16 February 2013

'Mass Effect 1', Part III

This long-winded review/rant just keeps on going and going. And I still have two games to go! Not only that, but due to its controversial nature, the end of the trilogy might come right after. Too much information, so little time, and not enough Asprin for the headache.


That's it. By this point, these introductions are just padding. Let's just put this review down and move on as soon as possible. You, fellow readers, have better things to do.

I need to focus on other content to get the blog back up and running again. *sigh* Why did my consoles and I depart for a few weeks?

Last-Second Notes

All the important things have been touched upon: gameplay, characters, and plot. If you have just stumbled upon this post and have not read the other parts... GO TO JAIL. Do not pass GO!, and don't collect $200.

Joking aside, here are a few more technical details I want to iron out before I give the final verdict.


Obvious repetitive texturing is obvious.
Fangirl is not one to be left star-struck at gorgeous graphics. I'm not implying that Mass Effect has amazing graphics, and I'm not saying they are crap. This is just a statement I want to put out there. Sadly, many professional reviewers will spend forever on how pretty a game is and barely say anything about the gameplay. The fastest way to lose credibility is to kiss the asses of developers who think video games should be shallow, sickly, supermodels for the sake of being pretty.

Now off the soapbox, I can say that the graphics are passable, presentable. Facial models look awkward due to imperfect lighting, often leaving a plastic-like gleam on a semi-realistic appearance with stiff movements. The Uncanny Valley is not present all the time, but it is around enough to be noticeable. Later games make several needed improvements. Besides, BioWare wasn't going for the same look as Heavy Rain anyway. Otherwise, as an early game for the seventh generation of consoles, it holds its own.

Texture pop-ins happen frequently, even after a loading screen, but everything is fine after about six seconds. It breaks immersion at times, but no use wailing over spilled milk. This was a 2007 game after all.

The further away environments are, the better.
The overall art style of Mass Effect has not yet been mastered here, since the huge, spacious hub worlds feel homey and lived-in, but empty. Technology is barely interesting or worth remembering, especially with the constant recycling of environments in a majority of the uncharted world missions. The idea of having a world of amazing technology is there, the Codex begs you to read its contents, but the game feels too unpolished to convey this. However, some uncharted worlds have color schemes so unique that they would be gorgeous in a game with a bigger budget. If you decide to take on numerous side missions, however, the emptiness  and the wonky Mako controls will suck out your enthusiasm fairly quickly.

If I can say anything positive about how the game looks, it's that the character designs are nifty. Despite some awkward, stiff movements, character models are quite decent. The designs are especially well-done, as several of the alien races are so unique. From Shepard's allies to civilians and diplomats to shopkeepers, many characters have some physical distinction between members of their race. Each one of the asari has a different shade of blue or purple skin tones. The avian-like turians would have all looked too damn identical if not for their facial markings differing in pattern, design, and color.

What I don't get though, is why there is such an abundance of very dark, dreary blue. Even Mass Effect 3 tones it down quite a bit!



The trilogy as a whole has great atmospheric soundtracks with very few truly memorable songs. There is not a massive epic track that worms into your ear and stubbornly refuses to leave, but some are recognizable. The first game is the most mellow with a tinge of orchestration mixed with 80's electronic music. Nothing too cheesy (minus the music on the elevator and at Flux... DX), and it works considering that Mass Effect pays homage to the space opera genre.

The closest thing to a main theme for Mass Effect has to be "Vigil", which plays in the main menu of this game and at various memorable moments throughout the trilogy. It's simplistic and melancholic despite how powerful and bittersweet some scenes become when it plays. Thankfully it does not happen too often. Many tears, dear readers, I cried many tough bittersweet tears.

Otherwise, there are hardly any ear worms or catchy tunes that will be stuck in your head. A more atmospheric, laid-back sound seems more appropriate than catchy, intense swells of instruments and electronic noise bursting free from your speakers. Restrained works well for Mass Effect. Let the fiction and gameplay seize the audience instead.

Although, Faunts' "M4, Pt. 2" is absolutely worth ninety-nine cents on iTunes. Reminds me a bit of Apoptygma Berzerk.

Voice Acting?

Easily the worst overall because it's the first game and everyone has not adapted into their roles. Thankfully, though, most of the painful performances are very short-lived, being restricted to secondary, tertiary, or one-time roles. Characters appearing exclusively in one mission tend to be silly or borderline passable due to bad acting or a ridiculous script. (i.e. It's bad enough that turians are known to epically fail with metaphors, but lines like "... except there is a - what's that charming human expression - a fly in the... lotion?" Mass Effect turns into a comedy.)

