Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in
Your question

Mass Effect Review

Last response: in Video Games
Share
December 31, 2007 5:36:07 PM

Mass Effect, BioWare's follow-up to the hallowed Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, aims to elevate the science fiction RPG genre. In part 1 of our review, we examine if it succeeds.

http://www.tomsgames.com/us/2007/12/28/masseffect_review/

More about : mass effect review

December 31, 2007 7:48:18 PM

I do soooooooo hate the disk read errors...... and to be honest, thus far for me it hasn't been that fun.....
January 1, 2008 6:46:37 AM

Not the best-written article I've ever read, but I agree with what he says. The flaws make the game hard to play more than one time through. Great game, and I'd recommend a play-through or two for any 360 owner, but there is just so much wrong with it. I'd have rated it only slightly higher, myself, because I really got into completing side quests and the main quest. Despite the lack of abilities and changes after upgrades, playing as an adept was really fun.

I know that people will hate on this review for defying the meta scores, which hover around a 9/10, but I think Lord does a good job justifying his score.
Related resources
Can't find your answer ? Ask !
January 1, 2008 5:20:17 PM

Once again thanks for the feedback guys. I did as many sidequests as I could, and I'd like to think I had completed at least 70-80% of them. In my opinion, most of the side quests were typical errand boy types that we always get plagued with in RPGs. Thinking back, I enjoyed the news reporter quest where you get her insider information followed by the optional interview most of all. I expected a heck of a lot more out of some of the other sidequests though, especially where I was hunting for missing squads or someone who hacked gambling machines. Overall, the sidequests left me a bit disappointed.

In terms of your feedback on it not being the best-written article you've ever read, could you elaborate on that at all? I'm always open to feedback on my writing style, and I realize that there is always room for improvement. I can say that I could have written an additional 800+ words in my review but I had to keep it as short as possible since I went over our word range. We try to stay at 1800-2200 words in our reviews. Even with some edits, I believe I was still over at 2250. *Edit update* After re-reading my review as published, I do see a few things that could have been written better. Point taken, and I've requested a number of quick edits. :) 

I understand that I'm going against the grain here in my review, and I appreciate that you can see my point of view. Rob seems to really have enjoyed it much more overall, and we should see his counter-review soon.

Spuddyt - care to share why it's not fun for you so far? How often do you get the disc read errors? It's really disappointing that Bioware doesn't want to discuss it much on their forums beyond recommending xbox repairs. The sad thing is, people have been getting their repaired 360s back, and they're still getting the DREs! It has to be related to all the DVD streaming that Mass Effect does.
January 1, 2008 6:18:47 PM

I agree for the most part with the criticisms listed here, though I found the final score a bit on the low side (but I respect you guys for giving your honest opinion). The bottom line is that the core gameplay is a lot of fun and a big improvement over Bioware's previous games. Also make no mistake the dialogue system sets the standard for what all future games NEED to have. You know you have a great game on your hands when it renders current games (such as oblivion) unplayable after seeing how it SHOULD be done.

On the clunky handling of the Mako, I had the same complaint for the first 3/4 of my first playthrough. After fumbling around for several hours it suddenly dawned on me that the designers never intended for the Mako to be controled like a vehicle in a driving game or a hybrid shooter like Halo. The Mako is meant to be controled like a first-person shooter with looking and strafing. Its a strange design choice but after switching to this mindset the Mako handles like a dream, and makes maneuvers like circle strafing far easier than any standard driving models. The difficulty aiming up and down that has been mentioned in some reviews is a valid complaint however, though it doesn't cause any problems during the core missions.
-iso47
January 1, 2008 6:40:50 PM

I get disc read errors more or less once per hour, but I also get framerate issues (to the point of unplayability by PC standards) when there is about 5 or 6 NPC's in one room (like when you get ambushed by the rachni on that planet where they were that i can't remember the name of - norveria?)
January 1, 2008 9:34:41 PM

Your review has the most usual flaw of all... most of your review (80-90%) is a bashing of the game and yet, your conclusion is that the game is worth playing. It seems odd.

