Mass Effect. I’ve never heard of this game before and honestly, I usually know what’s the latest and greatest games in development and waiting in excitement (sometimes to get disappointed because it’s overhyped). After looking at so many 9 out of 10 review scores everywhere on the web, Mass Effect caught my eyes. Not to mention it’s made by Bioware, my favorite RPG development team.
After reading some reviews, watching some trailers and gameplay movies, I decided to grab Mass Effect as I’m so longing for a good RPG after all this FPS (First Person Shooter) era madness!
In one sentence, if you love RPG games, grab this NOW! It’s been a couple of years probably that I can stay up late until 4 a.m in the morning for playing a game (not with this 30-year-old body) :D
Mass Effect sets in a distant universe far far away (sounds familiar?). After all, it’s an RPG a la Star Wars. If you have played the Knights of the Old Republic games before, then Mass Effect is like that, but better. Mass Effect is not set in Star Wars universe but if you want to look at it bluntly, it is as if it is based on the Star Wars universe.
However, as long as you are not a Star Wars geek/fan, you’ll find that Mass Effect has a very immerse and believable story and settings. Each race in Mass Effect (human, Turian, Asari, and other alien races) has its own background, its own characteristic, and history to tell (which is available in Codex, or the “Wikipaedia” of the game OR throughout the conversation dialogues).
If you usually take your time playing your RPG games talking to each character and trying to get yourself attached to the character’s history and life, then you won’t get disappointed with Mass Effect universe.
Of course, you start the game by creating your own character. You can create a “He” or a “She” and name it everything you want. However, your surname will always be “Shepard”. The reason of this is because all dialogues are voice acted, so they have to call you something. In this case, characters in Mass Effect usually call you by your surname. No, you cannot change your character’s surname in Mass Effect. Maybe in a few years, when RPG games can “spell out” your name dynamically in-game.
You can also set your character’s history background. This won’t affect the final outcome of the game, but it does have an effect on some conversations in the game, although not much.
Mass Effect has different classes, but they are mainly divided into Biotics (powers using your mind), Tech (technology skills), Combat (using guns and armors effectively), and mixtures of those 3 basic classes.
You CANNOT change your class in Mass Effect once you’ve started the game. I’ve got quite far in the game and realize how I haven’t distributed my points effectively and didn’t like the style of the class I’m using. I either have to start all over again, or just continue on :( Tough choice.
As for appearance, you can custom-made your hero through the game’s hero customization. Although it’s not as thorough as other games, it does give you some flexibility to customize your eyes, nose, jaws, even your ears! :)
My advice, if you need to take an hour to design your Shepard, then DO IT! You’ll see your character’s face on every dialogue, so make sure you do it well! I chose a female, as I’d rather see a cute but tough lookin’ chick than a handsome bloke, heh heh.
Every dialogue is voice-acted, and it is done brilliantly and thoroughly. Your character talks and not deaf mute like some RPG games. The game will cater both male and female hero’s voice, so you don’t have to worry thinking whether your hot looking chick will sound like a dude.
Just like previous Bioware RPG games, you are given some dialogue tree options (you choose one of them with your mouse). You can be the good guy or the bad guy, your choice. Sometimes, choosing a different answer can yield a different result in-game (but it will still maintain the linearity of the main campaign). If you have a high Charm or Intimidation skill, a new dialogue option will appear on some occasions. These Charm and Intimidation skills can be improved when you level up or as a bonus by playing either the good guy or the bad guy all the time.
For example, someone higher than your rank talks to you like you are one of his pet. You can both stay calm and be the “Yes, boss” person (which will increase your “Paragon” or the good guy slider), or have the “Kick my ***” kind of attitude (which will increase your “Renegade” or the bad guy slider). You’ll get either the Charm bonus point (by getting the Paragon points) or the Intimidation (by getting the Renegade points).
Mass Effect also has an almost perfect facial expressions and gestures that match the conversation. I’m very impressed with the amount of time they spent tweaking and making sure that facial expressions match the dialogues as much as possible. It’s that good.
If you usually enjoy every bit of the story and conversation in RPG games, you’ll love Mass Effect. The story is deep and as I said before, if you really take your time talking to every possible character in game, you’ll then get the most out of Mass Effect. If that’s not enough, you can always read the Codex that I mentioned earlier, for a more detailed explanation about certain races, ships, technology, and history. Bioware is trying to create a believable story and background, and they’ve succeeded! Honestly I don’t really have the time to read (and hear) through everything, so I usually just skim through the Compendium entries. Luckily you’ll get new entries as you progresses through the game, so you are not being given these massive 100 things at the same time in which you have to read them all to be able to understand the game’s universe and background history!
