Top positive review
312 people found this helpful
Deep story unfolds in early going, very immersive experience
on November 20, 2007
First off, I've been waiting for this game since the previews came out late last year (2006). So far, Bioware has done a great job of pimping out this game. And deliver it does...
The 'cutscenes' are really not cutscenes at all. The conversations you have are pretty dynamic and integration of the choices of stuff to say is so seamless it seems almost natural. Early on, you get a sense of this when choices of stuff to do in the field enable you to remake your character as a mission-oriented commander or more of a compassionate search-for-survivors kind of guy, among some. The story picks up pretty much where the prequel book left off, and immerses you in the experience. You keep on wanting to learn more. You definitely feel like a part of this epic and that will keep you coming back.
Unlike Halo 3 and Gears of War which launch you into an ongoing war, this game sends you into a very deep, very complex world to explore. Imagine yourself as a hypothetical CIA agent before the war begins. Expect to see yourself running around the world, talking to people and gaining intel on people, and then having fight scenes from time to time. When you get sent on a mission to track someone down and there are lots of enemies between you and the destination, then you begin to see more of the combat-intensive aspects of the game.
Expect to see a third-person shooter with a heavy RPG influence. While out in the field, it's like a Gears of War experience with a basic tactical system. Run. Take cover. Take some guys down. Order your friendlies to flank the enemy or to fall back. Outside of this, the RPG system comes into play when leveling up, when you get to choose abilities to level up, weapons to equip (ie, if you have 3 types of sniper rifles in inventory, which one will you equip?. I will cover this in more detail below). The controls were overall slightly different from control schemes used in comparable third-person shooters. It didn't take me long to get used to the system used here in Mass Effect. You can pretty much figure it all out in the first level.
I had the mistaken view that only snipers and pistols can be trained into an over-the-shoulder Gears of War camera angle when aiming (holding down the left trigger). Apparently, this is because I started off as an Infiltrator class. Different character classes can train different weapons. The soldier class can train all weapons. Sniping took some getting used to. When you first start off, Shepard is very shaky and thus it is very difficult to snipe. Adding points to level up your sniping ability seems to limit this shakiness greatly.
The tactical system is very very bare bones. You can order people to fall back, take on a specific target, regroup, or storm the area. Nothing much to it. Therefore, players can fight with their AI teammates as much of a unit (though I feel the AI tends to die a lot).
You also get to drive vehicles. Much of you have seen the trailers and saw that tank drop out from the Normandy. That tank handles like a Warthog from Halo 3, except with rocket boosters and a repair function. A heads up - repairing means you can't move or fire any of the tank's weapons. Therefore, make sure you're in cover when repairing. I love the rocket boosters as it gives you an extra method of dodging rockets and charged shots from the geth. The big disadvantage is that you have to drive and shoot at the same time. This makes for some very frustrating vehicle fight sequences.
I am a big fan of how the game feels thus far. Having RPG elements yields a lot of control over how your character plays on the field. The shooting system is pretty good, but not flawless. My biggest complaint early on was the many loading pauses you have to go through, but the deeper I went into the game, the less it affected gameplay. Loading pauses don't happen in the middle of the heat of battle, but it definitely wouldn't hurt to possibly fix this up in future patches.
Finally, a decent portion of the game involves going out and doing side missions. This means jumping in the tank and driving from the landing zone to various points on the map. I think driving around like this is the most painful experience of the game. There's almost always nothing but an occasionally frustrating 5-minute drive between the LZ and the destination, and once you get there, after doing a few of the side missions, you realize that the site layout is a recurring theme. Therefore, if anything else, the side missions are a great way to practice and to level up. There's some more of that RPG stuff working for you.
RPG Elements: A
For weapons and armor, the feel is similar to something like Diablo II, where you pick up random equipment as you go along. Each equipment has a certain class: armor, assault rifles, pistols, sniper rifles, shotguns, etc (I haven't seen the other classes!). Depending on the character class you chose at the beginning, you have different combinations of these classes available to you. For example, my character class may allow me to equip an assault rifle and armor only. This means that I can equip only 1 assault rifle at a time and 1 armor. But since I pick up a lot of these in the field, I must choose which assault rifle I want to use and which armor to equip. The equipment select screen where you actually do this shows a lot of equipment data, ie damage of a weapon, 'clip size', so on.
Upgrades for each weapon can also be picked up and installed, including different rounds (ie, shredder rounds that add bonus damage when fighting organics, vs. armor piercing rounds against synthetics) and a wide range of add-ons (ie, heat sinks to decrease gun overheating).
Another big thing is that you gain experience out in the field as you fight more stuff. You earn points this way that you can spend upgrading, say, your ability to snipe or your armor's damage reduction settings. There are definitely a variety of choices to look through while you decide what to level up.
I enjoy interacting with the characters to see what's going on in their heads. The characters are all very multidimensional and very well thought up and implemented in the game. Voice acting and video synchronization was flawless.
I have played through the story at least 3x by now, amassing more than 60 hours of gameplay. Having 6 character classes to pick from and 6 squad members to choose from, including the ability to choose whether to build your reputation as a ruthless military man or a compassionate and humane leader (or somewhere in between) definitely keeps you coming back to see how you can change the way things play. The different character classes really play differently so have fun with them.
To sum up, some of you may be looking at this game and wondering whether or not it's worth the $60. And I say it is.
PROS: Deep and immersive storyline that captivates from the beginning, well-made characters, seamless incorporation of dynamic cutscenes, unique integration of 3PS with RPG. This game plays very differently from anything you've tried before. It's no Halo 3 nor Bioshock. It's a very well-made original game.
CONS: Minimap is not intuitive at first, plays too much like a movie at times, driving between points on a map in the Mako can be excruciatingly boring, a lot of recurring layouts with the sites of side missions.
FINAL VERDICT: A+. Very well-made game, well worth that whole wait from June till now. I've been anticipating this game for a while and it delivers an epic storyline of gigantic portions in a way that no others have done. This is definitely for people who want to experience being in an all-new sci-fi epic and building up an altogether new and unique hero.