Friday, December 14, 2007

Slack Effect ( Mass Effect Review )

So I beat Mass Effect on Wednesday. And then I beat it again on Thursday. There are two ending choices in the last 5 minutes of the game, so I figured I'd try them both out.

I imagine that's one of the main reasons I've been slacking recently. It's a very entertaining and engrossing game, so it seems to suck in your attention and hold it until you've completed it. I figure, since I spent so much time playing it, I might as well write out a review of my opinion of it.

I started out very slow. I think after Halo 3 and some other first person shooter games, the direction each stick moves you in seemed awkward or wrong from what I was familiar with. Once I got through that and started to be familiar with what each button does in each situation, things got a lot better and my progress really picked up.

Even before any of that though, is the fun of the character creation menu. There are some restraints, like hair type, so you can't necessarily get a perfect representation of you. Also, when you are trying to determine if you have the cheek bones correct you have to move the view from side to side so that you can see how you look from those in between angles, and that can be somewhat of a hassle. Another problem is that if you go by just the head alone, nothing is going to seem correct. You have to either upscale or downscale the ratio of the size of your features to match the body below, or everything will just look off. In the end, I actually ended up making the character look more like a likeness of my brother instead of me. Turns out that was a good move because I don't think it would have been good to watch myself (or a very close look alike) do some of the things I did in the game. Which takes me to the fun part.

The game gives you an enormous amount of choice options. I had decided to be evil on my first play through. There is a difference between evil and jerk though. Jerk usually just means not doing a side quest or just giving some curt answer that makes you sound like a rogue. The only real evil choices are when you use intimidation to get what you want versus the standard option or the charm option. That was a little disappointing.

The only other evil situations are when you choose to kill someone instead of letting them go. The first time I did this was by accident. I thought I was going to tell the guy that he had to stick around and help me. What the option, "I can't let you go" really meant was that the guy would be on the floor in a bloody heap in about 3 seconds. In the long run it was no big loss.

The variety of choices leaves you thinking that you missed something every so often, esp in high pressure situations where you are just taking your best guess. While I didn't do each of these situations more than once, there are enough non-high pressure situations where you can repeat the dialog that it makes me think that either choice will pretty much end at the same or very similar conclusions. So just have fun with it and don't worry about your selections too much.

The game offers the whole galaxy to explore. Usually this boils down to going to a star cluster and then selecting one of the available solar systems. Then you survey the available planets, check for lose asteroids and survey them and then land on the one planet available to land on and explore it. The exploration is done in a warthog like machine, also similar to an all terrain tank, called a Mako in the game. The Mako gets old after a while, esp when you're going up mountain after mountain to survey some mineral just like you did on the previous planet. I discovered way too late how valuable the map was in these planet exploration pieces, so don't make the same mistake. It would have been much more helpful if they had added rockets to the back of the Mako to make it move faster, rather than the rockets that propel it off the ground. Regardless, it gets the job done and there aren't so many situations that it just gets tedious to do these parts. Each time you're doing a side quest, the purpose of the mission is at least entertaining enough to make it worthwhile.

The powers and equipment for the game took a little while to get the hang of, but worked well enough. Some of the powers I found to be pretty useless since usually the fighting segments broke down into a similar pattern. I usually used the barrier power and then went at the bad guys guns blazing, using the shield boost when I took too much damage, marksman to prevent my gun from overheating and adrenaline boost to make sure I could repeat the cycle if I needed to. That was pretty much all I ever needed with some med gel used in emergency situations. The warp and throw powers were pretty annoying to deal with when the enemy uses them on you, but I didn't care enough to make them useful for me. I did enjoy that there was no magic meter or limit on how many times you use your powers. There is a cool down period you have to wait out, but again, the adrenaline boost power usually takes care of that.

The final thing to note was the "romantic interest" side quest. I was going to pursue the blue girl (asari) at first, but once she said that there idea of reproduction was some kind of mind meld thing, I was turned off. In the end I just went after the human girl. She wasn't very exciting and seems to be a bigot in this new alien populated universe, but I was patient and fed here what she wanted to hear. I feel like I should have gotten evil points for saying some of the crap I did since it was so obviously just to get her to sleep with me. In the end, my charming wit won out. The game gives you more of a reward than I was expecting, but this is obviously just a game, so don't expect too much.

Overall, it was a great game and definitely worth playing. I'll probably give it a rest and watch some siblings play through it, but there are enough options for you to want to play through it multiple times. Like any video game, there are some tedious parts that seems to repeat over and over, but they usually only deal with side quests, so you're free to skip them or stop them when you grow tired of it. Definitely worth at least a rental, if not a buy.

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