Mass Effect 1 PC Review

Rated: 3/5

Don’t worry, PC doesn’t stand for politically correct.

Went back and gave this game a play.  Would’ve been a little more boring if I just played the same exact game from several years ago, so I mixed it up in the best way possible, modding.  Didn’t mod it extensively, just an HD mod.

Anyway, upon revisit, there are some things I still like, and some things that are worse than I remember.  So if you feel like going back and revisiting the original trilogy before the new Andromeda game comes out, and want my thought on the first game in the trilogy (don’t worry, reviews for the other 2 will come later), here’s what I thought.

The story is basic when you think about it, but good.  You become the new champion/savior of the human race, you stop the universe from being destroyed, and defeat an enemy attempting to bring forth an even greater enemy  from hell (not literally from hell, but you get the idea).  It’s not the general plot that stands out so much as the universe it builds up.  The main races you encounter, their backstories, their personalities and traits, the team members you gain (and potentially lose based on your decisions), the ships, where you and the other races came from and where you are going, what they all strive for in the future, the relationships between races and how they can deteriorate or grow, or remain the same, etc.

It’s all quite in-depth and fascinating if you take the time to immerse yourself in it.  That involves not only listening to the conversations of your shipmates and major characters, but also listening to minor characters, overhearing what random people on various planets have to say, and reading up on your continually evolving encyclopedia as new information is gained.  Like many RPGs, they are at their best if you immerse yourself in the world, which makes the experience all the more rewarding, something I failed to do on my first play many years ago, but managed to do this time around.

You have the Blue Girl Group (the Asari), who are all about psychic connections.  And they can apparently procreate with any species in the galaxy.  Which pretty much makes them Rule34’s favorite sexy alien in the world.

You have the Turians, who are badass fighters, who went to war with other bigger badass fighters called the Krogan, and they have a history in warfare, particularly with the human.

And there’s the Salarians, who think fast and eat fast, which makes them the best customers for fast food restaurants.

There’s plenty of other races/species in the game, but I don’t feel like making a wiktionary to talk about them like this site did.

You play as a human named Shephard, the first and last name change depending on your sex, or you just wanting to rename what the character should be called like how players back in the day named Link in the Legend of Zelda “Mr. Puberty” or “Pokemon” or “Meg Ryan”, or something like that.  Your mission: to save the universe of course.  What the hell else would it be?  With games like this, it’s never some tale that’s more small in scope and personal, like saving Earth or something.  In all seriousness, why can’t more sci-fi epics like these, with all these races, weapons, space ships, and other space stuff, just be a story about trying to make a relationship work, start a family, find a long-lost friend, rescue someone who was kidnapped, etc, without the stakes ever being something like “saving the town/world/universe/dimension/human race/etc”?  But anyway, the story is solid, albeit cliched when one gets down to it.  But the universe, characters, and cool details make it worthwhile.  There really aren’t original storylines anymore, it’s just about how it’s packaged.  This one is packaged well.

Anyway, the gameplay.  Fairly good third person shooter with cover elements.  It does a good amount of that “pause to cast a spell or ability” thing that Secret of Mana and Dragon Age: Origins did, but it’s not too terrible in this game compared to those.  It has a decent variety of spells and player types which serve a purpose, from being a close range weapons expert, to a long range sniper, to one who casts specific spell types which vary depending on your mage category (or whatever word they use to substitute for “mage”).  My point being that there are 6 different types, and each are good, though some are only usable for veterans of the game who know what they are doing.

The pacing is great when focusing on the main story.  The game is in full gear in that regard.  But once you start focusing on the side missions, that’s when things start to slow down way too much and get monotonous.  This ain’t Skyrim or The Witcher 3 when it comes to sidequests.  They get monotonous real fast.  But the semi-completionist in me wants to complete as many of them as possible, or as many as I deem necessary.  But eventually the map layouts start to look the same, and it doesn’t seem like you’re really accomplishing much.  Normally that would be my queue to ignore the side quests and focus on the main storyline, except for two little problems.

1.) Grinding.  Trying to level up because it’s fun to get your characters leveled up enough to where you know that taking on the later bosses won’t be so difficult.  Unlocking new abilities is great too.  That being said, grinding never felt like it was a necessity, thus not that big of a deal.

2.) These side missions seem important, in that they seem to affect side-characters in interesting ways.  It may not seem like much in this game, but it becomes a bigger deal in Mass Effect 2.  In that game, if you import your save from this one, it remembers EVERYTHING you did in this game.  Virtually every mission and every side character you interacted with will show up in one form or another in the second game, which further encourages one to want to do these side quests.  But they’re so frikkin’ dull!  Goddamnit!  But there is a way to worry less about this, which I’ll get to at the end of the review.

Is this game worth playing now?  Does it hold up after all these years?  Only if you focus on just the main quests.  Side quests suck, the main quests are great as the continually progress the storyline and character development.  Granted, you need to make the effort to talk with characters in-between missions so you can learn more about them.  I found them interesting enough.  Save for one character, but thankfully you have the option to have either him or this other character killed off about midway through the game.  If you don’t kill him off, you’re most likely either gay or female.  That’s not to make a sexist or gay joke, I’m serious.  You’re most likely going to want to romance and screw one of your teammates before the game is over.  And you get multiple options.  The decisions you make in this game kinda matter like that.

But aside from that, it’s difficult to find the desire to play it again after beating it. Sure there’s 6 different playstyles you can choose to mix things up on repeated plays, but it’s a drag to get through the shortcomings that exist outside of the main quests. Especially when the gameplay of Mass Effect 2 improves on this one so much. That’s the main reason I give it a 2 out of 5. If I were to ignore the side quests, and if the game were to trim off much of that fat and focus more on the main storyline, this would be an easy 3/5, possibly 4/5 if I was being overly generous.

Edit 11-15-2017: The 2/5 was too harsh.  I upgraded it to a 3/5.

On top of that, there’s no need to play through this again if all you want is the story. There is a way to just experience the story and get right into the superior Mass Effect 2 without having to play through the entire game. First, watch some videos on youtube that show playthroughs. If you’re interested in the other choices (mainly in who you want to romance, which of the two major characters you want to have survive this game [come on, you know you want it to be Ashley], and how you want it to end), you can research those a bit, or find youtube videos that show all the different choices/endings.

After that, assuming you’re playing this on PC (because that’s the way to go), you’re going to want to download Mass Effect 2 Gibbed Save Editor [Modified], which will create a save file to be used for Mass Effect 2. If you read up on it enough and find out how it works, you can decide which side missions you did, how you ended them, what level your character was at, which of the 6 types you used, your backstory, if you’re a renegade or goody-two-shoes, who you romanced, etc. It allows you to create a fully customizeable Mass Effect 2 save which acts as a Mass Effect 1 import save, but can also customize Mass Effect 2 saves. It’s because of this that I find no need to ever go back to Mass Effect 1 ever again, even with the graphics mod.

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