Mass Effect (PC) – Review with no spoilers

July 16, 2008

I finished Bioware’s Mass Effect last night for the first time. Not having an X-Box 360 put me behind a bit on writing this review but the wait was worth it…or so I’m told.

Cover Art
Cover Art

If you know nothing of the game and have not clicked on the link above, here is a two sentence synopsis: As a tough-as-nails space marine, you are charged with tracking down an alien that could be assisting in the destruction of the galaxy as we know it. You have two team members with you at all times, two of which are female – and it ain’t rated ‘M’ for violence. How’s that for an elevator pitch?

This is an epic game and from reading Patrick Weekes‘ blog (one of the writers for the game) and industry news sources, there is no end in sight as far as any time soon. Supposedly, this game is to be a trilogy (Halo can’t be the only modern day space trilogy can it?) and I, for one, am ecstatic about this. Rather than go over plot points, I want to review this game based on what it does well and not so well, in that order.

Done Well

  • To parrot the rest of the industry, ME handles storyline and dialogue better than any other game has…ummm…ever. From dialogue options that relate to your current mood to the feeling that you’re watching a movie (or reading a book), this game provides an immersive feel that will be remembered.
  • Immersion: Playing the character of Commander Sheppard is no light task as you are faced with difficult and mature decisions to make. I tell everyone that I find it hard to play as a bad guy (Dark Side or, in this case, Renegade) my first time through a game but because the writers truly spent time developing not only the main characters, but also the ancillary ones, I found myself feeling pretty justified in taking the life of the condescending and rude characters; justice is rewarding.
  • The music really made the game. To say the icing on the cake would be a slight. It was the icing after being whipped up with actual chunks of heaven. It really threw me into the Blade Runner type of mindset and for me, that is a great mindset to be in.

I could go on and on about what the game did well, but it has been discussed for at least the past six months. Bioware has the best game writing to date (Does Square-Enix actually have competition now?) so hats off to them.

Not So Well

  • As I mentioned, I played this on the PC and it made my system crawl in some spots. From more than a few friends, I have heard that the game chugged a bit on the 360 as well. This is noteworthy because a beautiful game is not so beautiful frame-by-frame. This point could be broken down into its own dissertation on PCs meeting the highest standards, but for now, I think I have said enough about it.
  • Monotony of the side quests – I personally believe the side quests became an unnecessary thorn in Mass Effect’s side and were only inserted to give the gamer the idea the story was not linear. After 4 or 5 re-skinned planets, I simply stopped running any side missions. You receive plenty of money in the regular story missions to provide you with top gear without going through the painfully obvious identical rooms on planet A, B, C…N.

That’s it. 3 good, 2 bad. Mass Effect is a win in my book and I highly recommend it. I would love to discuss further the actual design of the dialogue system, but this entry is already longer than I wanted it to be. I encourage you to leave comments or email me to discuss this further.

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