Tuesday November 27, 2007 3:00 pm
Mass Effect Review: Bioware’s latest masterpiece
Not to rest on the laurels provided by Baulders Gate and Knights of the Old Republic, Bioware has created another instant hit: Mass Effect. Mass Effect is in many ways the spiritual successor to the Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) series although it goes far beyond the capabilities and offerings of its predecessor.
Mass Effect is a third person shooter/space exploration game set in humanities future when alien discoveries have catapulted human technology ahead centuries and given our race a place among many in the galactic empire. Click through for our full thoughts on this stunning game.
Mass Effect offers a cinematic role playing experience unlike any other current console generation title. Featuring a very organic conversation system, talking to NPCs in the game feels very much like a part of the game experience rather than like a cut scene. As you talk to people, up to 6 short options will appear that help you steer the conversation based on your mood and intent. The game does a fantastic job of taking the emotion of your selection and seamlessly working it into the conversation.
The voice acting is top notch and helps bring the conversations alive. The conversation system allows much of the dialog to be skipped if you don’t want to experience it, while allowing interested players to dig deeply into the story. Similar to Bioshock, there is a rich back story for Mass Effect and it’s up to the player to experience as much or as little as they desire.
The 3rd person combat is polished and fun. Taking a few control queues from KOTOR, it allows for easy orchestration of your entire party while enabling direct head-to-head control of our hero Shepard. The combat system is implemented to reward both cautious shooters as well as twitch based run-and-gun style play. Both people used to typical shooters and RPGs alike will find Mass Effect easy to pick up and play.
The next generation graphics for Mass Effect are stunning. While many of the optional planets feel rushed, the main quest planets are beautiful and unique. Each of them has a unique feel and visual style while maintaining a unified feel for the game. The game has a film grain shader which adds a highly cinematic feel to the entire experience. There is also an optional motion blur shader (which is on by default) that players seem to either love or hate. While it looks great in cut scenes, we ended up turning it off after a while as it gets in the way of some of the combat scenes.
Mass Effect, like most Bioware games, can be as long or as short as you want. While the main quest line of the game is fairly short (our first playthrough was about 12 hours) there are literally hundreds of side quests, optional quests, and things to collect. A hardcore RPG fan will find countless hours of entertainment surveying all the planets in the Mass Effect universe and exploring the 20 or so uncharted planets not directly related to the main quest.
It’s hard to find faults with this stunning gaming experience, but we did find a few minor ones. Occasionally clipping errors momentarily trap the main character against a wall. Crouching and standing repeatedly usually fixes the area. Additionally some of the planets allow for vehicle based exploration - a nice touch, but one that feels rushed to market. The vehicle controls are sloppy and leave us hoping for a patch or downloadable upgrade.
Mass Effect is the first installment in a planned trilogy. Much like Halo, the game reaches the end of it’s arc and then gives a hint of the much larger challenge prior to rolling the credits. The ending leaves the player eager for the sequel and excited to continue this epic story.
Mass Effect deserves all the high praise it has garnered recently. The many years of hard work put in by Bioware has paid off and presented gamers with an engaging and deep experience. Mass Effect balances action-oriented gameplay with RPG story and character building elements. Well worth any gamers $60 and 60 hours.
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