Release Date: 11/20/2007
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The Good: The best production values available in games today, superb story, and dialog tree, great RPG/shooting mix up
The Bad: Only one vehicle, very short by BioWare standards
Where should I begin? Well, let’s start with the story. You play (Put first name here) Shepard who is a US Navy Alliance officer and tries to work his/her rank up the galactic ladder. A Turian, named Saren, tries to unleash a supposed extinct alien race that’s older than time itself. Can you stop him in time while uncovering the past? With that out of the way let’s start with the presentation. Mass Effect has some of the best graphics, sound, voice acting, and production values than any game I’ve ever seen next to Gears of War (courtesy of Microsoft’s bank account). The game is packed with tons of extremely detailed textures and models, remarkable never before seen character animations and BioWare’s next-gen dialog engine.
Just like any BioWare game (KotOR, Jade Empire) you decide the fate of the game through your actions with people. You can intimidate them, charm them, or just plain use force. With the dozens of alien races and characters, you’ll encounter there are limitless possibilities. The game has third person gunplay mixed with role-playing elements. You can upgrade your character through an easy to use upgrade menu where you can upgrade tons of stats and attributes. You also have powers that you can use such additionally. Along with you accompanies two other squad members of your choosing and you can give them simple orders. You can hack objects to obtain new weapon upgrades, different types of ammo, and even more armor. There are even a few vehicle sessions as well and this helps mix up gameplay.
You travel around by using the Mass Effect relay system which can shoot you throughout the galaxy. You can travel to worlds to collect different types of resources, complete side mission and more. Now while all this is wonderful the game does have some major issues. The frame rate can never keep up. It’s always skipping and chugging and there’s constant texture pop-up as well. There are also random load times every so often. The game is also very short for BioWare standards ending in about 15-20 hours and with all side missions (about a dozen) maybe 25-30. While there is no co-op or online play the game is still fun and is very cinematic and is a wonderful masterpiece.
The Mass Effect franchise is one of the most well-established RPG’s of this age, and this is a title it is certainly deserving of. It all started with Mass Effect, which includes the most customization of any of the games in the series however it also includes the most flawed gameplay. The characters and the interesting sci-fi universe are the best part of this game. While the story itself is nothing new, the voice acting is superb and you’ll find that the best moments in this game are when you are chatting with a friend rather than duking it out on the battlefield. In fact, I’m going to go so far as to say the combat is boring and uninteresting.
Therefore it’s such a shame that the battlefield is where you’ll spend a majority of the game . It isn’t that the combat is broken- it is just boring. There is nothing new to it. But that isn’t even the worst part of the combat- the biggest flaw here is the autosave. You’ll often play for 30 minutes and then die and have to go all the way back to the beginning. You’ll have to learn to save on your own but even then if an enemy is remotely nearby you can’t save. This means you may have to go through the same 30 minutes to an hour of boring combat multiple times so you can progress the story. The only reason I trudged through the missions was so I could get back to the ship and advance my relationships with the other characters and learn about their histories and backstories.
Not only does it have boring combat, but it has these broken and horrendous driving moments using a vehicle called the Mako which haunts me in my dreams to this day. So then, how could I give this game an 8.5 if I have all these complaints? Honestly, as I mentioned earlier, it is the characters that make this game. You play as Commander Shepard, a character whom you shape. Shepard can be a boy or girl, black or white, blonde or brown (or any other hair color) and on and on. There is no canon Shepard and you can play as him/her on a good (paragon), bad (renegade), or neutral path. Or you could just go crazy and pick whatever options you want. There is no right playthrough however I’d recommend deciding on whatever you would do/ whatever you think is right for your first playthrough.
You can choose how to advance Shepard’s skills as well as his class, so its up to you whether you want him to be a charismatic leader or a violent over-powered man. This is something which was unfortunately dumbed down in the sequels and is another way that this game immerses you in. You can also upgrade your squad-mates skills but this is optional.
Mass Effect is one of the best games I have ever played, which feels so unusual for me to say considering I found the actual gameplay itself boring. It looks great despite being a few years old and has brought the RPG genre the attention it deserves. Everyone will experience this game in a different way and walk out with a story to tell, and as long as you are patient enough to make it through the monotonous combat sequences then you are in for a real treat.
(Second opinion review written on 5/27/13. Opinions are based after playing Mass Effect 3)