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Accelerated Evolution

Mass Effect


Ikari Warrior

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Copypasta from my blog:

I HATE MASS EFFECT! It makes me unable to put it down!

Now that I have your attention, let's get this party started. I would have posted this sooner, but I've been hella-tired/too busy to organize and eloquently express my thoughts. So, here it is:

On Tuesday, I picked up Mass Effect on the Xbox360. For those of you not in the know, it is the new game made by Bioware, makers of the ever-famous Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), and the lesser-known Jade Empire. This is their first romp on the 360 playground, and it shows; both for good and bad.

Mass Effect is NOT an RPG in the traditional sense; I thought it would give you an option to play like a shooter OR KOTOR-style. This game is a new brand of RPG Hybrid: the TPSRPG. The core gameplay is similar to Gears of War, in that you encounter enemies, and take cover, and shoot them from behind cover. You have a selection of four weapon types: pistol, shotgun, machine gun, and rifle. The different weapons control different ways, much like any other third-person shooter.

Where Mass Effect becomes an RPG is that you can learn skills and "pause" the game to select which skill to use, and then subsequently use it. The same applies to weapon selection, although there is a quick-change weapon option. You can also map your skills to certain buttons. Another RPG aspect (and really, this is the main RPG aspect) is stat building/stat management, and the ability to equip different armors and weapons. These stats are also affected by your character's class. You have your basic soldier, and then you have the other engineer/mage hybrid classes. The three main stats that are used to judge your team are Tech, Biotics, and Strength. I've learned that if you've never played one of Bioware's games before, the Soldier class is the way to be.

Another RPG element is (in addition to different character classes) the different playable species. As of now (four hours in) I have come across 3 playable species. The humans, the turians, and a third race I cannot remember. In the game, they mention 19 different species that coexist on the home base the Citadel, but I don't know how many of them are playable. My guess is four, judging on the non-human armor selection that is available to me. That of course is subject to change.

Now that I've gotten the summary stuff out of the way, let's move on to the pro's & con's of this title.

Gameplay: As I'd explained earlier, this game plays like a third-person shooter. The camera is forgiving, and you can always move it freely with the right-analog stick (left is for movement), but there is no First-Person POV. There is an aim-assist feature that can be adjusted to suit how much help you want from the game to target bad guys. When I said the game plays like Gears of War, I wasn't kidding. Right trigger shoots your gun, left trigger aims. Depressing the A button and then moving will cause you to run HELLA-fast. While your weapon is drawn, pressing up against a surface will automatically cause you to take cover, rather than having to press "a" while next to it. Running into an enemy while doing that super-fast run will automatically cause you to hit them with the butt of your gun.

My primary complaint with the combat is that the ally AI will sometimes stand out in the open, and in your direct line of fire. Also, if you need to take evasive maneuvers, you will find yourself VERY slowly pulling away from the wall to get out of cover. The difficulty of the enemies is adjustable from the options menu, so you can change the difficulty of the game at any time. It's also not entirely clear how many health packs you have. I unlocked a first-aid skill but not sure how to use it (maybe I should read the manual, haha). When I press the "health pack" button, sometimes I use one, sometimes I don't, and I can never tell how many I have. The font for healthpacks and grenades is WAY too dark on the background. The sniper rifles were WAY too shaky but I assume that's something that will change with time as I learn skills to use them properly.

What I particularly liked about the combat was that all of your weapons are energy-based. The batteries in your guns never die, but the gun itself will overheat (or can if you don't give it cool-off time). This means that there is no ammo management. The only attacking device that's short on quantity is grenades, and it's only fair that your quantity of those is limited. Despite my having more complaints than compliments about the combat, I have to say that I find the combat in this game incredibly addictive. While not as solid as Gears, it's similar enough to keep me interested.

