Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

Mass Effect on Xbox 360

Custom User Avatar
More by this author
Story has been something that has been escalating quickly in the medium of video games. Many people argue that video games are becoming too much like movies. I’m bringing this up because video games are quickly leaving their roots of being just games. Some video games aren’t just games any more. Some games are experiences. Mass Effect is one of those games.

Mass Effect is a third-person space-opera RPG. You play as a Commander Shepard and before you start playing, you get to create your character. You can change their facial features, gender, and you can pick a class. The gameplay is like your standard duck-and-cover shooter. You stick to cover and pop out to shoot your enemies. Guns overheat if you shoot them enough and the farther you progress the game, the better weapons you’ll get. You also can use powers called “Biotics.” Some biotic powers let you throw an enemy 20 feet away from you and others disrupt an enemy’s shields. These powers add variation to the frequent gun battles. There are various classes. You have the “barebones classes” where they are specialized on biotics, tech, or firearms, or you could be a variation of two (such as a vanguard who is good with biotics and guns). The gameplay is nothing special but it definitely has its moments. Many times you are in a confined corridor killing regular enemies, but other times you have to kill huge robot tanks with a shotgun and a couple of grenades. Throughout the game you can visit uncharted planets to scavenge for materials and money in a moon buggy called the “Mako.” The Mako doesn’t have the best controls, but it is a nice break from all the shooting and talking. You go into other planets with the “Galaxy Map.” In the Galaxy Map, you select different clusters and solar systems to travel to for missions.
You can level up your powers and skills like many other RPG’s. Once you get enough experience, you can level up your powers, weapons, armor, etc. The farther you progress through the game, the harder your enemies become, and the harder your enemies become, the better loot you will get in the small skirmishes you have with them. Loot could be better weapons, armor, and/or upgrades. Those items then go into your inventory. The inventory management is probably the worst part of the game. You have to assign the weapons and armor to you and everybody in your team. Then you have to assign the hundreds of upgrades to every weapon and armor that you and your team is using. The problem is that there are so many upgrades that you can get from one mission that it becomes intimidating very quickly. I almost hit the limit for how many items I could have in my inventory, so I had to waste an hour in assigning and selling everything I did and didn’t want.

The presentation oozes style. While the graphics do look dated, the presentation never ceases to impress me. Whenever I am driving on the Mako in an uncharted planet, I always look up at the sky and stare at the stars twinkle for about three minutes. The frame rate is constantly jittery though. It is rarely smooth especially in big firefights. The score is one of the highlights of the game. You will want to buy the full album because it is incredible. The use of the synthesizer and the Blade Runner type ambiance is something magical.

But whenever I play Mass Effect, I never play for what I just stated above. I played it for the narrative, universe, story, and fantastic characters. The game takes place in the Milky Way and humanity is not alone. Humans have mastered space flight but so have many other humanoid (and not so humanoid) species. The bulk of galactic civilization is centered around the Citadel. The Citadel is the hub of the galactic government and commerce. You play as Commander Shepard. S/he will try to track down a rogue Spectre, Saren. Interaction is a big part of Mass Effect. You get to talk to many, many, people and it is all voice acted. Most games resort to a voiceless protagonist, but Mass Effect has a fully voiced male or female lead character. Throughout the story you will meet characters that will then follow you in your misadventures. You can choose to be friends, enemies, and maybe even spark a romance with your crewmen. The characters are memorable and feel like actual people. They tell you about their own backstories and you are invested in them. By the end, you really feel like you are traversing the galaxy with a couple of friends. Something that annoyed me, though, was that the dialogue occasionally sounded a bit cheesy. Throughout the game you can choose small decisions, such as, “Should I be nice to this annoying fan of mine” but other times, the fate of an entire species will be brought to you without warning. One choice isn’t necessarily better than the other and it could really make you worry for the consequences that will come later. There are also many times where you can have very different outcomes in conversations. If you find a person pointing a gun at you, you could either shoot him, or tell him to calm down. This game asks for you to play it more than once…And that’s great.

The Mass Effect universe itself is extremely fleshed out as well. If you talk to your crew members on your ship, they will tell you about their species’ history. You can also read the “Galactic Codex” in which you read even more into the culture, biology, etc. of these species, should you want to explore those options. Doing this is not necessary, though. The game makes sure you are up to speed with what’s going on but it will make the world feel more real and will add an extra flavor to your whole experience, so I highly recommend it. When you are in the Galaxy Map, you can read the descriptions of all the planets that inhabit the galaxy. This describes the inhabitants, gasses it has in its atmosphere, etc., which further immerses you into the universe.

I loved my time with Mass Effect a lot. It was an immersive game with a fantastic world and characters. While, sadly some technical hitches hold it back from being a masterpiece, this is still a fantastic game that you need to play if you want to have an experience in a world unlike any other. Play it through, even to just get to Mass Effect 2 if you don’t like Mass Effect that much. But please play this one through. This is the beginning of an amazing franchise. Now I’m going to stop writing and play some more Mass Effect.



Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!




Site Feedback