Penny Arcade – Mass EffectMichael O’Dwyer Connolly discusses the beauty of Mass Effect. Gaming can be an exceptionally expensive hobby, especially in the last few years. These days major publishers churn out mostly mediocre AAA titles faster than you can earn the money to buy them. Then they often leave you disappointed due to the lack of content, engaging story, and other features we’ve grown accustomed to expecting in something you have to pay up to €70 for. In order to combat this growing greed and ineptitude in the gaming industry, we must look back to older titles that despite their age, still hold their own as brilliant games. Mass Effect (2007) was, at the time of its release, perhaps the best game in the science-fiction genre, and has since been surpassed only by its sequels. You would be hard pressed to find a game with a better story, more engaging characters or a universe of such depth. From the moment you meet the protagonist, the famous Commander Shepard, and discover a terrifying threat to all life in the galaxy, you know you’re in for a fascinating and expansive journey. You can relax, safe in the knowledge that you won’t be disappointed when you finish a lifeless campaign after five hours of gameplay featuring forgettable cardboard characters and a generic story.
You would be hard pressed to find a game with a better story, more engaging characters or a universe of such depth. The game is built around freedom of choice, you make your own decisions and watch how they affect the galaxy around you in both the first game and later instalments should you choose to stick around in the rich universe that developers BioWare carefully crafted for you. Morality is a huge component, with the lives of characters that you will truly come to care about, and the fate of the galaxy hinging on your ability to make the hard choices. Instead of being shoved down an alley of pointless firefights, you will get to enjoy a beautiful mix of fluid gameplay, real character development, exceptional dialogue, wonderful music, ambience, and meaningful player choice. It is true that the graphics feel somewhat dated, but they were ground-breaking at the time of development. Also, the gorgeous art style and environments mean that even a decade later, you still get to enjoy a very aesthetically pleasing game. Then of course, we have the soundtrack, which varies from epic, inspirational tracks, to BladeRunner-esque ambient science-fiction soundscapes. This adds the finishing touch to the already spectacular environments and scenes in the game. This game never gets old, and there are always characters or details that you missed or didn’t fully explore the first time around, which is easy to have done given the immense number of different locations and characters, something which is only expanded on in the sequels. The game is so good to the point that when you finish it, you don’t have a clue what to do next. Luckily there’s two more instalments of the trilogy to rectify this. It’s still available both on disc for Xbox 360 and PC, and on respective online stores for PC, Xbox One and PS3. It is certainly worth purchasing.