I know how difficult this job is, but you failed to
give us the feeling of the game. At the end, I don't have a clue about the universe of Mass Effect, I don't know what a "mass effect" is, I don't know if this is an epic game, a "noir" game, or whatever, I don't know anything but great graphics, great sound, great story and that you liked more KOTOR. Come on! You have to elaborate a little more! You can talk a lot about a game without spoil it ;-). This is not a review, it's just a criticism good only for those who already know the game... But it offers nothing to everybody else...

And more, you write two paragraph about how "everyone - and I mean everyone - carries the same damn weapons and upgrades", and again you fail to explain how that can be when there are a lot of weapon brands and several types of weaponry (as shotguns, handguns, etc.). What you wrote make ppl think there is just one damn weapon in the whole game, and you know that's not the case.

And finally, I wonder how can you know if there are reply value when you didn't tell us anything about sidequests depending on your background, etc. Of course the end is the same, as the story (great) is about saving the galaxy (you do it or you fail), but, again, there are several endings... I can't write about them because of the spoiler, but they are there. And you have an ethic path, kind of alignment, for the character, just as in KOTOR. And again you didn't tell us anything about it.

With all this I didn't want to flame you, but if I said that your review was "good enough", I'd be doing the same you did with this game. T

The truth is you didn't tell anything about the universe, the characters (are they complex? Are they dull?), the leveling system, the kind of game (Kill them all or you can talk your way out of problems?), if there's exploration or it's a fixed map, the alignment system, the science of the sci-fi (is a hard sci-fi game or a soft one?), if there are several PC races or classes and what are they, the different endings, the different sidequests because of your character creation choices... Seriously, what the heck did you tell us about?

Ah, and if you are such an science fiction geek, you could have bashed the game with all the mass effect nonsense (as science)...

Again I hope you didn't feel insulted because of this criticism of your review as I'm sure you didn't try to offend the Mass Effect team ;-). I just hope you see this as a constructive criticism. It's just a list of things you could have done better and could you help to write a more balanced review (if you give a game a 7/10, your text should have about 70% of not bad things to be balanced).

Cheers
January 1, 2008 9:44:19 PM

I'm going to knock on wood, but I have yet to get disk read errors. I agree with many of the criticisms here, but the stats on the weapons do change, and they do change in aesthetics, but only slightly. I wish they did some more, but there is more than one weapon in the game :p .

Finally, the Mako. I found it was fairly easy to get used to. It's similar to the Scorpion tank in Halo 2 and 3, hahah. But like a earlier post said, drive it like a normal FPS, left stick to move and strafe, right stick to aim. You can hold left trigger and you get a much more FPS-like look, and that may (or may not) help. I found the Mako /was/ amusing because of the hilarious impossible-to-flip physics and the ability to climb up slopes of like 75 degrees. But that aside, I don't find anything wrong with the Mako, with some practise.
January 1, 2008 9:49:21 PM

rechicero said:
Your review has the most usual flaw of all... most of your review (80-90%) is a bashing of the game and yet, your conclusion is that the game is worth playing. It seems odd.

I know how difficult this job is, but you failed to
give us the feeling of the game. At the end, I don't have a clue about the universe of Mass Effect, I don't know what a "mass effect" is, I don't know if this is an epic game, a "noir" game, or whatever, I don't know anything but great graphics, great sound, great story and that you liked more KOTOR. Come on! You have to elaborate a little more! You can talk a lot about a game without spoil it ;-). This is not a review, it's just a criticism good only for those who already know the game... But it offers nothing to everybody else...

And more, you write two paragraph about how "everyone - and I mean everyone - carries the same damn weapons and upgrades", and again you fail to explain how that can be when there are a lot of weapon brands and several types of weaponry (as shotguns, handguns, etc.). What you wrote make ppl think there is just one damn weapon in the whole game, and you know that's not the case.

And finally, I wonder how can you know if there are reply value when you didn't tell us anything about sidequests depending on your background, etc. Of course the end is the same, as the story (great) is about saving the galaxy (you do it or you fail), but, again, there are several endings... I can't write about them because of the spoiler, but they are there. And you have an ethic path, kind of alignment, for the character, just as in KOTOR. And again you didn't tell us anything about it.

