REVIEWS -- Mass Effect -- PC
One of the best Sci-Fi RPGs ever made
by Lazare Gvimradze
Fun factor: Fun
Worth to: Buy
Mass Effect offers incredible interstellar RPG experience coupled with a solid action element and unparalleled visuals.
Bioware, known mainly for the iconic Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic series, decided to create something utterly different, similar, and much better than the KOToR series altogether. Mass Effect promised an unparalleled role-playing and action experience, unmatched consequences from player decisions, amazing art and visual style. The game had a colossal effort put in it, but regardless the launch of a new IP, especially based on Sci-fi Action-RPG, was a dangerous move. Fortunately, Bioware knew that better than anyone else.
A massive and effective story
In the not too distant future mankind discovers an alien artifact on Mars which allows for groundbreaking progress in the science of Mass Effect fields. As a result, humans pass the boundaries of our system quite fast and unite with an alliance of alien races which control the galaxy. After joining the multi-species government known as Citadel Space, humans become a valuable part of the interstellar community.
You take the role of Commander Shepard, a Human Alliance soldier who is tasked with retrieving an ancient alien beacon from the planet colony, Eden Prime. The mission quickly swirls into something larger as forgotten species of aggressive humanoids join the battle and an unknown space vessel of enormous size descends upon the planet. When the reason of the chaos turns out to be a rogue Citadel agent known as Saren, you are given the status of a Spectre, a Council operative who works outside the law, and are tasked to pursue him and stop whatever he’s up to.
The creative talent put into the writing and thousands of secondary nuances make the universe of Mass Effect unmatchable. After defining your character’s background history, gender, appearance and first name, you embark on a quest where your every decision slowly alters the story. You may even end up without having some of your team members at your side, some of them dead because of a tough decision, others by your own hand. Backing all this up is a brilliant base for the story, known as the Codex, where you can look up all of the key events, alien species, their culture and attitude, technological advancements and pretty much everything that happened after humanity joined the Citadel.
Action-RPG at its finest
The gameplay offers a crazy mix of first-class RPG and solid action shooting. Role-playing is pretty much traditional, but everything has its little innovations. The conversation branches offer several responses, usually positive, neutral and negative. There is a clever inventory system where you upgrade your character, weapons and teammates as well as distribute experience points gained with a new level.
And when most other RPGs offer limited action or turn-based battles, Mass Effect gives you a full-scale battle, where you drop to cover, switch between four different kinds of weapons and command your teammates via basic commands. In addition to this, we get the Tactical Pause, a system which freezes the gaming process and allows you to apply your team’s skills on any targets.
The story moves forward by completing a series of major missions, but side-quests are more than valuable for additional credits and experience. “Minor tasks” often send you across the galaxy, literally, seeing as you have the Galactic Map at your disposal which allows you to travel to more than a dozen different star clusters, each of which having more than a few systems with habitable planets. You can explore any suitable world via an Alliance rover (“Mako”) which handles exceptionally well even on rough terrain and allows you to discover any secrets hidden on uncharted worlds.
Managing your crew and your attitude towards them is another task altogether, as you constantly walk around your ship and are tempted to ask the team about their opinion regarding anything, from missions to personal histories. You may end up liking some of the crew more than the others, and there is a fairly big chance of romantic relationships, too. Your relationship with the crew has absolutely no effect on combat situations; you have to choose who to take with you very carefully as each team member has his/her own specialties and weaknesses.
A galaxy brimming with life
There can be no arguments to the spectacular visuals of the game. Unreal Engine 3 does a great job of interpreting the developers’ vision of a smartly crafted futuristic world, as well as making it look exceptionally beautiful with great HDR, model decals, textures and animation. The artistic style of all the different architectural types the many races of aliens possess is simply astounding, and the monumental Citadel, the enormous space stronghold left by an ancient race of Protheans, is simply ingeniously designed and truly represents a pinnacle of a traditional futuristic environment.
Art design may be great, but the impressive aliens, their gestures and movements is another technical breakthrough altogether. After looking up their long histories and chatting with a few of their representatives, the creatures actually feel real and instead of pushing you away from the game, delving you into the atmosphere even more.
There are notable staggers though, where sometimes the engine can’t quite pull it, or the obvious flaws of the Unreal Engine 3. Anti-aliasing issues and textures loading after the game has started are still here, but they are less than enough to make Mass Effect an intolerable game. Demiurge Studios offered a great port of the game to PC owners, complete with re-worked menus more suitable for Mouse and keyboard layout as well as decent optimization for the demanding visuals.
Voice actors have done a tremendous job at bringing the Galaxy to life. More than twenty actors voice the major characters, and even more provide voices for secondary aliens. The acting itself is extremely good and makes you see hints of unique characteristics in each person you talk to. The different kinds of voices the aliens possess are altered and synthesized so well that, once again, you realize how believable all of these things look and sound. And the same goes for the cold, electronic music reinforced with sporadic epic scores which really hit the cord of the exact futuristic world that Mass Effect possesses.
The bizarre collision of these elements creates an experience unlike any other, which at the end feels like the perfect Sci-fi RPG. However, minor flaws concerning the presentation and mostly unnecessary secondary nuances and details make this product a game for the few. Regardless of all this, Bioware made the genre proud once again with a deep and clever representation of an ingenious futuristic world.
It is safe to say that Mass Effect possesses one of the most realistic and believable sci-fi unrealism in the history of videogames, and all of the credits go for the sharp writing provided by New York’s bestseller author Drew Karpyshyn, who also wrote two novels based on the game, Revelation and Ascension, the first being a prequel while the second introduces events happening after the game, and serves as a prologue to Mass Effect 2. Speaking of which, did you know that your save games from the first part will work as a background story for the ME2 Shepard? I guess Bioware is getting ready for another breakthrough...
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: BioWare / Demiurge
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: May 28, 2008
Review Date: 14-07-2009
Numbers of Players: 1
Players Online: ---
Notes: 1080p Support, Dolby Digital 5.1, Widescreen, Min Req: XP/Vista, 2.4 GHz Processor, 1 GB RAM (2 GB for Vista), NVIDIA GeForce 6 Video Card (6800GT) / ATI 1300XT or better, DirectX 9.0c
A dazzling representation of a beautiful futuristic universe clouds every possible engine issue the game unfortunately obtained.
A smart fusion of fast-paced action and modern RPG gameplay coupled with in-depth secondary missions polish this game to perfection.
The amazingly diverse and deep writing pulls you head-on in a universe filled with believable aliens and LOTS of background story work.
The titanic effort put into voicing the game gets crowned by out-of-this-world sound effects and cold, but soothing music.
Mass Effect offers incredible interstellar experience coupled with a solid action element and unparalleled presentation.