The beginning of a legend told throughout the stars of the Milky Way Galaxy.
Mass Effect is the first of the Mass Effect trilogy. It was developed by Bioware and published by Bioware, it combines tactical RPG elements with a third person cover shooter. I first played this game four years ago primarily due to curiosity. I’m always a sucker for games with an expansive world and a lot of choices so I’d thought this would be a pretty good game for me. Granted, I have played a bit of Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic before my saves were corrupted same with Dragon Age: Origins so I have some experience in how Bioware handles things. As always, I will do my best not to spoil any of the story elements.
Humanity is not alone in the galaxy as evidence by the various species of aliens you see around you. They aim to have a seat in the council, pretty much the most powerful governing body in the galaxy, by having their own Spectre, a special ops guy who has the power to be above the law as the safety of the galaxy is in his/her hands. Dark beings and sinister plots lurk around every corner perhaps even in the heart of the galaxy itself, the Citadel.
That is the current state of the world of Mass Effect, you get some additional lore about the Council and the Non-council races by talking to the denizens and visiting the “Lore” menu which some are voiced. At the end of the game you will end up knowing a lot even if you haven’t really been reading the texts. But I think that you should pay attention to the dialogue once in a while for it might contain useful information for some quests.
Unfortunately, even with the lore and traditions of the other races they still feel “human”. I suppose this criticism is quite subjective since what is “human” differs from person to person but I can’t help but shake the feeling that they’re humans that just look physically different.
You play as Commander Shepard, whom you can customize his/her appearance and backstory which has an effect on some of the quests you will get. I played with the background of a street urchin so I got a quest regarding some old gang that I joined years ago, makes playthroughs unique for everybody.
Now, the overarching story is designed to be linear though your choices will affect who will survive the ending of the game and more importantly it will heavily affect aspects of the next two instalments of the franchise. My advice, do your best to keep everyone alive even if you don’t like them.
You can choose between Paragon and Renegade. Paragon are generic good guys who always try to do good things while Renegade are also good guys but are not afraid to get their hands dirty. In the beginning of the game these choices may be greyed out because you have low charm, which is necessary for paragon or low intimidation which is for renegade. You can increase these stats by levelling up.
These choices will have an impact on how the world reacts to you so play as you would like to be remembered.
You will travel across the galaxy at your leisure going from nebula to nebula and system to system, unless you’re in the middle of a main quest, where you will find some collectibles and ore which will give you some money which in turn can be used for buying better equipment. If you can’t land on a planet then you can scan that planet for minerals and collectibles. You may also read information about the planet If you choose to.
When you make landfall, you will find yourself controlling a vehicle called “Mako”. It’s a land rover which you can use to traverse the map, go further the boundaries and you will be put back inside the map. The Mako is basically a moving house, it shelters you from environmental hazards that will damage you and your squad if you stay outside for too long. However, the Mako itself is not invulnerable, going into lava will result in instant death and taking too much damage will too, result in death. Also unfortunately, it controls really badly. It feels like you’re driving on ice and the physics of mountain climbing can be very unpredictable at times which is made worse by the rocket booster, a booster that causes you to propel parallel to the surface rather than up, makes sense realistically but not gameplay wise as more often than not, using the booster will propel you in random directions.
When you get out of the Mako, you will be able to explore on foot and investigate the ores and locations on the ground. It plays similar to the hacking minigames that you will get throughout the game and can be bypassed using omni-gel.
If you’re not exploring far off planets and abandoned space stations, then chances are you’re in the citadel or a human colony. If you’ve played any Bioware game it’s pretty similar, there are side-quests inside these cities that you can do for additional experience, sometimes the side-quests goes deeper than you think, becoming galaxy spanning chases or fetch quests. These areas are relatively safe, so feel free to relax and just browse for weapon upgrades or plot devices.
Ah, here’s where things get tricky. Like most Bioware RPG’s you can pause the game to plan your next mode of attack however unlike most Bioware RPG’s you are more involved in the combat as you can shoot and use your powers at your will. Honestly, I prefer this mix between RPG and third person shooter as it livens up the combat and makes it more active rather than waiting for cooldowns. However, there might be some bugs and glitches that might happen due to the nature of the combat such as the AI becoming very confuse at certain moments due to it not knowing your location. I’ve had robots just stand out there in the open while I gun them down from the next mountain.
You have three methods of disposing your opponents, using psionic powers, grenades and last but not the least, using guns.
The first thing you will notice is that there is no ammunition for these guns, rather they just overheat and refuse to work for a few seconds. That might sound overpowered but losing control of your gun in the middle of a fight will quickly result in death if you’re not in cover.
- Plays just as you would expect, low damage and average fire rate and high heat capacity, you can deck out your character for pistols but I would suggest not because of the relatively sub-par damage output.
- Assault Rifle
- Average range and damage. Fires quickly but also overheats in the same manner. Use more like a semi-automatic rifle to avoid overheating.
- A close quarters beast, can take an enemy out in a single headshot, susceptible to overheating though so be careful.
- Great if you’re outside and taking potshots at enemies half a mile away, but risky indoors. One hit one kill potential on headshots.
Psi Powers and Other Skills
Powers such as making your enemy float and getting rid of their shields, or just creating a singularity to suck them all in. These powers are usually used as support for your guns and can do quite a lot of damage if you time it right with the environmental hazards like exploding barrels.
Skills on the other hand, provide you with significant stat boosts like increased damage and temporary invulnerability. This is necessary in the later parts of the game as the enemies become tougher and stronger. Hacking is also part of the skill tree as some boxes and crates require higher hacking skill.
Pretty much behave like regular grenades, though you can modify them to do specific types of damage to take out different kinds of enemies. These are limited ammunition though so keep that in mind.
Shields and Armor
Armor comes in three types, Heavy, medium and light. You can unlock heavier armor through levelling up and acquiring different perks. Other classes can’t wear heavy armor due to their loadout. Shields regenerate when not taking damage and serve as a “shield” when firing out of cover.
You are able to acquire these guns and armor by looting crates and fallen enemies, completing quests or just straight up buying them from the shop. The ship shop requires licenses to be able to sell more powerful guns so be on the lookout for that.
Now you might think to yourself, “Wow, that’s a pretty neat combat system,”. Well, it all looks good on paper, but more often than not the enemies will be trying to bum rush you as quick as possible regardless if they’re range or melee. It’s very very annoying at times as you’ll get overwhelmed pretty quickly. Combat in Me1 is the worst combat in the trilogy, it’s really buggy and the AI are more akin to zombies with guns than anything else, although to be fair they do use their Psipowers and skills quite effectively.
Mass Effect 1 is great for its time, however it is the most flawed of the Mass Effect Trilogy. Some of the failed design choices are ironed out in the later instalments to make them better. However, I do think that Me1 is still worth a try as it serves as the beginning of a great Franchise, you might want to experience Commander Shepard’s early Spectre years and there are some story bits that are simply spectacular. So in the end, if you’re really interested in Shepard and can stomach out exploring wastelands with a bumper car, try out Mass Effect 1.