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    dgc30's Mass Effect (360)

    [April 23, 2009 10:21:30 PM]
    Mass Effect is an RPG released by Bioware. Non of the following thoughts are original, though many of them were written by myself. I also consulted and to fill in information I did not know.

    ==Basic Story==
    Mass Effect takes place in the distant future. Mankind has discovered alien technology which enables them to explore the galaxy. They come into contact with other alien races who have formed a galactic community. Mankind joins these other races...
    You play the part of Commander Shepard, a human military officer. You enter the story just after another ancient alien artifact has been discovered on a human colony named Eden Prime. Your mission is to retrieve the artifact. The galactic council, the galaxy's government, has sent a Nihulus, a Spectre, along. The Spectres are the galactic council's secret police. He reveals you are being considered for induction into the Spectres. The result of this mission will determine if you are qualified.
    While approaching Eden Prime, you receive a distress call. The colony has been attacked by the geth, a race of machine beings. The mission takes a new turn, now you must battle the geth to retrieve the artifact. And thus your adventure begins...

    ==Basic character system==
    The game allows you to play as either a male or a female. Your name is Commander Shepherd, whichever gender you choose. Aside from affecting a few NPC interactions, there is no significant difference in the genders.

    You can customize the facial appearance of your character. This is a very interesting feature which allows a huge number of possible appearances. Some facial attributes, such as eye color, are customizable by selecting one of a set of pre-selected values(eg. brown, blue...). Other facial attributes, such as chin width, allow a range of possible values.

    You can select one of nine possible backgrounds, which affect possible side missions available in the game. I only came across this once during my play.

    You can play as one of six classes. There are three basic classes: the Soldier, the Engineer, and the Adept. The Soldier is skilled with weapons. The Engineer has use of the glowing-orange omi-tool, which provides technological abilities such as draining enemy shields, and overheating their weapons. The Adept has various “biotic” powers. These powers are similar to “magic” in other games. The other three classes are combinations of the basic classes. The Infiltrator is a Soldier/Engineer. The Sentinel is a Engineer/Adept. The Vanguard is a Soldier/Adept.

    The game allows you to have two companions. These two companions are selectable from a set of six characters you will meet in the course of the game. There is one character per basic character class. This allows you to specialize your team according to your class/skills and your present needs for classes/skills. Interestingly enough, each of the basic classes are female and the each of the combination classes are male.

    These characters form your squad in combat. You can give your squad basic orders. My favorite order was, “go out front and take all the fire away from me.”

    Each of the characters has their own back story. You can interact with them during down time between missions. This interaction will allow you to discover their background, gain side missions, and even pursue romance.

    Every character on your team, including yourself, has equipment that you can modify and upgrade. The equipment system has a relatively small number of items, which can be exchanged for better ones but never removed. The basic equipment, carried by each character consists of and armor. Some character types have extra equipment. Engineering types have an “omni-tool.” Biotic users have a “biotic amplifier.” Your character has a grenade launcher.

    As mentioned before, basic equipment cannot be removed. It can only be swapped for an equivalent item. Equipment upgrades can be purchased with credits, or found on the battlefield. Excess equipment can be sold for credits.

    Basic equipment can be enhanced with upgrades, another type of equipment. Depending on the type of basic equipment, it may have zero, one, or two upgrade slots. Equipment upgrades, like basic equipment, can be found, bought, and sold.

    Each piece of equipment is made by a different manufacturer. There are different stories behind each manufacturer, which boil down to, some equipment is higher quality and thus more expensive. Most pieces of equipment also have a level. I believe the levels range from 1 to 7. Higher level equipment more effective and more expensive than its lower level counterparts.

    Extra equipment can be reduced to omni-gel, which is used for other purposes. The inventory is limited to 150 items, a limit most players should never reach if they clean out their inventory relatively regularly and don't try to keep everything they've found.

    There are four weapons in the game: . Although you can use any of them, the weapons will only fire accurately if you have the corresponding weapon skill.

    All weapons carry infinite ammo. However, after a period of continuous firing, the weapon will overheat, forcing the user to allow it to cool down before using it again. This effectively takes the place of “reloading” the weapon.

    Pistols are the default weapon. They are relatively rapid firing, and relatively accurate. All character classes have the pistol skill. For some character classes this is the only weapon skill they get. Leveling up the pistol skill will unlock the Marksman ability. The Marksman ability allows extended periods of rapid, accurate, pistol fire.

    Assault rifles:
    Assault rifles fire more rapidly than the pistol. However, they are less accurate. They make a good weapon to take out large groups of enemies.

    Sniper rifles:
    Sniper rifles have a very high heat output. This means they overheat quickly, and thus cannot fire rapidly. However, they do a huge amount of damage. They are a long range weapon.

    Shotguns are useful for clearing out groups of enemies at close range. While deadly at close range, their effectiveness drops as the target gets farther away. Shotguns produce a fair amount of heat, requiring the user to allow the weapon to cool off more frequently than the assault rifle, but less frequently than the sniper rifle.

    ==Leveling System==
    Killing enemies gains experience points. When the number of experience points reaches a certain level, your team gains a level. This is different from traditional RPGs where each character levels up individually. All members of you team, including the ones not currently with you, level up at the same time. This system can create an interesting situation. If you gain a new member on your team after you team has leveled up several times, the new member will be at the same level as the rest of the team. However, none of the ability points (discussed subsequently) will have been allocated.

