Video Game - Mass Effect
RPG (developed by Bioware)
IGN named Mass Effect
the best XBox 360 game for the second year in a row last week. The award inspired me to finish the saved game I had lying around for months, signifying my third full-length playthrough.
Here's my breakdown, setrataeso-style.Art Design/Graphics
Science fiction games demand good art design and graphics. You need all the different aliens and planets to be skillfully imagined, then you need them to actually look real on-screen. The current generation of consoles allows for this, as demonstrated by Mass Effect
. The game's universe looks both immersive and original. The art design is fascinating and the graphics look awesome.
Some flaws must be mentioned. After load times, it takes an extra couple of seconds for everything to appear, even during gameplay. This creates short hitches. Also, side-quests all look the same. The planets all have different elements (fire, snow, etc.) but are pretty much the same otherwise.Audio
The music, sound effects and voice acting are top-notch. The game wouldn't be nearly as good without their towering quality. Even random characters you talk to sound real, an unexpected element that turned many of my friends away from being "Renegades". For example, early on someone asks you to save his wife's corpse, and the fact he sounds convincing makes it hard to refuse. Furthermore, the music is quite epic, and makes the big moments feel even bigger.Gameplay
The shooter aspects are, honestly, a mixed bag. Early on, when your weapons suck and your attributes are low, combat is tedious. Assault rifles have zero accuracy but pistols and snipers are weak. Later on these problems are fixed, although one major one remains: Mako combat. The Mako is a tank you drive around pretty much every mission you go on, and fighting with it is a drag. Actually, everything Mako-related is a drag. Thankfully, you're only in the Mako a short while for the major missions, usually toward the beginning.
It's also worth noting the "Go to the gym" effect. Mass Effect
resembles going to the gym in that sometimes doing the side-quests is boring but you're happy you did them afterward because you got an interesting cutscene, you got some items and you raised your stats. Kind of like how lifting weights is boring but you're happy you did them afterward because you feel more fit.Role Playing Elements
Where Mass Effect
excels is in the role playing elements. It's fun doing missions for people. The main missions are fun because you're constantly making choices. Most of them aren't all that pivotal but they're entertaining anyway. Two or three hours in, you start caring about your crew. Not in a freaky, dream about them when you sleep kind of way, but in a "When I play this game, I wanna have some conversations with them" kind of way. You become extraordinarily immersed in its universe, which is extremely rare, even for RPGs.
Especially toward the tail-end of the game, when combat is more fun, the role playing elements combine with the shooter elements to provide sequences of unrivaled adrenaline. For example, the last setting you fight in comes on the heels of a huge-ass plot revelation, which I won't reveal, except that your knowledge of what's going down makes you more giddy than The Joker at an armory. Then, ingeniously, Bioware makes you stop in the middle of all that adrenaline to make the biggest decision of the game; possibly, the series.Story
Finally, the game's biggest selling point. It's masterfully written. The plot is excellent. As mentioned above, once everything comes together at the end, while you won't be left gasping, you'll at least lean back in your chair, utter "Well... Shit!" to yourself, then be really jacked. It's so well written I'd go so far as to call it pivotal to this generation of games because it proves video games are a legitimate art form. They can be very smart, kind of like a good television series (maybe Battlestar Galactica) or they can be super entertaining, like a good blockbuster (maybe Die Hard), but re-write them for either and they lose something. Something like Mass Effect
is only as good as it is because of its current medium.Bottom Line/Replay Value
There are some boring stretches and some technical problems. But, especially once combat gets rolling, Mass Effect
is a masterpiece regardless. I first played it my senior year of high school. I wasn't able to get into any RPG for three years before that. I haven't been able to get into any RPG since. But I got into Mass Effect
, and if I could, I'm sure you can too. Furthermore, it has excellent replay value, allowing for six different fighting specializations and a near-infinite number of choices that affect different parts of the plot, albeit subtly.
Art Design/Graphics: .9/1
Role Playing Elements: 2/2
Replay Value: 2/2Overall: 9.3/10