Many, many years into the future, mankind has finally evolved into the super cool, space faring race that it had always imagined itself to be. It rubs shoulders with evolved alien races that are far more advanced in science and technology, and who coexist in a sort of uneasy peace, thanks to the presence of the Galactic Council and the elite Spectre squad. Mankind, unfortunately, hasn’t earned enough respect yet to be on either of them, other than as a fringe member with little powers (a bit like India and the UN Security Council, I suppose).
The future of us: Take on an ancient alien race in Mass Effect.
It is against this background that you, as Commander Shepard, are sent to Eden Prime on board the frigate SSV Normandy to investigate the discovery of a beacon that belongs to the Protheans—a mysterious, highly advanced ancient race that is now extinct. The discovery of new Prothean technology is important to mankind for the simple reason that it was a previous discovery of Prothean technology that helped us perform giant leaps in space travel technology.
Since Mass Effect is an RPG (role-playing game), there are tonnes of character-customization options. In fact, when you begin the game you are encouraged to mould Commander Shepard’s appearance to your liking, starting from the gender preference. I spent a good 30 minutes just tweaking Shepard’s look because I figured if I was going to spend the next 24 hours staring at Shepard, I might as well make her a woman, and an attractive one at that.
You can also choose a character class from six choices that offer varied levels of skills in combat, tech and biotic capabilities. The class you choose is important because it will have a direct bearing on how you conduct combat in the game. Along the way you will add other characters to your party so it will be important that you balance out the skills of your party. While you can add up to six members, only three members can be active at a time—the rest will stay on board the Normandy during your trip ashore.
Combat itself is a bit more involved, as you would expect. On foot combat is mostly about choosing the right weapons and skills in a given situation for each of your characters. You will get points to assign new skills or upgrade existing ones. There are plenty of weapons and tech tools to discover as well, which means combat becomes a lot of fun once you’ve come to grips with the interface.
It has really been ages since I’ve seen an epic science fiction space opera game that manages to immerse the player in a believable universe vast in scope and complex in its storytelling. Games such as Starcraft, Homeworld and Knights of the Old Republic have pushed the envelope in this regard, but Mass Effect takes it to entirely new levels with full-on action combining successfully with vivid graphics, excellent voice acting, a complex and absorbing story that’s epic in its scope and depth. If you liked Star Wars, Star Trek, the Rama series of books, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series or the works of Ian M. Banks and Peter F. Hamilton, you’ll love Mass Effect. Guaranteed!
Game: Mass Effect
Platform: XBox 360Rating: 8/10
Write to Arjun at firstname.lastname@example.org