Mass Effect PC (Pro/Contra)

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The good:

  • The completely spoken dialogues and cut-scenes are more immersive than in any other RPG I can think of to date, using a lot of famous voice-actors known from TV and other video games probably played a big part in that.
  • I like the lore of the world, a lot... races, Mass Relays and other technologies at least make a lick of sense in the world of Mass Effect and seem creative and apt. It doesn't come off as totally illogical like in a lot of other similar settings, where you either don't get an explanation at all or it seems to be something random like "our ship flies on fairy-dust... deal with it".
  • It is more on the side of the imaginable; the technology for the FTL (Faster Than Light) travel and Mass Relays haven't all been miraculously "invented" in the last 200 years but rather found and researched. Also humanity isn't the biggest player in the galaxy by far and also isn't portrayed as the best thing since the discovery of intergalactic whores.
  • The "Codex" or "Galactic Encyclopedia" how I like to call it about aliens, technologies and places (which luckily is also narrated very well, at least a large part of it) added to the whole atmosphere of the game and the idea in itself, that you discover something new on a computer terminal or see/hear about a new species or a place and if you're interested "to know more" you can look it up seemed nice. Unfortunately I'm pretty sure that only a very small part of the players will make use of it at all.

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  • Solid characters and a nice portrayal of different alien life forms, some wearing environmental suits because they wouldn't be able to survive without, some more inspired from insects, reptiles or other...things and others using different forms of speech "(Honestly)I enjoy talking to you Commander."
  • The system for dynamically leveling the enemies and loot along with the player seems better implemented than in any game to date (hello Oblivion...)
  • Animations and equipment-looks seem largely functional and turned out well (although there could have been more :P)
  • The skill system seemed nicely done and not annoying or disruptive, it's the best tradeoff between having too much things to specialize in and having too little. If you're a big talker, you can specialize in Diplomacy or Intimidation early on without compromising any of the military abilities.

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  • You can finally be good and selfish at the same time! Solving quests or "helping out people" often made you "Lawful Good" in other games even though you might've been just interested in the moneyz and the reward is being handled independently on a "Paragon" and a "Renegade" scale here (which ended up in my char having a nearly full Paragon and a half full Renegade meter).
  • Some places in game that look nice:

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The bad:

  • Overall, I am NOT impressed with the graphics the Unreal Engine 3 delivers in this game, while certain parts of it... especially close-ups of characters or partially the Citadel/the Normandy looked great, the outside worlds on some planets looked very poor (especially the random planets seemingly created by a terrain-generator without any vegetation or life on them whatsoever, but also most of the latter story-planets and the parts where you have to drive the MAKO) without real grass and with low resolution textures using max. Settings...
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    Even the Citadel and some other Indoor areas heavily reuse textures, which make some places look a lot less impressive/unique than they could've. I liked the optics on KOTOR or Jade Empire a lot more considering the time they were released. Even though they didn't use such an "Advanced" game engine, but at least each planet looked unique and genuine and they seemed to pay a lot more attention to details back then. Even the Infinity engine games like Baldur's Gate with its unique, tenderly drawn backgrounds impressed me more when it came out than Mass Effect does nowadays.

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    The best way to recognize lazy level-design is if you can mirror a room and it looks almost exactly the same.
  • The game, or rather mainly the main story is too short. After visiting every single planet, doing every single quest, devouring the complete Codex, looting every single container, inspecting every single planet and anomaly and finding all pieces of ore/gases (and also managing to hit Level 50 by the end) the game timer roughly hit 31 hours.

    People that only play through the main plot (and put aside the very simply designed sub-quests) should probably expect something between 7-13 hours of fun... which is nice for an expansion say NWN2: Mask of the Betrayer or the two new ones coming out soon with roughly the same expected playtime (which usually take a lot longer to complete in my experience though), but certainly not for a full game.
    I can remember spending well over 100 hours on games like Baldur's Gate 1 or 2. I was busy for months with some of those...

  • Bioware was big on talking about the "huge worlds" we are supposedly going to visit and that not a single person in their entire testing team could've visited ALL of those places ever and simultaneously showing off the galaxy-map and how "huge" it is, assuring that all is explorable etc. http://www.gamespot.com/video/0/6174539/ (8:10) I quote:

    Q: "Is there a number, you're ready to admit of how many places you can go to. This looks like a lot."
    A: "I can tell you, I'm the project director on this project and I actually don't know... there's 100s of things... "
    Q: "Has there been anyone, maybe in QA who has played any single moment of the game?"
    A: "Definitely not, no, probably not possible, the way it all branches. The challenge actually, is that between Bioware QA and Microsoft QA and other testers we bring in, hopefully we get enough coverage that all of those people see everything at some point..."

