April 24, 2012
Who is Commander Shepherd? Is he simply an avatar for players, or is he a distinct character who evolves over the Mass Effect series? Since beginning Mass Effect 3, I began pondering this question. In the most recent game, BioWare and EA made this game more open to new players by introducing a mode where decisions are taken out of the player’s hands, in essence creating a Shepherd with a personality, morals, own thoughts, et cetera. Not only that, but Shepherd has dreams in Mass Effect 3, implying further that he is his own person.
I believe Commander Shepherd is a blank slate. Through the decisions the player makes, he gets filled in. As the three-game story arc progressed, Shepherd grew, maybe. As the player, we can make any of the available decisions we want willy nilly. I assume that most players are role-playing their Shepherd as either a paragon (good) or renegade (bad). However, we can ultimately make nearly any decision we want, whether it fits in line with our Shepherd’s alignment or not. So long as we’re role-playing Shepherd with an eventual goal in mind, he does grow as a character. Otherwise, he’s just a mishmash of what we’re feeling at the moment.
I argue that Commander Shepherd is an avatar for the player so they can build an emotional connection to fully enjoy the depth of the games. The positions Commander Shepherd takes are entirely representative of us. My Shepherd had distinct characteristics that are also found in me. I imagine this is the same for anyone who describes Shepherd as “their” Shepherd. The only reason we would ask ourselves what Shepherd would do in a specific situation is because we have already crafted what Shepherd would do because he is a version of ourselves. Shepherd isn’t a distinct character that has his own viewpoint, his viewpoint is ours.
However, for Shepherd to truly resonate with us and allow us to build an emotional connection, he does have to be a distinct character. He has a back-story and interacts with others more so than a silent protagonist. In reality, he’s akin to the silent protagonist of so many other video games. In a way though, Shepherd is the next step of the silent protagonist. He is a blank slate for players to utilize and choose their own choices thereby creating a character, but he does have a voice (figuratively and literally).
Writing down my thoughts about Commander Shepherd has made me think more about the avatars we play as in video games. There are many ways to get players involved in a video game and there are a lot of variables. Commander Shepherd can’t be pinned down as a silent protagonist or a distinct character because he’s a combination of these two alternatives. Truly though, I’d argue he’s closer to a silent protagonist because the decisions he makes are in the player’s hands and therefore, they’re really the stars of the game.
April 17, 2012
Mass Effect 3, what a game! BioWare and Electronic Arts have closed out the trilogy amid much controversy. The increased amount of related downloadable content and the botched ending have irked many people. Still, the proof is in the pudding and Mass Effect 3 retains the high pedigree associated with the previous two games.
As was the case with Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3 plays more fluidly than its predecessor. Commander Shepherd has a newfound agility that allows him to weave around a battlefield much better than he’s ever been able to. Still there are some annoyances that make Shepherd’s movement feel very rigid. Turning while running was a process I had to become accustomed to and getting into cover was oftentimes finicky. For instance, when I’d run into a wall at an angle, Shepherd wouldn’t get into cover; to get into cover, I’d have to hit it head on. These are a few minor annoyances but overall, Shepherd’s agility is net gain in my book. As far as other elements of the gameplay getting improved, any enhancements were either very subtle or not worth mentioning. The game plays better than ever.
I’ve played as a soldier in each of the Mass Effect games and compared to the other classes, it’s a relatively boring one. Thankfully, the big addition to the series – multiplayer – allowed me to play as the other classes and experience their specialties easily. It’s a much lower barrier of entry then just creating a new character for the single player.
In the multiplayer, teams of four battle through about ten waves of enemies. Most of the time, survival is the only focus although every few waves, teams are tasked with uploading important data, guarding an important terminal, or taking out specific enemies in a timely fashion. I thought the multiplayer was okay, but feeling like I had to do it dragged down my feelings of it.
Mass Effect 3 integrates the multiplayer into the single player and represents the conflicts as actual battles that the good guys are fighting. Each multiplayer arena resides in a galaxy and each galaxy has a readiness rating. Each galaxy begins at 50% and for me, it was necessary to get the average up to about 70% to get the “perfect” ending. And since I was getting it that high, I figured I might as well get the overall number up to 100% to get the achievement for doing so. This was additional time to me because it forced me to halt my single player game and focus on the multiplayer for about ten hours, instead of enjoying it after “the main attraction” concluded.
