Monday, February 4, 2008

Played Lately: Mass Effect

  • Played Lately might be a misnomer in this case. It's more like Played Somewhat Recently. However when discussing a game as great as Mass Effect, there is no difficulty recalling everything I enjoyed about it.

  • I don't often play video games to completion. Sometimes I get bored with a game that goes on and on for too long (for instance, the later Elder Scrolls games). Many times the difficulty of a game ramps up beyond the level of challenge and straight into stupidity. At this point I give up in frustration and never play again, even if I was enjoying myself up to that point. Mass Effect made none of those mistakes.

  • The game is set in a distant future wherein humanity has reached the stars only to discover they're the new kids on an already crowded block. Your character is a soldier under consideration to become the first human Specter, the super agents of the Systems Alliance. What starts as a simple shakedown mission turns into a fight to save all life in the galaxy.

  • I'm going to get all the bad stuff out of the way first. Yes, the hidden load times are pretty stupid since the Xbox 360 hard drive can't be counted on for caching. Yes, the inventory is a pretty outstanding mess. And yes, the exploration missions can be very, very repetative. (I got to the point where I'd crest a ridge, spot a flat open plain before me and my first thought was "Thresher Maw." And I was always right!) The effect of all these problems is to keep a great game from being an outstanding game.

  • Bioware gets a lot of deserved credit for the great stories they tell. Mass Effect has a genuinely involving story that exploits the sci-fi setting to the fullest. I even enjoyed the romantic subplot that I usually shy away from since I normally play female characters. I was so excited about the attention my Commander Shepard was receiving that I couldn't deny her a little happiness.

  • On the action front, this game does everything that I loved about Bioware's prior game, Jade Empire. The action was fast moving and involving while holding true to its role-playing game roots. And it made me feel like a bad ass, which is the whole reason I play these games. If I wanted to feel like a chump that tripped over his own feet, I'd just play Real Life(TM).

  • So I unreservedly recommend Mass Effect. If you like role-playing games and you like science fiction, you will very likely enjoy this game. If you don't, I don't want to know you.

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