No matter what you make of the game's controversial sexual content (which is pretty weak compared to a lot of stuff, much of which you can see on TV), BioWare's Mass Effect offers a great gaming experience for fans of RPGs and those, like myself, who are somewhat unfamiliar with the genre as a whole. The universe (or rather the galaxy) created here is immersive and interesting, ensuring that anyone taking a trip into BioWare's space epic is sure to return.
You start the game by creating a character. You can make the character look as ugly as you want, you can give him or her any first name, and you can choose from a number of classes which will shape how you play later in the game. The only prerequisite is that the character's last name is Shepard. So, I proceeded to use the creator, which is surprisingly robust, to create a cross between Vin Diesel and Bruce Willis, naming my future Spectre Bruce Shepard. I chose the soldier class, which is more about shooting than using special abilities. Other classes include a biotic power class and a engineer class along with many hybrid classes.
The game has a distinctive art style that will remind you a lot of movies like Star Wars and the Terminator. The film grain is a nice touch, but you can turn it off if you don't agree with me. The framerate, however, is not as nice to look at. It sputters pretty much all the time and can get in the way of combat a bit. Also, there is a great deal of texture pop-in which you sure to notice. Only the first hurts the game's playability at all, and it only hurts it a little bit. You'll eventually get used to it, but it would be nice if it had been cleaned up. It's also worth mentioning that the sound of this game is amazing, mixing superb voice acting with a movie quality soundtrack.
The gameplay in Mass Effect is robust and, above all, fun. Just plain shooting fools is fun, which I did a lot thanks to my class choice. But, if shooting guys isn't your deal then the other classes will help you take a different approach to battles. You have a team that you must balance and equip in order to succeed. Upgrading each member of your team as well as yourself is paramount to your experience. Also, finding new guns and equipment and gaining new abilities drive you forward in your play. The main sections, where the story is front and center, are gripping and intense. Side missions, while not as intense, are still addictive, even if they get repetitive.
The game's story is great. The dialogue tree that BioWare has come up with really makes your communication easy, while still keeping a great amount of depth. There a great number of twists and turns as well as major, major events that will force Shepard to make a choice. Be careful, however, as your choices are permanent and if you make the wrong one, you may never see one of your team members again. The game's ending is also one of the best ever. Your choice at the end can set up drastically different futures for Shepard and the human race.
I have never been an RPG fan, but if all RPGs were like Mass Effect, I would be a fanboy. Thank you BioWare, let's hope you keep it going next time.