What I like about Mass Effect is that, you’ll be given a piece of a story through a dialogue in which you’ll find what it means later on. It’s like pieces of puzzles being brought in together. For example, in the first few minutes of the game, you’ll wonder who this guy is or what are you doing in the ship. After some conversation dialogues, you’ll begin to say things like “Ah..I see” or “Oh, so that’s why”. It’s like watching a movie in which the director doesn’t let you know the complete picture in one go.
All cut-scenes are being done with the in-game engine. I won’t mind though, because it looks good. Mass Effect doesn’t support anti-aliasing in game, although I believe you can “force” it through your video card’s control panel in Windows. I don’t bother with this, as I’m already happy with the quality that I’m playing at.
The combat is not a turn-based, but full live action. Well, you still can pause anytime during the game (including combat) by holding your SPACE BAR and make a few clicks. You can also assign your skills to quick shortcuts (slot 1, 2, 3 etc).
During the combat, you can hide behind an object (I guess this has become the standard on any first person/third person shooter games), duck, and shoot. Your squad mates will do the same on their own (although sometimes they do it poorly).
Speaking of squad mates, you can only bring 2 other buddies with you during your travel. You can change your team member only before a mission, or when you are leaving your ship, the Normandy. You’ll get them quick early in the game and you can guess how many of them will be joining your adventure because the squad selection screen has already spoiled them for you :( But I guess, since you’ll be getting them early in the game, then this is okay. Else, I’d prefer to be kept a secret and get an excitement when someone else joins my crew.
Standard RPG style, although Mass Effect only relies heavily on weapons, armors and their modifications. So you won’t be seeing your backpacks with flowers, stones, chickens or potions. These equipment modifications can be “embedded” on your piece of equipment for extra bonuses (+90 shields, Armor Piercing Rounds, etc). These can also be attached and detached anytime you want.
If you get a newer piece of equipment and try to equip it, the system will ask whether you want to transfer the modifications on the old equipment to the new one, smart!
You’ll also need to upgrade your teammates’ equipment if you want them to survive longer in the battle. Note that your teammates may or may not be humans, so you’ll have to buy the right piece of armor, depending on his/her race. You wouldn’t want to dress up a Hobbit with an Orc’s chain mail, won’t you? (If you haven’t watched Lord of The Rings, then please ignore this joke :))
It’s too bad that you can’t see how a new armor in shop will look on you unless if you buy it first. You can get around this problem by quick saving and quick loading the game, though.
Leveling is pretty much straight forward in Mass Effect. Gain experiences for killing enemies and completing quests. There are side quests in this game too, and it’s up to you whether you want to try to complete it or not.
Side quests reward you with credits, experience, paragon/renegade points, and sometimes you’ll hear the outcome of your actions on the audible news radio report when you are in a lift.
Side quests usually have different outcomes, depending on your choice of actions. Some confrontations can be ended in a peaceful way if you have a high charm/intimidate points. Of course, if you have the “Kill All” style of gameplay, then you’ll know which dialogue tree to choose.
This review has been long, but I haven’t told all about Mass Effect. It’s just too vast to tell. I haven’t told about MediGel, Omni Tools, the Frogger-style mini game during a decryption, getting extra credits from finding mines on planets, travelling through the universe on your ship, riding your “Mako” which is the vehicle that you’ll use to travel on planets (Hint: Press “Q” if you want to get out of your Mako vehicle in Mass Effect. It’s not listed on the Controller settings in game, but it’s on the manual, lol), etc.
Playing Mass Effect is like watching a science fiction movie, but only if you take your time playing the game, listening to every dialogue and trying to understand the universe/history. If you only want actions, then you may get a bit disappointed. As other Bioware games, dialogues and storyline plays a bigger role than the actions. However, there will be enough actions in Mass Effect.
I’m not sure about the minimum specification, but I’m playing Mass Effect on my GeForce 8800GT and all quality is maxed on 1680×1050 resolutions.
Mass Effect is Mass-ive. Some people have problems with the SecuRom protections but I’m sure they are working on a patch to fix it up. I haven’t found bugs yet in the game, except from a minor graphical glitch here:
When was the last time you play a good RPG in PC? The Witcher? Mass Effect should satisfy your thirst and will keep you occupied for a long time. There’s also a replayability value by using a different character (I’ll probably create a tough-looking-bad-attitude dude next time), a different class, and different dialogue selections just for the fun of it.
I usually like to play the good guy on my first try of the game and then replay it with being the bad guy, for a more fun experience :)
So, prepare for some sleepless nights with Mass Effect!