[N.B. A word of warning to potential buyers of this game: it’s possible that you won’t be able to finish the last few minutes of this game due to a glitch at the climax of the game. This is a known problem (definitely for the PS3 version but not sure about other platforms). It looks like those behind the game have no interest in fixing it, since the problem is years old (I did manage to complete this game…eventually…in the 2nd week of 2015). Not sure what % of PS3 consoles have this issue, but it manifested for me in the climactic fight…the game just slowed down, stuttered and eventually froze, requiring a reboot. Rebooting didn’t fix the problem either. My score does not take into account such aggravation or the feeling of being ripped off if you buy this game and can’t finish it, which means you can’t transfer your character information to the sequels. It might be case that the PSN version of the game may make overcoming this glitch possible, but I did have issues with even that, although I did make it through to the end of the game…it’s for that reason that I’m not taking this aspect of the experience into my score. It would have been impossible to give this a (good) score at all if I hadn’t of been able to finish the game.
Another note: I played the first game in this series years after playing its sequel first…due to Bioware insisting that the first game would never be released on Playstation.]
Platform: PS3, also on PSN.
Genre: Role playing sci-fi shooter.
Setting: The Milky Way galaxy in the future.
Story: You play an elite human soldier (male or female) who must save the universe from a monstrous alien attack. You command an advanced spaceship and have a squad of elite fighters who you take on missions.
Graphics: Very good. Has a sci-fi fantasy art picture book quality to the visuals. Having played Mass Effect 2 first in this series (‘thanks’ Bioware!), the character models aren’t as realistic looking as in that sequel.
Elements of the game:
Romance: I played as a female soldier. The unfortunate aspect to this RPG element for me was the fact that low-level flirting (if that) pretty much put my options on rails…i.e. I seemed to be limited to one romantic option. Other characters were ruled out by the game as potential romantic interests due to my character having imperceptibly (somehow) become BFF to a male character. This element is rectified in the sequel but it’s a pity it’s not a good system here…so, I got no trophy for Romance in this game! In fact, my choice on Virmire pretty much ruled out that possibility (seeing as the game does not have post-completion gameplay, unlike the sequel).
Mako missions: This is a military vehicle your spaceship drops onto the surface of planets and moons in order to investigate things…which usually leads to battles. Apparently some people have problems with this vehicle but I haven’t really explored their reasons for this. I didn’t mind this aspect of the game too much, apart from being annoyed by having to deal with heavy artillery or big, offensive robots. If you play by the game’s rules and you’re not very good at manoeuvring the vehicle whilst avoiding being hit by weapons fire and dealing out damage to those offensive weapons, then the gameplay will be frustrating. That’s because the game doesn’t allow you to save progress. So, you will have to reload from your previous save, if you play by the rules. I did rely on a workaround to this problem…which was nice. The sequel has much less Mako type missions and did prevent my workaround from the first game too…which is unnecessarily annoying on the developer’s part, I think.
Gameplay: I played this on “Normal” difficulty. Perhaps surprisingly, some of the early missions seemed quite tough to get through, as far your character dying or having members of your squad die. Can’t say that I got to grips with the squadmate placement system, which is something that I eventually came to grips with in the sequel. The sequel at least has an in-game tutorial on how to use the system. Early on in the game I felt like one of those NPC victims to be rescued by the hero…pretty useless. The same feeling occurred to me in Mass Effect 2 but I transitioned into a competent hero in that. It did make me wonder if I would make that same transition in this first game.
Intolerable about the game:
* That all these YEARS after release, it’s STILL possible to be unable to complete the final battle in the game which will prevent you from taking your saved game and importing it to the sequel. Demonstrates utter contempt for quality control by the company.
* Bioware treating gamers with contempt by not releasing the series in chronological order for Playstation gamers.
Good about the game:
* It’s a believable simulation of a galaxy teeming with advanced alien civilisations. If you wish to immerse yourself in this universe, you are provided with a database which provides information on the species you encounter and their history. The Mass Effect universe is perhaps the most satisfying world in which to inhabit. Already I feel I have a sense of this place, with its alternatingly warring and co-operating alien species, such as the Krogan, Turians, Salarians and Asari. It’s for this aspect of the game that I find it a “must play”.
* Not having played online shooters and thus having good twitch reflexes against nimble, deadly opponents, I have to say that I appreciate that you can pause the game as you initiate targetted attacks on enemies. Bring up your weapons display and you can pause the game while you switch your weapon. Bring up your ‘powers’ display and you can pause the action whilst you choose options available to your type of soldier…e.g. hurling a deadly fireball at an enemy.
Not so good about the game:
* Squadmate A.I. I literally made a point sometimes to lock them out of an area in some encounters so that they didn’t die. In other words, I felt that “team” really needed an “I” in it. Just “I”! It’s maddening how you direct them to a particular spot behind cover, say, then they start following you around instead of staying put. Some squadmates are even more annoying…they’re spooning you as they walk right behind you! Sheesh! Getting your gun out and firing it may help discourage them from doing this.
* Navigating on foot in some places. This could be a real pain, as I found it easy to get lost or have no idea where to go. Great examples of badly disorientating locales are Feros as well as the even worse tunnels of Zhu’s Hope. To be balanced, however, I did find one urban space where I had a good sense of how to get to various places in it. That was for the city on Noveria.
* On the Mako missions, often I’d be firing at the big mechs etc, and they didn’t take any damage at all. The ability to damage them seemed random, as far as targetting them. This gave rise to a workaround…getting out of the Mako and just destroying the mech with my squadmates!
* Taking a while to work out how to set the default weapon for your squad.
Remembering how you did that was also annoying.
Could be more intuitive in other words.
* Some bugs in the game, like in-world objects being highlighted so that you can interact with them…and they don’t interact because you already interacted with them but forgot about it. Or the game giving you the impression that you haven’t been to a place before when you actually have…i.e. your Journal isn’t updated to note that you’ve already been there. The Journal also once marked me down as having done something which I still needed to do.
By the by:
Amusing cutscene with Emily Wong due to the fact that there was a bug, which creaating a shadow under her nose and lip…giving her a Hitler mo!
I’m currently playing the final instalment in this series. Whilst I can’t say that the gameplay for the series is great or that there aren’t annoyances, it’s definitely worth playing the games because the world is so immersive and believable.
* I didn’t actually write down a score when I made my notes on this game many months ago. It’s definitely a Pass score. Worth playing in other words. My score of 67.5+% is just what I’m guessing I would have scored it at the time.