    But it turned out to be kind of a sham in my opinion, with most planets just having a short "Survey" text and the rest being completely generated and barren... only with 2-3 kinds of animals running around here and there on a few, and even with the same type of structures everywhere. They could've really cut down on all of those and instead made 1 or 2 more „main/side-quest" planets instead...

    And what about stuff like ship-to-ship combat, discovering a derelict mass relay and activating it to explore a part of space for the first time or visiting an alien ship or stuff like that instead of activating water valves and destroying beacons for a change?

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    The Alliance passed the great lumberjacking act in 2132, it legitimized deforestation of any Class M planets for personal gain, now trees are almost extinct and reserved to main cultural hubs only.
  • After being done with the Citadel a lot of the content also did seem rather "rushed" and most of the game play reminded me more of titles like Doom, in which you have to shoot a lot of enemies to get a keycard or destroy a certain object instead of sophisticated role-playing games of the past (e.g. too many shooter-elements and not enough RPG-elements), dialogue-heavy encounters also become less and less as you progress and the level design seems to get more unloving and careless by the hour.
  • There is also a serious lack of "quests" in this game, and most are just solved by talking to people or shooting someone, again... certainly a large step back from BG/KOTOR/Jade Empire and even Neverwinter Nights.
    All the "quests" can be pretty much summed up on a single page: http://masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/Assignments (UNC being random planet ones): and as you progress beyond the Citadel they are also getting more scarce exponentially as you can see as well.
  • I was disappointed the most by the "random missions" in a "MMO Anarchy Online"-style (and even Funcom learned from that experience, NOT TO DO IT again it would seem) :P
    Wouldn't have expected something like that from Bioware at all, especially because they had nothing similar in any of their previous games. 90% of the great "explorable" planets consist of hilly, random landscapes with a few interest points like a crashed satellite or a dead body here and there and bases that look exactly the same on every single planet. Your mission usually consists of killing/saving someone or finding some data and in order to do that you have to shoot 5-30 enemies.
    The only good thing I can say about those random missions is that they've mostly been initiated by speech when you entered a system or from a quest-NPC and not totally random from some console with a short text, also most had cut-scenes at the end and the tasks were somewhat moderately different...
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    You will find out that on foreign planets, warehouses seem to be
    the habitat of choice for colonists, scientists and pirates alike.
  • I didn't like the "random-loot/item" system either, the only items worth mentioning/unique in the entire game from start to finish was the Spectre gear you could buy on the Citadel (once after you became a Spectre and again after hitting Level 50 I believe), which also remained the best items in the game till the very end... other than that equipping new stuff was only determined by comparing 1 or 2 values and see which is higher. I already hated it in NWN and I will continue to do so with a passion.

    It's just something else to find a special item with its very own "story" and/or special stats and uses off certain bosses/individuals (like Baldur's Gate or KOTOR... speaking swords, dragon scale armor, special armors, weapons off famous characters (Drizzt) were content in itself and made me happy every time I found something new) or hidden away in a locker somewhere with a special name, history and different abilities... it feels like an accomplishment.

    Granted it is a lot more work to do it manually, but the two systems could be combined for maximum effectivity and it wouldn't hurt to design 50-100 unique items, would it? These random items seem so... impersonal...

  • Fillers, I had the feeling that at some point the designers were nearly done with the major part of the game and realized that Mass Effect isn't "Massive" enough yet, let's try and count some:

    • (1) Planet exploration (on ground) where there's nothing more than a few broken satellites, artifacts and bodies,

    • (2) Quests on planets, especially the ones involving clearing 3-5 enemy bases... and that in different systems and on different planets (did by any chance any of their new MMO developers work on this...?),

    • (3) Planet surveying (from space) and searching for asteroids etc,

    • (4) Mini games on almost every single container, mineral or body... on terminals Hacking/Decrypting would have been okay and made sense, but with it popping up every time you open a container it felt worse than in BioShock after a while,

