Mass Effect Review

Bioware latest RPG has a Mass Effect on the PC.

Review by Darren Cartledge
Published 7th July 2008

Mass Effect

  • Developer: BioWare
  • Publisher: EA Games
  • Release Date: 28th May 2008

Sci-fi role-playing games seem to have become increasingly popular amongst developers given that the fantasy angle has been almost done to death. Mass Effect which has already been released on the Xbox 360 to high praise is here from developers Bioware but will PC gamers find it as appealing.

Mass Effect places you in the role of Commander Shepherd a member of the Alliance Military, who along with the rest of Earth are members of a galactic council. Commander Shepherd soon uncovers a plot by one of the council’s elite spectre agents to destroy the galaxy, and this embarks you on a mission to stop the rogue agent and reveal his plan to the council, taking you to various systems across the galaxy.

As mentioned above, Mass Effect takes you on a journey across the galaxy, allowing you to visit multiple planets, which you travel between in a prototype ship the Normandy the fastest in the alliance fleet.

Like Bioware’s highly acclaimed Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect is a party based role-playing game. You start the game with two party members but add more members as you progress through the game, as you would expect each character that joins your crew has their own unique set of skills and abilities that can come in useful in various different situations, such as combat, technical skills and so on.

Whilst the game allows for large scale exploration, it is considerable more combat orientated then most RPG’s and some could say that it is a genre crossing third person shooter come role-playing game, but that’s not a bad thing as the game features an excellent combat system. Weapon selection is all controlled via the centre mouse button, and unlike in some other games you start off with a considerable arsenal which includes an assault rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle, and pistol, whilst it may sound like a “present time” selection of weapons, they do feature enhancements that run with the games timeline, another bonus is you don’t have to worry about ammo as the game employs an overheating fire restriction like in many popular games.

As you travel between planets you will also come across various different weapons which are more powerful or efficient variations of the ones mentioned above, you can also upgrade weapons to improve them, although each upgrade usually comes with a draw back so being picky about which upgrades you use is a must.

Combat wise the game offers a decent challenge, enemies aren’t dumb and will attack in force taking cover behind various objects around the games environment. They will also advance at you throw explosives and charge at you given the opportunity. To aid you in battle sequences the game also includes an excellent cover system which allows you to take aim or blind fire at enemies. All you have to do is move to an object with your weapons drawn and your character will automatically take cover with out the need for you to worry about pressing buttons allowing you to concentrate on battle.

Party AI is good, however your squad members can occasionally get in the way or get themselves into trouble but for the most part it’s good to have them around. Mass Effect features an excellent way to issue orders, simply hold the spacebar down and issue the command you want one of you party members to perform. This also pauses the game meaning you don’t have to worry about getting shot while doing it. All in all it’s a very good system that works well.

The games inventory system has been kept very simple and unlike other RPG’s Bioware hasn’t littered the game with items and objects that you’re never going to use so the main collectables are weapons and upgrades. These are all categorised in your inventory into the different weapon types. Any excess weapons can be easily shared out between your party members on the games equipment screen or sold to various weapons dealers you will encounter throughout the game.

One thing that stands out in Mass Effect is the use of a vehicle in the shape of an armoured personnel carrier. This is used to explore various planets you can land on and also comes in useful for engaging any enemies that you may encounter during your explorations. The games vehicle sequences allow you to explore vast areas on many planets and you can get in and out at anytime during the action to take a closer look at any thing. The personnel carrier is fairly rugged and is able to scale mountain faces and such allowing you to reach otherwise hard to get to areas. On the whole the vehicle action is a nice touch that adds to the variation on offer in the game.

Of course no role-playing game would be complete without the ability to develop your character and this is no different in Mass Effect. The game employs a fairly simple system for character development, with number bars that represent your characters ability with certain weapons, fitness and so on. Each time your character earns experience and levels points are awarded to you which you can spend improving your skills, at certain point’s new abilities are acquired to use in combat. Some attributes will also unlock new attributes that will allow you to further learn new abilities. The games character development system is very simple to use and you always have a clear idea of how you are developing making it easy to customise your character to your playing style.

Performance wise the game runs pretty smoothly and you shouldn’t have too much trouble running it on an older system just as long as you have a decent graphics card.

Visually Mass Effect looks fantastic, character models are highly detailed with fantastic facial movements during the dialogue captions. Combat animation is also fantastic, with highly realistic movements and excellent weapons fire effects. Environments are fairly varied offering a huge level of detail, especially the massive Citadel Space Station and your space cruiser Normandy.

Sound in Mass Effect is also excellent, voice acting is of the highest quality and not once did I encounter a character that was unconvincing or annoying. Music is pretty tense and fits in well with the sci-fi action of the game as are the games sound effects.

On the whole Mass Effect offers a great playing experience with lots of opportunity for exploration and intense shooter action. The games storyline is gripping and will keep you wanting to play and as the game is set in a galaxy the game offers a lot of value. Overall an excellent action role-playing game.

Review Score: 9/10

Please note, this review was scored using our old system. For more information please see our review policy.

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