It's always a little unfortunate to see a console only RPG release, even if it does well. Sure, it may be a great game on the consoles, but how much better could a PC release have been? PC gamers were left wondering that very thing when Mass Effect saw release on he Xbox 360 late last year, further exacerbated by the fact it came from the development studios of the once PC dominated folks at BioWare. While the prospect of a PC version was never exactly shot down, it didn't help that the more and more
console focused publishing giant EA acquired the studio in early 2008. It was a nice surprise then when soon after the EA acquisition that a PC version was officially announced, even if it was a few months away from release at the time. With release now come and gone, PC gamers can finally see what all the fuss is about this space based RPG - fuss which the game is definitely quite deserving of.
As with the vast majority of RPG's, Mass Effect is a single player only experience driven by the usual suspects when it comes to this genre - character customization, character development through XP for various attributes, as well as a dynamic storyline that has more than one pathway towards completion. This storyline involves a Milky War Galaxy in the moderately distant future where alien races have together formed a council for galactic stability. The human race are reasonably late to the
party,but with a large population and a lot of influence behind them, they are making a push for central inclusion in this council despite some resistance by other species who are opposed to the pace of human acceptance. One institution under the wing of the council that summarizes this are the 'Spectres' - an elite group of super police that exist to protect the galaxy how they see fit, while representing the interests of the council. No human has been honoured as a Spectre, and this is where the human
controlled character - John Shepard - comes in. As an already proven soldier on the battlefields, Shepard is brought in as somewhat of an icon for the human race, but events rarely go to plan in the gaming world and Mass Effect is no exception, as Shepard finds himself in the middle of a plot that could mean the end of life as he and the rest of the galaxy knows it.
On the surface, Mass Effect appears to be quite an average RPG, but the three distinct elements that create the whole gameplay package are quite well done, and work very well with each other. The first element, and one you'll experience basically straight away in the game, is the character to character dialogue system. You will spend a good portion of this game talking to other characters across all species to probe for information, build relationships, and even flirt given time. To say this character
to character interaction is implemented well is a severe understatement, as it's quite easily one of the best ever dialogue systems seen in the gaming world before, if not the very best. Everything from the facial expressions to the voice acting is superb, and the way the interactions connect with the storyline is extremely well done. Everything you say can shape how other characters perceive you, and hence how the storyline plays out. While the very core of the storyline is not going to change, a lot of other
aspects can be modified by your actions and words which is a great touch, adding another dimension to what would have been a good linear storyline anyway.
The next element in the game is the combat, which also introduces itself very early in the game. Going off how the character interaction is implemented, for some reason you don't expect to see a fully fleshed out real time combat system to be present, but that's exactly what Mass Effect delivers. The combat is done from a third person perspective, and while it isn't going to be setting any benchmarks for future RPGs necessarily, it is still a well implemented combat system that delivers plenty of action.
On hand you have four gun types - handguns, automatic rifles, shotguns and sniper rifles - which rely on endless but overheating prone energy and not ammo, as well as grenades and other specialized abilities such as telekinesis and tech skills should you choose to adopt them during character creation. You also have access to armor as well as the ability to take cover behind most objects, which is a nice feature that's starting to gain popularity in a lot of titles these days. Naturally, weapons, armor and
abilities can be upgraded via obtaining better equipment, applying upgrades, and by spending XP points, which are obtained by basically all actions in the game and not just killing enemies in combat.