Mass Effect PDF Print E-mail
Written by Starfox / Silver Sorrow   
Sunday, 26 October 2008 00:00
Article Index
Mass Effect
It's good to be a Spectre
Going baldly...
Friendly Fire!
Misses and glitches
In A Galaxy Far, Far away...
Look how cute I am
All Pages

Mass Effect Logo

Developer:Bioware (original developer) Demiurge Studios (PC port)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Price (at review publication time): $35 US
Official Site
No demo available

ESRB rating: Mature 17+ (Blood, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence)
PEGI rating: Adult 18+ (Violence)

Featuring irrelevant commentary by a certain Silver Sorrow. You have been warned.

Mass Effect in its PC version is finally there. Of course the first thing that people will want to know is how good the PC port of the acclaimed Xbox action/RPG title is. Briefly said, it is very good. It's hard to believe when playing the PC version of the game that it was released on console first. There is about none of the consolitis problems frequently encountered with console games ported to PC and that starts with the controls that for once are true PC ones -- up to the point that the game cannot even be played with a gamepad (considering the new design of the combat interface it would be foolish to try playing with anything else than the good old keyboard/mouse combo). Quicksaving can be done at any point during the game except in two specific occasions, when the player stands in a lift (for technical reasons) and when there are enemies nearby. It's not to say that there are no issues with the game but about none of them has anything to do with the porting from console to PC.

Too bad they didn't use an engine better than that Unreal nonsense. [/disarmingly cute grin]

Mass Effect is one of these (sadly few) games that demonstrate that the PC gaming world and the console one can very well coexist without any grief when developers and publishers are willing to focus their effort on each platform and not on a single one. With that out of the way, we can now talk about the game itself. PC Gamers not interested in consoles will certainly want to know about it since after all Mass Effect on PC is fairly new [at least it was when I started to write this review about... wow! 4 months ago].

Mass Effect (PC version) Mass Effect (PC version) Mass Effect (PC version)

Whoa... what a massive universe

Bioware put a lot of thoughts into the background of the Mass Effect universe that supports the storyline. That's one of the first things that just "explode" to your face once you've passed the first "tutorial" mission that also serves to set up the story. The game universe of Mass Effect is huge and well defined. On my first playthrough I've spent about 2 hours just running around, talking with people, compiling information and reading the Codex that tells an awful lot about the game universe. Reading the Codex (which is kind of the Mass Effect encyclopedia) is not mandatory for completing the game but if you really want to understand the universe your character is evolving into, it's a good idea to check it out regularly. At the beginning of the game, the Codex is about empty with just basic entries (including player tutorials) but it rapidly grows as you talk to people, gather info or encounter new enemies. By the time you reach the end, the Codex is definitely overcrowded with a lot of info ranking from interesting to trivial. The Codex itself is divided in two parts, the "Primary" entries and the "Secondary" entries. Primary entries contain everything you should really know about the game universe since they allow you to better understand the main plot. Secondary entries contain all the info that you won't need for the main plot but that just enhance the experience.

Ignoring the Codex altogether can be done but players will loose a tremendous amount of lore that makes for 50% of the game interest. I read some players opinions about the game not being rich enough; I would answer: "read the Codex".

RTFC n00b!

Mass Effect (PC version) Mass Effect (PC version) Mass Effect (PC version)

But what about the story itself?

Well without telling you the whole Codex there is some key point allowing to better understand what happened, before the game starting point.

In 2148, prospectors on Mars discover ruins and artifacts of an ancient space faring species that vanished about 50,000 years ago, the Protheans.

In 2149, after having partially translated inscriptions on the monuments unveiled, scientists realize that Charon -- which was until then believed to be the natural satellite of Pluto --  is in fact a gigantic Prothean device imprisoned in ice. This device is called a Mass Relay. Mass Relays are part of a galactic travel system each mass relay being linked to another one allowing travel at speeds much greater than light. Charon mass relay links to the Arcturus one, about 37 light years from Earth. After creating the Human Alliance (the mere grouping of every space agency existing on Earth) humanity engages in a new adventure: galactic exploration.

In 2154, humans settle in a new base at Arcturus that will become the main base for the Alliance Fleet.

