Playtime: 14 hours and 3 minutes. The game is not very long, which is amazing! I feel like games have become bloated. There is no bloat here. Only fun.
I’ve felt a bit odd never actually reviewing Mass Effect for this site. The series is easily my favorite of all-time. I have no misconceptions about some of the negatives with the game, but those do not detract from the overall amazing experience of the entire series. I’ve played the series through probably 7 times through on Xbox 360. I’ve played Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2 probably more than 10 times each. I’m always impressed each time I play. I figured that since I have a computer capable, it was time for me to play through them on PC.
This is a review for Mass Effect on PC. I will review Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 as I complete them.
TL,DR: At the end, as per usual.
Spoilers!! Do not read or look at the pictures this if you’ve yet to play Mass Effect and the accompanying DLC. But, really you’ve had ten years, what are you waiting for?
Gameplay: Almost the Weakest Link
Gameplay isn’t really too great in Mass Effect. You can make the gameplay much better depending on how you play. But, the shooting mechanics and movement are stuttered and uninspired. However, the game gets a bit better when you include biotics or tech abilities.
For some reason, I always played as a boring Soldier for every-single-playthrough of the series. I only ventured into the biotics and tech in the multiplayer of Mass Effect 3. Don’t be like me. The game contains some awesome abilities that alter the overall experience. I feel like I missed out on some great gameplay due to stubbornness.
The game starts off slow combat wise. Once, you get a couple abilities to use it starts to open up quite a bit and lets you have some fun. Don’t be afraid to experiment with playstyle and find something you like. The game can change dynamically with class choice. I’m feeling inspired to play again – once I beat Mass Effect 3 with a focus on tech combat. I’ve yet to do so.
On my first PC playthrough, I played as a Vanguard. The class uses a combination of close-range combat and biotic abilities. The Vanguard puts you in the thick of things and allows for some hilarious interactions in combat. I thought I would be hindered by not using Assault Rifles, my typical weapon, but I was wrong. I just altered how I played and the game was still a lot of fun.
While I do enjoy the gameplay in Mass Effect, it is definitely a weaker aspect of the game. There is little enemy variety and many situations end up feeling quite similar once you get the hang of your abilities. Unlike later titles in the series, the upgraded tech and biotics are just upgraded statistically and impact the gameplay.
Also, you do have to put up with the Mako, a terrible space tank, which detracts immensely from the game. The controls are terrible in the vehicle and become a chore every time you have to drive. You spend a fair amount of time in the Mako so its a big negative. However, you can spend less time with it if you avoid side quests, which you shouldn’t do. Just suffer through the Mako and see everything in the game.
I don’t remember the combat from Mass Effect 2 so I am excited to see how it changes and how the game feels as a Vanguard. And I don’t have to wait years to play it. I can play it right now! Or as soon as I finish the review of the first game.
Graphics: Amazing at the Time, Pretty Good Now
The environments on each planet feel unique until you get inside. I would believe that many of the internal areas were connected if you told me they happened on the same planet. The architecture varies from world to world, but not enough to stick out in a good way.
The main characters and the interesting side characters are great. I can tell the difference between each of my team members or some important people on the ship by just looking at them. However, enemies and random NPCs blend together somewhat. The Geth are definitely the most interesting enemy. But, that’s because the other options are all just a re-skin of the same entity, basically.
During this playthrough, I was disappointed by the look of the weapons. They all pretty much look the same, with little size variance. The only way I could tell the difference between a shotgun and an assault rifle is the placement on your back as you play. Sniper rifles are longer variations of those and pistols are shorter. You have some color change, but nothing major.
Technical: The Weakest Link
I don’t know how the game runs this poorly. I had framerate dips and ghosting all over the place. Some images stayed on screen longer than they should have and melded with the real scene. I only crashed once but the game stalled on a couple of occasions and I just had to reload.
Some of the hitboxes for enemies and parts of the world are terrible, at best. I can’t tell you how many times I ran into an invisible portion of a wall and couldn’t move. Pair that with the bad team AI and you were trapped but Garrus and Liara. I’m not opposed to the proximity of those two but I just wanted to play.
