Reviewed on Xbox One
David Hull / Sun 21st Aug 2016
174 views / 3 bites
OVERVIEW The beginning of Bioware's Sci Fi universe. Released in 2006, Mass Effect was the start of a series that would leave its mark on video gaming history.
On a routine trip on a brand new ship, Commander Shepard is witness to events that foretell the coming of Ancient Machines known only as Reapers. Granted the status of Spectre and control of the Normandy, Shepard must make new alien allies, travel to distant, unexplored planets and save the galaxy before it's too late.
Much like Star Wars and Star Trek before it, Mass Effect follows two themes from those series. First, it creates a grand, galaxy spanning quest, and two it doesn't skim over the interpersonal relationships of the characters involved. Mass Effect is strongest when you're having a chat with Wrex, learning of Tali's life on the Flotilla or engaging with a universe crafted from scratch much like the aforementioned series.Choices make a difference.
Creating your Shepard involves picking a fully voiced gender, hero or tyrant, hardened veteran or crafty technician. Talking with characters can be done to intimidate, to charm or to ignore completely and move along. And critical plot decisions can have severe and series spanning consequences. Everything you do or say pulls you deeper into the experience.
A third person shooter, something of a fetish at the time of its release, Mass Effect is rough, but engaging. Players control Commander Shepard, a member of the Alliance Military. You assign a class to yourself and based on the class you have certain abilities.
A Soldier focuses on weapon mastery whilst a Biotic focuses on telekinetic powers that can throw, lift and disrupt your enemies. Your allies are also at your beck and call with their own set of abilities that can be used at your whim.
The direct combat is a little wonky with harder difficulties being a horrible slog through near immune enemies. Over time you level up, improving upon your abilities and finding new gear that turns the tide. However, the inventory system is complex and convoluted with item management a tedious process.Conversations are held through a series of dialogue options in a wheel. Being nice to people provides Paragon points whilst being a jerk leads to Renegade points. Something of a staple now for Bioware, the system is basic, but easy to use.
GRAPHICS Mass Effect's biggest failing, is also something the can at times cause just as much awe as frustration. The game struggles to handle the quantity of content it's attempting to show. Walking through the Citadel, turning the camera in a firefight, even just observing the background can summon screen tearing, texture popping and heavy frame rate dips. But when you land on an untouched planet, lit bright red by the red dwarf of the system, or seeing the impending doom of a moon's decaying orbit can almost (but not really) forgive these hitches.
Jack Wall and his crew foster the sounds of the synthesiser and memories of the pre-'90s to score what is a challenging feet. Staying clear of its Trek/Wars inspirations, fans of Giorgio Moroder and the like will more likely find something familiar in this soundtrack.
The closer your story comes to its conclusion the more cinematic the music. It's almost a tiny bummer until the credits which are still an absolute highlight of the entire game, perhaps the series.Characters left and right are fully voice acted by a range of the industry's more regular appearances.
Much like Elder Scrolls though you come across the same voice, even talking to yourself at times. However with a wide variety of aliens and their unique vocal ranges, it's much less annoying. An example being the Elcor who speak in a heavy monotone, describing the intent of the words they are about to say.
VERDICT Almost 10 years on from release, Mass Effect is still a great game and holds up well to scrutiny. Perhaps the weakest of the series in terms of gameplay, it definitely makes up for it with a sense of discovery and creating a desire to learn more.