New, Used, Abused: Mass Effect

Mass Effect, release by Bioware in 2007 for the 360, 2008 for the PC, is a third person RPG in a space age setting, which follows the adventures of Captain (Player Name Here) Shepard, a member of the human marine core, as (he/she) tries to stop an alien called Nihlus, whom rather oddly wants to destroy the entire human race.

The start of the game is relatively straight forward, you customise what Shepard looks like, gender, pre-service history (which manifests in different quests later in the game) and combat classes. There’s the standard soldier class, which can be proficient in all the weapons, a tech class which specialises on disabling weapons and shields, and a ‘biotic’/’force powers’ class. There’s 3 other classes that are mixes of the 3 classes, e.g. Biotics that can be proficient at the shotgun, techs that can use the sniper rifle, biotic/tech hybrid.

Biotics can use abilities such biotic push, biotic lift, and a number of other things that have been surgically grafted on from the Star Wars universe. Not to say it’s implemented badly, my first character was a biotic and it was incredibly fun and satisfying to use, feeling more natural than in the Star Wars games I’ve played, but it kind of irks me that they didn’t come up with an original concept.

One of the main focuses of this game is dialogue and the choices therein. There’s even 2 separate skills for ‘paragon’ and ‘renegade’ dialogue options. It’s the standard RPG character interaction dialogue tree, where the NPC talks for a while and you get a couple of replies, some that are unlocked by the respective dialogue skills.

Leveling up is pretty much standard, you get a fair amount of XP for killing enemies, depending on the enemies and your level, get a large amount for completing quests, you gain about 10 XP for just looking at stuff a lot of the time, and you get XP from dialogue choices sometimes as well. When you level up you get a bunch of skill points that you can put into specific skills, such as weapon proficiency, biotic/tech abilities, and other miscellaneous character improvements. You can also gain paragon or renegade points for dialogue choices and other actions, but these don’t really effect your character at all, going into a little bar on the character screen which is never used for anything. Kind of disappointing that NPCs didn’t know that I was a saviour or Lucifer incarnate when I talked to them really, giving the standard “I’ve heard a lot about you commander” response to my presence, and then refusing to comment about the entire colony of insane humans I killed/saved etc. This may seem finicky but with the depth of the dialogue system considered I sure it could have been done.

Anyway, once you’ve finished the first bit of the game you get a spaceship and can travel to any one of about 300 planets, though most of them you don’t get to play on and are just given a “resource found” message or a small text box which explains about the planet in question. This makes it an ENORMOUS game, with a lot to explore, but mostly these are just side quest opportunities, and kind of makes me wonder what justification I can give to my character, who swore to hunt down bad guy#1, that he/she’s off gallivanting around the universe, finding power modules and searching colonies of space monkeys (I wish I was kidding about that last bit). I’m not saying these bits aren’t fun, but some justification would be nice now and then.

Text is a BIG part of the game too. Practically everything you do is added to your encyclopedia.. thing, and it ends up with an insane amount of information, though reading it isn’t actually required. It’s all background information about the mass effect universe, species, technology, etc. A good idea in theory, but who in their right mind is going to actually read THAT MUCH background information?

This post is getting far too long, but there’s a good reason for that, it’s an ENORMOUS game. I haven’t even talked about the vehicle sections and the companions. It’s a decent enough game and certainly worth the price if you like RPGs or even if you like sci-fi and want to get into RPGs, but it can and will be irritating at times, like the 2 connected dialogue scenes, in between a long elevator ride, and then a hard fight that you may not win, returning you to 5 mins ago (oddly specific eh?).


2 Responses to “New, Used, Abused: Mass Effect”

  1. SnipeHunter Says:

    “but who in their right mind is going to actually read THAT MUCH background information?”

    Hmm i guess I’m not in my right mind then

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