Game Review - Mass Effect on PC

Written by md5fungi on March 05, 2017 @ 4:17 pm

Mass Effect sets the stage for one of the most fleshed out sci-fi epics ever created in the video game world, in a brand new universe of intriguing history, varied and enigmatic alien races, and intergalactic threats.

The entire story of Mass Effect revolves around YOU: you are Shepherd, a male or female ship commander who bears the first name of your choice and looks how you want her/him to. You determine some details of Shepherd's backstory, and then the decisions you make in the game define who your character becomes.

The story revolves around an ancient synthetic-organic race called the Reapers that aim to destroy humanity by returning to the present day through a Mass Effect (hehe) Relay, with the help of a robotic race of machines called the Geth. Yeah, the basic premise of the story has been done before a hundred times over, but Mass Effect doesn't distract you from its inspirations and pretend that it has a revolutionary story; it actually revels in them, to the extent that your entire adventure on your screen is filtered through a "film grain" effect accompanied by an old-school synth soundtrack.

Many of the various races you'll come across and learn about on your adventure will remind you of other beings from sci-fi/fantasy pop culture, but each of them is given a unique and fresh voice in this universe. They are nearly all likable (except maybe the humans), and I suspect that fans will be divided over which they find the most fascinating. As far as the main characters of the story and your crew, most of them have interesting personalities which will encourage you to engage with them (and possibly romance them). However, there were a handful of characters that I thought were kind of flat and uninteresting, but I get the impression Bioware does this kind of thing than A LOT of game studios.

My previous point about the characters and races in Mass Effect being fascinating is pretty critical to the gameplay of the game itself, because a lot of what you are going to be doing in the game is talking. You will constantly be engaging NPCs in conversation, and whether you're kind-hearted (Paragon) or ruthless (Renegade) will affect the course of the game. Paragon points will allow you to level up a Charm skill, and Renegade points will allow you to level up an Intimidate skill. The things you say and the actions you perform will change how characters feel about you, and can actually have universe-changing or life-or-death impacts. While this doesn't impact the story too much, the outcome of your decisions may affect certain aspects of the second game: yes, you may (and should) import Shepherd from the first game into the second, which will give you certain bonuses and as previously mentioned affect the game. The whole system of lasting consequences creates an immersion I've never quite felt in a video game before.

As for the bulk of the gameplay, you essentially are you going to be going to different planets and cities and shooting things. The FPS gameplay is solid but would be a little uninspiring if it weren't for the character classes and skills. You can play as the typical but somewhat dull run-and-gun class, but you can also play as a support class that can levitate and throw enemies, as well as overloading their shields. You can even play as a character that has the ability to hack robotic enemies and make them attack their own cronies. The classes are fairly distinct and they require different approaches to be successful. I only wish the game gave you more of an idea HOW the individual classes are meant to be played, because while you are figuring it out you'll likely die more than a few times. The skills in Mass Effect are definitely what make most of the gameplay fun, and it's extremely rewarding to chain abilities together and watch as a substantial group of enemies falls to their death.

In addition to the skills, the game has a good number of weapons at different levels that can be upgraded for you and you are squadmates. People that don't care much for RPG-style upgrading may find this a bit tedious (I did), but it definitely adds variety to the gameplay.

The squad-based gameplay makes things more exciting and feel like you're on an actual team, but sometimes your crewmembers aren't always the smartest. Still, being able to let them fight on auto-pilot one minute and then micromanage their decisions the next gives Mass Effect's gameplay a lot of flexibility.

There are a few missions and assignments in the game that revolve around driving the Mako (a moon buggy, essentially) around planets and blowing stuff up. If you like driving games, you will probably find the Mako a lot of fun and its ability to handle bumpy terrain pretty solid. If you're not much of a driving game fan, you may find these portions a little frustrating. Honestly, I don't think omitting the Mako would have detracted a lot from the game, if it were replaced with some exciting on-foot action sequences instead. Still, the Mako gives Mass Effect a sense of exploration that the linear missions don't.

As far as how the game looks and sounds, I'm playing it 9 years later and it's still an awe to look at. The aforementioned film grain and synth soundtrack give the game a sense of timelessness, and detract from the outdated textures. The character models are pretty to look at (especially the armor), and the environments are varied enough to keep things fresh (especially towards the end of the game). The voice acting is fantastic and I haven't played many games that even come close. I'd have to give an edge to the sound over the graphics, though, because the sound is pretty much flawless for what the game was going for.

After I finished Mass Effect, I was pretty blown away from the entire experience, and felt even more rewarded that Commander Shepherd's legacy would live on for the second game. The fact that I pondered over the decisions I had made throughout the game for days afterward is a testament to the immersion of this sci-fi masterpiece.

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Game Information

Platform
PC
Developer(s)
BioWare
Publisher(s)
Microsoft Game Studios
Genre(s)
Action, Adventure, Music/Rhythm, RPG, Shooter
NA Release Date
May 28, 2008
EUR Release Date
June 6, 2008
AUS Release Date
June 5, 2008
ESRB Rating
M
PEGI Rating
18
ACB Rating
MA
MVGL User Score
8.4
Composer
Jack Wall, Sam Hulick, Richard Jacques, David Kates
Official Website
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