Mass Effect Review
A Meglomaniac's Paradise
Even though you don't feel like you're in the game, the story is strong and the writing is on the level with the best of Sci-Fi Channel's original programming. I was progressing through the game for the story instead of that embedded want to complete the game that all gamers have. The stat system is complex and the skills you acquire can be directly translated to your partner characters (if you do the simplistic recruiting missions early on you should have six to choose from). Ideally, if you stick with the same partners, you can create a mix that exploits each team member's strengths and make for an early and deadly combination. It also weaves these characters into your story much easier during major plot points than it would if you're embarking on your first mission with a certain partner.
As a gamer that had rarely played an action RPG, I found the early grind when you're weaker than your enemy to be frustrating. There's no large penalty for death, but it can get frustrating for someone who's used to games that have a much quicker pace. Another quick gripe is that most of your boss deaths are right before cut scenes, some that you may not be able to skip, so it can get really annoying really fast. Fortunately bosses are few and far between and a liberal save system (basically whenever you're not in combat) will hopefully assure that your deaths don't hold you back too much. Once you've gotten through two of the four planets of your main mission, you should be leveled up enough that most enemies no longer give you much trouble either.
Mass Effect has a massive scale (see what I did there?) and it's no surprise that as a result the occassional pop-in, case of the jaggies, sound/music loop, or even insane load time can happen. Aside from the endless elevator rides while the game loads a new area, nothing is consistant enough to not make the nearly endless environments worth it. The environments themselves, though, are also just recycled textures over and over that eventually makes every planet look the same. Even though I was basically in the same place and constantly fighting the same enemies, the story still allowed this game to hold up with the best the 360 has to offer. By the end of the game, you not only feel like you've come a long way, but that the truly epic ending (whichever one you got) was worth it. In fact, I must admit that after completing the game I immediately jumped right back in for a second round (and my initial playthrough was 22 hours).
Mass Effect is a game that acts as a jack of all trades for almost every genre that nicely blends its touches and your personality to a complete experience. Bioware probably knew they needed an incredible story to keep gamers hooked and excuse the blatant faults that show their ugly faces from time to time. While I wouldn't say that Mass Effect quite lived up to the hype, and honeslty the "Bring Down The Sky" DLC is more redundant than satisfying, it definitely delivers a complete experience that I expect from top end RPGs. Somebody better tell the Japanese to look out because Bioware is quickly proving that it knows exactly how to cater to the West and soon traditional turn-based JRPGs may be a thing of the past.
The menu system is simple and intuitive. The implementation of camera movement is consistent with most other games. A lot of stats you tweak and upgrade don't reveal their value until after you've upgraded them.
Not of the most impressive on the console, but the small amount of flaws and errors in the gameplay make the lack of quality worthwhile. I also liked the very low number of pre-rendered cut scenes.
Sound design was crisp and distinct, each planet and location receiving its own score. All voices match up almost perfectly in sync with the talking head on screen. Sound effects pretty rudementary.
As said in the review, Mass Effect takes a great story and an above average implementation of both shooter and RPG elements to craft a very impressive game.