Mass Effect

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Mass Effect

Mass Effect boxart
Developer(s) BioWare Edmonton (Xbox 360)
Demiurge Studios (Windows)[1]
Publisher(s) Microsoft Game Studios (Xbox 360)
Electronic Arts (Windows)[2]
Designer(s) Casey Hudson (director)
Writer(s) Drew Karpyshyn
Composer(s) Jack Wall
Richard Jacques
Series Mass Effect
Engine Unreal Engine 3
Native resolution 720p (Xbox 360)
Platform(s) Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows[2]
Release date(s) Xbox 360

NA November 20, 2007[3]
AUS November 22 2007[4]
EU November 23 2007[5]
Microsoft Windows
NA May 28 2008[6]
EU June 6 2008[6]

Genre(s) Action role-playing game
Mode(s) Single-player
Rating(s) BBFC: 12[7]
PEGI: 18+[8]
USK: 16
Media DVD-DL, download
Input methods Gamepad, Keyboard and mouse

Mass Effect is an action role-playing game developed by BioWare Edmonton for Xbox 360 and then ported to Microsoft Windows by Demiurge Studios. The Xbox 360 edition was released worldwide in November 2007 and the first game to carry the Singapore rating "M18".[9] published by Microsoft Game Studios. The Windows edition was released on May 28, 2008, published by Electronic Arts.[10] The game takes place in the year 2183, with the player assuming the role of an elite human soldier named Commander Shepard, set out to explore the Galaxy on a starship, the SSV Normandy.[11]

In addition to plans for two sequels to complete a trilogy, BioWare plans to release episodic content online to fill in the story between each game, though these episodes are not essential for understanding the main plot line.[12] The first of these downloadable content packages was released on March 10, 2008 for the Xbox 360, and July 29, 2008 for Windows.[13]


[edit] Synopsis

[edit] “Mass Effect”

Project Director Casey Hudson explained the term “Mass Effect” as follows:[14]

Inside the game universe, mass effect is a newly discovered (for humans anyway) physics phenomenon that has properties along the lines of other physics forces such as gravity and electromagnetism. It’s what physicists in real life are currently calling “dark energy”, as an explanation for the accelerating expansion of the universe — which has only recently been discovered and flies in the face of the previous notion that the universe’s expansion should be slowing down because of gravity.

Hudson explains that certain creatures are evolved to sense and manipulate mass effect much like some real-life creatures such as sharks and electric eels can sense and manipulate electromagnetism in peculiar ways. These abilities are available via prosthetics to humans, and the trained manipulation of Mass Effect is referred to as Biotics.

[edit] Themes

Mass Effect's story primarily falls within the space opera genre[15] and explores themes such as space colonization, intolerance, vigilantism, and artificial intelligence. The story, with its man-vs.-machine elements, has drawn comparisons to both Fred Saberhagen's Berserker novels and Battlestar Galactica,[16] as well as to Frederick Pohl's Gateway novels. [17] According to Casey Hudson, the project director at BioWare, Aliens, Blade Runner, Star Wars, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan all served as influences for the game.[18]

[edit] Setting

Mass Effect is set in the year 2183 AD. Thirty-five years prior, humanity discovered a cache of technology built by a technologically advanced but long-extinct race called the Protheans. Studying and adapting this technology, humankind has managed to break free of the solar system and has established numerous colonies and encountered various extraterrestrial species within the Milky Way galaxy. Utilizing alien artifacts known as "Mass Relays", the various space-faring species are able to travel instantly across vast stretches of the galaxy.

The game takes place primarily in two locations: the prototype frigate SSV Normandy, and the Citadel, a gigantic, ancient space station purportedly built by the Protheans and which currently acts as the center of galactic civilization. Throughout the game, however, the player may navigate the Normandy to various planets, moons and other destinations.

Within the game, humanity has formed the "Human Systems Alliance", one of many independent bodies that make up the collective of "Citadel space". Citadel space, as a whole, is ruled by a body of government known as the "Council", which is made up of members of the three prominent alien races: the asari, salarians, and turians.

[edit] Plot

The game begins aboard the experimental SSV Normandy, commanded by Captain Anderson and his executive officer, Commander Shepard. The Normandy is sent to the human colony world of Eden Prime to recover an unearthed Prothean beacon. To assist in recovering the beacon, the Citadel Council, the main government for most of the galaxy, have sent one of their top agents, a turian "Spectre", named Nihlus.

