Every time I finish a BioWare RPG I immediately look forward to the next one. Or at least I did until I heard that Mass Effect’s combat would have many of the elements of a classic first person shooter. I have never been, nor will I ever be, anything approaching competent when it comes to aiming and shooting guns in video games. So I began to worry that I would never be able to finish the game. And that thought broke my heart. To tell the truth I have not finished the game, but not because of sheer incompetence on my part. That’s a story I’ll regale you with later.
But first you might actually like to hear about the game. As the player you are Commander Shepard (first name and gender is your choice) and you soon find yourself tasked with saving the galaxy from an elite rogue agent. The story is incredible, deep, and riveting. There’s always a twist and while this one probably won’t make your jaw drop, it’s very well executed. There are also dozens of side quests and lots of XP to earn. The only major problem with this game is the tank. When dealing with a relatively flat planet, there’s no problem with driving missions but not all the planets have nice even terrain. While trying to traverse jagged mountains, it can get very difficult and frustrating. Otherwise, if you have even minimal skill with shooter games you can excel on the easy setting. Sadly, I don’t even have minimal shooting skills; anyone who has ever played Goldeneye with me can attest to this fact.
I have a tendency to shoot at the floor in the direction of enemies or react so slowly that I am left standing in the open letting my enemies gun me down. It has taken considerable coaching from my husband, Pat, to get me to show competence in even the most basic maneuvers and skills. In fact, I made him play the game all the way through before I would even consider starting a character. Then I started playing and quickly realized that I was doing no damage to anyone (thankfully, shooting your own party members doesn’t hurt them) and that it was my allies who were slaughtering the vast numbers of robots and hired thugs. After ten hours I finally started to get the hang of it and was actually hitting what I aimed at, even though it took me three times as long to target enemies. Of course I still had Pat do some of the harder missions. So relax, even hapless shooters can enjoy this game, provided they can bribe someone to assist them.
As I said the game is well put together, but like many games there are a few bugs. Sadly, one of these bugs effectively destroyed my game. There’s a glitch where if you save in or near an elevator when you reload that save you can’t exit the elevator. Despite this knowledge, the game actually autosaves in these spots. So between an elevator autosave followed by my own save near an elevator both my saves were useless. And they were the only two I had! Even worse Pat didn’t mention this problem until the damage had been done. So please learn from my mistakes – make multiple saves! I just haven’t been able to bring myself to start over since I’d already invested more than twenty four hours in the game. So until I get desperate for a BioWare fix or they make a patch for the problem I am staying away from the game. After all, thanks to Pat I already know what happens.
Normally I reserve a part of any RPG column for a rant about the appalling love interests available to female characters. Happily, they were halfway decent in this game. Much like in Jade Empire, males have a choice between two females and the females have a choice between a male and a female love interest. Mmmm….lesbians. My primary problem was that the voice actor for the male love interest was the same as the one they used in the original Knights of the Old Republic. The supremely irritating Carth Onassi had returned. This time though, he has better dialogue and the stick up his ass has been removed. It still threw me from time to time and in combat I’d yell at the screen, “What are you doing, Carth? You moron!” It didn’t matter that he wasn’t doing anything wrong, it’s just a habit I picked up from KOTOR. Insulting Carth was one of my primary pleasures from that game. Well that and rescuing Wookies.
Despite Carth’s reappearance and my faulty saves, I would recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of the genre. The depth of storytelling and gameplay are truly satisfying. So go out and pick up a copy (and in my case a 360 to play it on). Just make sure you have multiple saves far away from elevators and you’ll be just fine.
This columnist would love to hear your thoughts on her work. All glowing praise should be sent to her via the link on our 'About Us' page. Hate mail on the other hand, should be directed to whoever neglected to fix the save problem in Mass Effect, exactly where it belongs.