When Mass Effect was released gamers rejoiced, as the brilliant minds at BioWare had pushed out a title that satisfied almost every western-RPG lover in the industry. We were given a ship, a crew, and a mission that took place all within the vastness of space. NPC interaction was nailed on the head with fantastic facial animations and a speech tree that branched out to many possibilities. However, it was only ever released on the Xbox 360 – leaving gamers from the PC and PS3 areas to wander elsewhere for a good space-faring experience. But gamers can rejoice once again - Mass Effect is now on the flexible platform of the PC.
Players start out just like the 360 version – by creating a custom character (limited only by his last name) or simply selecting a pre-made one. Not only are facial features definable but the history and class of your character as well. The multiple classes to choose from basically combine three things: Biotics, Engineering, and Combat. Players can either focus on one or two of these skills creating such classes as 'Infiltrators' who use a combination of Biotics and Engineering in order to get the job done.
In the game Biotics is another way of saying 'The Force' – it is a type of dark energy that can be harnessed and relinquished upon foes in all manners of obliteration. You can push them with a spike of energy which knocks them off their feet; create a type of black hole which drains their energy; or simply use it to protect yourself.
The combat in Mass Effect can be described as a mix of squad based first-person shooting with a touch of static strategy and role playing elements. Players have four different weapons available to them which they can special in: assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, and pistols. Classes that use little Combat skill such as 'Infiltrators' will usually only have one or two weapons available to them from the start of the game.
Weapons play a serious role in deciding what sort of combat style the player uses. Sniper rifles are used for a more patient and distant approach, and on the other end of the spectrum we have shotguns for the up-in-your-face type of player. In between that the player can use cover to hide from enemy fire and duck out to take a few shots without exposing too much of your body. Your squad is also compiled from two squad mates of your choice. Your squad reacts and moves on their own but can also be told where to go, what weapon to use, and which special abilities to unleash.
With a simple holding down of the space bar the combat pauses completely. Then a combat menu pops up with a series of the available options that you and your squad can use. You can target specific areas or enemies for your squad to use their powers on (likewise for yourself) and also give out orders. This handy menu can also be used to evaluate attacks without any pressure. The camera can revolve around your character, providing you with the chance to spot certain enemies and think of a good combat strategy to get yourself out of sticky situations.
In Mass Effect about seventy percent of the game involves investigative work. Players will frequently find themselves roaming around planets in their 'Mako' all-terrain vehicle, shooting humongous burrowing worms and the dangerous 'Geth'. The other side of this investigative work is walking around various areas and talking to different NPC's. As with most role-playing games you can choose how you talk to the various characters in the game. Positive remarks will add to your 'Paragon' rating – essentially a reflection of how good you are to people. On the other side there is 'Renegade' where a negative attitude and a rude tongue will score you points. Depending on your good/bad ranking, NPC's will react differently and different side-missions will be available to you.
Graphically, Mass Effect hits the nail on the head, although it does have a few teething problems. As is the case with new release PC games you can't expect it to be perfectly solid. The game installs fine but for people with the AMD Phenom and Windows Vista there will be a few challenges. The first time the game booted up, not all the textures were generated in their full glory. The second time after fixing the Vista problem the game booted fine with a solid frame rate and a beautiful render. However the third time it didn't even start – both Windows XP and Vista are having a few issues at the moment but a patch is on its way.
All in all the slightly rugged transition from console to PC has ended up with a decent result. The game looks even more fantastic than ever and a few extra features are on its way for lucky PC users. If you have already clocked Mass Effect on the 360 then it may not be worth having – but for the fellows that crave a large role-playing game with incredible depth and escapism then pick yourself up a copy.
- This game was played on the following system:
Amd Phenom 9500 Quad Core
4Gb OCZ Platinum RAM
XFX 8800GTS 512Mb
Played on both Windows XP and Vista
Overall the game looks and runs better on Vista but has a few issues installing. Check the official EA support site if you need any help.
On Windows XP the game ran fine the first time but I would recommend a reboot after installing the game, the third time I loaded up the game it came up with a render error that seems difficult to work around unless the game is reinstalled.
Once again, hit up the official EA support web site if you need any help or head to our NZGamer forums.
Average Windows XP Framerate: 44 FPS
Average Windows Vista Framerate: 62 FPS
(1440x900, Maximum Everything)