on Jan 8, 2009
Mass Effect is the worst game BioWare has put out in over a decade.
…but it’s still a great game.
I guess that says a lot about BioWare, that they can slide this far and still have a quality product. The elements that I love in BioWare games are still there, just watered down a bit.
|Aderson: What about Shepherd? He’s a mildly retarded boy who spends all day staring out the window.
Udina: Is that the kind of person we want protecting the galaxy?
Anderson: That’s the only kind of person who can protect the galaxy.
The premise is that humanity is the new race on the block. We’ve just recently dragged our sapient butts into space and found it was already populated by a half-dozen other races. So much for the final frontier.
One of the crucial locations in the game is the Citadel – a huge space station built by a long-dead alien race. Nobody really knows how the Citadel works, but it’s huge and powerful and the perfect place for the galactic
oligarchy council to make their home. The council employs the Specters – a small group of covert specialists who are beholden to nobody but the council. Think of them like CIA spies with diplomatic immunity, working for a small group of aliens who live in an unassailable fortress and who aren’t accountable to anyone. Given this power structure, it’s actually really impressive that the galaxy is only usually torn apart by warfare.
Humanity seems to have figured out that you can only rule or serve in this galactic order, and so they have begun efforts to get humans into places of power. You play as commander Shepherd, a candidate to be the first human Specter, which one assumes is a stepping stone to humanity being on the council itself.
While all of this is going on, a unknown force rises and threatens the entire galaxy, and someone has to stop them. (That would be you.)
Some people are faulting Mass Effect for being too short. But I think what’s happened here is that the game has nearly as many quests and tasks as earlier games, but a majority of those have been offloaded into optional – and often obscured – sidequests. Once the game cuts you loose with your own ship, you only have five stops to make to reach the end of the game. (Get Liara on Therum, the cipher on Feros, the location of the Mu Relay on Noveria, the second beacon on Virmire, and then kick the galaxy’s ass via Ilos.) This isn’t like KOTOR, where every other person you pass is waving you down and stuffing a laundry list of tasks into your hand. Mass Effect makes it very easy to jump on the central rail and ride it all the way to the closing credits, and if you want more to do you have to go looking for it.
|The Citadel is a fantastic location, its grandeur hampered somewhat by its incessant loading screens.|
The plot is interesting enough. The premise – that Bad Aliens Are Invading and Must Be Stopped – isn’t going to win any awards for originality, and it’s lacking the devious sucker-punch plot twist that earlier BioWare games gave us. But it’s engaging, consistent, and based in a new setting instead of pulling from the dregs of some played-out IP.
But the game is not without its faults, and I am going to enumerate them in excruciating detail in a later post. Partly because I think this needs to be done, but mostly because I build up my self-esteem by pointing out the faults of others.
And let us not forget that I would have played this game ten months ago if it were not for those fumbling, ignorant dolts at EA spiking the PC version with a bunch of self-defeating DRM. Nice going losers. I would have bought it new, for the PC, ages ago. And instead I got it used, for the 360. That cost you my sale, plus the modest smattering of others that likely would have arisen from my review series. But hey, at least you… uh.
Wait. What did you guys get out of it again?
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.