Video Game Thoughts: Mass Effect

Mass Effect was a 2007 role-playing game by Bioware that I played on the Xbox 360 and PC. Bioware’s first foray into sci-fi role-playing was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. The same team that made that game, went on to make Mass Effect. The game got off to a slow start for me. I got it for Christmas, but we had relatives over, so I didn’t get a chance to play it until the evening. Like many times over the years, I stayed up into the wee hours when everyone was asleep to get a chance to play. I loved the graphics, voice acting, and cinematic style, but the story just didn’t grab me at first. I don’t know why. Maybe I was distracted by the holiday festivities, but after about a week of mild enjoyment, I put the game down for a few months.

When I came back things were different. I started a new game, played through the same early stuff, and was hooked. The story still didn’t grab me all that much, but I loved the environments. I wanted to explore every location and see everything. Exploring all the locations and completing all the side quests did have a tendency to get boring. There was a lot of repetition in driving around planets to scan everything, but many of them looked amazing. A few of them had fun side quests too.

I didn’t find the combat system or item system all that interesting, but the leveling system was great. Each class had several unique skills as well as several shared skills. I had a lot of fun planning out characters, and then trying them out in the game. They even had a specialist class system. At a certain point, the player got a special side quest to unlock a subclass. A soldier, for example, could specialize in doing more damage or having better defenses. The leveling system added a lot of replay value to the game for me.

I said above that the story didn’t grab me too much, but there were certain moments that did. This was especially true towards the end of the game. The further I got in the game, the less important side quests became and the more important the main quests became. The last few quests were pretty epic. In other words, the pacing was off. The game started off pretty slow, just the player exploring areas and solving peoples’ problems. Then all of a sudden the player was saving the galaxy. The story would have been better if the ramp up was spread throughout the game instead of all of a sudden hitting me. Thinking about it another way, the game had a beginning and an end but no middle. Adding just five more main quests to the middle with a medium level of intensity would have done wonders for the story.

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