Check out my review for Mass Effect and find out whether it's the best game ever or the greatest game ever! Yep... I'm that nerdy.
This review has been along time coming. I know that it's super nerdy, but I have come to accept that is who I am and you should too. If you know me or have asked me about video games, Mass Effect always comes up. I am pretty passionate about it. About as passionate as Richard Dreyfuss in 'What About Bob.' When Mass Effect came out I had already been following its progress and development for a while, but nothing could have prepared me for how amazing this game was. So now I will explain why...
As usual I like to start with the strongest element of what I am reviewing. If we were reviewing Sarah Jessica Parker it would be her cheek bones. If we were reviewing me then it would be my uncanny impression of a raven. The only problem is, everything is so good! So I decided that I should talk about the plot of the game 1st to set it up. The game takes place in the year 2183 only about 40 years after humans develop faster than light space travel. The opening give a quick background of our hero Commander Shepard. In the first level of the game you are being tested to see if you are able to become apart of an elite team of military called the Spectres. During this mission you discover information that the entire galaxy will be destroyed in a matter of weeks. Commander Shepard then goes on an extravaganza to stop this from occurring, along the way acquiring team members. As video game story lines go, Mass Effect is one of the best. Not many games can fit a quality script with sweet butt kicking action, powers, and weapons that fold up and fit in your pocket. The nature of the game is to have a environment that allows you to make choices that effect the game play. You can choose to be a dudley do right good guy or a James Dean renegade. All the talking is controlled by you. When you speak you are given different things that you can say and guide the conversation down the way that you want it to go. Depending on how you handle things in conversation and in action, people will treat you different and new dialogue options will become available the more renegade you become. Also the story line is so good that it is a triliogy. Mass Effect is only Act One of this epic tale.
The characters in this game are outstanding and fun to interact with. I can't tell you what kind of character Commander Shepard is because he is you and because of the good cop/bad cop versatility of the game, you can make Shepard however you want him....seriously. In the beginning of the game you are given a character building portion to literally mold Shepard's face to whatever you want it to look like. He can be black, white, latino. He can have a big nose or a tiny one. He can have no hair or spiky, or shaggy (not too shaggy tho...you're in the military). Eye color, hair color, lip size, ear size, thickness of eyebrows, and even facial scars are all options available to you to customize Commander Shepard to however you want him to look...you can even make Commander Shepard a woman. You even choose where Shepard was born and how he decided to join the military.
As you go throughout the game you get your team assembled pretty quick....like before you go on your first mission.
You start out with Kaidan during your training mission and he is a fairly standard character that isn't particularly fascinating to me. He has biotic powers that allow him to do things like a "force push" or create a mental shield around himself. He is also skilled in tech abilities. If you are a female Shepard, Kadian is a romantic option, should you choose it.
“We finally get out here and the 'final frontier' was already settled. And the residents don't even seem impressed by the view. Or the dangers.”
Ashley Williams is another member of your crew that you acquire. She is a tomboy-ish solider with not much femininity to her. She is always ready for a fight and possibly has an anger problem or two. In the game she is a straight up soldier and uses guns only.
“Why is it whenever someone says 'with all due respect' they really mean 'kiss my !#%'?”
Garrus begins the alien portion of the crew. He is a turian security officer on the Citadel where the galactic council is. He is upset with all the paperwork and regulations people have to go through to deliver justice. He is bored with his job and longs for excitement. He is a skilled sniper with the aid of his nifty looking monocle there in the picture. If you are a female Shepard you can peruse a relationship if you are gross.
“Fighting a rogue Spectre with countless lives at stake and no regulations to get in the way? I'd say that beats C-Sec.”
Dr. Liara T'Soni is an asari researcher who has spent the past fifty years of her life studying the technology and culture of an extinct race that is the key to stopping the impending doom of the universe. She was born in 2077, making her "only" 106 — little more than a child in asari terms — when Mass Effect takes place. She already has a great deal of training in biotics. She is also a potential romance for Shepard.
“You were marked by the beacon on Eden Prime — you were touched by working Prothean technology. That is why I find you so fascinating.”
Tali'Zorah nar Rayya is a quarian teenager on a ritual journey to become an adult. Her race requires their teenagers to go on a pilgrimage at around age 20. During her pilgrimage she finds evidence of the impending doom and gives it to Commander Shepard and then becomes a part of the team to help stop it. Since her home world has an atmosphere that quarians cannot survive out of, they all wear suits. You never get to see whats under that mask incase you're wondering. She is a mechanical genius and has many tech abilities that are useful on your mission.