“The main attraction” in my book is the story and with this I was fulfilled. It was inevitable that the trilogy would end with this, the third game, but as the first few hours of Mass Effect 3 make clear, there was still much work ahead of Shepherd. Constructing a force large enough to deal with the Reapers required Shepherd to put to rest events that have affected the galaxy for hundreds of years. Dealing with the genophage and the Quarian/Geth problem are two of the subplots that stick out largest in my mind.
Still, I can think of other, very memorable moments that may not have had a major impact on the universe as a whole, but affected me greatly. Whether it was losing close allies or making gut decisions on the fly, Mass Effect 3 had some memorable moments. Plus, seeing people I spared in the previous games reappear and discovering how past decisions reverberated was neat too. All the while, these decisions played into Shepherd’s war assets. In combination with the aforementioned readiness levels obtained through multiplayer, the war assets dictated what endings would be available. It’s weird to have every decision I’ve ever made to be distilled into a quick number, but it’s great for comparison to other players!
When everything is said and done, Shepherd once and for all deals with the Reapers. There’s been so much fuss over the ending that forming an opinion is a tough task when there’s so many others floating around on the internet. I had multiple options available to deal with the Reapers, and they were pretty diverse. While I got the “perfect” ending, everything didn’t turn out perfectly. I believe a lot of anger has been directed at the vague resolution of what key characters do after the events of the game, and that’s fair. I also think it’s fair that if players have spent over one hundred hours in this universe, they have enough to go on to form their opinions of what everyone did. Still, recent revelations over the “true ending” downloadable content give me a sourer outlook of the ending.
Overall, I’m pleased as punch with Mass Effect 3. It’s the best playing game in the series and thanks to the multiplayer I have a better understanding of every character class. Leveling up characters in it is pretty fun to boot, as long as I’m not “forced” to do it; most importantly though, I’m pleased with the conclusion of the trilogy. The bevy of events throughout the game was entertaining and I know that if I slightly changed my decisions, they could’ve ended up entirely different. Ultimately though, Commander Shepherd did what he set out to do from day one: deal with the Reapers.
March 21, 2012
From Ashes is the first major piece of downloadable content for Mass Effect 3. It was included in the collector’s editions of the game and is available on each platform’s respective digital store. In it, Commander Shepherd receives word that Cerberus, the pro-human ne’er-do-wells, has unearthed Prothean artifacts on Eden Prime. Whatever they’ve found is said to be important and could aid Shepherd in his quest to defeat the Reapers. What he finds is much more important than simple artifacts though, it’s a living Prothean frozen in time.
Mandatorily joining Shepherd is Liara T’Soni, the resident Prothean expert. With her intellect and Shepherd’s insight into the Protheans (thanks to the visions he received in the first game on non-other than Eden Prime), they’re able to piece together how to release the Prothean from his contraption and keep him alive. As the crew searches the dig site, they discover evidence of Cerberus troops attacking civilians, a puzzling move that reveals ulterior motives for the dastardly group and ties into their work in Mass Effect 3 proper.
When the Prothean is revitalized he joins Shepherd to take the fight to the Reapers personally, after all, Javik is extremely distraught upon learning of the events of the past 50,000 years. Back on the Normandy, Javik answers many questions one might have about the Protheans, such as Liara, but what I got a kick out of the most was hearing other people’s reactions to him. When using him as a squad mate, people would occasionally reference his presence and the conversations that ensued were interesting.
As far as combat goes, I used him quite a bit after he joined up, but he’s fallen by the wayside now that I’ve found my “go to” teammates. He uses biotic powers like slam and pull so he’s still of use to my biotic-less soldier Shepherd. Javik also brings along a new assault rifle, one of Prothean origin. It operates differently from just about every other weapon in that it doesn’t require ammo. It had a meter that depleted when used, but if I used the gun properly and didn’t exhaust its charge, it’d fully recharge. Plus it fired a neon laser beam that melted enemies and that’s pretty cool.
