by Chris Scott
reviewed on X360
A Long Time Ago...
Having sharpened their teeth on some of the most popular role-playing games of all time Bioware returns with a brand new original property, Mass Effect. While the company has done original material before, they have spent a lot of their time playing in other people’s worlds. The question asked was if they could pull off the ambitious project that Mass Effect would be.
The idea of Mass Effect kind of goes like this: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… the United Federation of Planets sets out going where no man has gone before, travelling in a ship called Galactica.
OK, OK, so Mass Effect isn’t exactly Star Wars, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica thrown in a blender but you will have to forgive me for seeing the main influences that the game draws upon. If you are a fan of those science fiction series, or the host of others like them, you will certainly feel like you’re in a familiar place. However Mass Effect melds it all together to tell an engaging tale (in 20 to 30 hours of gameplay) that manages to feel fresh despite its similarities to other sci-fi series.
A World of Options
Upon starting the game for the first time, you are told there has been a database malfunction and you will need to re-enter your vital statistics. This accomplishes two things; immediately putting you into the world of the game and giving you a vested interest in the character you are creating. Everyone who plays the game must play as Commander Shepherd but beyond that you have control. You will choose your first name and your sex, your body features, including a very in depth facial creator and what type of person you are. The biggest choice you will make though comes in the form of your characters base class.
There are six base classes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Some classes, like the Soldier, Engineer and Adept focus their skills on one particular skill area (combat, tech, biotic), while the other three divide their skill set between two areas. The class you choose will affect how your game is played and how battles will conduct. Combat specialists will be able to waltz into battle with guns blazing but playing as a tech will require more of a defensive position while a biotic can use their mind. All your choices will determine how your game plays out, therefore making sure no two people will get the same experience playing Mass Effect, even if they picked the same base class. All this encourages playing the game multiple times just to experience more and to see it all.
Talking It Up
Upon completion of your character creation you will be thrust into one of the two important gameplay mechanics: conversation. Mass Effect is after all a role-playing game and as anyone who has played one knows; conversation plays an important role. There are two modes of conversation in role-playing games. The first direct story transfer is the Japanese mode of role-playing game storytelling. The player normally has very little input into how the conversation goes as it is just there to move the story forward. The other is the branching dialogue tree – the preferred mode of role-playing game storytelling by Western developers. Basically you initiate a conversation and then choices appear on screen. The player chooses a branch of dialogue and the conversation will then continue down that path. Mass Effect uses the latter.
Where Mass Effect differs from most games that use branching dialogue is in the way the dialogue is actually handled. Upon being given a choice the player will make a selection based on gut feeling. Choosing “Kill Him” could end with your character pulling a gun and blowing off his head. But it could also end with your team members telling you that that particular course of action might be a slight bit drastic. It is all handled very cinematically and flows together quite nicely. Once you have played the conversation system in Mass Effect it will be very hard to go back to the old way.
No Pros and Cons at this time