With all this I didn't want to flame you, but if I said that your review was "good enough", I'd be doing the same you did with this game. T

The truth is you didn't tell anything about the universe, the characters (are they complex? Are they dull?), the leveling system, the kind of game (Kill them all or you can talk your way out of problems?), if there's exploration or it's a fixed map, the alignment system, the science of the sci-fi (is a hard sci-fi game or a soft one?), if there are several PC races or classes and what are they, the different endings, the different sidequests because of your character creation choices... Seriously, what the heck did you tell us about?

Ah, and if you are such an science fiction geek, you could have bashed the game with all the mass effect nonsense (as science)...

Again I hope you didn't feel insulted because of this criticism of your review as I'm sure you didn't try to offend the Mass Effect team ;-). I just hope you see this as a constructive criticism. It's just a list of things you could have done better and could you help to write a more balanced review (if you give a game a 7/10, your text should have about 70% of not bad things to be balanced).

Cheers


Just to tell you about the gun thing, basically, most of the armor and guns in the game have a similar (but still slightly different, in terms of some minor changes) design. But unless you actually look at the armor/guns carefully, they just seem to change colors. There's no radical changes in gun design, like what you expect in other games, where one type of assault rifle is easily distinguishable from the next through it's outline.
January 1, 2008 10:00:52 PM

Isomorphism - you really feel that the core gameplay is much better? I mean, I can understand saying the graphics are better, or the dialogue system is slightly better, but the core gameplay I disagree with. In my opinion, the inventory system alone wrecked the core gameplay compared to previous Bioware games (even pre-KOTOR). Regarding the Mako, I never hit the point where I was happy with the controls, even after countless side missions and random planet exploration.

Spuddyt - sorry to hear that, I wasn't hit with them that frequently but at times it would happen once every couple hours and it always would happen when I hadn't saved my game for quite some time. Needless to say, playing through something once is ok but being forced to go through it again because of an error, well, it sucks. It's what I'd expect during an alpha or beta build play through, not retail.

rechicero - Thanks for your feedback. When I discussed the review with Rob (Tom's Editor in Chief) prior to writing it, he specifically said that we should be spoiler free. It is nearly impossible to reveal anything about Mass Effect without spoiling it. You can't discuss the Mass Relays, you can't discuss details about extinct alien races, you can't discuss details about your arch nemesis and why he's doing what he's doing, etc. If you hadn't read the prequel book, you're literally tossed into the game knowing nothing, and I wanted to make sure that even after reading my review, people still really knew nothing of the story aside from it being something they should experience at least once.

Also, consider the fact that I ran out of room to write. When I submitted my review, I believe it was sent in at around 2500 words, way beyond the 2200 cap that we aim for. When it was edited down, it was still over at 2250. While there was much more I could have gone into, I literally had no room to do so, especially after venting the issues that I saw so many other reviewers brush off. There was no way that I was going to skip what I considered major issues over something like going into the characters themselves. To be honest, I really didn't like the characters that were on my side all that much, and I really only "used" them for their abilities more than anything else. I much more enjoyed the characters supporting Saren, or even the council. I'm sure Bioware really did their best to make all of their characters likeable, but the party NPCs just weren't as life-like to me as the characters involved with the story. The one exclusion to that was a confrontation near the end of the game regarding a party member and his race being almost extinct (if you've played through, you know what I'm talking about).

Also, keep in mind that I suffered from Disc Read Errors, and had no help from anyone at Bioware even after posts, PMs, and emails inquiring about the DREs. The only people who have tried to help me at all is Microsoft tech support. I believe that the DREs are something that Bioware should take more responsibility for, and at the very least help people get the $99 or higher fee waived if their 360s need to be sent in. The saddest thing of all are the people now complaining about DREs after paying for a repair, only to continue to get them. There has to be a better solution, and Bioware certainly has the resources to help people.

