Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mass Effect (on your social life)

By Tyler Barber



Hello, my name is Tyler Barber and I am a Mass Effect addict. It started when I got my copy of ME early for review. That first day I thought, "I'll create a character, dabble with the game, and move on." Little did I know that hours later, I'd still be tweaking my customizable character, without even starting the game. I've had almost a week's worth of nights where the rising sun has been a sobering exclamation of, "hey, it's 6 a.m. loser, go to bed already!" But I can't help it. I'm out of control. ME has a grip on my life, and I'm here today to take the steps necessary to rectify my addiction, and become a productive member of society.

Unsurprisingly, developer Bioware exceeds in creating believable characters in a universe that you actually care about. As in their previous RPGs, (Knight of the Old Republic, Jade Empire) ME lets you play as an asshole, a push-over, or as some moody middle-ground. My recommendation: asshole all the way. The dialog options only show the sentiment of what your character is thinking. What you actually do say can be very unexpected, and oftentimes brutal.

The combat is extremely satisfying as the encounters are genuinely difficult. You'll have to juggle the right ammo and armor for each encounter, as well as control your character's special abilities (only if you want to). Be careful choosing your character’s class -- the abilities you'll use are dictated by which class you chose from the start. Which is one area where ME runs into trouble.



Another area where ME is lacking is that there isn't any kind of tutorial or guide to help the player understand the mechanics of the game. With little explanation of controls or tactics, players could easily become confused and/or frustrated. It's here where I think Bioware stumbles in capturing the non-RPG-playing audience.

Where ME really suffers are the numerous technical issues that plague everything from bad loading times, to horrible graphics pop-in. In a game that has so much of its creative talent and resources poured into sculpting an immersive universe, it's astonishing that there are so many times in the game where a technical problem pulls you right out of experience. Given that ME is a planned trilogy, there's hope that the sequels will rid themselves of these issues.

Final Grade: B+

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