Throughout this writing I will do my best to keep the spoilers to a minimum, and if there are any, they will be minor ones.
I bought my very first Xbox 360 in September 2010. I got the Halo: Reach bundle because I loved the design of the console, and the color. While I was excited for Reach, it wasn't my most anticipated game. I knew sometime down the road, I would have to buy the many games I had missed while not owning the Xbox 360. Those included Forza 3, Alan Wake, Halo 3, Halo: Reach, Lost Odyssey, Mass Effect, and Mass Effect 2. I have nearly all of those now, but Mass effect is the main reason behind my purchase of this console. Around 2 years ago is when I first played it on my computer, and fell in love with it. I never got far because I couldn't stand the frame rate, and sudden force closes all the time. My computer just wasn't good enough to run it perfectly, and a game like Mass Effect deserves to be played in the best way possible. Fast forward to November 2010, and I finally bought Mass Effect 1 and 2 together. I was so happy to finally start it on my own gamertag, and be able to get achievements for it, and get further in the story than I did all those years ago.
The journey in Mass Effect is a massive one (pun intended). You start the game as Commander Shepherd who is already an experienced soldier. You get to choose the first name and gender of your character, in which each has only a single voice actor. What they look like (from size, shape, skin tone etc..). Where they came from, and how you want to train them. What the training means is that there are 6 classes to choose from. There is the Soldier class which is the class I first chose, and the class in which I will base this review on. The Soldier, in a nutshell, is your brute force class. He goes in combat situations with guns blazing, is able to have a very high amount of health, and can become stronger with every type of weapon which includes pistols, assault rifles, shotguns and sniper rifles. Then there is the Engineer. The Engineer is skilled with something called the omni-tool, and has certain powers available that can tamper with any type of technology or non organic enemy, and can't get stronger with certain weapons. They can instantly destroy a shield or blow up an enemy weapon. The Adept class is the final base class, and they have biotic powers similar to telekineses. They can make enemies float in the air, pull them towards you, or stop them in their tracks with stasis, and also cannot get stronger with certain weapons. The final 3 classes are Infiltrator, which is a combination of Soldier and Engineer. Sentinel, which is a combination of Engineer and Adept. And Vanguard, which is a combination of Soldier and Adept. I have only beaten the game once, and that was with the Soldier class, but I have been told the game plays much differently with the other classes, and is still very fun.
Now I will move on to actual gameplay. I won't just be writing about moving here, shooting that, and go to the next planet. Because in RPG's, talking and decision making are part of the gameplay, and they immerse you more into the game. The core gameplay in Mass Effect is that of a third-person action adventure game. The camera is behind you and off centered, you aim with one button, and shoot with another. The mechanics are done extremely well though, and it is very satisfying taking down large amounts of enemies. This game also lets you explore our Milky Way as much as you want, going to any planet you want to at any given time, and not just our solar system of nine planets. Bioware has taken lots of time creating dozens of planets and other solar systems for exploration in this game. The planets are all a bit similar however and they are only different either in color, and terrain. Some planets are very mountainous and harder to traverse with the vehicle in the game. While others are a bit flatter. When you do land on a planet, you are now inside a heavily armored vehicle called the Mako. The Mako has a machine gun, and a cannon mounted on the top of it for any encounters you come across during your explorations. You can however always step out of it to fight on your own, which grants you more experience point to level up you and your squad members. I actually never realized you get less experience defeating enemies with the Mako until late in the story, and was quite annoyed at the game for not telling me, so be warned if your reading this. Now Mass Effect has a feature in it which I believe is called either the dialogue wheel, or conversation wheel. This wheel is absolutely fantastic, and revolutionary. In the many RPG's I've played, your character either talks on their own, or you are given the option to choose from sentences that can often take a long time to read. Well, its similar to that in Mass Effect, but instead, the wheel has six spots on it, each representing something to say, and you move the stick in the direction of the thing you want to say. What makes the wheel so special is that instead of putting an entire sentence on each spot, they only put what the response will be about. For instance, you get asked a question like "Did you find anything valuable on the planet?" One of the options may say yes, then your character says a fully voiced sentence like "We learned new information about where so and so is hiding, and we found a huge weapons cache". I think this wheel is brilliant, its simple yet very efficient. There are many times in the game where what you say will change what happens right after, or later on in the game. Some conversations are very crucial, while some are minor.
Mass Effect has so much more to offer than what I have already told you about, and I could write another 50 paragraphs about it explaining how incredible it is. Here are some things I left out. There are four types of weapons in the game yes, but they get better in power and accuracy as you progress. You can equip different types of ammo to every weapon ranging from incendiary to cryogenic. The same goes for your armor or space suits. They all range in different colors and protection. You can buy and sell every item in the game. There is of course a leveling system in which you get experience points for defeating enemies, completing missions etc...that go towards reaching the next level where you get skill points to put towards your characters abilities. You always have two squad members with you that also level up and earn experience, and there is a total of six members all together. They are all important in the story, and all play a part. You can also choose a romantic partner out of two squad members, depending on your gender. Perhaps one of the most important things about this game is that nearly everything you do, from decisions made from conversations, to leveling up your character, will carry over to Mass Effect 2, making it seem like one giant story and one giant game, rather than two separate ones.
My opinions on Mass Effect are extraordinary. I love this game, and that is what I want to get across. It definitely has its problems, like the frame rate gets pretty low sometimes in the heat of an intense battle. The game constantly has hiccups during the auto saving. Some planets are extremely frustrating to drive on because of all of the mountains. Amongst some other problems it has, but they never were a huge problem to me, definitely not game breaking. The fantastic story, gameplay, and characters overshadow all the problems with Mass Effect. This is an amazing game, even after 3 years on the market. I have just started Mass Effect 2 with my same character, and I am loving it so far. I encourage anyone to buy it if you haven't done so already. For the people who only own a PS3, I honestly do not think the short comic strip thing that comes with Mass Effect 2 does the game any justice. Mass Effect is a game you need to experience in its fullest. I knew long ago Mass Effect 2 would be coming to PS3, but I still got it on my new Xbox because of the first one, and the save import feature. Perhaps when I beat 2 with my Mass Effect character, I will buy it or rent it on PS3 to see the differences.