I finally got around to finishing Mass Effect for the Xbox 360. The game is a third-person action game with role-playing elements. If you’ve played any of the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games then you have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
One of the radical differences of Mass Effect from KOTOR was the removal of the ability to freeze combat to give commands to your squad. Maybe I couldn’t figure out how to do this or maybe it simply is not possible, I’m not really sure. I found the controls to be less than intuitive, and the removal of KOTOR combat system caused a bit of emotional turmoil. Part of the allure of KOTOR was the ability to micromanage your squad if you so desired. It added a certain finesse to the game. You could freeze the action, stack several commands or special moves for each of your party members before reengaging your targets. Mass Effect allows you to give one command at a time, no stacking. The real-time task assignment was detrimental to the game play. While this may speed up the action, most people will completely forget about their squad’s special moves until the action is over. At one point during the game I found the option that allowed your squad to use the special moves as the game artificial intelligence saw fit. Without turning the feature on, your team members aren’t using their strengths to your advantage in combat situations. Since managing single special moves with cool-down timers is not fun whatsoever, this should have been turned on by default.
Another change from KOTOR was the inability to switch between characters in your squad. In KOTOR you could control whichever character you wanted at any given time. In ME, you only control the Sheppard, the main character. While this doesn’t hurt the playability of the game, it reduces your squad to moronic sidekicks that die a lot and shoot at walls.
The story of ME was not all that gripping either. I found myself playing a repackaged KOTOR game. You go to a planet, solve the trivial problems of the locals by finding whatever item they want, while ultimately getting closer to solving the big mystery. So for all the talk of an immersive world and compelling dialog where every decision effects the outcome, the game pretty much rides the rail from point A to point B, and you can either be evil or play as an uptight, law-abiding cop (see figure). So for all the talk about choosing a “destiny,” you end up on one side of the good vs. evil dichotomy.
I also unlocked the “controversial” sex scene. If you’ve played the game and watched the video in the link I just provided, you will know it was blown way out of proportion. The way the Fox “analysts” carried on about the “hardcore pornography” contained in this game made you think that the creators of Mass Effect used underage girls to recreate an extended version of Two Girls, One Cup (you can look that up if you so desire, I’m not linking to it). Not the case. You maybe see some side boob, maybe. So, suck on whatever is in that cup, Fox News talking heads.
The graphics were so-so. I have an HD TV, so most everything looks good. Some of the animations didn’t always look right, like the bitmapping didn’t line up with the character models. Whatever. There are better looking games out there, but it’s not the worst.
In summation, borrow it from your buddy. The game takes about 15 hours to beat, the side missions aren’t anything more than “fetch” quests. If you want a good RPG, go play World of Warcraft. Since WoW is the best game ever, I rate games on a scale of one to 10 days away diverted from logging into WoW. Mass Effect took four days away from my WoW playing.