Nihlus, Shepard, and a small team discover that the Eden Prime colony is under attack by alien synthetic life-forms known as the geth, led by a rogue turian Spectre named Saren Arterius, who kills Nihlus. After the battle ends, Shepard locates the beacon and receives a vision of biological creatures being slaughtered by machines.

The Normandy and its crew are summoned by Ambassador Udina, the Alliance's representative on the Citadel, to the galactic capital to report, but Shepard is unable to convince the Citadel Council of Saren's treason without proof. Following several leads, Shepard recovers a recording of a conversation between Saren and an asari Matriarch named Benezia, discussing their victory on Eden Prime. The recording also mentions the return of a force known as the "Reapers," as well as an artifact called the "Conduit". Confronted with this evidence, the Council revokes Saren's status as a Spectre, and makes Shepard the first human Spectre so that he or she can legally hunt down Saren.

Command of the Normandy is given to Shepard, who uses the ship to follow up on several leads provided by Anderson and Udina. On Therum in the Artemis Tau Cluster, Shepard finds and rescues Dr. Liara T'soni, Matriarch Benezia's daughter, who is an expert on the Protheans. On Feros, Shepard fights off an army of geth and destroys an ancient life form known as the Thorian, a sentient plant-like creature that has the power to control whoever inhales its spores. Shepard also learns of Saren's flagship,Sovereign, which seems to possess unique mind-control capabilities. On Noveria, Shepard tracks down Matriarch Benezia while fighting off both geth and alien insects known as rachni. Benezia is eventually defeated, and she reveals that her mind is not being controlled by Saren, but that her and Saren's mind are being controlled by Sovereign. She soon reverts to Sovereign's control, and Shepard is forced to kill her.

After completing two of the previous three planets, Shepard learns a salarian spy unit has uncovered one of Saren's bases on the planet Virmire. Once he/she arrives, Shepard learns the base is being used to clone an army of krogan warriors, and with the salarians' assistance he/she assaults the base to detonate a nuclear device inside its walls. Inside the base Shepard discovers another Prothean beacon, which transfers its knowledge to him or her. Shepard is then confronted by Sovereign Itself, which reveals that It is what the Protheans and geth consider to be a "Reaper". Sovereign explains that the Reapers permit organic life to develop, allowing species to discover the mass relays (which influence future technology) before exterminating them when they reach a certain level of advancement. After planting the nuclear bomb and attempting to escape the facility, the team is attacked by Saren. He explains that he has aligned himself with the Reapers to save organic life by making it "useful" to the Reapers. Shepard refuses to accept Saren's plan, and escapes Virmire before the nuclear warhead is detonated.

With the information Shepard's party has gained, Liara is able to pinpoint the Conduit's location on a Prothean world known as Ilos, a planet accessible only by a long-lost Mass Relay located deep within the hostile Terminus Systems. Shepard returns to the Citadel to request permission from the Council to pursue Saren, but Shepard's request is denied by the Council, who consider the Reapers too insignificant to risk a war with the Terminus Systems. Ambassador Udina locks Shepard out of the Normandy, but Captain Anderson steps in and helps Shepard to steal the ship back.

On the surface of Ilos, Shepard follows Saren into an ancient bunker deep within the planet, and encounters a Prothean computer system named Vigil, which explains the Reapers' methodology. Vigil explains that the protheans on Ilos put themselves in underground preservation chambers in order to escape their destruction by the Reapers. Vigil also explains that the Citadel Station is a mass relay facility built by the Reapers to summon them from the dark space outside the galaxy. The Prothean researchers on Ilos created the Conduit, a miniaturized mass relay that allowed them to travel to the heart of the Citadel. Once inside, they sabotaged the process that would summon the Reapers. Sovereign plans to have Saren to use the Conduit to storm the Citadel with a geth army past the outer defenses, and activate the Citadel's mass relay manually.

Shepard pursues Saren through the Conduit. At the same time, Sovereign and a massive geth fleet assaults the Citadel. Sovereign lands on the central tower of the Citadel and begins activating the relay, while Saren uses the Citadel's defense systems to protect it. Shepard fights up the tower to the control center and confronts Saren, either killing him personally or convincing him that he has fallen under Sovereign's indoctrination, prompting Saren to kill himself. The Human Systems Alliance fleet arrives to reinforce the Council fleets, while Shepard exposes Sovereign to attack. At this point, Shepard has a choice between ordering the Alliance fleet to save the Council or go directly after Sovereign. Saren's corpse then reanimates under Sovereign's direct control through the use of cybernetic implants, and begins attacking Shepard while the Alliance attacks Sovereign itself. Sovereign is eventually destroyed, and the reanimated Saren corpse disintegrates.

