Mass Effect Extended Impressions...OK, Review

Masseffectbox.jpgBy the time this article hits, most major review sites will have already dissected Bioware's latest creation, Mass Effect. I have no clue how it will be received—not that the game isn't great, which I'll explore in a moment—but whether or not reviewers will find too many small bugs, from texture pop-ins to the occasional glitch in a side mission/storyline to admit that the game is great.

I don't really know, and I don't really care. The game's constructs—loading times hidden within elevator rides and random worlds to explore that aren't nearly as gorgeous or detailed as the main story arc planets—will be clear to most of our readers and all of the critics. Hopefully the public will see these idiosyncrasies as a natural byproduct of pushing a system to its limits, the sweat on a sprinting athlete or burp after a good meal. Because Mass Effect is a pile of amazing. It's so good that I have the game paused right now and I'm debating whether or not I should keep writing. The trick of Mass Effect is that it's a completely conventional RPG—you still talk to Sam to talk to Sally to talk to Sam again. You still kill baddies or save someone's cat from the tree to gain experience (to thereby be better at killing baddies, but not necessarily saving cats from trees).

But the experience is so well articulated, so to speak, that Mass Effect transcends a simple class categorisation and becomes a statement all its own. More than any game that's come before, I identify with the main character. I feel like my words are the protagonists' words. And that the protagonist's fight is my fight.

The dialog scenes are a subtle revolution and a complete sham...in the best way. Beyond the masterfully cinematic direction and voice acting within these frequent back and forths, there's always a choice in how you'll respond to another character. You can be overly nice, sarcastic or brutally honest. In essence, you may not control the exact words your character speaks, but you will convey their tone. Sometimes this tone will affect a relationship or change a mission. But most of the time, it does nothing to change an immediate outcome.

Here's the kicker: I don't care.

I don't care that the choice is often an illusion because Bioware has come closer to speaking my voice than any game maker before. And I don't care that the idea isn't 100% new because it's executed so cleanly.

Feeling such a connection with the protagonist is an invigorating feeling. It means that I suddenly care about exploring side missions, learning about made up extinct civilization or memorising those classically horrid alien names that sci fi fans have had to suffer their way through since the beginning of time. And those times when the choice finally is real—when I can decide whether or not to eradicate or salvage a colony—I weight the consequences in a more substantial way than just wondering which response will make me more spacebucks. I care about...I kid you not...the fate of the galaxy.

By creating a uniquely close connection to the story's main character, Bioware can develop the story slowly, and make the game as much about exploring the Universe as conquering it. Instead of hyperfocusing on my stats bars maxing out, I've come to value every other element in the game that I normally skip over in an RPG.

Mass Effect has created a superbly interesting and beautiful world for exploration and battle. But more so, with Mass Effect, Bioware has justified a genre. Do I mean RPGs or sci fi? Maybe a little of both.


Comments

    Maybe I'm just getting too old, but I'm tired of the elevator waits. Yes it is pushing a system to its 'max', because MS limits developers use of the HDD so they can't cache much.

    I hope one day this game comes out on PC, so I can play it as it was meant to be played.

    The elevators I don't find too aggravating. Except for the one in the Normandy that is, its one bloody floor, why does it take so long? I could just jump down ;_;

    The stress it puts on the 360 aside, the game is absolutely outstanding. I fully understand what Mark is on about. The game just captures your mind in such an awesome way that you forget about fiddly stuff like character stats - which people usually always put severe emphasis on when playing RPGs.
    The story, the presentation of the story (not necessarily graphics/script) are superb and *then* there's the outstanding script/graphics/sound/music etc
    And to back up the awesomeness of everything is outstanding gameplay.

    The minor tech issues aside, this is a great game that every 360 owner should own :)

    I've been hearing a lot of complaints about the elevators, and other load times, but I quite like it. Elevators in Mass Effect are a good moment to take a breath, change your underwear, or adjust yourself from being on the edge of your seat the whole time you're playing.

    Also I've found that while there are few situations where your choice in dialogue really affect the world around you, the times they do, they really have powerful consequences. Take the confrontation with Wrex over the possible Genophage cure as an example. That scene just blew me away...

    It really is such a good game. I'm a big Bioware fan and my fingers were crossed for them to come back with another great experience.
    For me, it's really hard to stop playing. When first presented with the inventory system and the fact I have to kit out my team as well as my own character, I was annoyed at the thought of more piddly micro-management, but it's all so efficient and well-put-together I'm spending more time than I have to checking my squad's gear.
    The galaxy map and travel is also really well done. It's obvious they've used their experience and feedback to remove a lot of the annoyances and hard work from RPGs.
    However, I do agree. The Normandy elevator is a little frustrating. Small price to pay, though.

    I agree, it is beautiful game

    i am hoping we can customize mako more (upgrade), i felt like battle on foot more get me in into it.

    man i hate the terrain when u try to explore....

    overall it is good game (the main plot nicely describe), maybe it just based foundation for up coming game...

    wtb more armor for Quarians race i can only find 1 upgrade so far ... (maybe it just i only done few side quest i guess)

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