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Page 1 of 2Introduction
BioWare released Mass Effect for the Xbox 360 in November of last year. It was their first full release in over two years, and it reviewed pretty well. The worst score I saw for it was 80%, and some jokers out there even gave it 100%. Somewhere near the end of the game's development cycle, BioWare started working with Demiurge Studios on the project, and Demiurge took over the reins when it was time to convert Mass Effect to the PC.
I didn't play the Xbox 360 version of Mass Effect. I haven't touched a console since the ColecoVision back in the 80's. So if you're hoping to hear how the PC version of Mass Effect differs from the Xbox 360 version, you'll have to look elsewhere. What I hope to do in this review is let people know whether Mass Effect is a good game or not, and whether it works well on the PC. If you have ADD, or if you don't want to read hundreds of words of text, the simple answer is (yes.)
Mass Effect takes place a couple hundred years in the future. In 2148, humans discovered some artifacts on Mars, which leapfrogged their technology enough to allow them to explore the stars. They found, of course, that they weren't alone in the universe, and while they met a variety of space-faring races including turians, asarians, and others, they never found the race that left the artifacts behind on Mars. That race, the Protheans, had disappeared.
As Mass Effect opens up, you find yourself in a military cruiser named the Normandy, but your first mission (covered in the tutorial) goes badly. You're (touched) by an ancient Prothean beacon, which gives you some insight into what happened to that race, and you learn that an agent of the Council, the ruling body of the galaxy, has gone rogue and plans to do something evil with an object called (the conduit.) The Council decides that you should be the one to track down the agent and discover his agenda, and, as your investigation progresses, you visit dozens of alien worlds and battle pirates and giant insects and more -- before finally confronting the agent and putting the matter to rest.
Mass Effect uses sort of a generic character development system. There are three main classes -- soldiers (who have access to all weapons and armor), engineers (who use technological skills to do things like overload enemy shields), and adepts (who use their brains to do things like throw enemies to the ground) -- plus three hybrid classes, giving six classes in all. Each class gets about a dozen (talents,) including weapon proficiencies and class-specific skills, which are rated from 0 to 12. Characters get points for these talents each time they level up, with the main character getting more points than his or her companions. There aren't any attributes or feats or perks; talents alone define a character's capabilities.
Besides talents, characters are also rated as being (paragon) or (renegade.) These paths are independent of each other (for example, gaining paragon points doesn't subtract renegade points, and you can sometimes gain both at the same time), and while they're not exactly the same as (good) and (evil,) they're close enough. The paragon path is linked to the (charm) talent, and the renegade path is linked to the (intimidate) talent, but otherwise they don't have much of an influence on the game, other than to give you two ways to solve most quests.
Unfortunately, after selecting a class and a path, there isn't much else for you to decide for your character. That's because the game gives you so many talent points that by the end of the campaign you can max out any talent that you're even remotely interested in, plus probably some others as well. Mass Effect isn't a game where you're going to see a lot of discussions about favorite builds, simply because every character can learn just about everything. The game would have been more interesting with a level cap of, say, 30 instead of 50 (or 60).