Welcome to the first of four posts by me on the Mass effect franchise. these posts will be split as follows:
- Part 1 – Introduction & Mass Effect 1 (This Post)
- Part 2 – Mass Effect 2
- Part 3 – Mass Effect 3
- Part 4 – Mass Effect, The future & Conclusion
Before we get started be aware that these posts will be long(ish) and will have frequent and heavy spoilers as i discus elements of the games. So bare this in mind, in case your that one person who hasn’t played it yet!!
Okay, still here? Lets get into the goodness that is the greatness of Mass Effect!!
As Commander Shepard, you lead an elite squad on a heroic, action-packed adventure throughout the galaxy.
Discover the imminent danger from an ancient threat and battle the traitorous Saren and his deadly army to save civilization. The fate of all life depends on your actions!
So, lets get the dull bits out of the way first. Unlike the subsequent games in the franchise this first one was published and part funded by Microsoft, and frankly the game shows this throughout. The subsequent games are made by EA.
As a franchise the series has a good bit of strength to it, covering full and mobile games, to comics and novels and even (if rumour be true) a cartoon series.
However after the first game things take a turn for the worse on the DLC side of things, but I’ll cover in subsequent posts.
This first game had two bits of DLC, the first was given free of charge and the second was sold for a bit over priced (£4.99 in the UK). However after EA took over the franchise they changed things around. The first DLC, Being Down the Sky, was still given free. However due to problems with the registration process getting the serial code to work was a nightmare. In the end EA had to pull the DLC for a while and remove the serial requirement. It’s now once again freely available and no longer requires a serial to play.
As a DLC it was pretty good for a freebie. While you don’t get anything items wise, beyond a bit of loot and creds, the mission you get is relevant to Shepard, if you pick the War Hero stat. This is because the mission is a direct consequence of this. Even without this though it’s a pretty good mission that is fun to play through, and worth it.
The second DLC is both worth it and not. Pinnacle Station was the second bit of DLC they released and added a space station (duh) where you can go and take part in a ‘virtual’ combat sim. There’s no real reason for doing it other than stroking your epeen, and i frankly found the initial 8 missions to be annoying and tedious. However the final one is a real challenge and well worth getting through since if you do you get access to a new home. Here you gain access to the high end tiers of gear, which is the only way of getting this gear without doing a second playthrough. You also gain access to a few new special items that are only available after completing. However the items you get are stupidly expensive. The initial is a mere 5k, then it jumps to 75k and finally jumps to 225k. the first two option give you normal random crap you get through the world normally, it’s only the third, 225k option that gives you the top tier stuff. Essentially it’s a money sink, with a good few bits and pieces if you get a lucky roll.
Of the three games this is the only one that has elements that i really consider to be RPG like. The character creation is pretty rough on the graphics side of things (like the game itself), but you get to choose some interesting elements, such as your birth location and family life style, which does have an impact throughout the game. Such as certain missions change to be relevant to your history, as well a specific mission tied to your origin. You class choice also has a huge impact on the way the gameplay goes, and at times this can be very frustrating.
As you level up though you gain squad points, these are spent as you would spend normally in RPG’s upgrading your skills. as you hit certain levels you gain access to other skills and gain bonus abilities and perks.
this gives you a lot of control over how your character develops, but you will have almost all of the skills by the end of the game.
The one element that is carried throughout the franchise, and is seriously broken in all three, is the Paragon/Renegade, your morality meter so to speak. In a way the ‘morality’ is broken throughout the series, but in this game it at least has a passable feel to it. It’s more organic and doesn’t tell you what you option you’ve got, it simply gives you the points after the event. However Bioware just fail when it comes to morality choices, they always deal purely in the black and white, good and evil. There’s no shades of grey, which given the style of game we have here would definitely come into play.
Like all good RPG’s this game is a loot nightmare, there’s loot all over the place but a hideous inventory trying to manage it. this is especially true when you’re messing with armour and have all the races armour cluttering up your screen, making finding that particular one your after a bit of a hassle. It’s even worse with the mods and weapon upgrades.
I love the equipment compare option though it would be nice to have a little check box giving you the option to see a modded/unmodded comparison. I also loved the toggle helmet button. this means you had a choice, your helmet was on or off except for the areas that needed it. A simple feature but one that works so damn well.
