Mass Effect is a Science Fiction RPG developed by Bioware in 2007. What the phrase “mass effect” means, exactly, is unclear. It’s mentioned briefly in the introduction, but then easily forgotten. It may have something to do with the mass relays that allow spacecrafts to jump across vast distances of space in short amounts of time. It may be something different altogether. Well, whatever the phrase means, it is synonymous with “a hell of a good time in outer space”.
The game is set in a highly political galaxy, in which humans have literally no respect among the various alien races. In all fairness humans aren’t the only race at the bottom of the food chain, but being that the character you play as, Commander Shepard, is human, elements of the plot make apparent this fact. Now, humans are not weak by any means, they just don’t have much of a place in the political system.
To be honest, when you first start this game, you might be disappointed. The game immediately throws you into a seemingly generic mission on a planet called Eden Prime. Being that it is called Eden you would think it would be a beautiful planet, but it is ugly, extremely ugly, the worst planet in the game, and not a very good introduction. Don’t let this discourage you, however, the game gets a lot better once you get off that planet. It’s tough not to be discouraged. Many gamers have given up on this game because of how lame the first environment is, but I highly recommend giving it a chance.
Now, that is not to say that everything is perfect about this game once you actually get into the game. It is far from perfect. There are basically five story missions (including Eden Prime) which are all well crafted, and are very fun to play through. The game also offers an open galaxy, which you are free to explore, and you’ll find various side missions along the way.
The side missions are a complete failure in this game. They are generic go-here and kill-this or find-this missions. Further, they actually use the same maps. There are three types of maps, a mine, and two different buildings. So you basically get three maps for these missions, the only difference between the various missions is that the “furniture” is arranged differently. Needless to say the side mission get old fast.
Along with the side missions is the Mako. An all-terrain landing vessel, which takes your shore party down to a planet, and lets you drive around on the planet’s surface. This is worse than the repeated maps. The Mako handles like a rubber raft. It bounces around like crazy, and further, every planet surface is extremely boring and generic. You have to drive up and down hundreds of mountains. There is simply nothing fun about this vehicle. I’m sure it looked good on paper, but it simply doesn’t work.
The next big complaint is the inventory, there is too much of it. You’ll find dozens of new weapons with every map you fight your way through. Most of the items are useless, some of them are good. Luckily you can carry 150 items, so you don’t have to go to a shop owner and sell your loot very often.
I actually bring up the Mako and the inventory, because in Mass Effect 2 both the Mako and the inventory have been removed, and believe me, you’ll know why they made that decision after playing the first game.
Don’t let these things distract you, though. The game is quite fun, especially the story missions. With that said, the story is not going to make a lot of sense, until you really get into the game. The game features a “codex” which explains a lot of background information on the galaxy, but honestly, who’s going to read that? It’s a game, you don’t read in games, you play them. You’ll be fine without reading. Hell, you’ll be fine if you skip most of the dialog. I did. The important parts of the story will come out, and when you finish this game, you’ll be ready for the sequel.
Like most RPGs, your characters start out fairly weak, but as you level up and improve your skills, you’re characters will become very powerful. I played as an infiltrator, and focused on pistol and sniper rifle assaults. The pistol is a surprisingly effective weapon, not the useless sidearm that you might expect it to be.
With a strong party that has some really good biotic and tech abilities (i.e. spells) weapons will be a matter of finishing off enemies that are already out of play. Part of the beauty of the game is that you don’t have to tell your squad members everything that they should do. They will automatically use their abilities to take out the enemy. So combat is not as complex as you might expect. The game was originally released on X-Box 360, and on the PC version combat and aiming feel a little stiff, but it hardly hurts anything. By the end of this game, you will have the satisfaction of having a tough character that can’t be defeated by anything, and that’s the way an RPG should be.
Overall, if you are an RPG fan, like science fiction settings, and a lot of combat in your RPGs, you will like this game. Further, it has a sequel out now, and promises of another sequel. You can import your character from this game into the sequel, and it will have effects on the story. I played this game because I wanted to play Mass Effect 2 and I heard that you should experience this game first. Even if I never play the sequel, I still had a really good time with this one.
Alternatives: Deus Ex.