Designing games for a console and porting them to a PC hasn’t been much of a success. Mass Effect was birthed as an X360-only title developed by hallowed RPG demigods BioWare. The merits as well as shortcomings of the console version are the prime binaries behind this port, and I feel the PC version is better!
The success behind Mass Effect across platforms, lies in the epic proportions of its plot, and the way the story unwinds as you play. From your rise from a mere grunt in the armies of the Human Alliance Military to Commander Shepard (you can’t change your surname in the character customisation!), and the acquisition of Spectre status, to the commanding of your very own state-of- the-art vessel the Normandy, the promise of a juicy plot rife with surprises and ripe with opportunity is just too good to pass up.
Here’s a plot summary—Several hundred years in the future, mankind has discovered alien technology on Mars that open up possibilities of interstellar travel. We humans are the youngest members of the Galactic Council, a UN-like organisation populated by dozens of other more advanced alien species. Perceived as ambitious upstarts, humanities first great achievement as a member of the council is your admission into the spectres, a highly elite group of individuals who operate independently, and often outside the bounds of the law, to protect the council’s interests. When a spectre named Sarin goes rogue, destroying a peaceful colony of humans on Eden Prime, you’re tasked with bringing him to justice. What starts as a routine capture mission soon becomes a lot more as you and Sarin indulge in a game of hide and seek spanning the Milky Way. As the pursuit heats up you will gradually discover he’s got something more than hatred for your species up his sleeve. Your elusive quarry will lead you to alien worlds which you will explore often getting side missions from other characters you encounter. Throughout the game Sarin’s allies will challenge you to high-tech firefights. Your aim besides his capture now being to aid hapless innocents left in his wake, and to discover why is Sarin intent on bringing back the Reapers—a mechanical race that wiped out the Protheans, (a powerful, technologically advanced civilisation), some 50,000 years ago, only to vanish into the mists of time.
Being a BioWare game, there’s a strong character development system in place, and varied classes to choose from. You will also be joined on your travails across space with a team, consisting of a bunch of followers. Each of these characters have quirks and attitudes as different as night from day. The good VS evil judgement call is omnipresent, and underlies everything you do. Will you be a ruthless renegade, or a benevolent paragon? Your attitude with innocents you come across throughout the game will not only affect your character but also affect your team mates’ attitudes towards you. Mass Effect offers a plethora of exploration opportunities and perennial background quests like discovering mineral resources, or unearthing artefacts will have you scouring planets on foot or via Mako, your own six-wheel, all-terrain buggy. The nature of the story and quests are such that you’ll find yourself thoroughly engaged throughout your gaming session.
Improved from the X360 version are better character controls, a quick slot toolbar that you can add and drag special abilities (yep...you get those!) to, and a new tactical combat interface from where you can give quick orders to your team. The controls work beautifully. In fact, so beautifully that you will sometimes forget that this is an RPG, where your character stats matter more than the accuracy of your targeting reticule, and actually play like a third person shooter. The PC version also seems a little easier to play than the X360 version, but this could well be due to my preference of the PC controls and the ease of access of many of the in-game options.
Your weapons range from space-age assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles and sidearms to biotic and tech powers. These powers are even more impressive, letting you toss enemies into the air, hurl them at walls and let the law of momentum do its job. The intricate weapon and armour upgrade system lets you slot upgrades into virtually every weapon, including grenades.
The graphics aren’t superb, but they’re not bad at all. The big plus being this game won’t kill your system, and a fair amount of eye-candy is available to even modest setups. One minus point is that any [Alt] [Tab]-like action crashes the game—look for patches.
You know you’ve come across something exceptional when this is one of the only complaints you can come up with. Another is the repetitiveness of the exploration system. And that’s it. Mass Effect is absolutely superb. An adventure ride nobody ought to miss.