The precise ending of the game depends on several factors, including whether or not Shepard opts to save the Council during the final battle, and whether Shepard has a higher Paragon or Renegade meter. If Shepard saves the Council, they are inspired by Shepard's actions and bravery, and grant humanity a seat on the Council. If the Council is destroyed, the Systems Alliance assumes control, and humanity steps forward to lead the galaxy into the future. At the end of the game, Shepard is also allowed to choose between ambassador Uldina or Captain Anderson as the new galactic leader or Council member in the aftermath. Regardless of the choice, Shepard realizes that the Reapers are still a threat, and that they must be stopped.

[edit] Characters

Garrus, left; Commander Shepard, center

The player assumes the role of Commander Shepard, a veteran soldier[19] who can be customized by the player. The character's appearance also varies based on the weaponry and armor the player uses.[20] In addition to customizing Shepard's gender and appearance, players can also choose a back story for the character, which influences dialogue throughout the game, as well as which side missions will be available to the character. [21]

The player's main character is always accompanied by two additional characters, providing support during battles and contributing to dialogue.[22] These characters are not created by the player, and control over them is limited to directing squad movement and to the utilising of their technological/biotic abilities. Whilst aboard the Normandy, the player may construct relationships between Shepard and these characters, potentially opening up further assignments. There are six characters met in the game who will join the fight; each has a detailed back-story and thence their own reasons for wanting to help. Two of the characters are human and the other four are aliens.

[edit] Cast

The cast of Mass Effect includes:

[edit] Alien species

While playing Mass Effect, the player will encounter a number of sentient alien species. While human characters are present, much of the time will be taken up interacting with the other species in the game. Aliens include the reptilian krogan, the salamander-like salarians, the deliberate and four-limbed elcor, the raptor-like turians, the masked quarians, the enviro-suit wearing, mole-like volus, and the asari, a race of aliens who physically resemble blue-skinned human females.

[edit] Gameplay

[edit] Player creation and character classes

Although most of the game's screen shots and concept art show the same "default" male Commander Shepard, it is possible for the player to fully customize his or her character's appearance, gender, abilities, and even military background.[32]

The game includes six character classes.[33] Each class contains several talents; as each talent is leveled, the character either gains stats (extra health, stamina, etc), unlocks new abilities (for example leveling the Shotgun talent unlocks the Carnage ability, which allows the character to fire a concentrated explosive blast from the Shotgun), or unlocks other talents. Each class also possesses a unique talent with the same name as its respective class; the characters may also have talents tied to their background.[34] Characters who have reached level 20 will unlock a "Rogue VI" side-mission on Luna (Earth's Moon) in the Sol system, in which upon completion, allows the player to choose one new specialist class. This unlocks one new "bar" of talents which can be earned. The specialist classes the character is offered depend on the base class.

When characters are first created, six classes are available: Soldier, Engineer, Adept, Infiltrator, Sentinel, and Vanguard. Soldiers are the most skilled with weaponry, Engineers make use of the omni-tool and tech-abilities and the Adept are the best at using the biotics. The other three classes are combinations of the first three. Infiltrators are a combination of Soldiers and Engineers, the Sentinel is a combination between the Engineer and the Adept, and the Vanguard are a combination of the Soldier and the Adept.

Players also have some control over their character's back story. They are able to choose either to have been a "spacer" (born and bred in space), a "colonist" (born on one of Earth's extrasolar colonies), or an "Earthborn" street thug. They also choose whether they have been the sole survivor of a terrible battle, a war hero, or a ruthless soldier. These backgrounds have only a small effect in the game, although many characters reference the player's chosen background when talking to Commander Shepard, and these can also affect whether some side-quests become available or not. Except in a few situations, the player's background does not directly affect the player's dialogue choices.

[edit] Dialogue

Previous BioWare titles such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire employed a conversation system where the player chose from several responses after non-player characters (NPCs) had finished speaking. Mass Effect introduces a new system in which responses to NPCs are displayed as the general tone of the message, rather than a word-for-word transcription of the message. In most cases, the dialogue options will result in Shepard making different statements, but some choices will have him or her say the same thing regardless.