The team selection is a bit generic, you can have two optional members at any one time and you pick and choose who you want when you leave the Normandy . you need to make sure your team is going to cover everything however as you can’t change your team until you return to the ship.
You might not think much of this, but on some planets this will cripple you in certain aspects. for example i played as a soldier on my last playthrough and went to Noveria. I didn’t take Liara and Tali with me so almost every box. locker, chest i came across wasn’t unlockable as my skill was to low. Which means i left a hell of a lot of loot behind on that planet. Sadly this is also one of those plants where forward is the only way to go. Once you’ve finished the story aspect you can’t go back again, which is damn frustrating. It would have been nice to have the ‘skill’ in the character tree so you could choose to take it as a cross class skill.
Story wise I have to admit i loved the story of the first game. It’s not as well written as the subsequent games, but it does have more personality and the characters feel more natural and fluid. The progression is a bit fast and you can seriously cripple yourself if you do things in the wrong order, but that’s the whole point of a RPG, it has a failure state.
I loved the fact that a character dies as well, and it can be one of the ones you’ve invested a lot of time in. I killed Kaiden (purely cause i was romancing Ash), but i had spent some time and gotten to like him a lot. So when he died i was a little upset, but loving the fact my actions have consequences, frankly this rocks!!
The game plays quite well, and the keys are all fully rebindable and aren’t piled up 3 on a single key. In fact of the three games this is the least consolised of them. And it actually feels well done, the port of the game was damn sound.
One of the things i really like is that the entire fight at the end against Saren, can be avoided if you can convince him of his mistakes. If you do he commits suicides, which is awesome. This means you only have to fight him once, instead of twice. The first time he’s just Saren, but if you can convince him he commits suicide. however you’ll then have to fight the ‘husk’ version, which frankly is a pain in the arse because he bounces all over the place.
The ending of Mass Effect is just freaking awesome, you get to choose to either save the council or sacrifice them. Saving them you get a awesome fight scene between the Human fleet and Sovereign, the big bad.
However as much as i love this game, and i love this game, it’s worth noting that it has a number of issues with it. One of the most annoying things, for me, is Shepard, he’s made a SPECTRE a supposedly super secret organisation that protects the council and does dirty jobs that have to be done under the counter. Think Jack Bauer in space!! Seriously this is the best way to think of it. Yet despite this, your appointment is made very public, hell you even give an interview that’s made galactic news. So your out to kill Saren, who is a secret but everyone knows who you are where your going and stuff. I found this very frustrating and distracting at times.
Another aspect of this i found frustrating is that the Council makes this big thing about how SPECTRE’s are the best of the best, yet they never take your word about the coming doom. Even when you prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Saren is corrupt and out to cause the Reapers return, they’re like ‘yeah yeah’ with you.
Some of the problems you face i do understand their reactions, such as releasing the Rachni Queen, a race that almost wiped out the galaxy and started a huge war in the past. So them questioning your choice of releasing her makes a hell of a lot of sense. However in another scene where you’re rescuing Liara you end up destroying a set of ruins, and they get all stressed over this. which really doesn’t make much sense to me.
Then when you finally prove everything, they pull the plug on you and ground you. These choices are a bit annoying but i do find it easy to get passed them.
Another aspect i found weak was the interactions on the Normandy. I found it to be a bit stale, and beyond you team mates there’s not really a lot of interactions. Overall i found the Normandy to be a stale environment, with little to do there. The Citadel however is the opposite, it’s vast open and feels pretty damn good.
One of the characters you meet on the Citadel is Sha’ira, and i had huge hopes for her. There are so many hints about her having some sort of role in your destiny, as well as giving you something, but it never pans out. I found it a disappointing that it was never built on in the subsequent games.
In the end, this game isn’t graphically good looking game by todays standards. In fact at times it’s pretty damn ugly, with a lot of texture pop-in and odd facial expressions. However despite this, i have to say this game is AMAZING. This is especially true since it frequently goes on sale for a few quid as a digital game on steam. But I’ve also seen it in my local Game store in the 99p bin. what you can do is take the serial code on the game and add it to Origin, which means you bypass securom (which the CD release sadly has), but you also gain both the DLC for free which is a good thing.
I can not express how much i love this game and recommend it highly!!