Here's a side mission with various characters with some voice acting ranging from the okay to the annoying.

When it comes to characters you are stuck with 75% of the time, the bag of marbles is mixed. Only Seth Green and Steven Barr nail Joker and Wrex dead on the head from the get-go. They hardly had any room to improve since their performances have been the most consistent. Granted, his character doesn't do much other than fly the Normandy, but Green's talents were not wasted on Joker. (And it's freaking Oz from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's hard to not like him.) Perhaps Joker and Wrex had a lot more personality to them than everyone else, so their actors had an advantage.

Ashley and Kaidan's actors had little to work with anyway, and there was hardly a way to make half-cooked veggies taste better. Sounding whiny, childlike, and high pitched made her annoying, but Ali Hillis could have been worse as Liara: she improves immensely in ME2. Whoever told Brandon Keener to adopt a baritone voice for the later games, you are both amazing and annoying. It was really strange hearing Garrus's voice go up here only to drop quite noticeably in each later installment. A nitpick for the sake of nitpicking, I guess. By ME2 and 3 Keener finds a voice that sounds natural and runs with it. Meanwhile, it seems Ash Sroka struggled the most overall as Tali. Her voice has a different accent in each game and it is quite jarring. Her overall performance sounds more natural and less choppy in later titles, but here, she can be just as frustrating as Liara.

Jennifer Hale delivers some awkward lines for femShep, but Mark Meer... ... I never liked the guy and he is at his most unbearable here. But if you want Fangirl to lose all ability to think objectively, play Shepard with the default male appearance and wait for the sound of an atomic bomb somewhere in the Western Hemisphere.

Overall, everyone hovers either slightly above or below the passable range. Several performances are mildly hammy and over-the-top, especially ambassador Udina, who only gets about two hours of screen time. Awkwardness and hilarity is abound. You might not need them, but earplugs are not included.

Although I don't get why there is a great amount of sound imbalance at some points in the PS3 release. This problem needs to be fixed.

Final Verdict

I love the color, but SHEESH! Too much blue... X(
Technically, the game looks, sounds, and plays decently. It looks like the budget was not very large, but BioWare made good use with what they had. The first Mass Effect has several problems, but it's still a fun game. Its story and lore hold so much potential for a large franchise beyond the trilogy with Commander Shepard. Despite the promise for amazing installments, it stumbles. As a RPG it has a lot of optional content which is extremely easy to skip. What mandatory content there is, not all of your squadmates have even the slightest contribution. However, several characters here, and in future games get more development. If Mass Effect didn't have enough sales and the trilogy was not financially feasible, then it's understandable that not too many chances were taken.

solid combat mechanics
decent squad management
nice soundtrack

the Mako
repetitive side missions
decent, albiet inconsistant, graphics
weak voice acting

characterization of the cast is lacking
the f&%$ing overcomplicated inventory

3.2 out of 5


By my ranking system, the first Mass Effect is a good, but not legendary, game. ... Why do I still have the nasty suspicion that someone will be after my head? o_O


Voltech said...

In my opinion, no mention of Mark Meer is complete without this golden nugget. Granted it's a ways down the line, but...well, here you go.


Anyway, ME1. I think overall, it could certainly do a lot worse -- could certainly do a lot better, too, but what's here is more than good enough, I suppose. A good starting point, and I certainly have a good memory or two of it (even if those memories include careening off a cliff in the Mako).

And I guess for now, that's about all I can say. I'll be looking forward to hearing your thoughts on ME2; my brother named it as one of his favorite games, so it'll be interesting to having a trip (and discussion) down memory lane. And I suppose the same goes for ME3. That one should bring up some very interesting --


-- does Shepard have against jellyfish anyway? What did they ever do to him?

.:Melanie~Light:. said...

Ha! I always laughed at Kasumi's line right afterwards. Spending most of my school days in Catholic school made me pretty cynical. XD

You are the first person I have met who was so upset at leaving Kaidan behind... that you stopped playing the game. WOW. lol *note: not making fun of you*

Well... SOME of those jellyfish are particularly... um... mentally unstable or psychologically confused...

But my favorite hanar was the one who freaked out about Javik. XD

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...