Story prevails over adversity...
The story is, for all intents and purposes, the highest point of the game here. In fact, this might be one of the best told and fleshed out stories in any game, RPG or otherwise. The tale goes that in the not so distant future, humanity uncovers artifacts from an ancient alien race known as the Protheans that slingshots their technology, especially in the areas of military and space travel, centuries into the future. Now successfully part of a galactic alliance with several other alien races, humanity has once again unearthed a Prothean artifact, a beacon, that you, as your very own created Commander Shephard, are sent to retrieve and bring before the galactic council. Things immediately goes south, as a rogue SPECTRE (essentially super privilaged secret agents) named Saren seeks to use the beacon for his own devices. The whole thing becomes infinitely more complicated until soon, the fate of the entire universe rests on Shephard and his team.
The way the story is presented, through several well produced cutscenes, and countless engrossing conversations of which the player is free to progress through as they see fit. It's all very deep stuff, and it is voiced to perfection by each and every actor in the bunch. Indeed, sound is another excellent aspect of the Mass Effect package, as guns sound impactful, creatures sound appropriately alien and ferocious, and music switches between epic space opera to beeping and booping techno beats during specific sequences.
The visuals keep up for the most part as well, as characters are detailed and expressive. This is a good looking game overall, but many graphical glitches occur when textures forget to load or environments pop up out of nowhere. It's nothing too major, but it takes away from the otherwise spectacular presentation and sound package (not to mention the story) when a scene switches only to see textures finishing loading while the action is already well under way.
This sets up Mass Effect to be quite the high end adventure, and as far as ground covered, Mass Effect offers a LOT to explore. An entire universe, practically, is set up for you to explore relatively early. Although the actual story missions only take you to a handful of these, there will eventually be one of the game's well written side quests that leads you to the other ones. The games sense of scale is amazing, and it truly is a treat to see how large this universe that Bioware actually is.
Now this may seem like the pros FAR outweigh the cons, and... lets be honest, this game really had no chance of being BAD.
We haven't reached gameplay. And gameplay is where things all start to go wrong for Mass Effect. For one thing, the interface here seems to be... broken. Navigation and inventory, two things that should be on lockdown in any RPG, are somehow unforgiveably screwed up in this game. Managing items is very frustrating, and on planet surfaces, where navigation is hardest to get a handle on, the mini map provided is completely useless.
Secondly, the combat employed here is nothing special. It's just the experience here is too lopside-ed. If you play as a soldier, you'll only get the games somewhat boring shooting mechanics, and miss out on the games funner aspects, like using tech and biotic powers. It just seems that the combat tries to be a shooter, but can't hold up it's end, while still maintaining a magic system that seems stunted to make way for the shooting aspects. It works in some instances, but in others, completely fail.
Mass Effect is an ambitious game, but in it's ambition, almost misses basic game mechanics that NEED to be there. It's redeeming qualities make up for the flaws it entails, but one can't help thinking that things should be more solid than they are. Mass Effect still gets an 8.0 for being a well crafted game with a fantastic story, but with a pile of minor annoyances that just should not be there in such a title.
PS: Auto save MY ASS!