I’d recommend From Ashes. It doesn’t add to Mass Effect 3’s plot in any substantial way but playing through it will provide players a deeper understanding of the Protheans. The ancient civilization was influential in shaping the universe and they’re often mentioned, but details on them have always been a little murky. Beyond gaining a deeper understanding of Mass Effect’s lore, gaining a new squad mate is a great perk and personally I really like the new assault rifle.
February 27, 2012
The final piece of downloadable content for Mass Effect 2, Arrival, leads directly into Mass Effect 3 and explained away some of the confusion I had after playing the demo for the trilogy’s finale.
Admiral Hackett reaches out to Commander Shepherd and asks him to undertake a rescue mission solo. An agent of Hackett’s has been working in Batarian space and has uncovered substantial evidence relating to the arrival of the Reapers. She has been apprehended by the Batarians however and is currently in prison. The Batarians and humans have a frayed relationship and if Hackett sent in a squad, this would cause turmoil; much like the relationship between the USA and Pakistan when a special forces squad took out Osama bin Laden. This relationship is why Hackett is asking Shepherd to go it alone. Hackett explains that it’s better for the operation to be viewed as the act of an individual rescuing a friend, rather than an act by the Alliance itself.
So, Shepherd sneaks into the prison and rescues Dr. Amanda Kenson and the two then battle their way out and back onto the asteroid that houses Dr. Kenson’s base. When they arrive Shepherd is shocked to see what Dr. Kenson has found – a Reaper artifact, and one that’s out in the open. Shepherd is immediately worried that everyone on the base has been indoctrinated as Saren had been in Mass Effect; Dr. Kenson claims that’s not the case and they begin discussing the importance of her find.
What Dr. Kenson has gathered relates to the Reapers arrival through the mass relays. Her crew had developed a plan to crash the asteroid her base resided on into the nearby mass relay, preventing the Reapers from entering the solar system. However, they had a change of plans because they had been indoctrinated. They overtake Shepherd who wakes up days later as his window of opportunity to save the day is shrinking. Shepherd proceeds to blast his way through the indoctrinated Alliance members until he reaches a lacking conclusion.
One of the hallmarks of the Mass Effect games has been the ability to shape Shepherd and the universe around him through key decisions. Arrival finishes in a way that seems (almost) ideal for a chance to make hefty moral decision but whimpers out, in spite of an explosion.
Arrival leads directly into Mass Effect 3 (despite the two year gap between games) and explains away my confusion over the soon to be released finale’s opening. Arrival is heavily combat skewed and not having Shepherd’s crew is pretty lame. It’s probably ideal to play Arrival to fully understand Mass Effect 3, but compared to the three other DLC packs for Mass Effect 2, it’s my least favorite. Plus I’ve explained much of the DLC anyways so go figure.
February 21, 2012
Remember when I was ate up with Mass Effect and I played everything I could, including the DLC for Mass Effect 2 in a few month span? Well, to prepare for the release of Mass Effect 3 I figured it was time to revisit Mass Effect 2 and play through the two remaining pieces of DLC I saved. Luckily for me, I probably left the very best one to begin with.
Lair of the Shadow Broker sees Commander Shepherd receiving valuable information on the whereabouts of the mysterious figure whose influence Shepherd has occasionally felt. He, or perhaps it, is similar to a gang lord that deals in information. He has a supply chain consisting of an innumerable amount of henchmen that is able to span the galaxy and gather information. With this supply chain, he’s able to control information so well that little is known about him; it helps that no one who has seen him has lived to tell the tale.
When Shepherd left Liara T’Soni on Illium in Mass Effect 2, he left her as she continued her search for the shadow broker’s whereabouts. Liara has been tracking the information overlord with a vengeance, believing him to be the cause of a partner’s death. When Shepherd receives the information on the shadow broker, he naturally thinks of Liara. Thinking the information is too good to be obtained by just anyone, Liara believes the source of the info is her previously thought dead partner, giving her even more reason to ally with Shepherd again.
