CtN Game Reviews #11: Mass Effect

I love Mass Effect. This might be one of the most difficult reviews. Not because of the age of the game, but because of my own personal bias. If I did a top ten list of my favorite games this would be on the list without any doubts. As such it’s hard to mention the flaws as legitimate. So let’s give this a try.

 

THE STORY:

 

First of all it’s good to be talking about a story mode again. When I talk about the pinnacle of video game story telling, I am talking about games like Mass Effect. The story for Mass Effect is damn near perfect. There are multiple ways the game could turn out. Let’s forget about the fact that it leads into the second game, and the third game. Even as a stand-alone story, Mass Effect delivers on all the important fronts.

What is important to a good story? Simple. It needs to be interesting, it needs to have interesting characters, and most importantly I need to care. If I don’t care about the story then what’s the point. As a huge fan of game storylines, nothing irritates me more than a nonchalant story.

 

That said Mass Effect has all of those and then some. Let’s go over each part. This will help you understand what I mean when I grade stories of other games in the future. First is interesting. By that I mean…well I shouldn’t have to explain that. Interesting is easy. Is there something in the game that can hook players? Be it a character, a setting, or the overarching plot of the game. What about Mass Effect hooked me? The synopsis was all it took.

 

As Commander Sheppard you are sent on a mission to stop a rogue agent gathering a crew of different characters on a journey that encompasses the galaxy that the player is free to explore. So it immediately grabbed me with it’s setting. There is an entire galaxy at the player’s disposal. Filled with unique species.

Then there are the characters. An entire squad of interesting characters grabbed my attention as well.  The best part is that the characters aren’t stereotypes. Each is different and it’s interesting to learn about them. They have beliefs and problems just like real people. It’s like you’re talking to a real person…alien.

 

Sure the story starts off like a generic good guy bad guy plot. The bad guy did something bad, the good guy creates a team to stop the bad guy. Then it gets intriguing as more characters are brought in as the story goes on. The threat changes and the stakes become higher. That’s the mark of a good plot.

 

The final thing on my keys to a good plot is being able to care about it. I don’t think I’ve ever felt a connection to a game as much as the Mass Effect series. Each character that you’re introduced to from squad mates, to the side characters wandering around the planets you visit. Each is interesting. The codex is loaded with interesting information about each species in the game for those who are willing to read it. I read a lot of it.  I have favorite characters, I have characters I don’t like but in a good way. If I don’t like a character based off of her personality that’s good. For example I don’t like Ashley. Her personality was not something I like, but she has a personality and isn’t stereotypical and that’s why she’s still a good character even though I don’t like her.

 

So for the story Mass Effect gets a perfect 40 out of 40. It’s engaging, and there is just piles of interesting back-story for those who want it. It does everything I want for a game story.

 

THE GAMEPLAY:

 

Now immediately I know that most of the problems people list come from the gameplay. I am not afraid to admit it. The gameplay is not perfect. First of all the AI is for all intents and purposes stupid. The Geth are an enemy that the game claims get smarter when they’re in packs. Yet I found them to be quite ignorant watching as you walk up to them and blast their faces away with a shotgun.

 

Second the gunplay is very simplistic. This is understandable though because Mass Effect is an RPG action hybrid that focused a bit more on it’s RPG elements. As such the gunplay is very simple. The melee attack is useless and the grenades are only necessary one time in the entire game.

Where the game picks itself up is in its biotic abilities. In my play through I was a vanguard that means I was a combat, biotic hybrid. I could use biotic powers but was proficient in pistols and shotguns. The powers were fun and easy to use. They were also useful. They are helpful if you manage to work a mapped power in conjunction with your squad to create some devastation.

 

As far as the RPG elements are concerned they work well enough. You can customize every part of Sheppard right down to the color of his facial hair. I will say that the character creator is a bit limited essentially giving a male character a few different variations of balding for hair choices. I couldn’t create an exact replica of me. Those who know me know that I have luscious locks that few games allow me to recreate. However this is a minor complaint.

 

Also leveling up is done very well. When you level up you are given points to put into different skills that Sheppard has based on his class.  The only complaint I had with the level up system was that they difference in game was hard to notice. The game said it did more damage, and that it lasted longer, but it was millisecond differences. It would have been nice if there were something more visually striking to show you that you are powering up.

The final elephant in the room is the worst part about Mass Effects gameplay is the Mako. Very few games have vehicle segments this annoying. Mass Effect must have really been proud of this little shitty car because you use it a lot. Most of the plot missions require you to use it; every planet you explore requires it. The car controls normally but is so floaty that slight adjustments on the left analog stick will send the car into a 180. When you are in combat situations that is just unacceptable. Again though this is a minor complaint in an overall good package.

 

So Mass Effect gets a 34 out of 40 for its gameplay. It’s good but there are a couple of nagging flaws that keep it from being perfect.

 

THE PRESENTATION

 

It’s a really good thing that I could care less about graphics. The reason being Mass Effect is a very mixed bag. Don’t get me wrong artistically speaking the game is absolutely beautiful. Bio Ware made a galaxy. That’s no easy feat. Each race and planet is interesting to look at.

That said there are a couple of side planets that have similar looks, as do interiors. Once you’ve been inside one rundown research base, you’ve been in all of them. The only difference is if the walls will be brown or grey.

 

Another problem with the graphics is the large amount of pop in and low-resolution textures. Again these problems never detract from the overall gameplay. That’s why graphics don’t matter much to me.

 

However I do pay a bit more attention to audio. The musical score, and voice acting in Mass Effect. Each voice actor portrays his or her character well, and no performance was irritating to sit through. Saren, and Garrus are notable standouts in this department. That’s probably why they were my favorite characters in the game. I’m just saying I hope there is a prequel game with Anderson and Saren. That would be great.

 

So to wrap up Mass Effect gets a 15 out of 20 for presentation. Artistically speaking and audio wise the game is great, yet technically it has it’s share of flaws.

 

So in the end Mass Effect gets a

40 out of 40 for story a

34 out of 40 for gameplay and a

15 out of 20 for presentation equaling

89 out of 100 or a B+

 

AFTER WORDS:

 

I hope you like this new text format to the game reviews. I decided to do this so you wouldn’t have to hear me “Yahtzee” my way through game reviews. That and there is more to look at than just a still image of the game’s logo. Another thing is that I will try to do the game reviews on Tuesday. There is actually going to be a strict schedule for content I release. I am a huge fan of structure like this. So as long as I keep my mind to it, it won’t be too hard.

 

Monday = Truth Behind Nursery Rhymes

Tuesday = Game Review

Wednesday = Light of the Night

Thursday = Nerd Rage

Friday = Top Ten/ Chris Rants (alternating)

Saturday and Sunday = make up (due to laziness)

 

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