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XBox: Mass Effect

Reviewed by: Clarence Lum

Nov 20 2007
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: BioWare

BioWare has been known for creating innovative western style roleplaying games full of story and life. The followup to Jade Empire results in a massive story deep with intriguing characters in a universe that not only feels alive, but ready to leap out of your television. This paired with decent graphics and hours of well spoken dialog creates for a an incredible 12 to 18 hours of entertainment. All in all a terrific game.

Mass Effects drives the story through a player generated character with options beyond just crafting the look. There are options to customize the characters attitude and back story which affects the dialog being spoken to you as well as the many dialog options you have available, all of which are spoken through the characters. Its truly difficult to imagine the quantity of spoken dialog that lives on the DVD they provide making the universe of Mass Effect truly feel alive. Along with hours of dialog that drives the main story the player has the option of discovering codecs which add to what eventually becomes an encyclopedia of the game universe. Descriptions of every race and culture become unlocked as you progress through the game providing an enormous back story.

Unlike most typical RPGs action in Mass Effect is not turn based. Gameplay is driven by what is stat based over the shoulder third person shooter. This is paired with what the game calls tech and biotic skills replicating the magic users of fantasy based role-playing games. Once the game play begins though you realize that the game is not a genuine third person shooter as bullets do not necessarily go to where the crosshairs are more the crosshairs determine which enemy you may be firing at. Like all RPGs there are plenty of stats to increase which improves characters accuracy, biotic/tech skill, health and weapon damage. Like most modern BioWare games the game can be temporarily paused to change weapons or tell members of your party to use their skills or Biotics.

The universe of Mass Effect exists in a futuristic version of our own Milky Way. The Earth is merely a small planet in a galaxy full of systems in star clusters just waiting to be explored by the player. Each system has a handful of planets which can be scanned for resources or actually landed on for the player to explore. Players traverse foreign planets by an incredibly tough all terrain vehicle called the Mako. Driving the Mako is rather intuitive but breaks most all physics that might exist in our galaxy. Most every surface can be climbed and the vehicle can only be destroyed by enemies. Planets generally have a handful of areas to explore where the player can exit the Mako to run about the planets surface and explore buildings.

A simplified summary of games story is save the galaxy. The game takes place in future where humans have discovered faster than light travel and are exploring the galaxy only to find that it has already been explored. Not only by races they are currently meeting but by races that have long gone extinct. The galaxy already has government of which humans are trying to become a bigger part of. The games main character Sheppard you is sent on a mission to access the possibility of you joining an elite team of soldiers known as specters. As the story progresses you find that another specter named Saren goes rouge and you follow them around the galaxy in hopes of stopping them from destroying unleashing an undefeatable terror across the galaxy. The trip following Saren across the galaxy introduces you to what eventually will be your crew. In the end you will have a member of every class and almost every major race that you will run into in the game. These characters also are full of back story as the game allows you to have a new conversation with them following every major story mission and also adds new missions specific to the characters in your party.

Graphically, the game is on par with most games of this generation. Most characters appear unique with rarely ever the carbon copied bystanders that fills most game worlds. The main characters are very well detailed; most aliens that join your crew are very highly detailed and well animated. Action is reasonably well paced with a good amount of explosions and pretty particle effects when biotics and tech skills are used. Occasionally the game will lose frames during action sequences with many enemies on screen with many biotic and explosion effects but this is rather infrequent. A major complain about Mass Effect is the lengthy load times. Im often surprised that Saren never managed to destroy the galaxy considering how much time Sheppard spends in elevators, but fortunately hes frozen in time while you arent doing game missions.

Though the game has its flaws, its good definitely outweighs the bad and results in a well paced and fun role-playing game. This game can be run through in about 12 hours if you are impatient, in the 20s to 30s if you are a completionist. This game is definitely worth playing through the main story and is probably one of the better games of this year.

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