I recently had the absolute pleasure to play the game Mass Effect as recommended by my awesome friend Jake, who’s a big fan.
I approached Mass Effect with some trepidation as I’m not a big shooter fan, but after sitting down and allowing the universe to occlude around me, I was easily suckered in by intrigue as to what the plot had in store for me.
At first I was a little dismissive as the story had a few well-worn sci-fi tropes on display but once I was settled in I was letting the universe come to life around me and I was pleased to find a deep, well-executed universe with a lot of history that as I played through the game got chipped away at. The addition of a Codex of game trivia is nice, though I found it’s reams of text a little inaccessible.
Gameplay wise, it played in a very similar manner to first-person RPGs like Deus Ex and BioShock which I really enjoyed. I elected to play with the combat turned to casual as I’m not really a big FPS fan; this made the action sequences exciting but not overwhelming. I also really liked the character screen and the way one’s character could be shaped over the course of a game.
A big part of Mass Effect is how decisions you can make seem incidental but can have profound ramifications. You can elect to play the game as either a courageous and conscientious “paragon” or as a devilish “renegade” player with no scruples about getting the mission done their way. These actions allow different dialog options to be used to achieve objectives and ultimately affect the storyline in a really impressive way. Instead of being led along the sole track the developers intend the story to guide you, the player’s actions actively mould the story in interesting and unexpected ways, and I really approved of this. The non-linear path of progression throughout the “story” levels aided also in the atmosphere of being left alone to solve the game’s central crisis in one’s own way, while still finding time to perform side-quests that added to the backstory of the universe and made the game universe seem bigger and better thought out. A lot of imagination definitely went into this game to provide a rich and varied set of environs and characters and it shows.
The non-player characters were all refreshingly deep and well-rounded as individuals with personality; although I did miss both my chances of galactic carnality due to a pesky nuclear warhead and, er, a “really bad headache”.
The sound design of the game was excellent; the soundtrack was an effective companion to the situations I the player found myself in. Graphic design was also excellent, and the game still looks great for its age; a powerful config tool made optimising it for my system’s capabilities (ultra-high everything!) dead easy.
Overall, I really enjoyed Mass Effect and now I can’t wait to get started on Mass Effect 2!
Related reading: Mass Effect: The Best Franchise for Narrative RPG | Giants Domain