Before leaving the financial capital of the universe, Shepherd and his squad deal with the can of worms that hunting an information magnate opens up. An assassination attempt on Liara keeps her and Shepherd separated, but it’s not long before his squad, and Tela Vasir, an asari Spectre meet back up with Liara in an enemy-filled skyscraper. That Spectre double-crosses them, leading to a chase scene between the towering skyscrapers of Illium. This chase scene was very fun and reminiscent of similar futuristic chase scenes from popular science fiction movies. Liara and Shepherd eventually catch Tela, but not before waging battles against more henchmen and passing through a high-end brothel. Tela was a very strong adversary and I had a hard time with this boss fight – I was playing on the second hardest difficulty level however. Afterwards Shepherd gave the most fantastic line of dialogue (paragon choice) when Tela took a hostage. He subsequently chastised Tela with underwhelming reasoning that, when applied to Shepherd himself, doesn’t hold water.
With Shepherd, his squad, and Liara all together again, their search for the shadow broker begins in earnest and leads them to a planet with extremely harsh weather patterns. The shadow broker resides in an enormous starship that remains hidden in an ongoing storm. Landing on the starship, they have to deal with the shadow broker’s henchmen before gaining access to the interior, at which point they have a few more quick bouts with yet more henchmen before finally meeting the shadow broker.
The shadow broker hails from a pre-spaceflight race of aliens that are ferociously deadly, quick learners, yet they’re unable to cooperate with other races, let alone each other. Hence, the shadow broker represents the first (and possibly only) time players will get to see this race of alien. The ensuing battle was representative of a lot of video game boss fights; figure out the boss’ pattern, exploit the boss’ weaknesses, repeat two more times. Not that that’s bad, I really liked this boss fight; it was balanced much better compared to the battle against Tela, and it gave Shepherd a chance to flex his melee skills.
Lair of the Shadow Broker concludes with a fantastic role reprisal that should have major consequences for the upcoming Mass Effect 3. Thanks to the shadow broker’s diligent record keeping, there is plenty of fun information to sift through on Shepherd’s squad and other important characters in the game after the conclusion. And there is an epilogue of sorts with Liara and Shepherd having a heart-to-heart conversation of their strengths and weaknesses and the lack of clarity relating to what the future has in store for every living being.
Lair of the Shadow Broker was a lengthy addition to Mass Effect 2 with a conclusion whose effects should be felt throughout the remainder of the series. The DLC is well worth the price and should be required playing for anyone with a copy of Mass Effect 2.
February 15, 2012
Of the games announced for release this year, Mass Effect 3 is easily the game I’m most looking forward to. It’s a series I only fairly recently began playing – I completed the first two games in early 2011, but it’s a series I’ve quickly become infatuated with.
After a minute or two of customizing Commander Shepherd, the game proper began. Shepherd watches as a young boy plays with a toy before he is quickly ushered to speak with important political figures. Having not played the final piece of DLC for Mass Effect 2 (Arrival) I was a little confused on why Shepherd wasn’t in the position of power he formerly was. Whatever happened in Arrival, Shepherd stood trial for it and Lieutenant Anderson had a role in defending him. During this meeting, the Reapers land on Earth and begin causing havoc. Shepherd was brought in for a conversation on what to do and there were a few more times during the demo that I had conversations, although my options in these were very limited.
This stage sees Anderson and Shepherd fighting their way through groups of the zombie-like husks in order to reach the Normandy and escape. Anderson’s plan is for Shepherd to return to the Citadel and convince the other alien races that the Reapers are here and the only way anyone is going to survive is to work together. During this scene, Anderson and Shepherd battled husks and scaled destroyed buildings as the enormous Reapers launched attacks. It took about twenty minutes all in all and at the end, Anderson decided to stay on Earth and lend a hand to the fight on Earth. This stage had a strong subtext that the heroes were not going to be able to save everyone and I imagine there’ll be dramatic outcomes to the choices Shepherd makes throughout the game. As Shepherd flies away, he watches the young boy from earlier board a doomed escape vehicle.
