Mass Effect Review
|ON OTHER PLATFORMS: Xbox360, PC|
PIV 2400, 1GB RAM, 12GB HDD, Nvidia 6800GT, ATI 1300XT or better
|ESRB rating: M
release date: May 28, 08
|» All About Mass Effect on ActionTrip|
BioWare has come a long way since excellent games like Baldur's Gate, Neverwitner Nights and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. In fact, when you look more closely, BioWare's work has greatly evolved through the three aforementioned games - all of which have made a significant contribution to the genre of RPGs. BioWare's efforts finally lead them to the creation of the epic space saga Mass Effect; initially developed for the Xbox 360. Now, PC gamers finally have a chance to check out what all the fuss was about.
When creating the Mass Effect setting the designers have no doubt been inspired by Star Wars. Certain elements resemble the Star Wars universe (2lions already referred to this in our review of the Xbox 360 edition of the game). That doesn't mean you won't be able to enjoy the cool characters and diverse races. Mass Effect was acknowledged for its incredibly involving and well-written storyline, which continually compels gamers to play on in order to uncover more about the mysterious evil that threatens to destroy the galaxy; once again, check out our X360 review for more details on the story. Creating deep and profound relationships with characters is also an essential part of the experience and something which most games lack these days. Suffice it to say, if you're looking for a thrilling and immersive story, Mass Effect does the job alright and will make you want to complete the entire game.
Don't expect any novelties in terms of content in the PC version. The story, characters, items, weapons and planets are all virtually identical to the 360 counterpart. This shouldn't stop you, however, from giving the PC edition a whirl. If you have already finished the game on the Xbox 360 and are thinking about trying it again on the PC, don't hesitate in doing so. There's a great number of side-quests and missions (some of which you may missed earlier). Sure, if you've found sub-quests generic the first time around, it will feel the same in the PC version. Even so, there are enough story-related missions to maintain the excitement.
The range character classes -- Soldier, Engineer, Adept, Infiltrator, Sentinel, and Vanguard -- makes the journey through the far regions of space all the more exciting each time you play it. Each class adds diversity to the combat, making for some pretty solid replay value.
Admittedly, the crucial change in the PC version comes with the refined interface that spruces up combat and makes the inventory a lot easier to use. These changes may not seem like much, although believe me when I say it that they make a great deal of difference during gameplay. Using weapons and employing various character skills (Biotics and such) feels far more intuitive than in the Xbox 360 version. Plus, I thanked the heavens for the handy quick slots and assigned hot keys, which allow you to access biotic powers and different abilities very quickly, thus enabling you to eliminate opponents more efficiently. All of this, coupled with the brilliantly optimized keyboard/mouse controls, makes Mass Effect a must-have for PC enthusiasts. The Mako (the six-wheeled all-terrain vehicle) handles better as well, though it still may require a bit of practice.
RPG fans won't be disappointed either. There are enough skills, weapons and items to toy around with throughout the game. Each upgrade almost immediately leads to new combat abilities that can be tried out in practice on foes. Things were seasoned with the ability to develop the main character's profile via the good vs. evil (Paragon vs. Renegade) choices, most of which are carried out through the game's extensive dialogue system. Ultimately, no matter how you decide to act during your quests and dialogue, the story will run its course. Still, if you keep pushing towards a certain moral archetype, different dialogue options will be unlocked and events may unfold in a different way depending on how you treat other characters. So, it's more about weaving a distinctive psychological profile each time you play the game, rather than changing the core story.
We are still a bit disappointed for not having any new content to check out. BioWare didn't incorporate anything new in that sense to go with the game's initial release. Although I guess if they did, that would probably mean that PC gamers would've had to play Mass Effect at a much later date. Nonetheless, Mass Effect PC is, beyond any doubt, a worthwhile single-player experience for any gamer. Keep in mind that BioWare will also be offering the downloadable expansion "Bring Down the Sky" free to PC players (that was otherwise around $5 in MS Points on the 360). We didn't get to try this out, because it's still not available. This was a bit of letdown and it would've been nice if EA and BioWare made the feature available with the retail version.
8.8 Very Good
Well-optimized controls, interface and inventory changes are a major improvement, sharper graphics than on the 360, solid replay value, it has something for shooter fans and RPG devotees alike;
Locales and some sub-quests still feel a bit generic, new skills, classes, weapons or items wouldn't have gone amiss, occasional frame-rate issues.