Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Mass Effect: Early Thoughts

Yes, I know Mass Effect has been out for ages (a quick check reveals it was out in 2007 for the Xbox 360), but I’ve just bought the Trilogy for the PS3.

At the time of writing I’ve played it for a few hours, enough time to get a feel for the basics. I’ll write a proper review once I’ve finished the whole game. It’s made by Bioware, the same chaps who make the Dragon Age series, which I rather like.

Character and Companions

The character creator (which includes a basic set of background options) is ok. I like the background option, and you also get to pick one of six classes (it was a bit hard to tell what to go for, though, as I didn’t know how important/useful the strengths and weaknesses of each would be). The make-your-face section has standard presets, including a default Shepard and a female Shepard (aka FemShep). As usual, I went for a female protagonist and fiddled to make a unique face (blonde hair, purple eyes) but it wasn’t easy making one that looked alright.

I don’t know if I’ve got the full party yet (you have two companions with you on missions, and I presently have five to choose from), but the ones I’ve got are a nice mix in terms of both character and ability. The away team mission style also lends itself to taking different companions instead of always picking the same ones (which I do in Dragon Age).


I love the lore/world-building. There’s a good number of alien races, enough to make the galaxy feel like more than humans, an ally race, an antagonist race and a few token races. Bioware have also done a good job of making them feel individual and distinctive. I wouldn’t confuse a Krogan with a Geth, or anything else for that matter. The extensive Codex (similar to Dragon Age but with a voice-over for Primary material) won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I feel it’s a nice touch and it’s the sort of thing you can ignore if you aren’t into it.


The music’s so-so, nothing’s really grabbed me so far but it’s also not bad. Sound effects are pretty good. Voice acting also seems good, and I like FemShep’s voice actress (I think she was also Naomi in the Metal Gear Solid series, amongst other roles).


Graphics are generally quite good. The faces could be a little nicer, but I really like the slight fuzz/interference overlaid on the graphics. You can turn it off, which I tried, but it makes things seem a little better, somehow. Occasionally there’s a brief loading screen going from one area to another, but it’s only a few seconds. There is an occasional wait of a few seconds for textures to come in (typically with armour) but nothing serious.


The combat and character building works well, from what I’ve experienced. The overheating effect on guns is a clever touch, and I like the fact that you can unlock and level up weapons to varying degrees, which allows for a good range of customisation of characters (likewise with other skills). I very rarely use skills. Not sure if that’s just me, but just shooting stuff seems easier/more fun. One annoying feature (I play as an Infiltrator) is the fact that the sniper scope moves around too much. It doesn’t seem to be improved by crouching (there’s no crawl option). The whole point of being a sniper is firing a small number of highly accurate, highly damaging shots.

The galaxy seems (at this early stage) to be a very big place, which is cool. There are multiple clusters to which you can fly, and usually more than one star system per cluster. Each system has various planets (and perhaps moons/spacecraft), some of which can be surveyed and some of which can be landed upon. As well as the main quest missions there’s a large number of side missions which are pretty cool. An annoying feature is that surveying element deposits requires a mini-game. I can see the logic behind a mini-game for opening locked containers and hacking computers, but it seems a bit stupid for surveying metals and minerals. Not a major issue, though.

Bugs and other issues

A gripe I have not with the game itself but with the trilogy is that there’s no manual. Yes, you can download one and there’s a manual option on Mass Effect’s starting screen but that’s not as helpful as having one to hand. It hasn’t caused me many problems (I did forget, or misread, that grenades need to be thrown and then detonated with two touches of the Select button) but it’s still a little irksome.

I haven’t come across any problems loading/saving, no freezes to date (I did turn off auto-save. This reduced freezing with both Dragon Age and Skyrim, and I’m a compulsive saver so it’s not really needed anyway) or lag. Small loading between areas is not a problem.

Early Conclusion

Overall I’m enjoying it rather a lot. I’m glad my stubbornness (I refused to buy ME2 when it came to the PS3 on the grounds that I hadn’t played the first game, and couldn’t as, until now, it wasn’t available for the console) led to what seems like a great value buy of three RPGs for the price of one.




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