- Original release year: 2007
- Consoles: XBox 360, Windows (later: PS3)
After 2003’s Bioware developed masterpiece, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, I had been waiting for another game that would grip me in much the same way. Of course, I was going to have to wait for Bioware to produce such a game. Sadly, I never got the chance to try Jade Empire and KOTOR2 didn’t really feel as good as the original (development was outsourced, for one thing). The Mass Effect series, in many ways, offered exactly what I was waiting for though.
Much like Star Wars, Mass Effect is a Science Fiction, Action Adventure, Space Opera franchise and, again, a deep RPG. In many ways, it feels like a spiritual successor to KOTOR, but with an original storyline set across a trilogy of games and a higher emphasis placed on action and shooting.
The way in which the series has developed over the course of the three games, is interesting in itself. The first Mass Effect was a RPG at heart and had a fairly, almost, archaic design, with some average shooting mechanics and mundane driving/vehicle sections. In terms of the story though, I don’t think any of the sequels can match the introduction Mass Effect 1 offered players. Bioware really excel at storytelling and the first Mass Effect did an exceptional job of setting up the ‘lore’, plot, characters and universe.
Undeniably, you have to play the entire trilogy of Mass Effect games. They are all good games, although they all differ slightly from another and have their faults. The first is still my favorite, in a lot of ways. I just find that in terms of its atmosphere, its plot and how it started the story, it really helped engross me in the franchise. In addition, although arguably buggy and clunky, I personally found the gameplay a lot of fun. I’m a fan of RPGs and I’m more interested in those mechanics that unfortunately (at least, in my eyes) got dumbed down in the sequels in favour of stronger shooting mechanics.
The story of Mass Effect sees its hero, Commander Shepard embarking on galactic adventure aboard the SSV Normandy, on the trail of the potentially evil, Saren, on mission to stop him from utilising an ancient threat. On your journey, you can explore the galaxy, complete sub-missions and sidequests and shape your character through your actions and dialogue choices. Like previous Bioware games, there is a conversation system where the player chose from several responses after speaking with other characters. Your responses, as well as the important choices you make during the game, lead to you either gaining ‘Paradigm’ points or ‘Renegade’ points. In other words, it shapes whether you are ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
Although it has its flaws, the first Mass Effect undoubtedly delivers a truly compelling narrative and phenomenal atmosphere. Shaping your version of Commander Shepard and making your own choices throughout the game is one of the best parts of the experience and your save file can be imported straight into Mass Effect 2 to continue where you left off.