The start of a great trilogy
Some of you may have noticed it’s been a while since I’ve last written a review. It’s been high time I jumped into the pen to speak my mind once more. I was at a friend’s not long ago, and felt like buying some video games. We browsed through the shelves of the second-hand games, and there lied the Mass Effect trilogy. I’ve never been a huge fan of RPGs, but Mass Effect stole my heart.
The graphics are some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen on the Xbox 360. Sure, there are games on the system that look better, but for a 2007 game, the graphics hold up as if it’s a new title. I’ve had a friend over at my house who doesn’t know jack about Mass Effect (and unfortunately doesn’t care for it either) and saw me play a mission on it, and he actually thought I was playing Mass Effect 3. That says something about how amazing this game looks. From the detailed animations of the people you encounter -human and alien- to the vivid environments you’ll explore. There are missions in which you will drive a small vehicle on planet summits as well. Even though these summits are often barren wastelands, it’s a joy to explore these summits, because of the depth in the draw distance of the mountains in the far distance. It’s jaw-dropping, and the game gives you a sense of exploration that neither Mass Effect 2 or Mass Effect 3 has been able to give you since. The visuals aren’t perfect though. Even though the facial animations are really nicely done, there are a couple of bugs which causes characters’ faces to sometimes get stuck into a certain crease. It looks awkward. And scary… Then there is the ironic fact; Mass Effect looks TOO good. The old machine that is the Xbox 360 can’t keep up with the action on-screen, which will sometimes cause major lag and/or slowdown. But really, these are the only problems I’ve had with the graphics, and the glitches in the facial animation only occurs rarely, really. Mass Effect is still a great looking game on the Xbox 360.
The soundtrack is epic. ‘Nuff said. No, just kidding. Anyway, the music plays a huge role in the immersion of certain scenes. One of the best tracks of the soundtrack is the uplifting, inspiring orchestral piece. And it plays in most of the more important cutscenes, but not so much that it gets less powerful, or boring. Most of the characters have greatly spoken-in voices. No character sounds the same, so I think that every single character, both important ones and minor characters you meet in side-quests, have independent voice actors. The sound effects are unique, and play a huge part in the intensity that combat sequences provide. You’ll hear constant gunshots, weapons cooling down after several shots have been fired, shields breaking, grenades going off, etc. It’s just a pity that the voices of Shepard himself -both male and female Shepard- are quite stale, compared to the other characters. And it’s a little weird that EVERYONE in the entire galaxy knows how to speak English… Anyway, the sound is great.
Once you pass a couple of missions, and played a few side missions, you will NOT want to put down your controller. This is mostly due to the amount of how you can control what Shepard does and says. You can choose almost every line Shepard will say, which really gives you a feeling that you could ‘be’ Shepard, and weren’t just controlling him. There’s a lot of stuff to be found in the worlds, which are all interesting in a different way, and adds even more meat to the story. The combat, however, could’ve been worked on a little better. The basics work, you press the button to shoot. However, the cover system doesn’t work very well. Anytime you walk against a wall, Shepard presses his/her back against it, and put him/herself into cover. This gets annoying, especially when you accidentally enter cover on the worst place you could imagine. Sprint time is very limited and if you become ‘fatigued’ from sprinting for too long, it takes a very large amount of time for it to be available again. The combat also features a squad command system, but this is a little half finished. You can only send your squad forward, tell them to hold position, and attack your target. That’s it. Half of the time, ordering them to use a power doesn’t work for some reason. But these are still minor blemishes though. Once Shepard gets powerful enough, you can easily rush through battles yourself.
Perhaps the best aspect of Mass Effect, the story is one of the best I’ve seen in any video games. There is a main storyline, but there’s so much more going on. The gist of the main storyline is this: Saren, a Spectre (an elite agent with authority and freedom to do anything) becomes rogue, and recruited an army of evil minions, and attacked a colony who found a invaluable artefact. You set out to stop Saren, but as you progress, you find out there’s a lot more going on than just an agent gone rogue. There’s a lot of side missions that all have their own stories as well, such as breaking up a band of angry biotics (soldiers who can manipulate atoms in the air), shutting down a criminal’s night club, and stop the plans of a race of evil bandits.
There’s so much in Mass Effect. The main storyline is already vast, but then there is all the other stuff you could learn and discover about the world and people around you by going a little deeper in every conversation. To give a small example of how detailed and deep Mass Effect is: humanity has been at war with the aliens at one time over an artefact, eventually a council consisting of representatives of three races intervened, preventing the annihilation of the human race. Later, humanity found a ruin, which jumped humanity’s technology forward 200 years, making humanity a space-faring species. They were granted an embassy on the Citadel by the Council. This is just one of the tons of information that doesn’t have anything to do with the game itself, but is just there give the game, the worlds, and the people in it a little more ‘meat’. This makes everything so ‘plausible’, as if this all could actually be possible… All this unnecessary information makes this game seem so real. It’s amazing. There’s so much to do, and you can customize your character and squad in such unique ways. RPGs don’t get much deeper than Mass Effect.
Now we stepped foot on the dark side of the moon. Because of the unique gameplay which takes a while to get used to, Mass Effect might start out quite challenging, even on Easy. But once you finish a single playthrough, you have the option to reload your character into a new campaign, with all his/her skills and abilities, and money. You can choose to play it on Hard, or Hardcore, or even Insanity, but your character would just annihilate everything in his/her path, since you probably have all your abilities on full once you finish the game twice. To make a long story short, once you get the hang of how to play the game, and once you’ve trained a bit, the game becomes a cakewalk. Even the final boss (which is the toughest boss in the game for once, that doesn’t happen often) will bow down at your feet in your second playthrough. It gets ridiculously easy. There’s also no bad choices in dialogue. Your choices might have repercussions and change the way people look at you, but it doesn’t really affect any ending or outcome.
All in all, Mass Effect is an awesome game. I recommend everyone to give it a try, even to those who are not into RPGs. Such as myself. You have full control over your character, from combat to every line he or she says, the game just looks breathtaking, it has an awesome soundtrack and sound effects, and the vast and engaging storyline will keep you coming back, for MONTHS.
-dialogue options are engaging
-environments are breathtaking and character animations are great
-an immersive soundtrack
-likable characters, all with their own backgrounds
-major slowdown at certain occasions
-you might encounter some bugs here and there