To quote Winston Churchill "never was so much owed by so many to so few". In Mass Effect (later called ME) actions of a single human beign affect the entire mutiverse, it doesn't get any bigger than that. But how good is the game? Who affects what now? Is it linear? Is it action-packed? And just who ate my donut? You'll have to read the review for answers. Mass Effect, the space action-rpg We don't like your kind around 'ere It all takes place in a distant future, long after humanity finally left earth in search of new worlds to colonise and conquer. Naturally the multiverse is too damn big to not have any other intelligent life forms, and humans have came across other species very soon. None of them too friendly... But only some hostile. ME takes place in many galaxies scattered around the multiverse. There are many differend planets that you can visit, although most (ones that hold side quests) are hostile, frozen / molten / sandy wastelands. The one truly unique place is the so called "Citadel", a giant space station-city which is home to countless extraterrestials, and the Council, which, as you've guessed, rules the galaxy. Humans are a young race in space, and already they are a trouble-making kid, if we add the fact that they're also expanding at an alarming rate, you can see just why they're seen as a threat by some, and plague by others. Ofcourse they (we) use diplomatic ways whenever possible, and never aim for an all out war. Still the short life span fuels ambitions, and ambitions are only a step away from greed. Human (alliance) fleet is a force to be reckoned with. "..and at the age of sixteen he finished high school" You are Commander Shepard of the Alliance, human, this much is already set, but the story behind character, it's looks, class and things to come are for you to decide. The amount of possible background storylines isn't breath-taking, but it's sufficient, some of the background stories are really well thought, and help you shape Shepard into what you want him to be. As mentioned above you have to pick a class. There are only a few avaliable classes, but for an action oriented game such as this, it's still pretty nice. There are also many abilities to pick from, weapon proficiencies, biotic and tech abilities, some unique ones, each with quite a few ranks.. Unfortunately programmers seem to have forgotten about the fact that at lvl 50 (or 60) a character can have most of the abilities maxed out, and sacrifices absolutely nothing. Another problem is the fact, that classes are unbalanced and each comes with its own difficulty, but since its a single player game, it's only a minor annoyance. Still, a few such annoyances, and the note starts to sink. Half the men i know couldn't take that load to the face. Quests, quests, quests..! Each star system has at least one side quest, from blowing up a base, through rescuing hijacked ship, till finding a monkey thief. Some quests offer multiple choices, some have multiple stages, some will change the gameplay further in the game, or in the sequel(s), ALL of them take place on uninhabitable planets, be it frozen wastelands, molten wastelands, sandy wastelands, rocky wastelands or grassy planets full of native creatures, that still are uncolonised for some reason... Why are all the planets barren? So that you can enjoy the oh so wonderful MAKO vehicle.. and mourn at the terrible physics, awful map design, insane evolutions and hours of driving around, looking for a few dozen mineral veins. What was that? Yes, i've said few dozen mineral veins.. ME features some very, very grindy side quests, which will take enormous amounts of time and reward you with : some xp and money. Now that's something! While driving around, looking for needles in haystack, you will frequently launch into the air by coliding with an inch high rock, you will then do five backflips, a barrel roll, one and a half axle.. and land on your wheels, because the MAKO never crashes. Now that you know, that even the smallest bump on the road can catapult you, here's the kicker : I've never seen more spiky maps in my entire gaming "career". It's the spiketopia, spikedolaro, united spikes, sp.. you get the idea. Aside from that, another problem with side quests is the fact that all side quest locations have three types of layouts. Whether you're trying to stop an AI on the moon, killing thugs on a frozen planet, or exploring a deserted lab. All the use one of two layouts. A two stories hangar, or a complex with narrow corridors. The only real change of scenery you get, are mines and ship missions. But these also have only one layout each. Thankfully the main quest locations are unique, but more on that later. A handfull of shrapnel makes the medicine go down Combat! You will fight in this game, as a matter of fact you'll fight most of the time you're not driving around in MAKO or talking with people (we'll get to that part later). The six classes avaliable for you (soldier, vanguard etc.) all have their unique uses, and even though soldier is, hands down, the most powerful clas in game, all of them can be fun. So how does the combat work? Think of it as a regular shooter, except with the ability to change to TPP, some special powers and the ability to pause the game to command your squad mates. If you're a poor shot, don't worry, there is something called aim assist (options) which will cause your aim mark to 'stick' to the targets a bit more and correct the shots a bit. Don't worry about aiming for the head, i've beaten the game twice now, and even if there is any difference between hitting someone in his foot, or blasting him right in the face, i didn't notice it. It may annoy some FPS fans, but i cannot complain. The combat is solid. The powers are where the fun starts. There are weapon powers, that give you bonuses with selected weaponry, for example assassination gives your next sniping shot a great boost in damage. There are biotic powers, that mostly affect other living creatures by lifting them, tossing around, protecting yourself with a barrier and so on. There are also tech powers, that greatly help against synthetic enemies, aswell as boost your shields and allow you to bypass more complex locks.. And finally there are some special powers, but saying anything about these would be a spoiler. Find out yoursel! All the abilities have cooldowns, but they don't share them, so while you will not be able to use the same skill over, and over again, you will also not be stuck without any options for too long. Bioware tried to add a cover mechanism to ME, and it worked rather poorly. It's really tricky to get to the cover you want to, and if you move your mouse an inch too far, your character will jump out of the cover unintentionally. Also the enemies are too aggressive altogether for cover to make much sense. You're better of staying on your toes and strafe-blowing everyone to nine hells. The game is rather easy, even on highest difficulty (which you unlock after beating the game twice.. bad move by Bioware) and there was only one tough moment that i've had.. it was in the DLC Pinnacle station however, and thus it doesn't belong to this review. The tough nuts to crack aren't snipers hidden two miles away, or dedicated squads of enemies ambushing you. It's twenty krogans charging you to fire shotguns in point-blank range, all of them with powers that reduce damage taken by them greatly. Stay on your toes, or die. There are dozens of weapons to equip, half that much armor, a bunch of omni-tools and an enormous amount of improvements that you can install. Be it additional plating on armor, incendiary grenades instead of regular ones, or a better scope. There is a lot to loot. Quite frankly there is too much. You'll be swimming in gold before you even know it, thus economy in ME doesn't exist. One does wonder why are there any poor people in ME, when they could just sell a pistol and live like a king for the rest of their lives. Speaking of weapons, do not worry about ammunition at all - weapons just overheat. A small detail, but very welcome nonetheless. Aside from money, there's omni-gel. Omni-gel allows you to repair electronics (aswell as your damaged MAKO), and bypass security terminals without having to hack them. Why would you want to do such a thing? Mainly because each terminal, each ore vein, each door and each shoe lace in ME will force you to play the same mini game, inferior even to pong in every possible way. Imagine grenades blowing everywhere, people dying left and right.. now the world pauses, because you have a three-color timed mini game going. Trust me when i say that you will want to use omni-gel whenever you're able to. While the mini game isnt hard, it's annoying and breaks the fourth wall RP-wise. The last thing i want to mention here, are the main-storyline maps. You will never have to question yourself which way to go. It's always straight forward, with no back alleys, no dead ends, no mazes or anything alike. This, along with all the other problems mentioned above, greatly reduces the replayabillity. They are nice, big and build up the atmosphere very well, but at your second playthrough no surprises will await you... Stay tuned for part 2!