Games I played 2009 - Mass Effect

It's been so long that I touched this game that I think it could've been 2008. Nontheless, Mass Effect came at the right time: when I was hungry for simple, yet story-driven Roleplay-Games, Mass Effect delivered exactly what I was hoping for, but unfortunately not really more.

The controls are an imporved version of Knights of the Old Republic, upgraded with typical third-person action-game controls (WASD for you righthanders, Arrow Keys for us lefthanders). Unlike KoTOR you can aim yourself but skills like dexterity (forgot the real name here) will help you steady your arms. Unless you build your caracter that way you will rarely be involved in any close combat. During the fight you control up to three characters, two of which are always controlled by the AI. But you can either give them simple commands like "attack", "regroup" or use a specific skill, or directly take control of them so the computer takes control of your main character. When you are not in combat you roam around various locations and have conversations with a large amount of non-player characters who let you plunge deeper into the storyline of Mass Effect or give you your next mission. In those conversations you can often choose between different lines which define your alter ego's personality and change the outcome of various plotlines within the game. Conversations take around 50% of the game, 2/3 of the rest is action, the other is walking around looking for the next best guy to talk to.

If you've played KotOR than it may not surprise you that all levels are equally linear. There is little to no possibility for alternative ways. It's all narrow corridors with enemies coming only from your front. Sometimes there's backtracking involved. Alternatives come more in the way you have skilled your character. You can play him as a melee guy, the heavy-weapons guy or like me, as a sniper and tak your enemies out from afar. Ammunition is unlimited but you have to be careful not to overheat your weapon.Unfortunately I played a bugged version for a long time, and sometimes when my weapon would overheat and remain like that, and I would have to reload the last quicksave. Oh wait... there is more than narrow corridors. Inbetween missions you are able to discover new planets, land on them and loot them for items. But it's not really motivating. Most planets are one deserted space where you can use a buggy to find your way around, and every now and then enemy humanoids or giant insects pop up and try to make your looting just a bit harder.

Mass Effect feels very epic, not right from the start, but from the moment you are getting close to be called a Specter (play the game to find out what that is. I hate spoilers when reading reviews so I won't give you any). You find befriend humanoids of various species and inbetween levels you are given the chance to speak to each of them and learn more about their backgrounds. After about ten hours of playtime you will have experienced an epic storyline about a galactic conspiracy. It's all good, but I was missing a little more of the emotional involvement. There is no uber plot-twist like in KotOR, and submissions are rarely tied into the main plot. As informed gamers know, BioWare, the creator of this game has already announced a sequel, so you know that there is a cliffhanger at the end. On the visual side: The artists have used the UT3-Engine satisfactory. Character models, facial expressions, diversified worlds all add up to an atmospheric visual experience. Soudnwise: Character voice-over is great. Not much to add here. The sound is also very fitting, adding to the Star Wars/Star Gate-feel the game always has. The music also fits nicely (not much to say here, it just fits in nicely in an intergalactic Science-Fiction way).

All in all Mass Effect is a decent experience with few innovations. The controls are updated with manual aiming compared to Kknights of the Old Republic, graphics are nice, story is good but not perfect. People who liked the gameplay of KotOR will see a decent inofficial successor.

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