Yesterday I put out a call for any and all questions you might have about Mass Effect. I didn't expect much of a response, just some random points of clarification and the such. Instead, the comments were flooded with questions and I received quite a few emails as well. I did my best to answer questions on every topic that was asked, so hit the jump for the full (and fairly long) FAQ. They talk about, "Characters" alot, do we have to be a specific character and then get to choose our party members? Or do we get to choose who our main character is?
- You design your first character. Then you meet preset NPCs with tweakable stats along the way.
What do the tech abilities, eg Electronics and Decryption actually do, and are they really that useful.
- They have dual functions, granting you attacks and access to lockers with powerups and stuff. Yeah, they're good. Think knocking down shields, unlocking the ability to take over robots, etc.
If you've completed it, how long is it REALLY? I've heard about 6 hours for the main story and a total of 25 or so if all the sidequests are done.
- I'm at 13 logged hours (but with a few major death streaks, I've probably put in far more. I haven't finished it and I don't see an end in sight. But then again, I've been doing side quests, too.
...about how much does the game make you shoot things?
- A lot.
How is the combat really?
- When you walk into a smaller area with a few enemies, the game excels. You can shoot in real time, pause and cast your teammate abilities, etc. But when you are in a large room with lots of enemies, it can get chaotic...maybe even overwhelming for the mechanics. And freezing the action to cast, zooming with a weapon, assigning NPCs to get out of the way of the freakin' guns already and healing can become a juggling act. There are moments when the combat seems brilliant, but quite a few when I'm left unfulfilled.
Do the on-screen controls/options get annoying during fight sequences? Does it in any way slow down the pacing of the game?
- Sometimes, as it slows down the pace a ton. Battles easily quadruple in length when you are controlling three characters worth of spells/special abilities.
What's the ratio of actual gameplay to dicking around with the cutscenes/dialogue tree part of the game?
- In Mass Effect, the dialog is so good (be it the writing, the interface or the voice acting) that talking really doesn't feel like a chore as it does in other RPGs. I don't know a ratio only because travel is included too, but maybe 1/3 talking 1/3 fighting 1/3 exploring...just off the top of my head.
I would like you to address if it has similarities to the mechanics of deus ex. I enjoyed the skills system, the multiple ways of going through areas, and the consequences for what I do or do not do.
- Wow, it's been a while so the skill tree isn't so clear in my head...but no, it's not like Deus Ex which offers 4 different ways to infiltrate a building through different skill sets.
I know it is a combination of the two, but what would you say Mass Effect is more similar to, KOTOR or Gears of War?
Why is the loading and framerate shitty at times and fine others?
- In terms of frame rates, the game is clearly pushing the limits of the platform. Though, without starting a flame war, I will say that I'd be interested to see the title on a bigger disc and some content loaded to the hard drive. The DVD is spinning nonstop.
Are there any early-game decisions that you look back on and wish you did differently?
- Picking a class with ranged weapons would have been a good idea. Also, in Mass Effect you can pick your character's background story and starting "lot in life," for the lack of a better term. It's information that returns frequently in dialog sequences, and offers a fun aspect of replayability.
Would a core model work or does it require an HDD?
- All I saw on the box is the requirement for 4MB of saving space, and I've heard nothing different. As I said earlier, I kinda wish it made more use of the hard drive...screw you, Arcade owners (sorry).
Is mass effect worth getting a 360 for?
- Seriously, this was asked like 5 times. Has nothing in the 360's library looked interesting at all, and then Mass Effect was announced, and you were like, "OK, maybe I'll buy the console and load up the one game...and then I'll box it back up and put it in my closet for eternity"?
On the whole, is it more FPS than RPG?
- (It's technically a third person shooter). But it's a mix. I actually think combat plays a lot like Bioware's Balder's Gate with a different perspective and some real time shooting. Make sense?
How's the female lead's voice acting?
- It's fantastic. All the voice acting is absolute top notch.
They talked a lot about the fact that you can visit all the planets in the galaxy. How true is this? Are 9 out of 10 of the planets only scanable and useless?
- You can't visit nearly every planet, but there are quests just for scanning the ones you cannot visit, so that takes a bit of the sting away.
Is there a specific way to play this game or can you approach it Oblivion style (where you essentially have multiple threads going at once) without ruining or even breaking the narrative flow?
- Yeah, it's very similar to Oblivion with well-planned side quests, but with space travel, ME certainly feels more mission-centric (which isn't a bad thing).
I'm a big fan of the more old-school Star Trek, where they were more about allegory than action. As a fan, I think Star Trek would make a great platform for allegorical gaming — games that force you to interact with relevant, controversial issues...So, would you say that Mass Effect is the kind of game that uses sci-fi as a platform for allegorical commentary?
- Yeah, any time you put 5 different species of aliens in a room you're gonna explore a lot of the same themes.
OK, that was about all of them. I'm beat. As for my general impressions of the game, it's the most I've been pulled in to an RPG in a long time. From what I've played, it looks like Bioware has managed to create one of the most cinematic games of all time without forcing the player to watch some long CG movie—allowing players to identify with the protagonist in a very refreshing and fulfilling way, even in the midst of trademark/clichÃ© RPG elements.