Review by Okii_Inu
"Mass Effect, a pleasant meal for the RPG starved Xbox community"
I had been interested in Mass Effect (from now on will be known as ME) for quite some time since I heard that Bioware was developing it. I've loved Bioware since I played KotOR but knew that Mass Effect could not just be a KotOR clone in order to be successful. Luckily, it does not disappoint.
Amazing. The character models look amazing, the environments are superb, and the entire package just comes together to look almost as if its real. Shepard, or your own creation of him, really comes to life in the in-game sequences. This proves to be very engrossing and is great for role-playing fans such as myself. The ships, people, and planets never cease to amaze in terms of visual eye candy.
However, certain flaws do come up throughout the game. One major flaw is texture loading. Throughout the game you will notice that certain environments, characters, and insignias do not load immediately with the game and will come out somewhat blurred for a couple of seconds. This does take away from the immersive nature of the game because I was staring at a claymation character rather than the usually crisp creations I had come to know and love. Also, the framerate can come to a slow at times throughout the game, making gameplay sometimes awkward.
The Class system, while it seems overwhelming at first, really is not as complicated as you'd think. There is the soldier, the engineer, and the adept as well as a mix of all these, bringing the entire class count to 6. Each one has its strengths. The soldier is a great play through for first timers and FPS fans because really its a run and gun type of class. The engineer and Adept start out more difficult than the soldier, especially on harder difficulties, but prove to be far more powerful come endgame because of their powers.
While the auto leveling system does an ok job for people that do not wish to micro-manage their Characters, the game really stands out with the customization. Players are able to shape their characters into the abilities of their classes that seem most powerful. This allows the RPG fans to make balanced teams that cover all weaknesses, which really displays its power come endgame when a well balanced team wreaks havoc through the entire last level. To add to this, each class has a subclass that becomes unlockable later in the game, which adds further to specialize your Shepard into however you see him.
The class system suffers from some minor flaws in the fact that many of the classes share the same abilities, making them seem repetitive. This can be remedied by the individual skills that classes get, but does not offer a totally differentiate experience for hybrids from the parent classes.
Now KotOR, at least in my opinion, had an underwhelming gameplay, which in turn gave me qualms about ME. But, ME does not fail like its predecessor did. The entire game is very playable from start to finish. The controls, while not set up like the standard FPS, are still very fluid and allow the player much flexibility in terms of gameplay preferences. The combat system, which I had MANY doubts about previously, turned out to be a surprise hit because of its fast action element that combines with the RPG nature of the game. You are able to pause the game at any time to select your biotic or tech abilities, change your weapons, or to just get a look around your environment. This helps the Die hard RPG fans that may be turned off by the fast combat that seems similar to Halo. No this is not a Halo clone. No you cannot just run up to people and shoot them down like you can in Halo.
Overall, I can't really complain about the gameplay. The Conversation system is a superb improvement over KotOR, and adds to the already engrossing combat system. The choices do not directly affect gameplay in the same terms that KotOR did. No you cannot change the course of the entire plot based on your actions, but you can affect several subplots as well as the characters your travel with. The choices are tracked by a Paragon and Renegade meter that are displayed on the character screen. These meters do nothing more than to indicate how good or rogue'ish your character has become.
The Combat and Conversation systems work very well throughout the game. They do have minor flaws, such as the occurrences where Shepard says the same thing regardless of your choice, but the game really shines on these two systems.
Superb. The story is one of the few games that has drawn me in for years. ME starts off with you as Commander Shepard, a human Alliance marine with varying background based on the players decisions upon creation. Which is ME's strongest point. Role-Playing fanatics will be in heaven with ME. The game offers so many roads for the player to take with their individual Shepards that each player will have a unique play through each time. What really comes to life is not only the main plot but the several side quests that involve minor plot elements, including the backstory that you chose for your Shepard.
The story overall is fast paced and interactive. It does have its slower points, especially after the initial mission on Eden Prime, but afterwards the main plot does not cease to draw the player in. To describe the story with no spoilers: You are Commander Shepard and your job is to stop the "bad guy" from destroying the galaxy. I don't want to ruin it for those that haven't played but the story is not as simple as it may seem. There are many facets that just cannot be revealed in a review without spoiling it.
The story, while remaining truly spectacular especially at the end, is a bit short and causes the player to wish the game were not over so quickly. Also some of the side quests do become repetitive and boring at times, causing the game to be a chore more so than a game. Sadly these minor flaws bring down the overall great story.
It should also be known, the story is very much so adult at times, involving vulgar language as well as some strong sexual themes (including a suggestive sex scene between Shepard and one of two possible candidates).
The game does offer some harder difficulties, which I played because I enjoy challenging games, but there is no real reason to play the game again other than to have a harder time and choose different conversations. The different classes do offer a variety of playstyles, but they tend to become repetitive since many classes overlap each other.
The side quests offer little to no replayability as they become repetitive, especially since each planet tends to look the same after a while, and the bases for many of the side quests use the same map layout, taking away from the role playing aspect of the game. I can't count how many times I found myself thinking "how convenient that all these smugglers have similarly designed bases so that I can plan my attacks for all of them." The game is only going to be a good replay for die hard RPG fans like myself.
The game has many sublime moments that drew me into the story, but many minor flaws start to add up over time. I didn't even mention the horrid controls of the mako (the vehicle you will pilot while traversing alien planets) which handles like a pregnant grandma. The game feels unpolished to me and could have been a 10/10 if some of the rough edges had been smoothed out.
Bioware, I have hopes for the sequel, and regardless of its flaws, ME is still one of my favorite games of all time.
Final Score: 8.5/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 12/04/07
Game Release: Mass Effect (US, 11/20/07)
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