Mass Effect PC DVD
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: BioWare
Release Date: Out Now
One of the best Xbox 360 RPG titles we've played is Mass Effect from BioWare. Of course those who only play their RPG games on the PC have had to wait a fair bit longer to experience BioWare's latest offering but the wait has been worth it and the PC version of Mass Effect is definitely the version to go for if you have a PC that can handle it. Most of the technical issues that the 360 version suffered from are not present in the PC version and the game genuinely feels like a PC RPG and not simply a console port.
In Mass Effect you'll play as Commander Shepard. You can choose the first name, whether to be male or female, customize the appearance and pick your character's service history, psychological profile, military specialization and class but whatever modifications you make; you'll still be Commander Shepard. The choices you make during the character creation process do have a bearing on the game-play and it's interesting to see how certain NPCs either take a liking or disliking to you throughout the course of the game because of options you've made during the character creation process.
Whilst Mass Effect does share some similarities with an earlier BioWare title, such as Knights of the Old Republic, it does prove to be a very different experience. You'll have a party of up to six members although you'll only have three in action at one time. The actions you take during the game will shape your character and will determine how your character interacts with other characters. You'll earn Paragon and Renegade points for your positive and negative actions respectively with meters for both Paragon and Renegade points so you're not just swinging your character's personality from one extreme to another. The combat plays out in real time, although you do have the option to pause the action and make tactical adjustments. Initially you won't need to pause the action but eventually you'll find it's absolutely crucial to make tactical adjustments during a battle or you're going to see the game over screen a lot. Fortunately you can alter the difficulty level for the battles if you find them too difficult (or too easy of course).
The game takes place in the late twenty-second century. Mankind can now travel throughout the galaxy at will and naturally, they have encountered a variety of alien species. Mankind, being mankind, doesn't get on too well with certain alien species and there is a level of mistrust towards the humans (the humans also naturally untrusting of course). When the game begins the humans don't have any say in the Citadel Council. The storyline in this first of three games essentially revolves around a rogue Turian Spectre named Saren (Spectres being agents from the Office of Special Tactics and Reconnaissance and they essentially have a free hand to do as they wish in order to get the job done). Saren has been abusing his power to extract information from alien artefacts and to order the Geth (an aggressive humanoid race) to attack planets. As Commander Shepard, it's your job to stop Saren. It's a storyline that has its share of twists and surprises.
There can be no denying that Mass Effect definitely has that wow factor but in some respects the game could have been better. Whilst the game is pretty good with how your decisions influence the game's progress, at times it feels like your dialogue choices make no difference at all. I played the game using two very different characters and there were times when those differences had a bearing on the events and there were others when it didn't appear to make any difference at all. The storyline just isn't as engaging as it was in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. The sections of the game when you control the Mako (an infantry fighting vehicle) are tedious and the game would have been better for having these sections removed.
The PC version of Mass Effect is very impressive in regards to how it looks. You'll need a strong PC to have the game looking its best but the game even looks good when played on lower graphical quality settings. The performance issues that dogged the 360 version (even on a mid-range PC) have mostly been sorted out with only a multitude of really short load times slightly breaking up the flow of the game. Some of the animations in the game's cutscenes don't flow together as well as they should and there are still a few cases of texture pop-in but these are minor complaints. There have been some interface improvements, such as the inclusion of quick slots, which help the game to feel more like a PC RPG. The character models have to be some of the best we've seen in any game. Some of the dialogue scenes, where you get to see the facial animations up close, are very impressive. Credit has to be given for the alien character models as they look outstanding and are probably the most imaginative I've seen since the original Star Wars trilogy.
Mass Effect for the PC is exactly the same as the 360 version when it comes to its support for deaf gamers. The game does offer subtitles but they aren't enabled by default. Even with the subtitles enabled however, the computerized female voice that assists you during the character setup process isn't subtitled and you'll be completely unaware of what's being said. Once the game begins however, you won't have any real problems as all of the important dialogue is subtitled. The subtitles have the speakers' names placed before them so you'll always know who is saying what. There are some peripheral comments that aren't subtitled but they are of little to no importance. The game allows you to recall details on any missions or assignments by accessing your journal. The Codex can be accessed for text information on the various alien races, governments and planets etc. You are notified in text when XP and items have been gained and the health of your party is displayed on the bottom left of the HUD so you will always be aware of their condition. All of the game's tutorial messages are in text.
There can be no doubt that Mass Effect is an excellent game and a very promising start to what should be an excellent trilogy. Most of the technical issues that plagued the Xbox 360 version do seem to have been ironed out and thus the PC version is the one to go for if your PC is good enough. Mass Effect is an impressive RPG and one that you will want to play again so it's very pleasing to see plenty of replay value here even though the initial play through will take around 40 hours. The characters you'll eventually have in your party are all very interesting and the storyline manages to be enjoyable for most of the game. Probably the most pleasing aspect of the PC version of Mass Effect is that it feels like a PC RPG rather than a console port and it's one of the finest PC RPGs that we've seen in a while.