One of the most anticipated games of the year with many calling it the Game of the Year, BioWare’s Mass Effect has finally arrived with a bang but how does it fare? Well I will tell you this right off the bat, it’s no Game of the Year. Mass Effect has been billed as the pinnacle of story driven, sci-fi action video games. Most reviewers have been tripping over themselves exclaiming how wonderful the game is even with its obvious flaws. Seems a bit contrarian to me, but what do I know. Ultimately Mass Effect isn’t a terrible game, but it’s not the game it’s being touted as either. You’ll want to lower your expectations if you want to enjoy the game.
To put it bluntly, Mass Effect isn’t a revolutionary RPG. The story follows “X” Shepard, you choose the first name, gender, skills, and personality as you gallivant around the galaxy attempting to find and stop a rogue Spectre, think Secret Police, named Saren from destroying everything. How you stop Saren? By shooting stuff. Yes, I said by shooting stuff. But wait, you must be thinking, isn’t this an RPG? Why yes it is, but there’s still a lot of 3rd person shooting going on here. Mass Effect focuses around the realtime combat system, with a few side quests thrown in for good measure. This is probably the most action oriented RPG you will ever play.
Be prepared to use your brain in this game, and unfortunately it’s not something you should be doing. You’re going to have to figure out the game controls on your own here, BioWare has left you hanging in the wind. From the menu system, the combat and the atrocious Mako driving levels, you’ve got to figure out how to do it for yourself. There are no tutorials and no explanations. It’s a bit disappointing considering how poorly some of the controls handle, yes I’m looking at you Mako. It’s got to be one of the most poorly handled vehicles I’ve ever had to control in a game.
Graphically, Mass Effect is gorgeous… once you get past the frame rate issues and numerous bugs. I’ve found way too many skips in action because of frame rate issues and all to often it would take a couple seconds for the graphics to catch up to the dialogue scenes. Once you can get past all of that then you’ll see the beauty and effort that BioWare put into the game.
Speaking of the dialogue, Mass Effect was being highly touted as having the most advanced conversation controls ever produced. While the analog stick controlled response system is intuitive when handling the dialogue trees, you’re not getting the different results that were being exclaimed when you interrupt people or choose to be rude. You can choose rude responses almost all the time and the conversation won’t play any differently than if you’d been helpful and understanding. All in all I was expecting something new and revolutionary, what I experienced was anything but.
The one bright spot is the story. It’s engaging and actually makes you want to finish the game to see how it develops. BioWare really got it right when developing each character. You actually care about them and it in turn makes the story feel more meaningful and epic. It’s a character driven space opera with a hint of political commentary thrown in for good measure. You can tell that they really cared about the story and the direction it was going in, it’s just a shame they couldn’t put the same level of detail into the rest of the game.
While the story may be engaging and the graphics look really good, overall I found myself quite bored often times and that’s not a good thing. Parts of it moved so slow that I would literally find myself wishing it was over. Many are claiming this to be Game of the Year, but I wouldn’t even put it in the running. I was sorely disappointed in this considering all the rave reviews. I’d say rent it.