In light of Bioware’s new title, Mass Effect 2, and the embarking of this noble gamer on a nonstop binge of the aforementioned game in the sake of this website, I’d like to take a step back and go over the first in this new space trilogy.
Mass Effect, spawned by Knights of the Old Republic creators Bioware, is the first in a planned trilogy of space video games. You take the role of one Commander Shepard, by either using the preset John, or devising your own spin on Shepard. You pick from a sort of amped up RPG class list — soldiers, archers, thieves, mages — but with a serious futuristic twist.
The opening of the game, in my opinion, was interesting. It takes you through the character set up as if you’re reconstructing a military profile on the alliance (future space earth army) computer database. Character creation is slightly lacking in some aspects, especially when put up against games like Oblivion, but it holds its own as far as Bioware’s creation is concerned.
The game plays like a mix between a shooter and RPG, with hints at some sorts of tactical shooter. Fighting is done real time, and in an over the shoulder Resident Evil 4 fashion. Your squad, consisting of two others, will fight alongside you. You can have them take up positions (sort of) as well as have them hold ground, I found it was best to just have them move with you.
In Mass Effect, characters have access to pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, and sniper rifles at all times. The effect these weapons have is determined large in part by the class (most start out with skill in one or two guns, with more available at higher levels) and how you spend points from leveling up. As is true with most Bioware games, Mass Effect has a built in morality system. Will you be a noble paragon of humanity? Or perhaps a vicious renegade? My money is always on the renegade.
Gameplay is fairly basic and consistent with most RPGs. Start here, talk to people there, return here to get a prize. It’s a fairly linear story, with lots of extra side work to do. After the first hour or so, you finally get turned loose on the galaxy with your own ship (piloted by a crippled Seth Green) and a crew. Here is where the fun begins. Mass Effect lets you explore an entire universe, with multiple planets, galaxies, and asteroids to keep you entertained for hours. The only real drawback to this is that many of these planets offer nothing more than an interesting description of life on said planet. The planets you can explore (via your awesome APC/tank called the Mako) offer up a few goodies like missions, bonus items, and various mineral and ore deposits that can be mined for money and XP.
Story wise, this game is a winner. Humanity discovered the means of intergalactic travel on mars in the near future, a find which sent man into the unknown, only to be shocked at what they find. The universe is full of other species, many of which have outlived humanity by billions of years, and thus humanity becomes the weird kid in class that smells like olives. The universe (traverse in ME) is governed by a council of the most prominant aliens, and at their disposal is a group of soldiers called Specters. Shepard becomes involved in a conspiracy involving an alien Specter that would bring about the end of life as they know it. The response to this? Make Shepard a Specter, and have him go kick the shit out of the bad guy.
Morality kicks in once you get into the meat of the game, being good or evil at certain points will set you on completely different tracks at some points in the game, and ultimately giving you the classic good or evil end option. Mass Effect’s winning point with the morality is that not every good option is good, and not all bad options are bad. For instance picking to knock out the deranged scientist in the begining of the game opens up sweet cover up dialogue, and an explination as to why a fist sandwich was the best thing to do.
The bottom line is that, although dated, Mass Effect is still a fun game to play. With the drop of its sequel just recently, and the ability to re-use characters from Mass Effect, new reasons to play back through it are opened, and whole new stories await you.
- Great story
- Cool characters/aliens
- Entire universe to explore
- Lots of weapons and parts to tweak them with
- Crippled Seth Green is awesome
- Universe seems a bit small when you get into exploring
- All the weapons generally look exactly the same, same goes for armor
- Mako isn’t customizable!
- Some characters look a bit off (Cpt. Anderson looks like dramatic prairie dog)
Score: 8.75/10 (Great)