Sentimental Sunday: Massively Mass Effect

Sentimental Sunday is where we get together, reminisce and discuss those games from our past that have a special place in our hearts. That can be because they were overwhelmingly bad and shocked us with how horrible they were compared to expectations or due to how they captured our imagination and kept us entertained for countless hours into the night.

So with a glint in our eye and a smile on our face, let’s delve into the first Mass Effect.

The massive effect that Mass Effect has on gaming.

I dare you to find a better game than Mass Effect. It’s impossible, unless you choose from one of its sequels, which are great, but not as ground-breaking as the first. If you’re the type of gamer that gets even a little bit immersed into whatever you’re playing, then Mass Effect will satiate your desire to play video games. Mass Effect brings cinematic elements to video games in a way that actually improves gameplay. It can be quite the emotional game, in fact.

I don’t know anyone who’s played Mass Effect that doesn’t have at least one positive thing to say about it. Whether it’s the cover-based third person shooter mechanics, the story itself, the artwork or the character development. It’s hard to find too many faults in a game that was as well thought out and as well executed as this one.

The best part of the game, for me, is that your decisions matter when you make them. The integration of a moral meter, of sorts, lets you play the game as you would live life. Make truly renegade decisions or be a paragon of civility. Every time you decide how a conversation goes, it changes the way the game plays, sometimes slightly and sometimes with much larger and longer lasting effects.

As you play through the game you have the option to get to know your crew that you're fighting with. You can talk to them and ask questions about them. You can get to know them on a very personal level, and because their back story is so complex and written so well, you might actually start to care what happens to them. To that end you hold their lives in your hands. Your decisions can become life or death decisions, and they depend on you.

Drew Karpshyn does a fantastic job of weaving together a complete story with a living and breathing galaxy. He presents a tremendous amount of detail in his work, just like all of his literary works, and it shows. Characters come from somewhere, have families and the galaxy around you has real substance. A lot of effort has been put into describing nearly every asset. The Noveria missions are a great example of this, with mini-games that describe the corporate culture in seemingly every minutia, obscure and otherwise. Combined with the talented artists at BioWare and the great curves they rendered into their works, this ends up making for one hell of a game.

And you know what else it does, though perhaps unintentionally? It confronts racism in a novel way too. It shows a hatred for other species, but more than that it shows a loathing for the puny and young human race too. It shows how much we're hated because of our self-righteous and smug attitudes. But even that can be overcome with the right decisions made throughout the game.

Once you complete the game you realize that there is just so much more to learn, so much more to do, and it's so incredibly fascinating.

Let's play Mass Effect

Despite being originally released on November 20th of 2012, the graphics have held up surprisingly well. No, there is no official 4K resolution support, nor does it actually support resolutions higher than 1280x960, but that doesn’t mean it looks bad at all. Unreal Engine 3 powers the visuals, and while it’s clearly in the engines infancy it still looks refreshing due to the great art, meticulously detailed and vast atmosphere and the intense character driven story. It’s not Crysis, but then, it never meant to be.

The action is fast-paced and the cover mechanics work well, most of the time. You’re immediately thrown into the fray as you receive a distress call from Eden Prime, a human colony under attack. You’ll have to learn to use cover to your advantage while moving forward with enough momentum to throw your enemy off balance. Thankfully the locales are generally filled with enough rubble to make cover an easy option to take.

There are two issues I have with the action sequences, though. The first is very irritating, the second is less so. There is no dedicated melee button in the first Mass Effect. Instead, the default fire button switches over to melee when enemies are close enough, and sometimes the animation doesn’t seem to want to play. This is very disconcerting and really annoying. I like to know if I’m hitting my enemies, and appreciate even a rudimentary animation to show me this.

The other issue I ran into was that I sometimes seemed to not be able to move into and out of cover as quickly as I wanted to, or I couldn’t at all. Sometimes, too, not being able to move out of cover means not being able to aim properly, and that has resulted in my death on numerous occasions. But perhaps that’s just my own lack of skill. Regardless, the overall experience is a lot of fun, and challenging without being too difficult to handle.

Also, those locales throughout the galaxy are most certainly not open-world, but they do provide a small degree of freedom to explore and see the sites. In some locations, like the Citadel, you find yourself wandering around completing various side missions, of which there are plenty, and generally enjoying the pretty vistas offered. That and you can enjoy some club life as well.

The soundstage is large and open and it sounds like a proper science fiction atmosphere. The music also takes on a unique flair and is almost unforgettable. Jack Wall, Sam Hulick and David Kates do an awesome job at capturing what might very well be a possible future for humankind in the 2100’s. The great thing about it is that it's listenable even outside of the game. You'll especially be hearing a lot of the below as you decide where to go next.

The bottom line is that Mass Effect is still exciting to play through. No, it's not a modern graphical powerhouse, but it has something that most modern games seem to forget; a real atmosphere and a great story.

I was surprised at how great it still looks though. But it's about much more than just pretty visuals and gimmicks. This is a game for those that want an emotional investment, or that want to pretend that they're someone else for a few minutes (or hours) a day. And it still holds up extremely well. I dare you to play it and not enjoy it. And you know what? You can even go back and play it differently, making different decisions that can drastically change the dynamic of the game.

And better yet, you can import your saved game into Mass Effect 2 to have a continuous story.

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