Just when you were starting to think that the only western RPG worth playing during the Xbox 360’s life span was going to be Oblivion, Canadian developer Bioware comes up with an absolute ripper of a sci-fi adventure. Released this December, Bioware’s Mass Effect is a game that really does blur the lines, not just between game genres, but between games and movies. It plays like an RPG, yet the combat is so robust that you could almost be fooled into thinking it was an FPS. The storyline is so well laid out, the gameworld so original and convincing, that to play it is almost like watching Star Wars again for the very first time. The presentation is phenomenal, and the whole experience screams “epic”. Buckle in and prepare to discover a whole new world, and loose a lot of sleep in the process.
Starting out in Mass Effect, you can create your own character, in true RPG fashion, and choose your personal history from a few choices. These end up having a marked impact on how people interact with you, and even open up new missions down the track. You can also choose to play as either a weapons specialist, a tech specialist, or a biotic (skilled in the magic of the future, when human genetics have evolved considerably). You’re then thrown into the nitty gritty with little instruction as to how to play the game. Now here is the moment of truth. Those not familiar with RPGs or those with little patience may get turned off early on, but I can assure that the learning curve is a good thing, and when you totally get to grips with the control scheme and the comabat mechanics, you’ll be loving it.
Playing as Commander Shepard, you are a military commander tasked with investigating issues of galactic security and protecting the interests of the human race. Early on, you are given your very own ship, the Normandy. In true Knights of the Old Republic style, you can fly all over the galaxy in this prototype frigate, completing various quests for the human military, the galactic council (comprised of the leaders of a number of the most powerful races) or just the people you meet along the way. These range from simple fetch and exploration style quests to full blooded and lengthy side plots full of drama, intrigue and excitement. You can also just explore unchartered worlds if that’s what you want to do. Your ship comes equiped with an all terrain ‘Mako’, and when there’s nowhere to dock the Normandy, you can drop onto a planet's surface in this little gem. Thankfully it comes equipped with a machine gun turret and a cannon, handy when those extra terrestrials get pissed off.