Review: Mass Effect

-Samer Farag

Ah, Mass Effect. Unless you’ve been living under an anti-gaming rock, you’ve heard of the Bioware developed epic sci-fi space opera series (quite a mouthful). Because Mass Effect 3 will be hitting stores soon, I have decided to revisit the series once more, starting with the first Mass Effect . Let’s take a look, shall we?

Plot:

You are Commander Shepard, Alliance Soldier. On a mission to investigate a distress call on Eden Prime, you become entangled in a plot to destroy the universe as we know it.

While the overall plot is interesting in it’s own right, I was more impressed by the self-contained stories of the characters on Shepard’s crew. The characters are engrossing, dynamic, and believable. You want to learn about them, and you grow to care for them. The characters are not static: They are pushing forward and making this their story. This is my favorite part about Mass Effect’s plot. Although, the story of saving the galaxy is suitably epic on all counts.

Gameplay:

ME is barely a shooter. Let me say that now. Though there are shooter aspects, cranking this sucker up to any level above normal is going to kick your butt if you treat it like Half-Life 2, and you’ll be memorizing the game-over song quickly. Mass Effect is all about management: Managing your weapons, managing your team, managing your powers, at all times, off and on the battlefield. It makes for quite the complex game, though you need only delve deep into the system to get the strongest equipment.

Combat in this game is fast and fun, a cover-based shooter that is tactical and action packed at the same time, letting you pause the action to get a breather and issue orders to your squadmates. But, it’s not always fluid: Getting in and out of cover can be glitchy at times, and an issue I repeatedly ran into on the PC was my weapon stuck on overheat. A simple restart fixed this issue, however.

The other half of ME is exploration, and is my favorite part of the game. ME, as I said before, is a character driven game, and interacting with characters is a core part of the experience. Dialogue is engaging and interesting, and there is no shortage of new conversations to partake in. Chats are dynamic, allowing one to choose options to progress, either with a goody-two-shoes paragon option, or a take-no-prisoners renegade option. These options drastically change how the story unfolds, to the point where choices can affect future entries in the series. One aspect I take issue with the paragon and renegade portions are that they can lead to one choosing the top or lower portion over and over again, making the choice aspect seem artificial at times. Still, the feature is welcomed for being able to inspire re-playability, if your you’re curious as to what things are like on the other side.

Graphics/Audio:

The graphics in Mass Effect leave little to be desired. They still hold up today, with great, unique artistic direction and interesting locals. Though the models can seem semi-lifeless at close-ups, they do the job.

Meanwhile, on the audio front, Mass Effect has some suitable music, that does its job, but is forgettable for the most part, with the main theme and “flux” being the exceptions. Sound effects are appropriately sci-fi, and voice acting of the characters is top notch.

Presentation:

This is where ME gets hit hardest. Menus can be clunky and difficult to navigate, and the inventory system is horrendous. I tried to spend as little time as possible in the menus, simply because I didn’t want to deal with the unwieldy weapon and armor management. This results in an intermediate learning curve, but nothing impossible. 

Conclusion:

Mass Effect  is a great game. Through it’s engrossing storyline and balance of combat and exploration, Mass Effect succeeds at being a top notch science fiction gaming epic.

Verdict:90%

Mass Effect launch trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqJuJTIus7U