    When your team levels up, each member gets a small number of ability points(usually 2 or 3). These ability points can be used to increase skill levels. When skills are leveled up, they will unlock new skills and abilities.

    ==Game modes==
    The game is played in several different modes. Some of the important ones are Exploring, Combat, Conversation, Mako travel, and playing Mini-games.

    Exploring is perhaps the most basic mode of game play. Your character and the two team members walk around and interact with the environment. You will end up jogging most places. Jogging is relatively quick, however, it can take a while to travel long distances in the game world.

    Often in the course of exploring, or following the story, you will encounter enemies. The game automatically transitions into combat mode at certain times, causing your squad to draw their weapons. In combat mode, you can run around, take cover behind objects, and shoot at enemies. You can issue basic orders to the members of your squad. You can control which of the four weapons each member of the squad is currently using. You can also use skills and order your squad to do the same.

    The conversation mode is perhaps the most innovative aspect of this game. When you approach a character an initiate a conversation with them, the game switches to this mode. The conversation is carried out in a cut-scene style with the camera switching from character to character as they talk. Every line of conversation is voiced-over, and the game characters are lip-synced to the voice-over.

    Your conversation options are listed on a wheel at the bottom of the screen. You may have up to six options. Each option is accompanied by a short fragment of text, describing the conversation option. Selecting a certain conversation option causes the scene to play the conversation. This gives the game the feel of an interactive movie.

    This is first mode you experience playing the game. I was hooked the after the first minute. I really enjoyed this mode of the game.

    Occasionally the distance you need to travel is long, or the terrain difficult, or the enemies difficult. What you need in these situations is a vehicle. Enter the Mako, an all-terrain tank. The Mako really helps in those difficult situations. It is also the default mode of planet exploration.

    The Mako is equipped with two weapons, a mini-gun and a cannon. Both of these weapons are (much) more powerful than your handguns. The mini-gun fires rapidly, but deals relatively low damage. The cannon can only fire once every few seconds, but deals a large amount of damage.

    The Mako also has the ability to jump though the use of rocket boosters. The rockets must be recharged in between uses, limiting the frequency of use.

    At certain times in the game, you will be presented with a mini-game to play or puzzle to solve. These have varying consequences from rewards to advancing the story. For example, equipment crates are often locked requiring the player to play the decryption mini-game. The decryption mini-game consists of pressing the correct button at the correct time for a certain period of time. If the player wins, the crate is unlocked and the equipment taken. If the player looses, the crate remains locked, and the player is unable to unlock it without spending resources.

    The game world is 3-dimensional. However, you are limited to movement in 2 dimensions. You cannot jump, unless you are in the Mako.

    ==My experience==
    After I opened the game, I read the first few pages of the manual. After carefully examining the character classes, and deciding that I wanted to play as a Soldier/Biotic, I skimmed the rest and decided that the manual didn't have any more useful information. I should have read more carefully, because I ended up selecting the Sentinel class when I should have chosen the Vanguard. I discovered my error too late in the game to correct it.

    Not being one for accepting defaults, I had to customize my character. I think the most fun part was customizing the facial appearance. I created an older skinhead military looking character. This played into which conversation choices I made. I decided my character would to be gruff and intimidating, but a good guy.

    After the opening movie and conversation, I had to learn to walk around. The controls were pretty easy to learn. However, as I was pressing buttons I accidentally tossed a grenade onto the ship deck. Oops, hope no one was hurt. ;-) Eventually I figured out how to put away my weapons and I went exploring the ship. I quickly ran into some more people to talk to. Did I mention I really liked the conversation system. I really felt like I was playing a character in a movie.

    After a few more conversations, and story advancements, I ended up on this hostile location called Eden Prime. I didn't have a clue how the combat system worked (maybe I should have read the manual). However, nice little tutorial boxes showed up occasionally to teach me a button or move.

    The first enemy I encounter ends up killing one of my team members. At this point, I wondered if I'd really messed up. I didn't realize it was part of the story. After taking a few hits from enemies I haven't learned to see yet, and ducking behind some cover, I managed to figure out how to get off enough shots to kill my first enemy.

    I also began to experiment with the abilities I had available to me. I think Sentinels start with sabotage and throw. It gave me a real thrill to see a blue glow knock down my enemy the first time I used throw.

    After popping a few more enemies, I hit the next few story points. Lest I spoil the story for you, I leave those details out. Eventually, I reached the final battle ground for Eden Prime. The goal for this fight was to disarm 4 bombs within a time limit. I didn't make it the first time. Thankfully the game had automatically saved my progress for me. I began to see the usefulness of my squad members here. Since I was the only one who could disarm the bombs, I was forced to rely on my squad for cover, which they provided nicely. I also learned that the Sentinel is a weaker support character, so I would have to rely on my squad more than a Soldier would.

    After defeating my enemies some more story transpired. Finally I got back to my ship and we set out for the next location. This was just the beginning of a long adventure.
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    dgc30's Mass Effect (360)

    Current Status: Playing

    GameLog started on: Thursday 23 April, 2009

    dgc30's opinion and rating for this game

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    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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