Just returned from my Mass Effect appointment, and let me tell you, it's so nice seeing games you always had high hopes for shaping up so nicely. I was lucky enough to get a great presentation of the game from the folks at BioWare, and the new stuff I have seen gives me a lot of confidence about this one (Dammit, I should be there. Me! Meee!. - Vader).
I simply adore the artwork in this game! - Vader
Okay, I see you're a busy man. I'll just get out of your way.
To start with, the game looks absolutely stunning. The power of the Unreal Engine 3 was utilized fully to deliver extremely accurate and detailed facial expressions. Given the fact how important dialogue is in this game, it's easy to see how the technology is definitely working for Mass Effect in this case. Movement through the dialogue felt totally cinematic as our main hero was talking to a rather bulky alien bounty hunter. The core of this game is definitely centered around the characters. Characterization is essential and that is one of the great things about BioWare products (Amen. - Vader).
So, as we talked to the bounty hunter and found out that he wants to join our party, the story moved on as we took navigated the giant space ship to one of the many planets in the galaxy. The fantastic thing about this is that these places are actually explorable. You can go down to a planet and engage in whatever storyline is featured there. The game is so branched, that provided we took the bounty hunter with us in the party, a mission would have appeared, which puts you and him in the center of the events. This is where the real quality of the game was shown, the true depth of the narrative and of the kind of choices that players are supposed to make.
The folks at BioWare asked me not to reveal the spoiler, but I can tell you that in terms of characterization this game can be as unapologetic and mature in the true sense of the word as any title out there. Definitely, some BioWare RPG magic there.
The combat, on the other hand, is not what you'd usually expect from a classic RPG. Although you can pause the action, the actual fighting is carried out in real-time, with a crosshair and all. In addition to that, Mass Effect is very much centered around team-based action, and giving out orders to your team as you try to flank the enemy.
The friendly AI seemed decent, but it did sort of break once, which shows that maybe BioWare is possibly struggling to cope with the increased focus on programming in a game which requires real-time fighting. I am hoping, however, that this is due to the unfinished code. Mass Effect is slated to ship for the Xbox 360 in November.
When I asked about the amount of hours a regular player may spend on the game, the boys from BioWare pretty much said it's going to be similar to what we got out of the original Knights of the Old Republic. In all, this is good news by today's standards.
The character progression screen and the stats were clear and intuitive, putting another BioWare trademark into view. Guns in the game are completely customizable, which, as you should know, is a commendable addition to any in-depth RPG experience.
Finally, the force-like powers that the main protagonist uses look absolutely spectacular and are quite simply a great addition to the game.
Overall, Mass Effect looks very much like an evolution, building up on the concepts from KOTOR, which have been skillfully implemented by the well-known Canadian development team.
The news that appealed to me the most maybe, is the fact that the story is written by the same guy who did the narrative in the first Knights of the Old Republic game. Bearing in mind the powerful scene, a segment of the storyline I cannot talk about (which is just like a small instance of the game), it's more than evident that fans of good old single-player RPG-ing are in for quite a ride.