Retro Review: Mass Effect

Short Attention Span Review™

Mass Effect


Mass Effect BoxOne of the most immersive and finely crafted science fiction roleplaying games ever made. The combination of voice acting, storytelling, and third person action are near the peak (if not the top) of video game craft. Mass Effect is a fitting beginning to what's sure to be an epic and long lived franchise! If you love deep storytelling as part of your gaming experience, you cannot got wrong with this game.

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The text below the break is part of a review originally written on September 20, 2008 some time after the PC Windows release*.

Here are some updated thoughts:  I’ve played through the PC version of Mass Effect three or four times.  I consider the Mass Effect Trilogy to be the best scifi RPG/action/adventure game ever made.  Yes, that’s a strong opinion but it’s one I believe in and will not waiver from.  Bioware nailed every aspect of these games:  story, dialogue, graphics, world building, action . . . you name it.  Everything about this series resonates with my science fiction tastes.  I have nothing more to add about these masterpieces of gaming.

Mass Effect

Every once in awhile you have one of those gaming experiences where you know within, literally, 2 minutes of starting the game that it’s something special.  Mass Effect is one of these games for me.

Mass Effect is a pretty amazing game. It’s a good mix of third person fragfest, RPG, and beautiful cinematics.  It felt like playing an interactive movie.  The cutscenes are near CGI movie quality in their production while using the game engine. The interesting thing with the engine is that it uses motion blur as well as blurring of foreground and background objects depending on the camera focus.

Mass Effect BoxYou are Commander Shepard of the starship Normandy and you are the last hope for all life in the Galaxy. Saren, a rogue member of the elite and untouchable Spectre agents, has discovered the secret to unleashing an apocalyptic force on the galaxy, and only you stand in his way. To save the lives of billions, you must do whatever it takes to stop Saren and prevent the return of an ancient force bent on the destruction of all organic life.

Mass Effect
Developer:  Bioware
Genre:  Science Fiction RPG
Media:  Game, ~27 hours
ESRB Rating: M (Blood, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence)
Year: November 16, 2007
5 out of 5 stars

One thing I didn’t like about the game was the repetitive nature of the assignment mission structures  Assignments are like missions that don’t involve the main story line.   They’re a way to build up money and experience points, as well as various combat, tech, and biotic talents. Most assignments involve exploring a planet, finding an outpost, and/or fighting something on a planet. Every time an assignment involved going in to a structure on a planet it used the same 2-3 models. So during assignments you’re always fighting in the same rooms, opening the same doors, going down the same hallways. This was a major oversight…like the assignment portion was an afterthought.

Mass Effect

 I ended the game with something like 6 million credits. I had so much money I didn’t know what to do with it. I had all the best equipment. I used the same 2 squad mates almost the entire time so they were almost unstoppable. I also killed one of my own soldiers because he was being a pussy, and sacrificed another (so I only had 4 to choose from near the end).  I also had a very steamy cut scene with the main Asari character in the game, Liara T’Soni.

There was an interesting as well as disturbing result of Bioware inserting the love scene portion in to the game.  It became a  “controversy” when Fox Bews ran a report on the game calling it a sex simulator with full on nudity and sex simulation where players objectify women (etc) when in fact the news person had never even played the game (and admitted as much later).  The romance subplot is quite small and the sex cutscene is no worse than something you would find at 10:00 on the major networks (no full nudity at all)…and the cutscene lasts about 30 seconds IF you happen to pursue the romance subplot, which is completely optional.  As far as “objectifying women” goes you can play as a female and have a relationship with on of the male non-player characters, and half your squad members who fight beside you are female.  The Fox reporter was just being spoonfed misinformation and spewing it over the air waves.  Also, a very young kid would not enjoy this game anyway. It’s way too deep and story driven to hold their attention. A teenager, yes. But they can watch the evening news and see images about 10 times worse (language, sex, violence…you name it).

Mass Effect

The PC version received a downloadable mission that introduced a new race.  It was released right after I played through Mass Effect, which took me about 37 hours.  I had a few issues getting the downloaded content to run at the end, but it added about 2 hours of gameplay for free.  I can live with that.

Can’t wait to confront the Reapers (the real threat) in ME2 and ME3 when they come out.

Update:  The movie rights to Mass Effect were recently sold by EA, the parent company of Bioware.

Mass Effect
Genre:  Science Fiction
Media:  Game
5 out of 5 stars

*Note:   I’m revisiting and re-posting many older articles (almost 200) I’ve written (or contributed to) over the years, either for my own purposes or as contributions to other sites now long digitally decayed and dormant.  These reviews/articles will appear in their nearly raw, unaltered form, with a few updated thoughts at the beginning of each.

About Neal Ulen

Neal Ulen
Editor/Webmaster - Neal is a writer and recovering engineer who likes pizza, the insidious power of sarcasm (and pizza), and debating science fiction (and pizza). You can also find his writing on Omni, Geeks, and other media platforms.