Captain Zoli's Review

Mass Effect

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Mass Effect: what can be said about such a title with so much promis--so much pedigree? BioWare has made so many good games--nay--great games: the Baldur's Gate series, Neverwinter Nights, and KOTOR (Knights of The Old Republic) to name a few. With titles such as these, I was very excited to see Mass Effect was on the way.

I loaded the disc into the Xbox 360, got a beer, settled into a comfy chair for the 60-plus hours of game play promised, and waited for a great story to unfold along with decent game play. I looked forward to the new combat system that took over for the thinly-veiled turn-based system of KOTOR. My initial view of the game was great--graphics, story, character creation, and NPC's AI were all top notch--exactly what I expected from this game. I progressed through the first few areas of the game and got more of what I expected. I had heard from other reviewers that the game had some sticky points where, if you did not level in a certain way and pick the right skills, you would be hopelessly stuck. I was playing through on the normal level and had no problems. I had completed three worlds and leveled up quite a bit and had no problems in the game. I had even recommended the game to friends and explained that if you liked KOTOR, then this was definitely the game for you.

Then the nightmare started. I read from some sites online that the enemy characters level with you in the game. Until that moment I had been blissfully unaware and sucked into the great story. By the time this came to light, I had maxed out my assault rifle skill and had a rifle that did quite a bit of damage, but the enemies were not dying any faster. This fact changes this game from a RPG to an adventure game. This is a cheap way to ramp up difficulty for the developers and basically amounts to laziness. If they wanted the game to be harder, they should have put in more enemies or harder types of enemies instead of sending the same old tired synthetic at me and giving it more hit points. Developers, pay attention: This practice appeals to mindless idiots and young gamers who don't know any better. You are being lazy and you could at least make up another name and change the color for the enemy with higher hit points. Better yet, provide a new enemy.

The second problem--the proverbial nail in the coffin, straw that broke the camels back, or whatever appropriate cliché you choose--was the loading of boss battles. If there is a hard part to a game where dying repeatedly is very real possibility, the monologue or conversations with the boss characters should be set aside until AFTER the battle, so as not to put our feeble dying kind though it repeatedly. Yes, I realize that hitting "X" button and skipping through very fast is an option, but then you cannot pick the dialog you wish until after your great-grandchildren are born. Then comes the scripted battle where your party dies, leaving you to fight alone in a position that even a 4-year-old could see is a bad strategic stance. Then you die and get to watch 10 plus seconds of a load screen, only to be sent to the monologue again.

As great as the visuals and story of this game are, seeing the same scenes over and over again adds nothing to the experience. Where is the save after the speeches, BioWare? Such a simple addition would have secured this game's place in my library, even with the enemy-leveling issue. Instead, it's laying in wait on the "Used" shelf at my local game store--ready for some other poor schmuck who BioWare feels is obviously monologue-deprived.

In conclusion, Mass Effect had a ton of potential. This game had a great story and quality sound and visuals--the enjoyment of which was hampered by sloppy battle mechanics, lazy difficulty ramping, and long load times. This game is a low point for BioWare. They should have play-tested this game better for the hang-ups and sloppiness that ruined what could have been one of the year's great games. What a letdown. This avid gamer can only repeatedly monologue it a:

2 out of 5

Posted on January 22, 2008.


Copyright © 2004-2008 Ronnie Richardson. All rights reserved.