The demo had another stage, this one farther into the game. It allowed me to upgrade Shepherd and his party of Garrus and Liara from the ground up, choosing which stats and abilities to upgrade. The gang arrived on the Salarian home planet in order to rescue a female krogan – an important concept for anyone familiar with the series. This stage had many familiar faces including Wrex, back in cahoots with Shepherd, and Mordin, the brilliant Salarian doctor. This stage was totally action-orientated and reintroduced me to Cerberus. Cerberus, for whatever reason, is trying to get to the female krogan, and it seems like they’re going to be a constant pain in Shepherd’s butt. This stage had many more weapons than the previous one and allowed me to use my party’s abilities. It didn’t take long for me to develop powerful combinations and become the Spectre I once was.
Mass Effect 3’s combat was really responsive and fast-paced, and blending my party’s weapons and abilities is still super fun. Even though it’s not an improvement, the information I got from targeting enemies was still super helpful; knowing their health and shield levels was vital to developing combinations of weapons and abilities. It seems like there’s a multitude of ways to spec Shepherd and his group still and I can’t wait to dive into the full game and end the trilogy when it releases March 6, 2012.
March 8, 2011
I jumped into Mass Effect 2 right after completing Mass Effect and its DLC packs. I was late to the party on Mass Effect, but I enjoyed it immensely nonetheless. Mass Effect 2 provides many changes to the formula set up in Mass Effect and many of these changes were to aspects that I enjoyed in Mass Effect. Mass Effect 2 has forsaken much of the role-playing aspects from Mass Effect, for example loot. I enjoy the constant quest for better gear in games, so the removal of this, and other concepts turned me off initially, but in the end, provided for a more efficient adventure. Overall, BioWare has shifted some focus away from the RPG aspects of Mass Effect and made Mass Effect 2 a much better action game and a better game in general.
When I traveled between planets in Mass Effect, I either knew exactly where I wanted to go or I was just exploring. If I was completing a mission I’d make sure I knew the star cluster, the star system and finally which planet, sometimes I’d even keep a pen and paper handy to keep track of everywhere I needed to go. Mass Effect 2 has simplified this process; whenever you enter the galaxy map, icons related to your missions point out where you go until you’re finally at your destination and the actual travel in the galaxy map is handled slightly differently as well, which I prefer over Mass Effect’s.
When completing missions in Mass Effect, I’d land on the planet I needed to be on and first off, check the map, locating the closest object and going for it, whether it is a mineral, some loot, or where I needed to be for the mission. When I’d get planet side in Mass Effect I’d feel compelled to explore it, before tackling the mission. In Mass Effect 2, they’ve taken this sort of exploration out; instead when you land on a planet, you go straight into the mission or colony if it’s a location akin to the Citadel. This creates a more straight forward approach to the missions, and the game in general; it felt significantly more closed off. Personally I enjoyed exploring planets and scavenging for loot in Mass Effect, but I also appreciate the structure that Mass Effect 2 presents, I was able to get exactly where I needed to be without hassle.
Tied into the scaling back of exploration is the removal of loot. Instead of stumbling upon hundreds of weapons and various equipment that are unique primarily because of their stats, Mass Effect 2 has simplified all this by allowing access only to a handful of different weapons. New to Mass Effect 2 is the upgrade system. On the Normandy is a research station where you spend minerals to produce upgrades, either found while on missions or bought from stores. In Mass Effect, minerals were found by mining them planet side, now that landing on planets is removed, minerals are received from scanning planets in the galaxy map, which turned out to be a fun, fairly mindless, way to spend some time.
Mass Effect 2 is much more competent as an action game than Mass Effect was. First off, Mass Effect 2 does a better job of integrating biotic and tech abilities into the combat. In Mass Effect, I don’t remember using my allies’ abilities as much as I do in Mass Effect 2. Whenever I’m in a firefight, I use my squad’s abilities as often as possible. Of interest is the ability to combine effects to create more powerful reactions, in some ways shaping who I decided to take along with me on missions. Instead of having infinite ammo and overheating, weapons must now be reloaded; which didn’t really change the way I played; I never had a problem running out of ammo as enemies dropped it quite frequently and I had plenty of weapons or abilities if needed. As was the case in Mass Effect, the squad Shepard leads in Mass Effect 2 is diverse, both personality-wise and ability-wise, only more so this time around. Every character seems more developed, and more differentiated then the cast of Mass Effect.
