Thursday, January 3, 2008

Massively Effected

To say that that the story of Commander Sheppard is enthralling would be an understatement. To say that Mass Effect from BioWare is anything less than a work of art, would be to disrespect the love and care the development team has put into the game. To say that I can't stop playing this thing, would be absolutely correct.

Mass Effect is the kind of game that only seems to come along every few years or more, because BioWare (and maybe Bethesda even) seems to be the only studio capable of delivering such a quality piece of role-playing. However, you may be turned off at 1st by the title if you're coming into the experience with the assumption that it will be more shooter/action than RPG. Make no bones, Mass Effect is all about the story. What combat there is, while visceral and extremely entertaining, comes secondary to top-notch story-weaving and voice acting. But if you're like me, you'll greatly appreciate the way each and every conversation you have seems to fit solidly in place with the universe created by BioWare, and what's more how your choices weigh into the overall scheme of things.

In all, I've spent about as much time talking to people and exploring as I have fighting aliens, Geth machines, and Krogan mercenaries. It's been one hell of a mix of activities, ranging from scanning maintenance creatures called Keepers in the Citadel capital space station, to tracking down a cult of Biotics in the far reaches of space. I've even hunted down a mad scientist and let my squad-member kill him to end a long chapter of his life. Never, and I mean never as this is no usual Bildo Hyperbole, have I played a game that made me feel this connected to the world. BioWare, and I'm sounding redundant here I know, is now at the forefront of story-telling in the videogame industry. No one does it better.

It's not all fun and games though. There are some complaints, as always, but they do pale in comparison to the full experience of Mass Effect. Mainly, the biggest problems in the game are technical issues. Framerates are rarely steady, and you'll notice it dipping all over the place throughout the adventure. Also on the performance side, you'll get used to seeing textures not fully loaded in a fresh area and see them quite plainly pop into resolution. It's funky, but not gamebreaking. Loading times are frequent though not long enough to be too much of a nuisance. Squad members can easily get in your way during a heated fight, but luckily it's not possible that I know of to kill them. They just obstruct your target. I may be wrong here though, so maybe someone can post and tell me if they've ever managed to accidentally kill Wrex or Garrus. And lastly, my biggest fault with Mass Effect has got to be the handling of the Mako, you're on-ground tank-like ship.

I've gotten used to driving the heap of junk, but at 1st it feels not at all unlike being put behind the wheels of a Caterpillar and being told to dig a small square hole with it. You look at the ship, and you think "Cool, a car with six wheels, sort of like a truck." But in actuality, it controls nothing like it. There's no throttle and then steering as one would with a normal car-game. Your controls in the ship are the same as the controls with your character. Back moves towards the screen, forward moves forward, and left and right move left or right (turning if necessary or moving straight left or right if your camera is positioned behind either side of the ship). Does this sound odd? Because it is.

My only guess is that BioWare found this the easiest way to give the player conntrol of the top-mounted turret and still make movement feel natural. But the Mako doesn't control like a normal car. It feels like its center of gravity is ten feet below the earth, and thanks to some rough land you'll be traversing it bounces around so much that precision driving is pretty much out of the question. There's no changing the way it handles either as far as I can tell. If I could offer advice (like they care) to BioWare it would be to make sure this is refined for the 2nd installment. Make it control like a car should, with break and throttle buttons, and have one stick turn the vehicle and one stick aim the gun. This way you still have the aiming control, but maneuverability will be greatly increased.

If it seems like I'm harping on this one issue, it's because that truly is the only thing I find disagreeable enough in ME to cause alarm. The rest of the game is nothing short of awe-inspiring and the story will have you up later than you intended everytime you pick up the controller. When this sucker hits the PC in a year or whatnot (as I expect it may), those without a 360 would do well to rush out and buy it. And if you have a 360 and are reading this site, you are likely a fan of RPGs so what the hell are you doing reading this? Go play the dang thing!

1 comment:

OnyxRaven said...

The Mako does little but make me angry, though I have to admit trying to see how far I can fall or jump with the thing.

Ok, so the Mako has the following problems: Bouncing makes it kinda freak out because of the odd center of gravity, like you said. Turning around or any close maneuvering is a chore because it seems to want to go backwards as much as it does forwards. I did finally figure out that there are two more zoom levels, but aparently, if you cant focus on an object at any zoom level, you cant even hit it. The shield recharge is abysmally slow and there's nothing you can do to increase it. Let me burn some omni-gel and repair shields!

I have a small number of other complaints. The inventory system leaves some to be desired (sorting, mainly). The whole 'license' thing for the store on the ship, I must be missing something cause he never gets new items. Pressing 'X' as I skip through a conversation (because I've heard it before or they're taking forever and I already read the subtitle) shouldnt affect the conversation selector (I've definitely selected the option I didnt want to select a few times because of that). You should be able to 'cancel' a skill trigger. Currently it looks like you either get to select one or select a different one.

But yeah, I'm kinda picking nits for sure. I love the game (about 22 hours in)