Mass Effect

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Mass Effect review


Superb console RPG makes its way to the PC

The bigger they are, the harder they fall (cntd)

The game also features some basic squad command mechanics to order around the various NPCs you’ll be picking up in the early stages of the game. Being a diehard fan of the Brothers in Arms and Ghost Recon series, I found myself thrilled to see Bioware’s take on squad command but believe me when I say, stick with those two. Ordering a squad member almost never leads to a successful compliance, with NPCs getting stuck on what I suppose are obstacles or failing to grab cover to shield themselves from enemy fire. The first issue, though, happened to me a lot while basic running around, no orders, no combat. To give your team some credit, they’re pretty capable of capping a few enemies by themselves. They use their skills rather but not quite cleverly and upon ordered, will cast a skill, stat.

In the end, Mass Effects excels a lot more as an RPG rather than an third person shooter. Squad commands are borderline useless and cover isn’t nearly as intuitive as it was in Gears of War or Rainbow Six: Vegas. Shooting and bioticking is considerably fun and it feels like with further iterations it could become something really good. But the most juice you can get out of Mass Effect, iteration one, is within its conversation and cinematic storyline, not its combat.

Who can compete against production values?

As how Mass Effect looks, it’s just dead on gorgeous. Character models are among the best of the best with very good looking textures, especially their faces, which show an awful lot of detail. Animation is good overall, a little clunky and sub par compared to the model quality but they’re good to say the least. Cut-scenes are very well directed, with lots of shaky cam effects and plenty action-y sequences. Voiceovers are top notch with almost every character believable voiced.

No doubt, one of Mass Effect’s biggest assets is probably its production values, which feel immense and very well spent. There are some minor issues in both graphics and sound departments like texture popping, lack of antialiasing options, most speech outside dialogue screens being almost unheareable and some NPCs having sudden changes in voice actors or sometimes don’t having sound at all. All problems are minor and barely hurt the otherwise flawless atmosphere, drawn by impressive character detail, remarkably talented voice actors, well-written yet sometimes cheesy dialogues and superb soundtrack.

The arguably lowest point on Mass Effect, though, is its interface, particularly within inventory management. Categories probably help avoid the mess your inventory will become in a matter of minutes but a game with constant inventory movement like Mass Effect ought to have much better inventory management. Selling items or disposing them is a lengthy task that takes ages to complete since it can only be done one item at a time. What puzzles me the most about inventory are the items itself, which just feel poorly designed. You can have two items purchased at the same prize, one being ridiculously better than the other with no apparent drawback or low level armors that are just overpowered and unrivaled by their apparently superior counterbacks. I played half the game with an armor I found on a random crate on Eden Prime which sold for really low money and reigned supreme amongst medium level armors.

Space Opera at its finest

Mass Effect is one of the best games Bioware has ever crafted. The combat is solid but not without its issues, something that has become almost standardized for them. Luckily for us, dialogue and an overall dramatic, epic, cinematic tone of the story more than make up for it. Add to that achievements, two higher difficulty settings, romance subplots, Paragon/Renegade parallelism, dozens of uncharted planets to explore, background dependant side quests and free downloadable content and you’ve got a significant amount of Mass Effect to play again and again. Unlike the nowadays trends of cliffhanger endings, Mass Effect does close the first chapter of the saga, initially believed to be a trilogy, now with further sequels on mind. The game leaves trouble unresolved but delivers that feeling of closure that more and more games are lacking these days, without even mentioning how explosive and intense the ending is.

Comparison enthusiasts might appreciate the revamped graphics, redone interface and “new” frogger minigames but Mass Effect hasn’t derived all that much from its past form. In any case, that is not a bad thing at all and RPG fans should be pleased with this conversion. It might not beat Gears of War in the third person shooter genre but then again, who asked for that?


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