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Mass Effect

Developer: Bioware | Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Players: 1 Player Game | Genre: RPG

Release Date: 11/20/07

Another look at Mass Effect brings more revelations. In case you haven’t been paying attention, each of the cutscenes in the game are rendered not only in the game’s engine, but also happening “real time” as well. The allows the player to interrupt a conversation to cut it short and move on with the story, or perhaps even influence things a certain way. This branching story path is what we were shown.

Recently revealed was the Krogen race. They are a dying breed, because of a genophage that renders only 1 in 1,000 pregnancies to be effective. These brutish warriors recover from toxins quicker, but do have certain limitations because they are so combat oriented. The story of this race also affects the story the player goes through

[minor spoiler]

Early(ish) in the story players will wind up having to kill somebody in the course of their investigation. It turns out that somebody had contracted a Krogen named Wrex to do the job, but he didn’t have a chance to do his job. Encountering the player, he offers not only his payment and services, becoming one of the available crew. He is not in the business of being a bounty hunter for the money, but is looking for a worthy reason to fight.

[end spoiler]

In the course of the story, players will be traveling around the galaxy. There is an interactive map onboard the SS Normandy which displays first the earthly view and any pertinent information after being scanned. Moving from there players and see things in a view of the solar system, then in a star cluster, then finally the entire galaxy.

Core storyline locations will be flagged. There will not be one to let the player know they have already visited the planet, and this is a mistake. The idea is that certain planets are not “done” after the story element is completed, there are things to do and keep revisiting. BioWare didn’t want to planets to be unnecessarily flagged as completed, so the decision was made to not have them. I asked if there was a way to simply flag planets that have been visited, and the response was they are tentatively looking at the possibility.

Players will be able to scan each planet, looking for resources or story elements. Some planets will have items to scavenge, others will have events to participate in. one planet may be infested with a pirate base, and simply not seem worth the effort. Taking out the pirates could lead to a new side quest upon returning to the planet after the citizens feel safer.

One place where the branching storyline and planetary exploration intersect happens about ½ to 2/3 of the way through the game.

[major spoiler]

Upon arrival at one planet, it is revealed that Saren, the main villain is breeding his own army of Krogen. He is able to do this because his research has le him to a cure for the genophage. What needs to happen? Saren’s base needs to be taken out, naturally. Of course Wrex doesn’t’ think this is a good idea, as a cure to his race’s reproduction problem would help prevent the extinction of the Krogen. This leads to a conflict between orders and loyalty to a crewmember. Do you take out Wrex and carry out orders? Do you try and smooth things over with Wrex and enlist his help? Is there a different solution to blowing up the base?

[end major spoiler]

A couple of other small bits of information revealed about the game include The Maco, which is the planetary exploration vehicle. It has 6 wheels, jump jets and armaments to help overcome any obstacle.

Instead of the traditional skill tree, Mass Effect uses what looks like a graph, where the skills move across a line in blocked increments. Hitting a certain mark on the graph might open up a new line or bar or designate a significant increase in ability. Some of the powers are talents, such as weapon enhancers.

This marked what could very well be the last look we get at the game before its launch in November. With every viewing we get more and more anxious to have it released.

Wow. Go ahead and take your time. We are anxiously awaiting this one, but have every faith that the time being taken on this game is very well served. We can keep waiting when th storytelling is as rich and complex as what we are being shown. Just fix it so that we can flag the planets visited, even if there is more to do - just to be able to say "Been there."

By Daniel "Monk" Pel... - 07/25/07
ESRB Details: Blood, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence

Screenshots for Mass Effect

Kane & Lynch

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