Mass Effect is well known for its story, but that is really all it is known well for. From touchy combat, pointless side quests, unorganized equipment, short main story, much touted dialog tree that changes nothing and a massive galaxy you cannot fully explore. Bioware has given us an amazing story which will make many of us who’ve played this game a heavy want for a speedy sequel.
You start off making your persona for which you play the whole game as. Choose a background of birth and combat history along with a class. This could be a soldier who can use all guns, an adept who can only use a pistol but has all the ‘magic’, and finally the engineer who has another type of magic and also only uses the pistol. There are classes that are a mix of either or but not as powerful as the stand-alone type. You can then choose male or female and pick hair color and eye color plus choose from a handful of faces. The create-a-character is nothing in comparison to which Oblivion gives you as options for your person but still nice.
Once your man (or woman) is made you can start your journey of a great tale. The backdrop is the alliance which is the human races army is trying to make nice with the council which is the voice of the entire galaxy of species. The humans have found some kind of promethean beacon the likes no one or thing has seen for centuries. In order to seem we care about everyone else we as humans are giving the beacon to the council to study. There is more however in doing so the council is allowing the possibility to have a human as a Specter. A Specter is basically having a ‘do whatever you want and get away with it’ badge and is the strong arm of the council. You just so happen to be nominated for the chance.
As you reach Eden Prime (the location of the beacon) you find an attack is underway and now the mission has changed from easy pick up to battle for answers. Now combat has come into the mix. The basics of left stick to move and right stick to aim apply here and auto aim is heavily used. Just pointing anywhere close to the target will register a hit and with you as always are two squad members who do there own thing but not usually what you want. To use your special abilities such as shield, magic, gun powers, etc one needs to hold down the RB button. Once hit all action is paused so you can ever so slowly pick and choose which ability one would want to select. Once picked and the RB button is released action will start as if nothing happened. The break in combat for moves seems to take away the sense of real battles and one could use it as a way to assure a picture perfect attack.
There are plenty of supplies to pick up and for most kills you get some sort of equipment be it upgrades for you weapon, armor, and even a gun or two all of which you can put on yourself and squad members. What makes it so cumbersome is that each type has its own menu and its own upgrades. It sounds easy enough in writing but with around 15 different menus to work around for just one person and having 6 different beings to equip it gets tiring to say the least. There are plenty of different types of weapons and even equipment that will help with your engineering and adept skills. Upgrades to your weapons can have better aim, less heat absorption, knock down power, and even toxic effects while with armor upgrades there is medical benefits, harder shields, and better defense.
You aren’t placed from level to level so exploration is needed as well. There are many galaxies to be seen but only one planet you can land on each bar a few. All these planets you have the ability to explore are set up as a box and you have the mako to use. The mako is your car of sorts with machinegun and canon at the ready. So needless to say you are expecting some resistance from place to place. Planets can range from frozen tundra’s, deserts, mountains, and moons. They all have things in common like a crashed probe full of items, materials to check for a rather long side quest, and a base to explore. The base can be one of three maps used in the game and has many enemies at the ready. Most of these times they are just part of these side missions the alliance gives you while other times they are part of investigations you heard about while doing the main story, but they all play out the same way.
A bonus game play element in the game is the dialog wheel. It is set up to where you can say something positive, negative, or neutral in any point of the conversations. The outcome to this for the most part is getting Paragon or Reneged points which can lead to you getting an achievement and one extra side mission. As for changing any part of the story it’s a moot point. Out of all the conversations you have through-out your play through your decision making changes one outcome and that’s near the final minuets of the game. There could be another section but there are a few variables involved, be it doing a certain side mission before hand or not leveling up your talking skills. In the end though the dialog tree is an attempt that fell a bit short for the aspect they said it would play.
At the heart of the game not counting Eden Prime there are 6 parts to the story and 3 given to you right after you get your ship (getting the ship is one part as well) that said they are no small matters. Running through the game without side quests takes about 20 some odd hours but only leaves you with wanting more. You meet many different species and have a good chuck of them as crew members but as this new download content shows us there are still more to show their faces. As I’m writing this I have 900 of the 1000 available achievements and am looking forward to tacking on that extra 50 from the new download. Another thing to point out is the variable difficulty settings. On my playthrough on Insanity there would be parts that took forever to beat while in another area it seemed like I was just playing it on casual setting. I'm not sure how the settings where placed but that much of a difference made me scratch my head a few times.
Mass Effect has an amazing story and that is where the line is drawn. That said it only leaves Bioware with an easy time making the sequel that much better. Now under the helm of EA we could very well see a bit more funding and man power to make things right.