Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bonus Video game review: Mass Effect

First of all, I went back and forth about whether or not to include this review in my 365 Games in 365 Days project.

Even though I started from the first level and went all the way to the end, I decided that my own rules won't allow me to count it, because technically....I played this game once before 2010. I never actually gave it a chance the first time around, and I only played through the very first level before putting it on my shelf and forgetting about it for the last two years. Still, rules are rules and this game doesn't count towards my 365. Fortunately, there's no rule that says I can't review it anyway. Let's call it a bonus.

This year, Mass Effect 2 (which I reviewed here) was released...and every person I know who has played it...is loving it. I tried playing ME2 briefly for this project, and got through the first mission before deciding that it was cool enough to go back and beat the original.

Over the last three days, that's exactly what I've done. I set the combat difficulty to casual, figured I'd breeze through the basic story...and then I'd have all the history I needed to play the sequel. I played through a level on Thursday night, then played through another on Friday. Saturday morning, I started playing at about 7:30am, and I didn't stop until I beat the campaign shortly after 2am this morning. Hardly "breezing", but it was still time well spent.

I know I'm about 2 years late to the party on this one, but Mass Effect is awesome.

This 2 year old game is better than most games I've played in the last 2 years. It's definitely my favorite game I've played during this challenge (Call of Duty being the exception of course). The story is amazing, the amount of control you have over your own journey is great. I am not a fan of RPGs at all, but this one suckered me in somehow...and I'm hooked.

Just in case there's another soul on the planet besides me who is aware of Mass Effect, might want to play it....but just hasn't gotten around to it yet, here's the basic summary: You create your own hero (Male or female), and together with a team of aliens that you pick, you try to rid the galaxy of evil. The basic concept is simple enough, but the execution is anything but.

I created a female hero and named her after my wife. I made her a soldier, so she'd have all the best guns. I chose to make her "good", but it was quite a challenge to keep her that way. EVERY conversation in this game has an effect on the plot. Be rude to people and they'll fear you. Your reputation gets around. Be kind to them, and they'll hail you as a hero. They'll say "I heard about you in the battle of so-and-so). There is a basic story you have to go through, but countless times throughout that story, you'll be presented with little side quests. Some of these are completely random (a cop asked me to stop a jellyfish from preaching near the town fountain once)...but these conversations all some have something to do with the larger story. I was getting ready to go storm some corporate fortress, a mother asked if I could save her daughter while I was there. I didn't see any harm in that, so I said "sure". That effected several parts of the plot later in the mission.

During the dialog scenes, you're given the classic Bioware "conversation wheel". You can choose from polite or rude responses (the choices are fragmented descriptive sentences of what you'll actually say). Once you pick something, your character speaks it a similar pre-scripted line. I can't imagine all the dialog the actors must have had for this one, but it's gotta be a lot. I am not an RPG fan normally, but the story of this game drew me right in.

You can visit a ton of planets in the galaxy, even though the actual "storyline" only spans a handful. There were probably 5 planets I never even went to....all of them still have adventures waiting for me. Along your journey, you meet lots of people...and you add 5 of them to a list of potential team members. You can pick any two to join you on any mission in the game. I usually settled on the Frog and the alien chick (because I was hoping for a love affair with the latter), but there are several others to pick from.

I could go on and on about the game...but it's 2 years old and many other people have already reviewed it better than I will at 3am. The main thing I want to cover is that I really enjoyed the game a lot. Even though I spent a LOT of time on it, I think it was well worth it...and I can only imagine what the sequel has in store for me.

Overall rating 9/10. The only thing that kept this game from getting a ten was the slightly lame combat system. It's not the best shooter in the world...and a good portion of the game involves shooting. It's not bad, just not great....but the story more than makes up for it.

Replay value: 10/10. Even after pouring about 20 hours into this sucker, there is still SO much I never touched. And it's not like going through the same conversations again, I can go through the game and be completely evil if I want to. Or take all those side missions I skipped. Most importantly...I actually want to go back and do this. But first...Mass Effect 2.

Achievements? I got quite a few...and then are plenty more where these came from:

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