However, the squad AI worked pretty well on its own and were reliable during fights. I never told them where to go or how to shoot and they definitely helped.
The game only runs at 16:9 and 2560x1440p while my monitor is a 21:9 3440×1440. There were some weird issues with the UI scaling and the game looking grainy on occasion. I only noticed during cutscenes and while driving the Mako. Otherwise, during the real gameplay, I wasn’t bothered.
The UI itself is pretty bland and bad on PC. The menu system is okay and looks like Sci-Fi, but the in-game menu didn’t create great gameplay. Trying to manually use a squad ability was just bothersome. Hence my desire to just let them do their thing.
There were many sound hiccups as well. I’m not sure if my headset was trying to balance some of the loud noises, but I noticed some sound cuts and delays.
Just don’t expect a technical masterpiece when you play Mass Effect and you’ll be fine. Its bad, but not bad enough to make the game unplayable.
Besides some of the sound issues mentioned above, I found the sound to be exciting and on target. The music helped create a great atmosphere. I found myself just stopping to listen to the galaxy from time to time. You are not overburdened by wildlife or anything, but you can feel the emptiness of space.
I don’t think guns have that much sound variance from weapon to weapon. Again, like aesthetically, the weapons had similar acoustics. The weapon sound varied enough for me to know what weapons my teammates were using without looking, but I would have liked for them to have a different sound impact as well as fight impact.
The voice actors for all major characters nailed their performances. I can tell the difference in voices without looking. I never wonder who said what in the middle of a fight or with the random comments. You always know who’s talking. And the conversations between the characters are one of my favorite things about the game.
I love hearing Liara and Garrus banter back and forth. They have very different perspectives and they are often at odds, which makes for some hilarious interactions. But, that isn’t unique to those two. You can put pair any squad members together and laugh while they jabber.
I know what’s going to happen at every turn of this game, but I still felt compelled to keep playing and see whats going to happen. The story is easily the strongest aspect of this game. I love the characters and the narrative as a whole.
I love getting to hang out with these characters. They feel like real people who have distinct personalities. Yes, even Kaiden and Ashely, who I really don’t care about. I’m not sure if that is a good thing though? Ashley is a little bit xenophobic, at the same time, she really cares about people and doing good for the betterment of the society. I have no idea what Kaiden is about because I think he’s boring and he isn’t around very long in my story. I just can’t be bothered to include him.
The story has three distinct acts that all feel different. The first act builds up and provides background for the story. The second act puts the character in the middle of the struggle and focuses on the squad’s story as you progress through the game. The third act brings it all together and ties up the loose ends. While, as much as you can in the first game in a series. The hook actually functions as such and the story flows from the first hour in the game.
There are many minor details in the game that become relevant in later games. You can definitely see some foreshadowing, but having the experience of seeing where the minor details go helps our overall understanding of the world. Mass Effect is one of the few games where I want to go and learn everything because the world, or galaxy, is fully realized.
I point out the distinct acts because I think many games falter in the second or third act of their story. I think sometimes developers lack the ability to tie everything together while still providing fun gameplay. The task is not easy so I’m not surprised, but the entire story team just feel proud of the ability to tell a story in this complete of a manner.
I feel bad for not mentioned Wrex and Tali. They are amazing as well. I just can’t be pulled away from Garrus and Liara. I will hang out with Tali in Mass Effect 2. She deserves it.
Drew Karpyshyn is credit as the writer of the first game. He wrote a few games before and is one of the beloved authors of the extended Star Wars universe, or whatever its called now, so I’m not surprised to see the game told so well. Karpyshyn understands how to tell a story and it shows in this game.
Every aspect of story excels in Mass Effect. We’ve had some amazing games since the original game, but I think this game will stand the test of time as a “how to write a great game.” Characters and story come alive and deserve to be explored.
The game is excellent in spite of some combat and technical shortcomings. The story and characters really are top-notch. I laugh whenever Garrus says something snarky to Liara. Even playing the game many times, I still get those feels at the end of the game when important moments come up.
TL,DR: Fantastic game that should be played by now if you haven’t already. Seriously, go play it. Or go play it again.
Thanks for reading.