Review by conkersurround5

"And It Is Called, "The Mass Effect""

MASS EFFECT

This was an amazing experience. The last 2 times I can remember being this excited about a gaming experience was KOTOR and Final Fantasy Tactics. Okay, there have probably been many others right up there; they just don't quickly come to mind. Point is, Mass Effect is in very good company. Many people will, more than likely, compare Mass Effect to KOTOR and NWN2, due to the fact that it is basically the same engine. For some people, that is like saying there are three Santa Claus'; others may feel different. The similarities stop there however, and Mass Effect definitely stands on its own. There are a lot of First-person shooters that may look similar on the surface, but Half-Life, FEAR, and Bioshock are very different games.

CODEX

The huge difference between Mass Effect and KOTOR/NWN2 is the lore. KOTOR got to use the immense library of Star Wars lore, and likewise NWN had the unending database of lore from D&D at their disposal. Mass Effect creates this brand-new story surrounded by this deep lore, but since nobody has previously been exposed to it, they created an in-game database they call the “Codex.” This is located in the menu and is a civilopedia of sorts (for you civilization fans). However, unlike the civilopedia, as you go through the game, things get added to the Codex as you encounter them. There are 2 Codexes too. The ‘primary' which is completely voiced over, and the ‘secondary' which you have to read. Personally I think the secondary was a little redundant since the primary covers almost everything in enough detail for me. Anyway, it is a great way to get familiar with the universe as it is in Mass Effect; encounter an alien race, see the codex icon pop up on the screen, and bring up the Codex to see what they are about.

CHARACTER DEVELOPEMENT

Mass Effect, unlike its cousins, does not have a light-side, dark-side, good, or evil. It calls this relationship in character development Paragon and Renegade. The main character is good, so it's not exactly good and evil, but more like good cop v. bad cop. The main character is the only one with the Paragon/ Renegade meters, so none of your companions will have them. Thus, you do not have influence, or need influence, with or over your companions. Where in NWN you don't change your companions but have to agree with them to gain influence, and in KOTOR you get to actually have an effect on your companions own disposition, in Mass Effect you interact with your companions to further the story but not to influence them. I don't think that it is negative to the game however, because the game really isn't as much about the balance between good and evil as its siblings are.

There are six base classes, some concentrate available skill options in similar areas, while others' skill options are more of a combination of classes. The soldier for instance, is going to allow you to put skill points towards using every weapon, but is going to be limited as far as the technical skills you are allowed. I was an Infiltrator class, which had a combination of tech skills and weapon skills. Tech skills help to hack into computers and decode things, while Biotics are skills that can manipulate the environment to attack enemies or defend.
Remember in Bioshock when you had to pick a lock or something, that puzzle-thing that would come up to bypass the controls? There is a similar puzzle-thing in Mass Effect that gets harder as the game goes on, although you cannot even attempt it without a high enough skill in the corresponding category. It's entertaining enough, and you'll be doing a lot of it.

GAMEPLAY

The game is much more free based than I expected. You can go to any star system available to you to do any missions in any order. You can choose not to do certain missions or missions where you have or haven't been before. Almost all missions are plot based if not plot advancing, meaning that almost every mission you do will contribute to the plot in some way.

Gameplay consists of exploring systems, and planets. Once you find a system you'll search around for anything you may be able to survey. If you find a planet you can land on you will actually be dropped off in a land-rover type vehicle. Exploring planets is tremendous fun. The rover also has a machine gun and canon that you will have a good time with. You will need to get out of the rover at some point and continue on foot. Combat is not the typical Bioware “pause to direct you companions and continue.” Combat is very much like Gears of War, from the view to being able to use obstacles to shoot around and use for cover. Of course you can pause the combat to issue orders, but damage will depend on your aim and your trigger finger.

The PC version comes with a code to download the new expansion. The cool thing about it is that you can do it at any point in the game that you think you can handle it. It has its own little plot but adds a lot of play time to the game and when it is over you get to choose from a few different items, all which are the best that you will see in the game. I got the armor and it blew away every armor in the game. Money is pretty pointless; you don't have enough in the beginning and end up with way too much in the end. I only made a few purchases the whole time. In fact I ended the game with 9999999 credits and couldn't even get any more money.

SOUND

The sound presents the game in a way that I have never before seen or heard. Take FEAR for example, since we mentioned that earlier. That game used and implemented surround sound a great deal, and it made the game what it is. I'm not trying to say that Mass Effect uses the surround sound in the same way, it uses its brilliant musical score, and its unique LFE bass effects to create a game that is a true multi-media event. The music is not only brilliant but it changes throughout the game – not by zone but by what is happening in the game. The score is nothing short of a John Williams score and you can trust me on that.

The voiceovers are terrific, as would be expected with predecessors like the aforementioned. Seth Green does a cool job with Joker, of which just moved him up two more notches on the “coolest people ever” meter. We all know bad voiceovers can kill a good game, and good voiceovers can make a poor game better, but great voiceovers in a sensational game make it… [Insert adjective here].

GRAPHICS

The graphics are… intense. You need shader-module 3.0 just to play the game, not that that should be a problem if you've bought a current video card anytime in the last 2 years, but I was still impressed it required it. You can see why. The best way to describe shader 3.0 it is play Age of Conan, or Gears of War and toggle the shader 3.0 and you'll see how it adds the shiny or wet-metal effect to things – it's hard to explain but I like it. You'll see the same zoom up on the faces during conversation as KOTOR and NWN2. The dialogue options are innovated here though. Instead of having a list of reply options, there is a reply wheel. Responses on the left side investigate and continue more conversation, and options to the right speed it along. See the Character Development subchapter for more on responses. Although typically I spend the most time in my reviews on the graphics, there is not too much more you can say about a game that was bank-rolled like this. The graphics are awesome and it does not compromise performance in the least.
Like the music and sound, the game is presented in a way that makes it feel truly epic in scope. The art design for some of the scenes, while graphically looking great, blows my mind at the creativity of it all. It reminds me of watching Star Wars or The Matrix for the first time; in fact, I wish they would make a movie as a sequel to this.

SYNOPSIS

After playing Mass Effect it will be time for, what I call - a transitional game. That game you play after an absolutely amazing gaming experience, of which if it is anything short of spectacular will seem mediocre at best. It's really not fair to that game, but it never had a chance - the game that brings you back to reality of where the majority of gaming is really at. For my brother once, it was playing Fable after KOTOR. For me, one time, it was playing Half Life after FEAR. I hope that Mass Effect will have that effect on you.

I give this game a perfect 10/10. There is nothing more that should be expected out of a game, worth every penny.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 09/25/08

Game Release: Mass Effect (US, 05/28/08)


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