In 2157, while attempting to activate a newly discovered "dormant" mass relay, a small
Alliance exploration fleet is attacked by a Turian patrol. The first contact with another galactic species results in the First Contact War -- known by Turians as the "relay 314 incident". Humans don't know at the time that most of the mass relays network is under control of a vast multi-species entity known as Citadel and that random activation of dormant mass relays without any authorization is considered irresponsible and dangerous. Unfortunately, Turians don't care to give an explanation before attacking. Only one Alliance ship survives the attack, retreating to the human colony of the planet Shanxi. Pursuing, the Turians invade Shanxi believing that they destroyed the bulk of the human fleet. The Alliance Second Fleet is sent to drive the Turian patrol out of Shanxi and succeeds. Surprised, Turians mobilize their forces for a full scale war. At that point, the Citadel Council (that regroups the three main galactic species, the Asaris, the Salarians and the Turians) intervene to force a truce upon both parties. The First Contact War ends with a diplomatic solution.

In 2160, while Earth is still divided into Nations, the multinational Human Systems Alliance Parliament is formed. Its task is to represent the interests of humanity as a whole in Citadel space.

In 2165, the
Alliance is granted an embassy on Citadel making of humans the first species to access that diplomatic status so fast. As a consequence most alien species regard humans with defiance. Humans are often described as too fast paced, too stubborn, too ready to pick a fight to gain the advantage. Nevertheless the Citadel Council acknowledges that humans’ abilities could be a real asset to Citadel in case of need which is the main motive behind granting them an embassy. Even Turians -- the real military force of Citadel -- respect humans for their military potential although a lot still have a bone to pick over the First Contact War.

2165-2183, The Alliance pushes further and further in the hope to obtain a siege to the Citadel Council so they may have their word to say in matter of galactic policy but their efforts are not really fruitful. One of the attempts of the
Alliance to achieve the big objective is to push one of their military officers in the ranks of the Council Spectres (which are kind of the Council special Operatives but more on that later).

2183, Commander Shepard aboard the Alliance frigate Normandy is sent on a mission to the human colony of Eden Prime to secure a Prothean beacon recently discovered.

Mass Effect (PC version) Mass Effect (PC version) Mass Effect (PC version)

And the story begins...

Attempting to push a human officer into the Spectres to give humans a better political position in Citadel, the Alliance choose the Commander Shepard to be the first human to join the Spectres which would eventually bring humanity one step closer to have a sit on the Council. Nihlus, a Turian Spectre is there to evaluate Shepard's performances on the field and to determine if he is truly fit to be a Spectre. Unlike a lot of other Turians, Nihlus isn't opposed to the idea of giving humans more responsibilities but Shepard has to prove that he can be a real asset to the Spectres. Unlike other military branches of service, Spectres aren't trained, they're chosen. Nihlus is there because Shepard is already considered as a potential Spectre by the Council. The mission on Eden Prime is the first of a set that would allow Nihlus to give a final recommendation.

Unfortunately, what should have been a simple and peaceful recovery mission quickly turns into a nightmare. As the
Normandy approaches Eden Prime, the Colony is under attack by unknown forces. The primary mission objective remains the securing of the Prothean beacon but now things are a lot more complicated. Shepard quickly discovers that the forces attacking the colony are actually the Geths. Geths are a non-Citadel species which has not been seen in the area for centuries. They are not even organic. Originally they were a synthetic life form created 300 years before by the Quarians (a Citadel species) but finally turned against their creators driving them out of their home world. Geths are opposed to and fight violently any form of organic life that crosses their path. They are of course the main opponents during the span of the main plot of the game.

Surprisingly enough -- considering the hatred of the Geth for any living being -- the entity commanding them is not even synthetic. It is a Turian called Saren Arturius. And Saren is not only a common Turian, he is also a Spectre, a Spectre that doesn't hesitate one second to take advantage of his friendship with his fellow Spectre Nihlus to kill him in cold blood. Before the mission ends, there is one Turian Spectre assassinated, a human colony devastated and a Prothean beacon destroyed just after having transferred into Shepard's brain a part of important -- even though incomprehensible at first -- knowledge. Nihlus dead and the mission busted, it seems that the chances for Shepard to join the Spectres are reduced to nothing. Fortunately after some jumps through some loops, Shepard finds evidence that Saren is the real culprit and brings it to the Council.

Confronted to the evidence, the Council strips Saren of his Spectre status and privileges and finally decides to choose Shepard to chase him. Shepard becomes the first human Spectre and his first mission for the Council appears somewhat simple, to find Saren and to bring him in to answer for his crimes if he's willing to cooperate or to eliminate him if he isn't. Of course as you can imagine, a simple mission description doesn't mean anything and there's always a lot of room for things to go to Hell.

Why do I get the feeling that this won't be Jade Empire In Space? I miss my Scholar Ling already.


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