Friday, 19 February 2010

Notes from a doomed galaxy (Mass Effect 2… far)

A couple of weeks ago I bought Mass Effect 2 for Xbox 360. I had been eagerly awaiting its release since I first discovered that a sequel to Bioware’s first instalment of the series was in production. After having spent a lot of time playing the first Mass Effect game in 2008 I was hooked. The sheer scope of the game was awesome and it incorporated some of my favourite themes and mechanics. I like exploring and a game that allows me to wander the galaxy and see what I can find is immediately attractive to the curious wanderer in me. The original game had an excellent storyline that developed into an epic heroic journey as the game progressed. It seemed to me to be the first game that truly bridged the gap between a book, a movie and something else, something that you controlled, the outcome of which very much depended on your actions. Players were brought into the game, made to feel like their every decision had consequences on the conclusion of the story. And they did.

Best described as a Space Opera, Mass Effect is set in a future where humans have discovered an ancient technology that propels spacecraft to other areas of the galaxy instantaneously. Using this Mass Effect technology, humanity had begun exploring the galaxy and settling colonies on distant worlds. Having encountered other races, humans discovered that they were not the only sentient life forms in the galaxy and that an entire galactic community had been forged by species that had discovered the same technology and used it to the same effect. As new members of the galactic community, humans are, at the start of the game, struggling to prove themselves worthy of a seat on the galactic council to have greater say in the workings of galactic affairs.

This is where the player character comes in and where the story really begins. You are tasked with achieving the aim of becoming the first human SPECTRE, an elite special operations agent working directly for the Galactic Council. Through your investigations into attacks on various colonies you discover that a horrifying enemy is at work, intent to destroy not just humanity, but all organic life in the universe. And this is not the first time. Many millennia previously the same enemy wiped out the race of beings that built the Mass Effect technology that the galactic community rely on so much, and seem to explain the sudden disappearance of the civilisation responsible for brining so many different races together.

As you follow the story and react to the challenges that face you, the player must use strength as well as cunning, intimidation as well as diplomacy and sheer force of will in the face of insurmountable odds to battle against an unimaginable force. The combination of third-party team shooter and real-time RPG gameplay made for tens of hours of entertainment and was, at the time, simply the best game I had played so far. Imagine my delight to hear there would be a sequel.

And now I find myself rediscovering the Mass Effect universe. The game, so far, has improved on certain aspects of the gameplay, notably the team controls and the combat in general. I have played 6 hours but feel like I have only scratched the surface and, without giving away the plot, it isn’t too much to say that you pick up where you left off. If you have a save file from the first game you can import it to the new one and continue your adventure, with your character and your actions from the first game seamlessly transferred into the new one. If you don’t have a save file you can still play the game from scratch. I am stunned by the graphics and by the acting (Martin Sheen voices the shadowy “Illusive Man”), which combine to recreate the feel of the first game, as well as improve upon it in many ways. I know there are countless hours of space hopping fun ahead of me and I can’t wait for a break in my schedule that will allow some more gaming time. Review to follow (although it may be a while).


  1. excellent post :) hasve to tried to play phantasy star universe series? it takes place in space.its really good.just a suggestion

  2. I played Phantasy Star years ago on the Sega Megadrve. I haven't played any of the newer games though. I'll try and take a look at them. Thanks for your comments Zomgas.