While I don’t want to spoil much as it has a phenomenal story, I will say that Mass Effect 2 opens with a bang, surprising myself and everyone else as I recall when it originally came out. The opening paves the way for the story in Mass Effect 2 to come from a different angle then in Mass Effect. The overall objective of the game seems like a suicide mission, but the way I handled it, everything turned out satisfactorily. In Mass Effect, there was an enemy to target and something to qualify as an end, taking out the rogue Spectre, Saren Arterius. Mass Effect 2 doesn’t have that sort of singular enemy threat, leading to a feeling of lack of accomplishment upon reflection. I definitely completed what I set out to do at the onset of Mass Effect 2, but it feels like an insurmountable task, still, to defeat the Reaper threat in Mass Effect 3, which makes me want Mass Effect 3 even more to see how this series is resolved. Regardless Mass Effect 2 was an exceptional adventure and I discuss it often with others who have played through it, it’s a fun game to talk about.
Mass Effect 2 got of rid many of the things I enjoyed about Mass Effect, but I still came away liking Mass Effect 2 more. The game is still an RPG, and it’s still a third-person shooter, BioWare has emphasized the action more in Mass Effect 2 and as a result, it’s a much better action game. While I loved the exploration and the RPG aspects of Mass Effect, I think the simplification of these mechanics made Mass Effect 2 an improved game over its predecessor. I could write another thousand words about Mass Effect 2 but at this point it’s clear: Mass Effect was terrific, and one of my favorite video games, Mass Effect 2 is even better, and I can’t wait to play Mass Effect 3.
February 10, 2011
Pinnacle Station was the second and last piece of downloadable content released for Mass Effect. The other piece of DLC, Bring Down the Sky, plays out like any other mission that Shepard gets. What I mean is that you travel to a location, figure out what’s really going on and decide how to handle the situation. Pinnacle Station on the other hand has no decisions to be made and is primarily action for the entire mission.
Pinnacle Station itself is a spacecraft that houses a robust training simulator. In it, you play through twelve scenarios, divvied up between four types: timed, where you kill every enemy as quickly possible, hunt, where every kill adds time to the clock, capture, where you capture points on a map as quickly as possible, and survival, where you must survive as long as possible. Each scenario has a leaderboard and you need to place first on each. I played through them all about the same; I ran as much as I could and never stopped using the assault rifle, and only one scenario gave me problems playing this way.
Completing everything associated with Pinnacle Station took me a little under two hours. While Pinnacle Station took me longer to complete than Bring Down the Sky, its focus was more narrow, and grew tiring. I think including your friend’s scores to the leaderboards would’ve added something of value to the package, unlike the in-game rewards you receive. There are three achievements totaling 150 Gamerscore so that’s nice, but if you don’t care about achievements and are more interested in the conversation and storytelling aspect of Mass Effect, save yourself five dollars and skip Pinnacle Station.
January 31, 2011
Bring Down the Sky was the first piece of downloadable content for Mass Effect. It opens up a new mission tasking Commander Shepard to prevent a group of Batarian terrorists from crashing an asteroid into a planet. It is a mineral rich asteroid and due to this, a human mining colony has been set up. While taking care of the main task at hand, preventing the terrorists from crashing the asteroid into the planet, I received a few small assignments as well.
For costing a dollar, I’m pleased with the amount of content I got from Bring Down the Sky. It took me a little over an hour to complete all of the assignments related to it and it contained many of the elements that make Mass Effect, Mass Effect. Bring Down the Sky is mostly action-orientated with a few enemy camps; exploration is required for the small assignments, and it all ends with a major decision. I definitely recommend Bring Down the Sky for anyone looking for more out of Mass Effect.
January 24, 2011
Mass Effect is a game developed by BioWare, noted for the work on many previous, and very popular, role-playing games. It’s set in space and follows Commander Shepard as he improves the perception of humans and ultimately attempts to save the universe. I’ve been aware of Mass Effect for a long time now. I’ve been told that I need to play it more than a few times. Starting out I didn’t quite know what to expect. I know it’s a role-playing game of some sort, but I also know it’s a third-person shooter, so how does that work? The dialogue system has been heralded as something truly cool, if not groundbreaking, adding to the replay value and the sense that your Shepard is somewhat different from your friend’s Shepard.
