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Mass Effect Preview

publisher: Microsoft
developer: Bioware
genre: RPG

ESRB rating: M

release date: Nov 20, 07
» All About Mass Effect on ActionTrip

ActionTrip: Friendly NPCs are clearly an important addition to the gameplay. What are their main skills that can be utilized in battle?

Casey Hudson: You'll be leading a squad of three characters, including yourself. You'll be able to choose your three squad members from a larger group, and each one will have different specialties - and very different personalities.

ActionTrip: Revealed gameplay footage from Mass Effect also introduced us to the cool-looking all-terrain vehicle, used for moving around on planet surfaces. However, it also presented a choice of rather destructive weaponry. Will players have access to more "subtle" weapons for a stealth approach?

Casey Hudson: The Mako is customizable, so you'll be able to adjust its features to suit your style of gameplay. Generally though, you'll be using the vehicle to cross huge tracts of rough terrain, and to fend off attacks from giant creatures and flying machines. So in other words, the Mako gives you a huge variety of control over how you'll handle situations, but when you're driving a six-wheeled armored monster truck, the idea of "stealth" only goes so far! :)

ActionTrip: The real-time tactical team-based combat system in Mass Effect certainly varies from games like Knights of the Old Republic. Explain more about how players can distribute orders to their team throughout combat.

Casey Hudson: The great thing about combat in Mass Effect is that it gives you the same kind of amazing combat experiences as in KOTOR but in a 3rd-person shooter interface that's so much easier and more fun to control. So while anyone can pick up the game and start having fun in combat because of the point-and-shoot controls, you end up having the same kind of fun that KOTOR had - such as strategically placing squad members, directing them to focus on certain enemies, cooperating with you on combinations of attacks. Having 3 squad members also means one or two of them can go down in battle without you being "killed", so sometimes in really tough battles you'll be the last standing member of your squad, fighting it out against a really tough enemy.

Your squad is actually really smart and tough during combat, so you don't need to give them specific orders to survive combat. But if you want to, you can tell them to run to a location or attack a specific target with a single press of the D-Pad. You can also issue exact paths to run and specific attacks to make, through an interface called Squad Command.

ActionTrip: Since a great portion of the combat is real-time, the development team obviously had to invest additional effort into tweaking AI behavior patterns. With respect to enemy intelligence, are you pleased with how things are shaping up?

Casey Hudson: We're actually at a point where the enemy AI is already really smart, and our work now is focused on polishing the AI to give them enemies really interesting behaviors beyond just fighting intelligently.

ActionTrip: What sort of content can gamers expect to get via Xbox Live for Mass Effect?

Casey Hudson: We actually have a very ambitious downloadable content plan that will allow players to continue exploring the Mass Effect galaxy long after they finish the main story. More details on that to come...

ActionTrip: Bioware unveiled on many occasions that the core team is busy with various projects at the moment, most of which, understandably, remain under wraps. We know for a fact that one of these projects is a MMO game. Are you able to offer any additional info on that?

Casey Hudson: Our new Austin Studio is indeed working on an MMO but we haven't announced any details on it yet, so you'll have to stay tuned. We're also developing a dark heroic fantasy RPG called Dragon Age which takes the experience players enjoyed in the Baldur's Gate series to incredible new heights of stunningly immersive graphics and truly next-gen gameplay. We also just formed a new handheld game group that is working on a new Nintendo DS title, and we do have another unannounced next generation game in the works, but again, these are all surprises that we're saving for later.

ActionTrip: Is there a precise launch date planned for Mass Effect? Are there any plans for a PC version of the game?

Casey Hudson: We're still locking down details of our launch date, but you can expect it sometime in early 2007. Mass Effect is an Xbox 360 exclusive, and we can't wait for you to play it! (Way to dodge that question, Casey! - Ed)

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