The first game in Bioware’s epic trilogy, Mass Effect, begins with a scene detailing the desire of the human race to gain proper voice in a world far more vast than our own. In just a few minutes, the world in which the game is set is laid out for us to see.
Mass Effect is set in the future of our world, at a time when humans are still learning how to co-exist in a world filled with a variety of other species. These species are explained to you through dialogue options when you encounter certain people in one of the main points of the game, the seat of the council, whom the main character reports to throughout the game in order to further the plot.
The gamer plays the characters of Commander Shepherd, a member of the Alliance Navy. Given the choice to choose Shepherd’s first name, their past history from a series of options, and their tactical abilities. The choices don’t stop there. Throughout the game, the gamer is able to choose how to react to dialogue options and plot points. Depending on the choices made, the story can change drastically, often resulting in the deaths of one or multiple characters.
Each of the characters that Shepherd interacts with has their own specific personality and voice, and the way they react to Shepherd depends upon their personality, past, and the choices made by the gamer.
As the story unfolds, Shepherd meets new characters, becoming friends with some and enemies with others. A vast story unfolds, involving ancient alien races, machine species that exist in the far reaches of space, and a fate that all but Shepherd believes is sealed in stone.
The main quest is surrounded by a plethora of smaller quests, many of which are optional, but some which allow for greater choices for your character if they are completed. The story builds upon itself, filled with action, gun battles, adventure, quests that need fulfilled, mystery, the political issues that work as an underlying problem throughout the story, and even the option of a romantic option with various characters.
The differing personalities of the characters allows from some very interesting interactions. Not only do you encounter characters that can become attracted to you, but there are those that hate you, or who hates humans – for various reasons. You might also encounter humans who don’t like, or don’t trust, aliens. Considering the story is set not quite three decades after humankind’s first interactions with aliens, this is believable – and it’s that aspect of reality, of truth, that really sells the game. Unfortunately, some of the interactions with certain characters are very limited. Once the initial dialogue options are chosen and gone through, there’s nothing else for you to talk with them about, unless you’ve an inclination to hear the same dialogue run through again. Of course, this is an expected limitation. We aren’t playing a game capable of reading our thoughts. Everything is planned out beforehand, so while the world depicted is decades beyond our time, we’re limited only to the currently available technology. Perhaps in a few decades of our own, Bioware?
The build up to the ultimate battle is very well-done, and the final battle itself is difficult, and rewarding in that. While the final battle was well-planned out, I found the scene afterward to be lacking. This first game was made knowing there would be others after it, the ultimate story far from finished. While the ending had an almost Star Wars feel to it, fitting for the genre, it seemed to move too quickly.
The lacking at the end can be forgiven, knowing that there are other stories coming afterward. Especially after the amazing story that has already been told.
Overall, I would give Mass Effect 4 out of 5 stars, for an incredible storyline, great characters, and the ability to lead the story in a direction depending on your choices. It’s definitely a game I would play again, just to see how different my next play-through might go.
Thank you, Bioware! Now onto Mass Effect 2!
Turn the page to a new world.