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X3F impressions: Mass Effect


For many people, the wait for BioWare's Mass Effect has been a terribly arduous one. We've been treated to a few snippets of gameplay action, some very pretty screens, and even a novel, but the game itself is still four months away. We got a chance to take an extended look at the game at E3 this year, and honestly, it looks like it's going to be worth the wait.

First thing's first: the game is visually stunning. The level of detail in the character models is pretty much a textbook example of what the current generation of video games should look like. Even since its showing at GDC in March, the facial features have improved by leaps and bounds. The eyes have depth and the lip syncing is about as spot on as you're likely to see in a video game. Of course, the real graphical treats are the various alien races, which benefit from not having to tread the edge of the Uncanny Valley. As such, the alien characters seem to have a bit more life and verve to them than even the excellently detailed human offerings. The environments, too, are topnotch.

But what's a pretty game without the gameplay to back it up, right? Fortunately, Mass Effect appears to have that in spades as well. The combat plays out in real time, more or less like your average third person shooter. Now, it's not quite as precise as, say, Gears of War, but the combat is certainly more visceral than turn based RPGs or even BioWare's other real time combat offering, Jade Empire. Characters have wide variety of weapons from which to choose, and all of these weapons can be customized as players see fit. During out demonstration, for example, BioWare's Greg Zeschuk outfitted a shotgun (from the future!) with freezing ammunition that stopped enemies cold (ba dum bum!). Used in combination with a telekinesis spell, Zeschuk had enemies floating helplessly in the air as he ruthlessly pumped their guts with freezing death. Good stuff.



As entertaining as combat is, the dialogue system is perhaps the real star of the show. Gone are the old dialogue trees and canned responses of games like KOTOR and Jade Empire. Well, the trees are still there, but they are cleverly hidden in a much more emotional system. As characters are talking, you'll be prompted with several choices, possibly including skill based options like persuasion. These choices are not verbatim responses, but more akin to your character's gut reaction. For instance, you might find someone questioning your ability to work peacefully with an aggressive crew member. During your conversation you might select "We'll take him," which leads your character to say aloud, "Don't worry, he'll be safe with us." Using this dynamic dialogue system, we found ourselves actually listening to what our character had to say, rather than simply picking a selection and skipping to the next prompt. A dialogue system that engages us in the story? Yes, please.

Finally, the folks from BioWare gave us an example of the kinds of plot changing decisions you'll have to make in Mass Effect. Having shown us this, they then made us swear an oath never to reveal it, so we can't tell you what happened. What we can tell you is that the decision was definitely big and it was definitely plot altering. This is not simple decision like good or evil, there are shades of gray. As the main character, the player must make a choice whilst factoring both its personal implications and those of the overall conflict in the game. Do you do what's best for you, or what's best for the galaxy (all the while wondering whether or not it really is the best thing for the galaxy)? As Marty McFly might put it, it's heavy. It also makes for a pretty memorable gaming experience, and we were only watching. November is going to be a busy month.

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Reader Comments (Page 1 of 2)

Jacob P.1

7-17-2007 @ 3:16PM

Jacob P. said...

I think it's safe to say that I'm really looking forward to this game.

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BrianM2

7-17-2007 @ 3:17PM

BrianM said...

Gimme!

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Vik3

7-17-2007 @ 3:19PM

Vik said...

I thought the graphics for this game were pretty run of the mill, but then I watched the trailer in HD from E3 and holy shit. Amazing.

P.S. - Where's the fancast you lazy f**kers? Major managed to get one out over the weekend, whats your excuse?...just kidding, looking forward to your E3 impressions.

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Richard Mitchell4

7-17-2007 @ 3:20PM

Richard Mitchell said...

"Where's the fancast you lazy f**kers?"

It's uploading right now, actually. It's a monster this week, too :)

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TORO5

7-17-2007 @ 3:26PM

TORO said...

On my wishlist fo sho

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BrianM6

7-17-2007 @ 3:34PM

BrianM said...

"Using this dynamic dialogue system, we found ourselves actually listening to what our character had to say, rather than simply picking a selection and skipping to the next prompt. A dialogue system that engages us in the story? Yes, please."

Didn't even think of it like that... very exciting observation

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razer7

7-17-2007 @ 3:37PM

razer said...

When is it coming to the PC? Or Mac?

No need to buy it on the 360 when there will be a better version within 6-12 months. I waited this long I can wait longer to get the superior version.

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BrianM8

7-17-2007 @ 3:43PM

BrianM said...

"Superior" is a state of opinion.

I don't think it's coming 2 PC or Mac. Looks like you'll have 2 play with us plebs on the 360.

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Emily9

7-17-2007 @ 3:59PM

Emily said...

Okay. Yeah. I'm starting to catch the Mass Effect Bug. After listening to my Roommates talk non-stop about it, and watching this vid......I can't wait.

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Stooch10

7-17-2007 @ 4:04PM

Stooch said...

I've been looking forward to this game ever since it was announced. I'm even looking forward to it more than Halo 3.

This'll win game of the year, no doubt about it.

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Triforceowner11

7-17-2007 @ 4:08PM

Triforceowner said...

Great Scott!

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Bravo612

7-17-2007 @ 4:25PM

Bravo6 said...

lol, nice one razer

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alexy13

7-17-2007 @ 4:30PM

alexy said...

Yeah, Im pretty sure it will....
LoL most Bioware Titles earn GoTY.
KOTOR....Jade Empire....KOTOR2....
speaking of jade empire.....wonder if theres a chance for a sequel....that would be awesome x)
But Im also looking forward on

Lost Odyssey....Its a shame that it doesn't get th press it deserves...

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Ithilis14

7-17-2007 @ 4:38PM

Ithilis said...

How was the framerate in the game? It looked a little sketchy in most of the videos I saw. It's my only concern about the game, really..

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rom15

7-17-2007 @ 4:43PM

rom said...

@alexy

I've heard that they are interested in making a Jade Empire 2. I have no clue if that's true or not. That being said...I can't wait for Mass Effect. I've been waiting for what seems like forever. September can't come soon enough if you ask me.

Oh btw, KOTOR2 wasn't made by Bioware.

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colin16

7-17-2007 @ 7:13PM

colin said...

@Emily,

get out of my dreams and into my car.

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ccc17

7-17-2007 @ 8:18PM

ccc said...

@8

#7 was being sarcastic about pc/mac. U just didnt get it.
Having said that, yes I agree with #7. This is a quality game we can almost 100 percent be sure will remain faithful to the system it comes from. Bio ware is showing Epic whats up and with thier own engine no less. Damn.

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SGT Monty18

7-17-2007 @ 8:21PM

SGT Monty said...

@15 rom

Make that November buddy. Peter Moore announced at E3 that it will be shipping in November.

While it sucks to have to wait longer, I think its a good idea. Not only will this give them extra time to polish the game, but it will allow it to ship in its own light, and not dimmed by Halo 3's shadow.

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rom19

7-17-2007 @ 8:39PM

rom said...

@SGT Monty

Oops! I wrote the old "possible" date on instinct. I didn't even realize I made that mistake till you brought it up. Good catch. :)
Now I'm off to see the new E3 trailer for the 50th time. Ugh... the wait is literally going to kill me.

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Daryl20

7-17-2007 @ 9:11PM

Daryl said...

Can't wait

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