I don’t know where to start with Mass Effect, it’s a culmination of so many things that I enjoy in video games. I felt like I was out there in space, exploring these barely-known planets, mapping the unknown and making discoveries along the way. I communicated with hundreds of humans and aliens and had conversations with them; I wasn’t just reading text pop-ups but poking and prodding them for answers. The conversations usually led to a linear outcome, but I had different options on how to get there; perhaps I could negotiate with two parties that are having a dispute and work it out peacefully, or I could kill one of them and be done with it, saving myself time. I took care of some of the galaxies worst criminals, fighting alongside a squad of unique teammates, both personality-wise and ability-wise. And I did this all while gaining experience and attributing points to skills in an RPG fashion.
There is an open nature to the progression of Mass Effect. I could proceed through the primary story at my own pace while completing the considerable amount of missions. The universe was quite large, made a little bit smaller once I realized I couldn’t land on every planet but baffling anyway. There was maybe too much similarity between the planets however; they’d differ geographically and climate-wise, but usually contain the same sorts of findings. Traversing the more mountainous planets became tiresome as well; I’d have to travel around the impassible parts attempting to find a way to get where I needed to go, which sometimes took a while.
One aspect I particularly enjoyed about Mass Effect was the way it distributed experience. For every enemy killed, I’d get a popup telling me I received so much experience. Whenever I completed a mission or made progress in one, experience; even when I’d resolve something through a conversation, which was usually associated with a mission, experience. I like that BioWare incentivized talking as a means to resolve situations, and rewarded you for it. And like many games currently, you can position your Shepard as being “good” or “bad”.
Mass Effect is a third-person, cover-based shooter, kind of. You have your choice between a few weapons and abilities, and you gun down all sorts of enemies like a similar action game. However, games that include cover usually structure themselves so getting into cover is required to survive, in Mass Effect I rarely used cover and was able to blow through most everyone without difficulty. Unlike the cover, loot played a relatively large role in the game. Practically everywhere there were containers that Shepard could hack into and receive their bounty. The weapons and equipment received, of which there was copious amounts, all differed slightly, just enough to warrant the decision to equip or trash. There were numerous add-ons that boosted stats as well, and the loot aspect added to my interpretation of Mass Effect as an RPG, as I was able to customize and make my Shepard different from someone else’s.
Considering that Mass Effect is now three years old, I think it’s still strong visually. Mass Effect has a film grain camera filter, which can be turned off, but I liked it. It’s not overbearing, but it’s noticeable and it gave the game a unique look, which at first I thought might not mesh with the general concept of sci-fi, but it turns out I was wrong and liked it a lot. I enjoyed the design of most everything in the game. It all looked familiar, but it was its own at the same time. I’m not the biggest Star Wars or Star Trek fan, but it’s apparent that anything following in the vein of those juggernauts will crib something; but I’m not the person to tell you about the similarities between Mass Effect and those universes.
On a technical note, it’s easy to tell that Mass Effect was developed a few years ago. It seemed that every time I got out of a load screen, there was massive texture pop-in. Characters and objects were visible, but their outer layers, the textures, weren’t. This isn’t a massive fault but after each load I waited a few seconds for it to finish, and it did distract, especially once I got into the groove where I’d play for a few hours at a time, and that’s easy to do with Mass Effect.
Mass Effect has pulled me in and grabbed me like no other game in a very long time. Throughout my adventure I’d go on hours-long benders, not noticing the time go by. It always seemed like I had something to do, I was always busy. As soon as I’d complete a quest, I’d have a dozen more in my backlog. I’d explore the bountiful amount of planets, exploring the terrain and finding minerals, random junk, and occasionally an enemy base or another mission. This all kept me busy, and while at first it was a lot to cope with, I soon got my spacelegs and was able to let myself get sucked in.
I spent thirty-odd hours playing as much as I could of Mass Effect. I enjoyed so much about it, the universe, the story, the conversations, the exploration, the RPG aspects and even the combat to a lesser degree. There were minor annoyances like small mechanics not being explained well or random technical issues, but I can ultimately overlook these as Mass Effect brought me many more positive thoughts than negative. It has become one of my favorite games and has made me a fan of the series for a long time to come.