    • (5) Parts of the game where you basically had to follow a trail and kill everything that's moving with the MAKO, without any real incentive to do so (for example in BG or KOTOR there was something interesting and some quests hidden on every map) aside of being able to get on with the game,

    • (6) No ability to sprint out of combat,

    • (7) No way to skip cut scenes... not even the loading/docking ones,

    • (8) Elevators taking too long, the party-banter and station messages could've all been spread out over the station to a certain time-interval... no need to initiate them in the elevators only

    • (9) Inventory management, after every few missions you had to look through all the armors/weapons/upgrades and other stuff, reequip your teammates and sell the rest (which hasn't been exactly made easy either)
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    1000s of meters of barren landscape = fun, if you've seen one random planet, you've seen them all, and if you are a Completionist you will see more than you'd like.

The DRM:

Because of the kind of DRM used, it is also worth mentioning... some people don't want to buy it by principle, a few others because of paranoia, but there are issues with this kind of DRM like:

To sum it up (aside of main NWN campaign), this was the only Bioware RPG I played I wasn't really impressed with, it was nice and good for the most part, but they could've done a lot better and I didn't get that "Wow... this game is so fking great"-feeling a lot, instead there were a lot of "Meh..."-moments throughout.

If it wasn't for all the fillers throughout the game it would've been held in a higher regard in my memory, but with all those in if I'd have to rate it, it would be something like:

The complete game: 6.7/10
The main story only: 8.1/10

Would've been even higher on the main story if the plot wasn't clichéd here and there, and if it actually made a difference in the game if you pick the "Good" or the "Bad" way of talking to someone.

At the end I also really hoped to be done with the "bad guys" so the next installment could concentrate on another issue within the galaxy (I'm sure there's hundreds of things awry that could need fixing by a Spectre and even more villains trying to destroy existence itself :P).
Unfortunately Mass Effect 2 already seems to be planned as more of the same.

Hey... but then it was mainly a console RPGFPS ported to the PC.
I just really hope they'll do a better job with Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2... I'm kind of worried about the first one though, which was supposed to come out this year and they haven't even started marketing it like crazy yet... I thought they'd start right away after Mass Effect was out for XBoX, maybe they're waiting for a special occasion though (like the upcoming E3 in July).

I agree with what you say to some extent. I think you are quite a bit too harsh and the game is still absolutely excellent but I defiantly hear you.

The game is much, much shorter than advertised, by no means a short game though.

Does feel like some things are fillers ie side quests.

I cant understand your problem with the story however. Its the one saving grace for me in that I really cared about the characters and the games world.

All in all I like your style. Email me if you do more.

I would give Mass Effect a 9\10
Still one of the best games to come out.

I'm surprised you didn't mention the Mako, a vehicle that has frustrated me to the point of creating a nonsensical and overly-complicated metaphor to describe what driving the bloody thing is like.

Copter400:
I'm surprised you didn't mention the Mako, a vehicle that has frustrated me to the point of creating a nonsensical and overly-complicated metaphor to describe what driving the bloody thing is like.

Let me try: It's like trying to ride a chocobo from the other side of the planet with your only means of controlling it being whispering on the wind.

Close?

The game looks like a nice welcoming swimming pool, but when you dive in, you crack your head open because the damn thing is only an inch deep.

While I certainly agree on some of your points, I can't agree with the implied conlcusion.

Mass effect is a higly immersive and over all extremely good game.

Sure, some things - like the damn same decrypt game on a billion different things (why do I have to decrypt a rock?) are annoying and not terribly well concepted. And yes, I'd have enjoyed the game being longer...but only because I was fucking loving playing it.

On the unique items: Unique items make a whole lot less sense in a scifi setting. I mean, I've got this uber gun I found...

can we make 5 more? and if not, why not?

In a fantasy setting you have unique magic, Here, not so much...

mrverbal:
While I certainly agree on some of your points, I can't agree with the implied conlcusion.

Mass effect is a higly immersive and over all extremely good game.

Sure, some things - like the damn same decrypt game on a billion different things (why do I have to decrypt a rock?) are annoying and not terribly well concepted. And yes, I'd have enjoyed the game being longer...but only because I was fucking loving playing it.

On the unique items: Unique items make a whole lot less sense in a scifi setting. I mean, I've got this uber gun I found...

can we make 5 more? and if not, why not?

In a fantasy setting you have unique magic, Here, not so much...

