Game: "Mass Effect"
Published by: Electronic Arts
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Review: If thereís one thing Bioware does well, itís RPGs. Itís all they do, so thank goodness theyíre good at it. Their most recent game, Mass Effect, is a blend of the action-oriented combat of Jade Empire with the futuristic setting and squad-based combat of Knights of the Old Republic.
Mass Effect is so named for the technology that allows humans to manipulate the mass of an object, thus allowing them to travel at Faster-Than-Light speeds, make guns with unlimited ammo, and manifest psychic powers. That first bit has led them into contact with over half a dozen alien races, and many of them are unsure of what to make of humanityís sudden grasp of space travel. Thatís where you come in: as Commander Shepard, you have just been appointed the first human Spectre, a sort of intergalactic secret agent. Itís up to you whether to prove that humanity is capable of meeting their expectations, or to just tell those snobby aliens where they can stick it.
The story is far more complex than that, and itís really the best part of the game. Your quest to track down a rogue Spectre will take you all across the galaxy, and each world offers you a new experience with unique characters that seem completely human. Even the aliens.
Youíll gather together a total of six different party members, each one fulfilling a different role in combat. Each one, too, has a specific disposition, and may be less inclined to buddy up with you depending on your attitude. Unlike KOTOR, however, these interactions are less abstract in terms of gaining/losing influence, and moreover, getting in tight with a crew member will unlock a side quest and give you some experience. Itís a smaller reward than what you would receive in KOTOR, but at the same time, itís a welcome change so that you donít feel obligated to chum up with any crew members you donít like just because you want a stat boost that only they can give you.
And while weíre on the subject, the morality system has been retooled from Biowareís original system. Gone is KOTORís system of being either a saintly, Ghandi-like figure, or an over-the-top, cartoonish villain. Mass Effectís system is less like Good vs. Evil and more like Hero vs. Anti-Hero. Are you the altruistic heroic type, or a ruthless soldier who will stop at nothing to get the job done?
The game also puts less emphasis on having to act out a single role in order to gain access to special powers, too. Sure, maybe youíve been playing the role of an angry renegade, but maybe you donít want to boost your renegade rating by saying something vaguely racist. You can go with the good guy response, as making a decision of the opposite alignment no longer drains your accumulated points in one direction, or you can go with a sort of neutral response, just to push things along. Being neutral isnít going to make it easier to use either your Charm or Intimidate skill, but sometimes you just need an easy out in a conversation.
The PC version also boasts improvements to the squad mechanics as well as to the Mako, your heavily-armed all-terrain vehicle. Itís not all sunshine and gumdrops, however. The PC version boasts a couple bugs, including one big technical problem Iíll get into later. One of the biggest problems is a bug that occurs when your weapons overheat: Instead of ammunition, all the guns in the game generate heat when fired and when they overheat, you arenít able to fire them again until they completely cool down. Sometimes, though, instead of cooling down, a weapon will stay overheated forever, until you save and reload the game. At the very least, itís taught me to be very careful about my heat, lest I have to close out the battle by pistol-whipping everyone around me.
The other big hangup with the PC version is a technical issue stemming from my three least favorite letters of the alphabet: DRM. When the game first came out, Bioware thought it would be a schnazzy idea if the game checked online every 10 days to make sure it was still registered. Better still, they thought consumers would love only being able to install the game 3 times before needing to call tech support and ask that they be allowed to play their game again. How could something like that possibly backfire? Well it turns out that people arenít real crazy about being treat like criminals, so Bioware is working on a compromise that meets the demands of their customers while simultaneously allowing them to keep the shills at SecuROM in business.
Other than that, though, Mass Effect is a great game. The side quests can be a bit tedious gameplay-wise, but thatís about it. If Bioware can take care of those in time for Mass Effect 2, theyíll have another hit on their hands. Hopefully enough of one that theyíll put a moratorium on including intrusive copyright protection software on their games.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
The writing is really fantastic. But the thing is, at the end of the day, it's still a game. The most important part of a game is the gameplay.
It'd be expected of us now to get into some sort of debate about this view, much akin to Shepard and Garrus talking about what they think counts as "right", but it wouldn't be very funny
I'm not saying that the gameplay in Mass Effect is bad, far from it, just having a go at some of the issues that almost stop it from being enjoyable.
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