Ever fancied of landing on distant, barren and deadly planets? Ever fancied of saving the galaxy single-handedly? Ever fancied of having an inter-galactic travelling space ship of your own? Ever fancied of having sex with aliens? Or, even better, ever fancied of playing a game with fantastic story, setting, graphics and production values? Then, Mass effect is certainly for you. And even if you didn’t fancy about any of these (and you call yourself a gamer? Shame on you), this game is absolutely worth a try.
Bioware, one of the best RPG creators in the market, bring another absolutely immersive and fun game which takes you places few other games ever took.
It starts with a small routine assignment, to save a marine team under attack on a human colony called Eden prime. Although, another big assignment is attached to it, to find an ancient Prothean beacon, which is recently unearthed. You are an exceptional soldier on human battleship SSV Normandy, who is the first human to ever be considered to become a Spectre. Spectres are special agents appointed, and controlled only, by The Citadel Council. They send another spectre, Nihlus (a turian), to assist in mission and to judge if Shepard (our character) is eligible enough to become a spectre. Eden prime is under attack from a hostile alien life form called Geth. Shepard and Nihlus take different pathways to reach the beacon. But Nihlus us killed by another turian spectre- Saren Arterius (the best spectre in whole galaxy). When Shepard finally reaches the beacon, it gets activated and Shepard gets visions of biological creatures being slaughtered by machines. Why did Saren kill Nihlus? What was the meaning of those visions? Will the council believe that their best spectre has killed another spectre? These are the questions which start the game, which soon turns into an epic story dealing with saving the galaxy, tricks of dirty politics and status of humans in the galaxy.
Greatness is recognizable from the first glimpse, and Mass effect gives such a glimpse right from the start. Right when it takes you to its extensive character creation menu, it amazes you with the detail of faces. But that is not the best part of the character creation system of this game. What is truly mesmerizing is that, even though you can create thousand different types of characters (male or female), when the game begins, it just feels as if the character was the only one around whom the game was designed, it feels so right. The lip-sync, the reactions of other characters, the animation, the expressions and even the movement in cut-scenes and in-game is superb. It is truly genius of Bioware that they were able to give such exhaustive character creation and even then did fit it in perfectly in game.
The graphics are nice. They are not the best out there (that crown is awarded to Crysis for next two years at least), but they are perfect for the setting and there will be times when you will be taking screenshots for your desktop wallpapers. Although, on highest settings, this game does require a bit of horsepower to run and still, there will be times when you will encounter hiccups because of streaming. But it runs fairly smooth most of the times. What actually takes the cake here is the art rather than graphics. The galactic world was never so convincing in a game. From the huge Citadel, which is the headquarter of whole galaxy, to distant barren planets on which you will land, each having different environment and terrain.
The game is one of the most cinematic games ever. It especially feels when you are talking in game. A good credit goes to the convincing animation system. There is an option of adding film grain effect in graphics. This is to add a 90s movie feel to the game, to make it more cinematic. Whether you like it or not totally depends on your tastes. I didn't like it and turned it off.
The story is one of the real good ones ever told in any game. With a plethora of different alien races and with recurring themes of their relations with each other and politics, it makes one real convincing galaxy (which is our own Milky Way by the way). Yes, there is a cliffhanger ending, but one can see it coming miles away because Bioware already stated that this is going to be a trilogy. What could have been easily lost in a game, but is not the case here, is the epic feel which should be present in game dealing with whole universe. It's a galaxy we are talking about here, and it rightly feels so in the game. No stone is unturned in giving it the scope and pouring every little detail in the world.
The voice-acting is A-grade. Even the less important charcters and NPCs have been given class treatment as far as voice acting is considered. The music suits the setting perfectly.
Gameplay, arguably the most important part of any game, is another high point. Its a RPG, and one would expect a lot of talking and decision making. It dosent disappoint, not the least. Plenty will be adrenaline pumping action, and so will be emotional decision making. After the excellent The Witcher, here is another game where your decisions really shape the game. There will be some really emotional times, when you just wont know what to decide cause each option will be as hard or correct to make.
The chatting system is improves on previous games. Rather than showing whole sentence, only the intention comes written. Decide on that, and your character will say what you intended. For example, you want to ask someone why did he kill someone. Screen will just show 'Why' for you to choose, but upon choosing, Shepard will ask him- "So, why did you kill him?" This system works like charm and is not annoying as previous games where you had to choose whole sentence. Even the chatting system is used as a innovative gameplay tool at some places. The best example is the time when you become commander of your ship. You give your first speech to the crew, by selecting what you want to say. As you keep choosing correct options, Shepard gives an adrenaline pumping speech while the camera keeps moving, showing entire ship and its crew, their emotions and courage boosting as you speak.
Technically, the game is quite solid. Apart from little bugs, like famous overheating bug, it never gave any major trouble. It didn't crash even once in the whole time I played it. AI is a general affair, not the best but not bad either. Collision detection works fine most of the times. The biggest technical blunder people are talking about is about surround sound, with many people claiming that it dosent work on any other card than X-fi. For me, if worlked perfectly on my Live! 5.1. The only problem I was having was that it kept using my software audio (SigmaTel) rather than Sound blaster, even when Sound blaster was set as default device. I just disabled SigmaTel from device manager and then everything worked fine.
Since the game is port of a console game, it is expected as every PC gamer will have doubts on how it works on PC, especially controls. I am happy to report if feels like Mass effect has come to its rightful home on PC. With the added precision of mouse and much more easily accessible charcter, squad and inventory pages, this actually is a better version if controls are concern.
I will end the review with same line I started it with. Ever fancied of landing on distant, barren and deadly planets? Ever fancied of saving the galaxy single-handedly? Ever fancied of having an inter-galactic traveling space ship of your own? Ever fancied of having sex with aliens? Or, even better, ever fancied of playing a game with fantastic story, setting, graphics and production values? Then, Mass effect is certainly for you. And even if you didn’t fancy about any of these (and you call yourself a gamer? Shame on you), this game is absolutely worth a try.