It's very easy to have unique guns. Custom modifications made by bandits/soldiers/expert gunsmiths/hitting it with a rock. Or remnants from a past age or race that came through the sector. Experimental weapons that were made before the company that was making em went bust.

In short, it requires more of an explanation than "magic man dunnit".

What about the blue alien chick?

experimental weapons, sure, I guess.

But...you still have the problem that if it is so amazing JUST MAKE ME ANOTHER ONE, damnit!

In an era of mass production, uniqueness is fairly unusual. Unreproducable uniqueness is, well, unique.

You COULD, of course, have the odd prothean weapon or the like running around.

I guess my other question is: Would there be a point? A unique gun or armour is either (a) just better than the alternatives or (b) useless.

What I think *would* allow for a lot more interesting variety of weapons would be to increase the number of stats. And allow for some interesting choices - is 300 damage and 10 range better than 200 damage and 25 range? What about 40 range? etc

I cant understand your problem with the story however. Its the one saving grace for me in that I really cared about the characters and the games world.

Well it's the same old clichéd "hero saves galaxy/world"-setting that's been used many times before... not to mention that he seems to be the only one to know about it or bother... one would think the well-being of the galaxy and a Geth invasion on over 5 planets wouldn't go unnoticed, I also kind of knew what would happen after the first main mission, because those green "bugs" on the Citadel reacted the same way other "NPCs" did and the main bad guys were... meh (let's say they could be from Hollywood movies from the 70s and 80s).

Say for example in Jade Empire the story was a lot more intense and when the "turning point" of the game came as "someone" turned on my character it hit me right in the face because I never would've expected it... but in retrospect it even made sense. That's what storytelling is "all about" for me, not repeating a story I've heard several dozen times before.

I'm surprised you didn't mention the Mako, a vehicle that has frustrated me to the point of creating a nonsensical and overly-complicated metaphor to describe what driving the bloody thing is like.

I guess you played it on the XBoX360 then? Because there's nothing wrong I can see with it on the PC other than that I hated every single level/setting I had to use it in...

The game looks like a nice welcoming swimming pool, but when you dive in, you crack your head open because the damn thing is only an inch deep.

I wouldn't put it that harsh but kind of xD

But...you still have the problem that if it is so amazing JUST MAKE ME ANOTHER ONE, damnit!
In an era of mass production, uniqueness is fairly unusual. Unreproducable uniqueness is, well, unique.
You COULD, of course, have the odd prothean weapon or the like running around.
I guess my other question is: Would there be a point? A unique gun or armour is either (a) just better than the alternatives or (b) useless.

Swords, bows etc. are also weapons, a LOT simpler weapons... why not "JUST MAKE ME ANOTHER ONE" of those? What's the difference? Swords and bows are only a clump of metal or wood formed right and then used for killing and should be a lot easier to replicate xD

Weapons on the other hand are unique pieces of technology and can vary from race to culture, in Star Trek for example they already had different weapons around the galaxy... probably also classified how to make em http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Weapon . In other series like Stargate, while the "marines" wear P90s and the likes alien species or even alien team members have unique weapons for themselves.
Just make some unique ones e.g. say the weapon of a great general, that he upgraded with everything he could and call it a special name or a special weapon that was inherited for ages within a family, an old relic from civilizations past or as he said an experimental-stage weapon (like in Half Life 2, Doom 3 or similar games often used).

And what's the point you ask? Well... what's the point of making great quests with a back-story and different ways to solve them, preferably written by someone who has the faintest idea of what he is doing? Why not just put terminals on the ship with a short random quest message and the game then creates a random quest environment (e.g. totally boring planets) and you can do those quests to the end of your life.
Or what's the point in actually creating enemies with different abilities and fighting styles and looks etc. if you can just take the same guy with the same AI-script and put a second head on its shoulder or add a 3rd boob or color him red and voila you got another mob?

The answer is simple... depth, immersion, realism... things that stand out in a GREAT game (e.g. their titles before NWN imo) from a good one. It's just fun to fight a unique boss instead of grinding through masses of mindless drones. It's fun to do a special quest instead of some random-generated crap or Fed-Ex quests and it's also danged fun to find unique shiny, juicy loot instead of more randomly generated BS with a "+7" behind it's name.
Seeing as there also are games out there like Diablo2, Hellgate London and a bunch of MMOs, which base their entire concept on gaining and collecting Rare and Unique items I don't think I'm that much off there...