Plot: There's a lot going on here, but it's told in KOTOR's storytelling method. They throw you right into the fight before they set you loose on a relatively small (which is not to say actually small) environment where you do a million subplots and subquests. Basically, you're on a whirlwind adventure to stop a guy named Saren from bringing back an army of Reapers. There's more to it than that, I'm sure, but that's all I know. The game is fully voice-acted, and I swear I recognized Marina Sirtis (Star Trek Next Gen's Deanna Troi) as one of the voices. I need to see if I can find the credits in-game somewhere so I can get a full cast list on the voice talent; it sounds like they spared no expense.

Graphics: This is where the game needs the most improvement. The aesthetics of the armors, weapons, characters, and aliens is fantastic. Bioware did a great job designing their new Intellectual Property. The game looks like a spiffed up version of KOTOR, though. Your main character still has that gay jog he does, just now it's in High Definition.

My biggest complaint with the graphics, though, is that sometimes a scene is going on, and the characters have to be re-rendered. I understand a LOT went into this game to make it more lifelike, and that a LOT of data needs to be crunched for things to go "just right", but there has to be some kind of work-around so that things are constantly rendering. That's what you get in Bioware's titles, though. People are always being rendered in real-time, I guess to make the game run smoothly (which it doesn't always do). Also, the shadows don't quite look right. Like there's a clipping error with the lighting effects. Even when the shadow is being properly cast, it has this last-gen fuzziness to it that just doesn't look right.

That big, ugly complaint aside, the game looks lovely. The default setting for the graphics is to have some kind of inane film grain over the actual game. Thankfully, that can be shut off. I don't know why it's in there, but the developers made the right choice giving the player the option to shut it off.

Other: Where this game truly shines is the ability to make good/bad decisions, and earn good/bad points toward your personality. The game isn't 100% consistent on when it judges you, but that's part of life, too; you never know when you're going to be critiqued.

Another element that was beautifully polished was the conversation/interaction system. Your character has a list of choices of what he can say, and it's a basic outline of what he will actually say. For example, there may be options of "Who is that?" "I don't care" or "Let's go already."

If you choose, "Who is that?"

Your character may say, "I've heard of this person, but I don't know much about him. What can you tell me?"

Finally, dialogue flows more naturally, and your character doesn't sound like a friggin' dumbass when you, the player, are trying to get more information. You still have the age-old "Character A repeats Phrase X" situations, but that's for the REALLY miniscule, unimportant things. Paying attention to your environment is crucial to the efficient progression of the game, as backtracking is often necessary (but NOT tedious!) for the completion of sidequests.

Overall, I absolutely enjoy this game, despite a lot of this review is me picking it apart. It is a fun, addictive title with millions of things to do, and I know I've barely scratched the surface yet. Once it gets more in-depth, I know I'll enjoy it that much more.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It is spectacular. I only have two complaints, and they really aren't debilitating.

The first being that it could benefit from giving you a little extra direction from time-time. I don't want it to spoon feed me, but I also don't like just being tossed at stuff in the game and going "Huh... so why am I here?"

The second being that they put all of this work into the descriptions and specifications for each planet, but everyone you land on feels exactly the same despite having varying degrees of gravity, terrain composition, weather conditions, and even ambient pressure... It's just grating that so much attention was payed to detail except where you can actually experience it.

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The first being that it could benefit from giving you a little extra direction from time-time. I don't want it to spoon feed me, but I also don't like just being tossed at stuff in the game and going "Huh... so why am I here?"

I'm so wrapped up in side-missions that the main story of the game is basically lost on me at this point.

The second being that they put all of this work into the descriptions and specifications for each planet, but everyone you land on feels exactly the same despite having varying degrees of gravity, terrain composition, weather conditions, and even ambient pressure... It's just grating that so much attention was payed to detail except where you can actually experience it.

Agreed. I was having this conversation with a friend of mine today. Every planet basically feels the same. Also, where is the indigenous life? Sure, some of these planets are inhospitable, but you can't tell me they're ALL completely devoid of vegetation and life. The ones I really want to explore are the ones with neat life-forms and plant life.

