reviewed on PC
Bioware has a reputation for creating rich, exciting and perhaps hybrid experiences in the RPG genre with all their latest titles being developed for consoles, and then ported to PCs. Most of the times, these ports were somewhat faulty, partly because the transition from console to PC always felt a little rough on the edges but also because there are many things that work on a console and a controller that just don’t translate as well to the keyboard-mouse combo. This time, Bioware uses a particular word for their Console-PC transition: conversion. What does this mean in theory? That the Mass Effect you played on your Xbox 360 is not quite the same game that you play on your PC. In practice, that’s not the entire truth.
Conceiving Commander Shepard
Mass Effect starts out with the usual character creation screen, leaving it up to you to pick main character Commander Shepard’s name, class, appearance and which may be one of my favorite features of the character creation, character background. Background works like this: you simply choose two types of backgrounds; one related to Shepard’s pre military service profile and the other to his/her psychological profile. Each choice will reflect on you as side quests later in the game. This brings with it a really nice sense of realism, as if Shepard had a previous life to begin with.
The classes are the usual sort you could expect at an RPG game: the soldier, capable of wearing heavy armors and properly handling the larger pieces of firepower; the sentinel, a hacking and electronics expert, excellent when it comes to take synthetics down; and the adept, a master at biotics, Mass Effect’s take on “magic”. Besides them, there are also three more classes that combine the skills of the former. All of them are pretty much balanced, although I feel that the electronics oriented classes arguably picked the shortest straw.
Mass Effect also sports a robust moral system that goes a little beyond the chaotic evil, lawful good, Dungeons and Dragons standards, although not that much. Instead of being good or evil you can aspire towards being Paragon or Renegade. Paragons strictly follow the law while having strong discipline over conduct and preferring peaceful resolutions over bloody gunfights. Renegades are rebels who bend the laws as they see fit and only obey the orders (and provided they asked nicely) of the highest bidder. Both handle situations differently but that doesn’t mean that if your Shepard firmly follows the rules he/she can’t make an exception once in a while, being a little Paragon and Renegade at the same time. It’s still very black and white but it makes the difference on how you solve situations rather than splitting characters into pope candidates and schizophrenic serial killers.
After you created your character Mass Effect’s conversation system is introduced. Dialogue in the game is… easing. You have up to six dialogue options each time you get to speak and they’re sorted out in a very thoughtful fashion. Plot advancing dialogue options are set to the right, while optional dialogue lines stand on the left. Dialogue options that involve charming are painted blue while intimidations are red. The whole dialogue scheme works perfectly to assure you that you know what you’re saying beforehand. This would be a little better off if you could actually see the complete phrases instead of a mere three words but otherwise it works incredibly instinctively.
Conversations don’t feel anything like the floating heads of yore, with the camera sometimes pointing at the subject of conversation and characters acting accordingly to the nature of the speech. For instance, lots of intimidation dialogue branches lead to Shepard pointing a gun at someone. It doesn’t hurt that voiceovers are top of the line, either.
No Pros and Cons at this time