Hello gamers and welcome to the end of week nine in our 100 reviews in 100 days countdown. We’re rapidly approaching the midway point in our list and we’ve still got a ton of great titles to show you.
Exploring the universe in the 56 position…
Talking about Mass Effect got tricky a couple of years ago. Mass Effect 3, which clocked in at number 96 on our list, was (unfairly or not) absolutely torched by fans of the series for what was widely held to be a subpar ending. Can you tell I told myself “phrase that last part carefully?” Whether I agree with the criticisms or not, it’s a shame that became what a lot of people think of when they think of this franchise. Mass Effect 3 was, let’s be honest, an action game. Mass Effect 2 was a fantastic third person shooter married beautifully with an RPG. But the original? The original was a legit Bioware RPG with guns. Just typing that sentence makes me all tingly on my insidey-parts.
Worldbuilding! Choices! Gunplay!
Mass Effect centers on Commander Shepard (symbolism!), a soldier who is trying to save the galaxy from an ancient evil and complete annihilation because… well… of course he is. While the premise is well traveled territory, Bioware’s delivery is what sets Mass Effect apart. The voice acting is good, the dialogue is actually listenable, and the concepts and writing are fantastic. On top of all that, Bioware created a completely realized intergalactic community with its own political intrigues, history, and religions that, as far as I’m concerned, is right up with there with Tamriel and Azeroth in terms of detailed lore. That’s more than can be said for most films, much less a video game. The gameplay is, for the most part, really good but not spectacular. The combat is exciting, the progression of your party feels natural and enjoyable, and the choices you make have a visible impact on the world and characters around you. The graphics were, and still are, very good. There are certain vistas in the game that are simply breathtaking, and the detail work is impressive for a game that has such broad scope.
Confusion! Warring Sensibilities! Issues!
Here is my only gripe with Mass Effect: As much as I love the idea of a Bioware RPG with guns (again with the tingles!), they didn’t quite nail it. They got 90% of the way there. The game is mired down in too many RPG tropes to feel like a third person action shooter, but it’s too concerned with getting the gunplay right to feel like an RPG, which winds up making it feel like neither in some of the time. There are heavy elements of: Go to town (spaceship), talk to these NPCs while they stand around waiting for you to come over to them, get quests, spend a ton of time managing skills and inventory, and while it mostly works, it feels disjointed from the action in the rest of the game. In 2007, Bioware hadn’t quite figured out this balance yet, and it shows.
Should you play it?
Hell yes. My quibble aside, Mass Effect remains a fantastic game, and one that is deserving of your attention. If you tune out the white noise that’s surrounding the franchise these days, you can see Mass Effect for what it really is: One of the best told stories in the history of video games. And it’s one you should treat yourself to. While Mass Effect 2 remains the best entry in the series, you shouldn’t ignore the original by any means. 4 out of 5.