There has been plenty of talk about Mass Effect and the Mass Effect trilogy over the years, and when I finally got my chance to experience this game first-hand, it was a blast. While late to the game and not playing it until 2013 it was still a refreshing experience throughout my time spent with it. This is the game that started it all for the franchise and while there are flaws, overall it was executed fairly well. Yes it’s not a perfect game, but it will hold a special place in my heart for all the hours that I sunk into the multiple playthroughs.
Developed by Bioware, Mass Effect is a phenomenal achievement in the RPG genre and they’ve created an enormous tale of depth in the sci-fi world. The story takes place in the year 2183 and you play as Commander Shepard of the SSV Normandy in a quest across the galaxy that’s in turmoil and needs your help. You are given the task of finding and taking down a rogue Spectre named Saren. On your journey you will find out what happened to the Protheans, an ancient alien race who are thought to have built the mass relays and the Citadel. You also recruit new and have different crew members, 6 in total, that all have different abilities to take along with you on your missions. A small addition that has been added to the main story line is a romance subplot, which allows you to try your charm out on a lady (or gentleman) of your choice human or alien.
The narrative is where Mass Effect shines in all its glory. It’s a powerful narrative that leads to some tense moments with a vast universe that is politically charged, almost mirroring today’s society and what’s going on. It is a very well done narrative that will give you plenty of history to put things and events together. With the codex system that is laid in place it gives you the chance to expand your knowledge on the universe and understand the many species and races in the vast world created in front of you and directly in-game. Bioware has also given you the opportunity to take the story in a way you want and be directly involved based on the conversation choices you make. Good or bad it will affect what happens in the game, making you think a little before you make your final decision as it can have a lasting impact on the outcome of certain events.
With a lengthy main story that might seem satisfying, that isn’t all of what Mass Effect has to offer. There are plenty of side quests that you have the option of playing to expand on the game. Most of these taking place on other planets that are uncharted and still offer the quality that are given in the main quests.
The roots of this game are that of an RPG, but it’s more of a shooter based game with RPG elements thrown into the mix. The controls and combat can take a little getting used to at first and figuring out what weapons/powers you want to improve. The ground combat can be alot of fun. It might seem a little difficult at first, but eventually you get the hang of things. Although if you apply the thinking that this is like a first or third person shooter, you will end up dying quite a bit since you’re going to be more methodical with your approach As with most RPGs, you are meant to take a breather, observe your surroundings and from there figure out your tactic on what you want/need to do. Taking cover behind objects can be quite helpful, especially on the harder difficulties. Once you get the hang of these tactics you’ll find the combat rather enjoyable.
When it comes to driving and using the Mako, it can be a little frustrating. Between the rocky planetary terrain and the combat controls of the Mako it can get annoying. In a sense it’s like a rover that has a turret and a canon that you can shoot every few seconds. The turret however can’t be moved up and down, but just left to right, which at times becomes a hassle if you aren’t lined up right with your enemies. The Mako sections were probably my least favorite part of the game, and while not impossible to control, it could have been a little better in terms of driving.
Overall the graphics in this game are very good for its age and look nice in its HD goodness. Even after the many playthroughs I had with this game, it wasn’t until the end that I finally realized that there is an option to remove the “film grain” that can be applied to the picture. Once I removed the film grain the picture was far more clear than before and it was as if I was playing a completely new game. Mass Effect looks wonderful and is plenty detailed including the many characters throughout the game. The character animations are some of the best and while the dialogue is delivered their lips move believably with the dialogue. There are some drawbacks to the graphics though, the frame rate in the game can be rather erratic and happens quite often. The game also has a hard time loading new environments and you are left with flat, boring textures until it catches up and fully loads the backgrounds. This also happens in cutscenes as well, which can’t be skipped and is quite annoying when you’re on multiple playthroughs and just wanting to speedup the gameplay.
The dialogue and voice acting in this is also top-notch, especially for an RPG of it’s time. There is an also a couple notable voice actors that lend their talent to this including Fred Tatasciore and Seth Green who do a wonderful job at bringing the characters of Mass Effect to life. There are multiple different ways you can answer dialogue options with different tones of either Paragon (good) or Renegade (mean). Even on replays of this and picking different dialogue options can lead to a slightly different experience for the player. This is probably the biggest reason as to why Mass Effect is so engrossing. The soundtrack throughout the game is also very nice with a well done composed score made just for the game. The music knows just when to kick in to add to the more epic or tense moments to the game and add to your immersion that much more.
With all said and done, Mass Effect is a wonderful game with it’s brilliant moments that bring it up, but it does have its blunders that keep it from being a perfect experience. Although if you’re looking for an RPG that you can sink plenty of hours into multiple playthrough with a sci-fi twist then you should have tons of fun with this.
- Great story with intense and engaging moments
- Plenty of variety in terms of dialogue
- Beautiful scenery on the planets with nice variety
- Handling of the Mako is atrocious
- Texture pop in and frame rate hiccups occasionally