Review by lovable_lombax
First off, this review will contain a few minor spoilers.
Since two of my favorite games have been Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic I & II, naturally, the similarities of Mass Effect and them drew me to this game. And I will get it out in the open right now, Mass Effect feels like the game KOTOR should have been. The games are not identical, but they are very similar, and in my opinion, Mass Effect is the better game. Now, onto the review.
This game is just beautiful. If you've seen the graphics for the Xbox 360 version of the game, bump that up a notch and you have this. Of course you'll need quite a gaming rig to play it with max settings, but if you do, it is extremely satisfying. There are a few wonky looking textures, like some clothing, and some environments can get a tad bit repetitive, but overall the game looks great.
But some of the most amazing cut scenes I've ever seen have come from this game. Not that they're particularly prettier or more flashy then any other game, but the cut scenes are such a cinematic experience. I loved watching them, because it just felt like a movie was playing out before me, little by little, every cut scene. And the characters had so much emotion, they felt like they were actual living beings, not just another walking, talking, mass of pixels. Not to mention the great voice acting, which lead me into...
As I was saying, the characters in this game have so much life, and most of that has to do with the great voice acting. Whether it's someone pleading for their life in front of you, or someone pouring their heart out to you about someone close to them who had died, the voice acting is phenomenal. As in movie quality.
Sure there are a few duds here and there, but most main characters in this game are voiced greatly.
The music is also great. Every piece of music just fits. In particular, on one of the final levels, where you're exploring the ruins of some lost civilization, the music is so haunting, and sets the mood perfectly.
The music isn't something you'll be humming later on, but it will stick with you.
This game is the first of a trilogy, so if you're not so hot about cliffhangers, you may be a bit disappointed about the ending, but otherwise, the story for this game is great. Again, movie quality.
I won't give away too much, but the main story of this game is full of action, tons of twists and turns, and will leave you amazed at some of the discoveries you will make. In particular, one scene near the end of the game, has a computer program explaining to you some of the mysteries within the game. Even while it's talking to you in it's monotone voice, my heart was thumping as it explained that what may have seemed small at the moment earlier, leads to a much bigger purpose, and quite frankly, it left me extremely overwhelmed by the task ahead of me.
It's things like that, which makes the story great, it involves you, it gets you excited, it makes you care about other characters.
Also, the amount of depth which this game contains is incredible. You may walk onto a brother and sister arguing about whether she should give her unborn child treatment for a disease, and for that moment, you care about them, you wonder about what's going on behind the scenes, how things are going to turn out for them, while in reality, the encounter lasts little more then a minute. But your decisions will also effect the outcome, which leads me to something else, that is very interesting about the story of this game.
You decide what happens. It's as simple as that. A small dialog tree pops up at the bottom of the screen, showing a few different options on what you'd like your character to say. For example in the above encounter, you may try to charm (or even threaten) the woman to give that baby treatment, or vice versa. Now that example won't have any effect on the game universe, but other choices do.
Some even change the outcome of the game. Another situation will even put two of your party members on the chopping block. You have to decide which one to save, and the one you don't save, will die permanently, changing the story of the game completely.
The choices are basically set apart into two categories, Paragon and Renegade (Good and Evil). If you go along either one path, that particular meter will fill up, and you can use brand new, extra special choices along in the story, called Charm or Intimidate, and the higher Paragon/Renegade level you have, the more likely those choices are to work. Basically those choices do exactly as their called, you can charm or intimidate people into doing what you want them to do.
As I said, the ending might disappoint some, but by the end, you feel satisfied, and you're left with a hell of a cliffhanger.
I will say this first off, this game is much more of an RPG then a Third Person Shooter like it might seem on the outside.
Basically the game has you exploring a planet, encountering enemies along the way. You have 4 primary weapons, A pistol, assault rifle, shotgun, and sniper rifle, along with biotic powers (Basically the magic of the game). You gain experience by killing enemies, doing assignments, and making decisions, and when you level up, you can raise your weapon damage, your health, and gain new abilities.
The action sequences of the game are fun, while not up to par with a game like Halo, but while you're in a firefight, it never really seems to you like you're playing a shooter. Just an RPG. But it is much better then the old KOTOR system of having your character attack, you might miss, you might hit, everything's random. At least you have control over your character.
There are a few choices to make in combat, like if you're about to enter a particularly tough fight, you could buff up your characters with a few abilities, and run in shooting, or maybe pick off enemies with a sniper rifle from afar.
Some sequences have you driving an all-terrain vehicle around the planet. While fun, these sequences can get a bit annoying.
Also the controls and learning curve are great.
Overall a bit flawed, but still very fun.
This game is a slightly short game, around 15 hours to just complete the main quest, 30 hours if you want to complete everything, along with sidequests. But along with the choices you make in the game, different difficulties to choose from, and a game mode where you restart the game with your previously leveled up character, and all of their items intact, I guarantee, you will want to give this game a second, third, fourth, etc. playthrough.
Another interesting feature are the Achievements you can earn. You earn them by doing different tasks within the game (For example, completing the game on the Insanity difficulty). Some will even unlock rewards, such as if you play through Mass Effect once, you up the level cap from 50 to 60.
This is a great game. While the gameplay has some minor flaws, the overall game is incredible. The whole experience, to be honest, feels as if you're playing out a movie. You're making the decisions, and carrying out the actions. So if you've ever watched a movie and thought, "That is so cool!", now is the chance to do it yourself.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 07/07/08
Game Release: Mass Effect (US, 05/28/08)
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