Bioware should be a name familiar to most game players. They are responsible for some of the greatest Role Playing Games of recent years, including the likes of Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights and Knights Of The Old Republic. When a company of that pedigree announces that they are working on a next-gen RPG, then obviously it’s time to take notice and Mass Effect has been garnering interest since it was first announced for the Xbox-360. Now finally computer owners can also get a slice of the action in this epic space adventure.
You play the role of Commander Sheppard, who in typical RPG fashion can be customized to suit your taste. Not only can you alter your characters physical features until you have someone that may even remotely resemble you, but you can also change his/her class from a selection of six on offer and even pick a suitable backstory for your character that will influence how certain non player characters interact with you. Once this is out of the way you can jump straight into the action and have some fun.
In typical Bioware fashion the Mass Effect universe is a fully fleshed out place to explore with copious amounts of information available to you on just about every aspect of it. You can waste hours just reading about all the alien races, technology and history with a codex that is constantly updated as you play. Of course, if reading is not your thing, you can safely ignore all of this and just get on with playing, but if that’s the case I suggest you rather playing something like Gears Of War which will better satisfy your action cravings.
Mass Effect takes place in the year 2183 and for once humanity is not running the show. Instead there is a council of alien races and humans find themselves somewhere on the bottom of the rung with lots to prove. The main plot involves an elite special forces operative gone rogue, an robotic alien race attacking colonies, ancient artifacts and a deadly threat to the entire galaxy. To say any more might spoil the excellent storyline, which is one of the games highlights. The game contains a lot of politics (the interesting kind) and other subject matter not commonly found in games.
Mass Effect is single player only which is a rarity in this day and age, but it doesn’t detract from the experience at all. The game doesn’t pull any punches with it’s storyline so be prepared to make some tough choices with far-reaching consequences. And don’t think it’s a simple matter of choosing between good and evil. Things are rarely as clear cut in this game and sometimes you may have to do bad things for the greater good. Doing a good deed might also result in bad things happening so be very careful with your decisions.
The game awards you with Renegade or Paragon points depending on your actions and these will further influence how your character is treated by others.
Running on the Unreal 3 engine Mass Effect is a stunning looking game with some jaw-dropping visuals in places. The occasional low-resolution texture crops up from time to time, but overall Mass Effect is one of the best looking games in it’s genre. Initially the amount of planets and places seem overwhelming, but in the end, I discovered the game wasn’t half as big as I expected. There is still tons to see and do as well as a host of side quest, but nothing on the scale of past Bioware titles. Considering the amount of detailed poured into each character and location as well as the fact that there are vehicle exploration segments it’s no surprise
Bioware couldn’t make each and every planet you find a playable area. Still what is on offer is outstanding and as the first game in a planned trilogy there’s a lot more to come.
While conversation might be your greatest weapon sooner or later you are going to have to engage in an armed battle. These have been streamlined since their console inception and can at times resemble a scene out of Gears Of War. You can have two party members at your side at all times, but unfortunately these guys aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed. Out of combat, they are much more interesting and each have their own distinct personalities. I never got as attached to any of them as I did to party members in previous Bioware games but they were interesting to have around.
Audio wise Mass Effect does a decent job with some impressive voice-overs and good sound effects. The music isn’t the best I’ve heard coming out of the Bioware stable, but there are some suitably epic tracks in the mix. The changes from console to PC is mostly in the controls and interface departments and it’s good to see some effort was put into this. Inventory management is much less of a chore on computer and everything has been streamlined. The hacking mini-game has been altered for computer, but sadly the driving segments could have benefited from a bit more work. As it is controlling your rover is somewhat of a chore and driving in anything other than a straight line is a frustrating experience due to the twitchy controls.
While Mass Effect might not be the greatest game of all time like a lot of people seem to think it’s still a damn fine title with loads of potential for future instalments. If you enjoyed Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic then Mass Effect is a must have despite it’s minor flaws. Although I have some issues with the draconian copy protection found in the game computer owners are definitely getting the superior version. Best of all the downloadable content that Xbox owners had to shell out extra for is now available for free to PC users. Definitely a game worth checking out.
*Review originally published 2008.
- Supported OS: Microsoft Windows® XP with SP2 or Windows Vista*
- Processor: Intel P4 2.4 Ghz or faster / AMD 2.0 Ghz
- Memory: 1.0 GB RAM or more (2.0 GB for Vista)
- Graphics: DirectX 9.0c compatible, ATI X1300 XT or greater (ATI X1300, X1300 Pro, X1600 Pro, Radeon 2600 HD, and HD 2400 are below minimum system requirements); NVidia GeForce 6800 or greater (7300, 7600 GS, 8500 are below minimum system requirements)
- Hard Drive: 12.0 GB or more free hard drive space
- Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible
- DirectX®: 9.0c
* WINDOWS VISTA OR WINDOWS 7 USERS: Launching “Mass Effect” from Steam requires the setting “Run as Administrator”. If the User Account Control feature of Windows Vista is enabled, launching “Mass Effect” from Steam will result in failure. For users with User Account Control enabled, launch Steam using the “Run as Administrator” option or launch from the windows shortcut.
- INTERNET CONNECTION AND END USER LICENSE AGREEMENT REQUIRED TO PLAY. MORE INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE AT WWW.EA.COM.