I tend to prefer RPG’s above other video game genres. That said, I do occasionally enjoy a good FPS. This game took elements from both making it one of the better RPG’s I’ve ever played. After a rather slow start, trying to get used to the menus and equipment, I became quickly immersed.
Commander Shepard is a human serving aboard a prototype ship called the SSV Normandy. He is selected by the council of alien races to be the first human Spectre, a group of highly skilled agents sent on specific missions. His mission is to discover the whereabouts of a rogue Spectre and bring him to justice. What he doesn’t know, however, is that this rogue Spectre has been dealing with powers far beyond his own. These powers may be sufficient to annihilate all life in the galaxy.
The best that can be said about Mass Effect is its story. The story is a space opera, much in the style of Star Wars. This is not surprising considering BioWare’s previous relationship with Lucasarts for the two Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) games, which bear many similarities to Mass Effect. The story carries just the right balance of original material, and stuff we have seen before. The ending is incredible, and the last boss fight is creepy in an awesome way. The story itself doesn’t take much time to complete, but if you try and complete the various side mission this game will carry on for hours. You will probably get bored and continue with the story, though I recommend taking as many side missions as possible for the extra experience.
The gameplay is very enjoyable. Unlike the turn-based system used in KOTOR and many other RPGs, Mass Effect is more like a first-person-shooter when it comes to direct combat, and shows some similarities to games like Gears of War (without all the blood and chainsaws). Combat is not the primary focus of the game, however. You will be spending a lot of time talking to people, going on non-lethal missions, and just having fun exploring.
The game is not without flaws. Much of it is spent in a small space rover running over rough terrain, doing surveys, and collecting items, etc. These can get repetitive over time and are nowhere near as fun as the vehicular levels in games like Halo. The terrain for these missions is incredibly simple when compared to the moments spent on foot. It’s almost as if BioWare ran out of time and had to quickly assemble a bunch of simple terrains at the last minute.
The other biggest flaw is the equipment menu, not to mention every other menu. Learning how to equip a companion can take some doing, and it can be incredibly complicated to figure out how your group should be equipped. There is a lot to consider, such as the characters strengths, what weapon they are proficient in, their species, etc. The options are almost too many. The general layout of the menus also makes it rather difficult to make much sense of what you have and what you don’t. After some time playing the game you’ll get used to it, but it does take patience.
So, Mass Effect does have a number of large issues, but I’d say it still merits a continuation. The story itself, is enough to make the player want more. Assuming BioWare can resolve several of these issues, I foresee a successful franchise in the works.