senorgrande's Mass Effect (PC) review

Mass Effect

 God bless you Steam Holiday Sale. Undoubtedly the best £3 I've ever spent. 

I really had no interest in this when it came out. After all the good reviews, everything people said about it and seeing some videos, I started to gain an interest but still not enough to buy it. In fact when it first came out there wasn't a PC version and I dont think I even had an Xbox. When it came up on the Steam sale over Christmas for £3, I bought it without a second thought. I didn't intent on playing it right away and at the time, I was barely aware that ME2 was going to be out shortly either. I played it for about half an hour when I first got it which was enough to surmise that the controls were really odd with a mouse and technically the game was all over the place. That and the fact I was playing WoW was more than enough to put me off. Then I started hearing about how good ME2 was but what really interested me was the character import. So when I become tired of WoW recently, I thought it was time to give Mass Effect another go.

It isn't the best playing game, not by a long way. But that doesn't mean it's not fun. I played as an Engineer which meant only using a pistol for the entire game but I still really enjoyed the combat. Squad mechanics are simple yet effective and the engineers abilities make up for their lack of weapon proficiency. By the end of the game I was taking out clusters of Geth with a single Overload or Sabotage. So, basic gameplay, not great but fun. Mako gameplay however, not good, not fun. It sort of felt like they were trying to emulate Warthog controls but, badly. In regards to why I dont think the game plays as well as it could - even with the mouse sensitivity turned up all the way, I still felt like I was being throttled when looking around. It's hard to explain but there's definitely something off about the mouse look. The addition of hotkeys in the PC version made no impact on me because I never used them. Because you need to in a sense 'lock on' to targets I just never felt comfortable using my offensive abilities without using the paused tactical view.

After searching various internet forums I found a way (through altering .ini files to get the graphics looks tolerable. Some of the textures (like Garus' face) constantly looked like they hadn't loaded but for the most part it looked ok. The aesthetics really appealed to me. I love the look of the armour, weapons, ships and especially the aliens. When I was on the character creation screen I saw the Omni tool and made up my mind there and then to play and Engineer. Even that piece of crap Mako looked awesome. Visually the game is joy to experience which is what makes the frequent technical issues with the graphics all the more damning I think. When it's all working, the game looks incredible but it's all too often spoiled by appalling textures and other glitches.

BioWare's game are usually far more famous for their stories and characters than their gameplay or visuals anyway (I mean Christ, KOTOR pretty much looked and played like shit but it's easily one of the best games on the Xbox) and Mass Effect absolutely lives up to that heritage. The more I played the more it sunk it's hooks into me. I really thought the story was excellent. The party characters are diverse and interesting and not at all irritating (I'm looking at you Carth!). I liked that you couldn't talk to your party outside of the ship as it allowed you to get to know everyone equally, regardless of whether you had them in your party. I thought the romance angle were more compelling than KOTOR. It was never really clear in either KOTOR which of your companions you could pursue romantically and that wasn't a problem here. I thought it was a shame you couldn't get anywhere with Tali as I thought she was probably the most interesting of the three females aboard your ship. As I was playing through knowing about the character import, I made sure to complete the sidequests involving her pilgrimage. I know she's in ME2, but I dont know in what capacity. Regardless I wanted to have been able to give her something to take back to the migrant fleet. Anyway I went with Liara which was kind of disappointing. After she made such a big deal about Asari relationships being a deep spiritual union, it all went down pretty casually. Nothing changed afterwards and it had no impact on the ending. In fact at the end when it's not clear if Shepherd survives, Ashley (her and Liara were my chosen party members) looked far more concerned than Liara did.

I really liked how Paragon/Renegade was handled. It didn't feel as black and white as other games that allow moral choices. Instead of being good or evil it was a much more human level or morality. It was basically how by the book you wanted to be which meant I dabbled in both kinds of decisions where as in KOTOR I only ever made light side choices. I still ended with the achievement for getting 75% of the Paragon points though.     

  There are some glaring flaws but they're definitely overshadowed by the positives. 
EDIT: I've since finished the game playing as a female Sheppard and if anything, it's even better. Jennifer Hale gives an outstanding performance. Especially if you're going to be a renegade, she's a lot more fun than the male Sheppard.

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