There are sometimes you buy some games in a clearance bin at your nearby video game store, simply because it is cheap and feel “well if it is bad, I would not have spend much money on it”. But sometimes its end up like a book. You picked up because of the cover, start to read it……and BANG you are stuck with it for a few days!
Mass Effect is exactly this kind of game. It went completely under my radar for various reasons and thought it was an “Halo-like” FPS, brainless game. See, target, shoot neural circuit loop. Indeed with this one I was plain wrong. Man, this game was a complete delight to play. Knowing Bioware from Baldur’s Gate and from Star Wars: Knight of the old Republic (KOTOR) if you were in the PC gaming back in the end 1990s, you know the staple of this studio: pieces of well-crafted engaging RPGs.
I will not talk too much about the plot but you are Jack Shepard from the Alliance, a distant future (2138, I would rather say 5138 because I don’t see how we will get into this level of technology in a bit more than 100 years). You start the game with a first mission to investigate the loss of communication with a Earth colony base in a planet. Of course, things get quickly sour and you face the threat of a enemy thought dead, the Geths. You quickly realize that these Geth are under the control of Saron, a renegade Spectre (something equivalent to Navy Seals, when you want to solve discrete international crisis without having to deal with the diplomatic channel) that capture an ancient technology from the Prothean, a ET race disappeared 50’000 years ago in an apocalyptic manner. You can imagine having a doomsday technology in the hand of a renegade.
You start the story pursuing Saron but you also discover the great depth of this game. This is not a game, this is an interactive movie in which you have to make decision that will affect the storytelling. After your arrival at the Citadel, the central headquarters hosting the Council, a honorary council made of aliens seeing humans a “second-class citizens”, you have to face the challenges of politics, the revolving backdoors and intrigues linked to such governance. You have to accomplish quests that further deploy some dirty games of politics including corruption, conflict of interests, influence. You also have to deal with the underworld of such system made scoundrels, spies, hackers.
It is very captivating as you read the story slowly unfolding that I feel very similar to those who like “Star Trek” or have been watching “Babylon 5”. Decisions and verbal tones in dialogues (through an ingenious wheel of dialogue) really affect the outcomes.
In addition to this aspect and the action of the game (a well designed team-based FPS), you have also a whole universe open to explore. You can travel to galaxies, systems and planets. In some aspects in you ever played “Starflight” before, you have the same feeling of exploration, planet survey, mineral harvesting, artifacts discovering.
I played this game for a good two weeks, spending my nights and weekends on it. It was truly a great experience. This game came during the early days of the Xbox360 (it came somewhere in 2008) and in 2015 it felt still very fresh and modern, although you can feel the Xbox struggling to keep on frame rates for certain scenes.
If you love science-fiction with extraterrestrial exploration, complicated storyline plots and never played this game, you should. I would even recommend to directly invest in the trilogy package if you have ever have a chance to put your hands on. I have to take some break for the next few weeks (teaching and grant writing season kicked in) but I already eye on “Mass Effect 2” to continue the story plot, as “Mass Effect” ending only opened up a new story to read.