In terms of sci-fi, fiction is really fiction, so I wasn't going to knock them on the Mass Relay concepts. The general public would buy that, but the whole weapon and upgrade progression, no way. Humans respond to marketing and product differentiation, that's not going to change in the future.

A 70% is still a good score, and I still recommended at the very least a rental. We're working on following new review guidelines which are a bit more strict. Rob should be posting up details of this sometime in the future, but we've already gone over it internally. Anyways, I just expected more out of Bioware. Perhaps if it had been a brand new developer without any solid experience, and the DREs didn't exist, I would have been slightly more lenient, but even then, not much.

Edit (or stealth update) : Regarding different endings, side-quest options, etc., I did a heck of a lot of research on the official forums, Gamespot forums, GameFaqs, etc. prior to writing my review. I realize that there are different endings, and different ways to approach situations, but they're not all that different at all. While we can't obviously debate this in detail, I read all about the alternatives to make sure that I was considering the quality of the story as much as possible. The story is great, which I said in the review.
January 1, 2008 11:46:22 PM

I agree with you completely Ryan on the lackluster item system. Back in BG2 you would replace your Long Sword +2 with a Holy Avenger +5 and know you were going to kick serious butt. In Mass Effect you replace your Striker III with a Striker IV, V, VI, VII and think "ARE YOU KIDDING ME BIOWARE?" Still I think the combat has come a long way from what I remember in KotoR. The squad control in particular I remember being pretty awkward, like herding cats. In Mass Effect I rarely had my guys getting themselves killed and I like that I didn't have to jump around to different characters to use their abilities. It feels more polished to me, but thats just my preference.
-iso47
January 2, 2008 8:03:34 PM

First, thanks to see my message as constructive criticism.

I think (IMHO) that your guidelines are odd. I mean, It's obvious you shouldn't spoil the game but why can't you write about the info of the manual or the printed material? It looks like a nonsense... I'd like you to read the review as if you didn't play the game (that's the point of reviews). If you do that, I think you'll be somewhat dissapointed... as i was

About the 7/10, note that I never questioned that score. My point was:

How can you recommend a game when 90% of your review is a bashing?



January 2, 2008 9:38:59 PM

Isomorphism - my guys were constantly dying in major confrontations. I believe I was playing at the hardest difficulty allowed on your first play through, so maybe that's why. I didn't mind them dying so much, since I had my generic revive power (Unity?), but they were really just meant to be meat shields more than anything else. I did manage their inventories and levelled them up in the best ways I could for their role, but they were never all that useful. I'd say that I did probably 85% of the killing through the entire game.

Rechicero - I had no room to write about the printed manual, especially considering how vast it is. I purchased the prequel book and the Limited Collector's Edition, so there was a lot I could have referenced but just had no room to do so. Beyond that, I chose to be extra strict in not revealing anything really since Rob had specifically said to remain spoiler free.

The point of a review isn't necessarily to reveal the story of a product more than it is to evaluate the overall quality of a product. If I had more room to write, I could have provided some information on the alien races and mankind's role in the whole affair at the citadel, but I needed to cover what was being missed by so many other reviewers. Some of the quality issues should not have been so easily forgiven considering that Bioware is a company that gamers have come to have high expectations from. To give them slack on the issues seen would be to encourage them to continue to dumb down their games, or ship games with bugs as big as a Class A game stopper. I'm really surprised Microsoft didn't catch the DRE issue during the Cert process.

I can recommend the game due to the story and that fact that it's a decent RPG game. While I did do a fair amount of complaining, I never said that the game itself was crap.
January 2, 2008 11:34:37 PM

I haven't played much Mass Effect yet but the hardcore-sci-fi-ness of it is enticing. I'm curious, did anyone read the novel that acted as a prequel to the game? I understand that another novel is coming out that will act as a sequel and bridge the story into a second game.
January 3, 2008 3:01:32 AM

I picked up a copy of the prequel novel from Amazon, it's pretty cheap price wise. It's written by one of the designers of the game, who I'd imagine also wrote a good part of the in-game story. He should be doing the next book as well, which as you said will be a bridge between Mass Effect 1 and 2.
January 3, 2008 8:43:59 AM