The ones I REALLY want to explore are in the local cluster...I guess I'll just have to keep on dreaming, or hope for an epic prequel.

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I'm so wrapped up in side-missions that the main story of the game is basically lost on me at this point.

Agreed. I was having this conversation with a friend of mine today. Every planet basically feels the same. Also, where is the indigenous life? Sure, some of these planets are inhospitable, but you can't tell me they're ALL completely devoid of vegetation and life. The ones I really want to explore are the ones with neat life-forms and plant life.

The ones I REALLY want to explore are in the local cluster...I guess I'll just have to keep on dreaming, or hope for an epic prequel.

There's the one with space monkeys!

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The only gripe I have with the game is the constant re-rendering of textures in some cut-scenes.

It's not just in the cutscenes, too. This game is constantly being rendered and re-rendered. There was this one instance where there were some 30 enemies on-screen and that caused the worst slowdown/framerate chop ever. I came to expect that in this game.

I just wish they could have made some of the sidequests as awesomely epic as the main one.

One big complaint of mine is the copy/paste format of the side-missions. You're going to different planets for different reasons, yet you're still going into the same mines, compounds, and structures as every other planet. All they do is rearrange the furniture from place-to-place. The first couple times, it's okay, but when you spend the first 15/20 hours of the game doing sidequests (by choice, mind you), it gets a little disheartening.

Being a dynasty warriors junkie, this sort of repitition doesn't bother me (especially since it's the less-important side quests), but when you put the exact same facility with the exact same layout 3 times in close proximity in order to solve a side-quest, that's what gives me pause. It doesn't bother me, but for such a non-linear game, I expected a little less repetition.

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Only side quests I didn't finish were scanning the keepers and Feros data recovery (Because there's no way to).

I just did the feros data recovery last night. You can't scan the same monkey twice, which makes it easier. One of the monkey colonies is in front of a mine. You go inside the mine, and check all the monkeys there, and the last one in the very-bottom of the mine will have the data.

Unless you're referring to the one other researcher dude. That guy's I found by almost-pure luck. I went up instead of down.

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I just did the feros data recovery last night. You can't scan the same monkey twice, which makes it easier. One of the monkey colonies is in front of a mine. You go inside the mine, and check all the monkeys there, and the last one in the very-bottom of the mine will have the data.

Unless you're referring to the one other researcher dude. That guy's I found by almost-pure luck. I went up instead of down.

I did the monkey one ages ago. Was my first real side quest.

I didn't do the one for the researcher on Feros, and there's no way back into the skyway if you leave the world.

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I didn't do the one for the researcher on Feros, and there's no way back into the skyway if you leave the world.

I had no idea. I must've lucked out, then. I just kept going up stairs trying to make progress, and finding shit by accident.

I finished the game last night, and I will be making a full list of my loves and hates of this game later. New game+ ftw! Not only do they leave you with all your good stuff on, but they duplicate it, too, so you can put it on someone else! I had to convert a lot of old inventory into omni-gel, but that's okay!

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Uh...

Maybe you should have leveled your charm, then? Wrex doesn't die if the Paragon conversation path is open.

The Intimidate path seemed like it was going to escalate to a fight which I was afraid I was going to have to kill him, and I was Renegade Aligned with points in Intimidate for higher resale values of extra items, the Paragon path wasn't available to me.

I didn't think I was going to have one of my main characters die from choosing the path, I was under the impression it wouldn't have such an immense impact on the main story.

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The Intimidate path seemed like it was going to escalate to a fight which I was afraid I was going to have to kill him, and I was Renegade Aligned with points in Intimidate for higher resale values of extra items, the Paragon path wasn't available to me.

lol, paragon, ftw!

What I didn't like was:

You have to choose Ashley or Kaiden to die, I wish there was a way to save them both

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