“Our Pilgrimage proves we are willing to give of ourselves for the greater good. What does it say about me if I turn my back on this?”
Now to my favorite character! Urdnot Wrex! Wrex belongs to a lizard like race called the Krogan. The Krogan, if they had developed space travel themselves, would have done it only because there was nothing left to kill on their home world. They are a darwin-ian species that believe they must be the strongest to survive and fighting everything is the best way to strengthen yourself and make sure you come out on top. Wrex is a bounty hunter that joins your squad initially because you are both looking for the same man, but after you tell him of the impending doom of the universe and the mass quantities of enemies that you will be going up against, Wrex stays on your squad so he can be in the thick of all the action and kill everything they come up against.
“Anyone who fights us is either stupid or on Saren's payroll. Killing the latter is business. Killing the former is a favor to the universe.”
You also get Seth Green voicing the pilot of your ship crackin wise, but these are just the main characters. There are hundreds of characters in this game and dozens of alien races. I like the Salarians which are a gecko looking race that only live about 40 years so they are fully developed by like age 6 and talk fast, think faster, and only sleep 1 hour a day. Another race i enjoy is the Elcor. They are like the size of a baby elephant and come from a high gravity world. They communicate with words, slight movements and pheromones. Among themselves these things all help them convey shades of meaning that make a human smile seem as subtle as a fireworks display. However, since no one but the elcor can detect the movements and pheromones and speak in a compleatly monotone voice they must announce their feelings lest they seems sarcastic.
They creativity that fills this game is really just fantastic.
Where do I even begin to talk about how awesome the game play is? I guess I'd start with Mass Effect is a 3rd person Role Playing Game. The world is expansive and you can explore it as you see fit. Most of your missions you can take at your leisure and in whatever order you want. I already touched on the good cop/bad cop thing and the dialogue options.
The actual fighting is pretty good. In the beginning of the game you choose your class. There are 6 classes
Soldier - Based on health and armor. Can use every gun. No powers.
Engineer - has all the tech abilities and can only use pistols.
Adept - has all the biotic powers and can only use pistols.
Vangaurd - a mix of the soldier and the adept. Can use some guns and has some biotic powers.
Infiltrator - a mix of the soldier and the engineer. Can use some guns and has some tech abilities.
Sentinel - a mix of the engineer and the adept. Does not get any guns and has tech and biotic powers.
The kicker is that each class plays differently. Playing as an adept is completely different than playing as a soldier. You have to adopt different tactics, tic tacs, and different ways to accomplish tasks depending on your class. This makes the replay-ability of the game outstanding. I played it again and again almost being every class and gender and such before Mass Effect 2 came out....
Besides the main mission there are like 15 hours of side quests to handle and while it's easy to ignore a paragraph of text asking you to fetch a random item, which is what most RPGs offer. Try passing up the offer to take up a quest when you have a voice filled with inflection asking for your assistance. Not just a voice; a being with real motivations that you can converse with, learn more about, and ultimately relate to. Everyone has a voice and everyone has a character. It is really amazing. The voice acting is good, but the writing is even better. To think that this level of detail was put into some characters that you may never even interact with is mind-boggling.
Probably the coolest part of the game is how things can go wrong. In the game you are able to make your own choices and as such you have to accept the consequences. In the game depending on how things go a character might get killed. Then its over. It's not like you build your team and then you get them forever no matter what. If they seriously get killed some how then they are gone for the rest of the game....which is something you don't see very often in a RPG... Kinda like how you felt about Aries in Final Fantasy 7 after she gets killed before the 1st disc is over. I really respect games that are willing to risk things like that and I promise you... you will loose a character. A part in the game makes you choose between 2 characters and you will have to save one and let another one die. I won't tell you which, just be prepared.
Everything about this game is top notch and everyone who owns a 360 should own it. I said many times before this is the best game on the 360 in my opinion and probably one of the top 10 games ever for me.
Storyline - 10/10
Characters - 9.6/10
Gameplay - 9.5/10
Voice actings and lip synching - 10/10
Over all score - 9.9/10
I thought this game was as good as it could get for me....that is.....until Mass Effect 2 came out.