I starting to ignore Ryan's reviews as he seems to be all over the place when handing out scores. He seems to be going against the grain on games just to stand out or something?
Eg..with all the bugs etc for Kane & Lynch he gave that game an 8.
To actually rate Mass Effect lower than the above title is atrocious.
This is constructive criticism Ryan and don't take it personally but I think you're trying to be a bit of a rebel in regards to game reviews.
Sure a lot of RPGs are repetitive but I'm on my 3rd replay of ME and I'm not tired off it. The combat is good but if this game have been developed for the pc first it could have been a killer game..instead of basically pausing the game and selecting a power on the pc you could have done it on the fly..it's a pity but I still enjoyed the combat. The mako bit was a bit pointless but you didn't have to do it if you didn't want to. Sure the AI sucks in places but after a while I was able to manage my squad properly and have them take out enemies while I stayed back and sniped them (was playing as infil). I'd definitely replay it for the soldier and the adept modes as both give you completely different experiences in combat. Overall I'd give this game a 9 out of 10. (For a console game) My ratings for pc games are much tougher.
January 3, 2008 1:07:34 PM

Thanks for your feedback Airblazer. K&L wasn't crashing on me as I was trying to play through it and there weren't nearly as many issues as Mass Effect had. Mass Effect was crashing, and there were many issues. Also, our review guidelines have changed since K&L was published - we're aiming to be a bit more strict now. For all that was wrong with Mass Effect, and the fact that it was Bioware who made it, I'm not feeling any regret for giving it a 7/10. A 7/10 is still a good score.

In terms of me being a rebel, if you look at my review score ranges, I don't think I've given anything that was out of the normal range. Mass Effect received other scores well below the 9/10 that you'd give it. See for yourself :

http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages4/930279.asp

I have no need to be a rebel, I just tell it how it is. Bioware was capable of so much more. The Mako, the AI, the inventory system, etc. All things that we've seen even our own readers point out as being issues, from a top notch developer like Bioware no less. Furthermore, the Disc Read Errors were inexcusable especially for a game which had to go through a strict certification process on a console. It made my single play through so difficult, so of course that's going to be a factor. The fact that Bioware is no help is pretty pathetic, especially considering how many community managers, QA guys, and producers they have on staff (many many more than most developers). It's extremely sad that people out there are desperately trying to get their game discs swapped, or have their consoles repaired, only to continue to get DREs. People outside of their standard warranty are paying MS $99 or more to have their consoles repaired, since DREs are not covered by the Red Ring extension. Bioware should at the very least help these people get a waiver on the $99 repair fee. There are 17 pages in people asking for help in a sticky thread alone, with countless other topics created since Mass Effect came out.

http://masseffect.bioware.com/forums/viewtopic.html?top...

When you look at my reviews, consider the fact that I'm looking at the entire package, even at who actually developed the title. Mass Effect's saving grace for me was the story, that's what earned it the 7/10 score. I consider myself a pretty good judge of quality. I've been in the whole "gaming journalism" scene for close to 10 years now and I've been playing games since 1982 or so on virtually every console and computer, with the exception of the Amiga. My review scores over the years typically fall in ranges on par with what other reviewers give products. You can verify this yourself on GameRankings. It's not like K&L received a 10/10, or Mass Effect received a 3/10. Did you see what we gave Assassin's Creed? At the very least, you should appreciate our honesty - we're really not afraid to tell it how it is even if it upsets the developer or publisher.

Thanks again though - hope you continue to enjoy Mass Effect.
January 4, 2008 5:17:41 AM

Sorry......didn't realise that your review guidelines had changed after K+L.
This is a good thing.
The score I was giving from my viewpoint was just from playing and completing the game 3 times. Only once did the game crash on me and give me the flashing red rings. Immediately switched off console for a few mins and then played away as normal. Didn't have a problem since then.
I find it very rare especially in console games that you can go back and replay them several times barring sports titles etc and the classes available in ME made this possible.
Anyway going by the amount of issues which other people experienced including yourself then fair enough the 7 was a good score.
!