in endless threads (and probably improved sales as well).
The second part of the Mass Effect trilogy has started with a bang, I’ll return to the rather streamlined game in the form of an article at an appropriate time (meaning when I’ve progressed beyond level 6).