The difference between a unique magic item and a unique modern item is one of industry.

In a medieval setting, if I find the sword of g'a'a'x the mighty, enchanted by the wizard bonobo in the fires of lake titty caca, and used for slaying the mighty dolally of sunshine town, it probably is the only sword that ever was built and used in that way. And it makes more sense in that kind of setting for some of the power of the user to enfuse the weapon or whatever.

In a modern - or indeed highly futuristic - setting, it makes a whole lot less sense. As I said, if I find some super-specially designed weapon, why can't I just ask someone to scan it and make me another one? Or outfit the whole alliance with them?

Also: Not that I can comment on star trek (which I loathe) but in stargate, no-one had a unique weapon. Yes, Tea'lc had has staff which no-one else in the SGC had...but about a billion other jaffar had one just like it.

In short, industrial societies by their nature despise uniqueness and seek to copy it out of existance if it is any good.

Sure, experimental weapons are possible. But again...copyable if any good.

Ah, but if you're talking about manufacturing modern weapons, you have to keep cost in mind.

For instance, a famous bounty hunter could deck his rifle out with a top-of-the-range scope, a plush quilted maple stock, a specially grooved barrel, laser sights and a custom grip. All of those things make it a better gun, and it would theoretically be possible to recreate it for widespread use. However, when you look and realise how much all that modification will cost, it becomes apparent that such an exquisite weapon will most likely remain a one-off, simply because the cost of mass-producing such a weapon is astronomically high.

I'd like Vauxhall to start producing Bugatti spec cars, but that ain't likely to happen in the future.

In a medieval setting, if I find the sword of g'a'a'x the mighty, enchanted by the wizard bonobo in the fires of lake titty caca, and used for slaying the mighty dolally of sunshine town, it probably is the only sword that ever was built and used in that way.

So what you're saying is that Wizard Bonobo can't make a second weapon like the first but a master weapon smith who just completed the work of his life at high financial cost because he had to get a focusing crystal from a planet that's filled with cannibals and a lens from the famous lens maker Kxxxztplxk, ammunition out of a rare extremely durable metal and a firing chamber custom designed by Laranga Industries can just replicate it as many times as he wants?

Also: Not that I can comment on star trek (which I loathe) but in stargate, no-one had a unique weapon. Yes, Tea'lc had has staff which no-one else in the SGC had...but about a billion other jaffar had one just like it.

Most of the team from Stargate Atlantis has its own weapons, like the dreadlock-guy is carrying around some sort of laser-pistol, the female has her own weapons and they also got some special "ancient" or wraith weapons they use every now and then.
Also Stargate is nothing compared to the greatness, which is Star Trek xD

What about the blue alien chick?

What about her?

I got to root Liara - so this game gets a 9.5/10 for me.

Seriously though, if you can nitpick a masterpiece like this, nothing will please you. I rate the 30 hours I spent with this game higher than Oblivion and The Witcher, and that's saying alot as I adored those 2 RPGs.

2 things put this ahead for me :
1) Deeper & more tactical combat, and
2) Amazingly believable plot/cutscenes/voiceovers - first class stuff.

Of course ME could have improved in certain areas (mentioned by the OP), but hey that's hopefully what ME2 can deliver. Let's hope.

My biggest problem with ME is that it's not a world you can explore. It's a movie with you as the protagonist. Main story arch is epic, but sidequests are just pathetic. Generic locations, and I mean entire LOCATIONS, kept me away from exploring every nook and cranny. And why should I gather some old writings of a matriarch? There was no explanation or even a way to read those. At the end while collecting insignia and other various stuff I felt like a kid colleting pokemon cards just for the sake of it. All weapons looked alike, same goes for armors. The main diffrence was paint. Also, when I got my hands on one of the best weapons with 3 mod slots - things just got way to easy, even on insane difficulty (but no shooter that had to be dumbed down for console joystics will ever be a challange for a PC counter strike veteran i guess).

Don't get me wrong. I think ME was a great game. 1st class acting and cutsceens made it a great experience. Maybe it was a movie, but it was one of the best movies I was starring in. Oh, and I like shooting things. A lot. A great game, but it could be a masterpiece if there was only more side content. Do you remember times of Baldurs Gate 2 when a single side quest was epic enough to be the main quest of a lesser game? That's what I miss.

 

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