The preview states that "the dialog system is a refined, more dynamic version of what you've seen in previous BioWare games. You'll no longer read the lines and select which one you want to say; now you use a dialog wheel to choose the approach you want to take (bully, bribe, or be nice, for example), and your character takes it from there."[35]

A radial command menu, divided into six equal sections like a pie chart, is shown at the bottom of the screen when a conversation is initiated. Each section is assigned a brief description of the response's intent, usually a short phrase such as "What's going on?". The response is selected by moving the analog stick (or the mouse in the Windows version) in the direction of the desired response on the circle and pressing a button. The command menu is organized such that each section is assigned a particular inclination (being nice, aggressive, etc.), so that after players have become comfortable with the system they no longer have to read the menu, and are able to respond appropriately, immediately, if desired. BioWare hopes that the innovative system allows the game to be more cinematic and frees players from reading large amounts of dialogue, as would be required with the commonly used system of simply having the player choose from complete, sometimes long, written statements.[36]

[edit] Combat

The Windows version of Mass Effect features a different HUD than the original Xbox 360 version.

Combat in Mass Effect takes place in real time, though much like a previous BioWare game, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, the player can pause at any time to give orders to other squad members. The player and his allies use firearms (modifiable with various upgrades throughout the game), Tech abilities (to interfere with enemy equipment and abilities), and Biotics (similar to magical attacks or Force powers in other games) to fight their enemies. Players directly control their character's actions as well as their squadmate's attacks, but cannot take direct command of their squadmates. They can, however, issue commands using the directional pad,[36] allowing the player to tell other characters to get behind cover, regroup, attack a specific target, or to scout ahead. The player can also use the talent wheel interface to control which of their abilities or special powers squad mates use.

The abilities and special powers that characters have at their disposal are determined by the skill sets assigned to them at the beginning of the game and how further earned experience points have been allotted since then. Some special abilities include a telekinetic lift that can be used to pick up objects and enemies, and a tech ability that reduces the shields of enemies. Dialog and commercial abilities such as charm and intimidate are dependent on points, storyline progression, and the amount of paragon or renegade points the characters attain.

[edit] Tech abilities

Tech abilities are support powers used against enemy weapons and technology, as well as biotics. They are activated through the OmniTool, which three of the main classes can use: Engineers, Infiltrators, and Sentinels. These abilities include destroying enemy shields, sabotaging enemy weaponry, and hacking robotic enemies to fire on their own squad. Tech abilities also have passive uses, such as the Electronics talent, which allows the party to open locked crates or salvage components from wrecks.

Included with Tech abilities are the First Aid and Medicine Talents, which boost squad-wide healing when the First Aid ability is used.

[edit] Biotics

Biotics are powers accessed by the characters using implants that enhance natural abilities to manipulate dark energy. These abilities include hurling enemies around with the mind, raising shields that are resistant to enemy fire but still allow the player to fire through them, and creating small singularities that cause destructible parts of the environment to fly at enemies. Three of the main character classes are able to use these powers: Adepts, Vanguards and Sentinels.

[edit] Weapons and equipment

Mass Effect features four classes of conventional weapons and a variety of weapon and armor upgrades. The player can pause the game at any time and change the equipment used by the members of the party. This is a major strategic aspect of the gameplay, as choosing the correct equipment can mean the difference between a quick victory and defeat. Equipped items are visible on the characters; the armors have different appearances and all weapons fold up into compact versions that are stored on the character's back. Weapons can be retrieved by using a weapon wheel similar to the talent wheel.

Ammunition is unlimited; instead of needing to reload, a weapon will build up heat until it overheats, and cannot fire until it has sufficiently cooled down. In-game, the reasoning for this is that weapons are loaded with "blocks" of ammunition material, and each round fired is sheared off from this central supply of ammunition. The rounds themselves are described as being the size of a "grain of sand" and are launched through "mass accelerator" technology at extremely high speeds. Firing a weapon continuously or using a weapon that one is untrained with will result in decreased accuracy, represented by an expanding targeting reticule. The more Talent points that are spent on a weapon type, the greater the weapon type's accuracy and damage.

The characters wear dual layer hardsuits which serve as combat and EVA suits. These suits provide a seemingly limitless supply of oxygen. The method for creating this is unknown. They offer protection against incredible temperatures, and can take multiple mass accelerator rounds before failing. The suits also come equipped with Kinetic Barriers, which act as shields that stop most weapons fire. There are three classifications of hardsuits: light, medium, and heavy armor.

[edit] Morality

The side story and the number of character interaction choices in Mass Effect are affected by the player's chosen morality. Unlike in BioWare's previous titles, emphasis on becoming a pure "good" or pure "evil" character is lessened. The overall story is also affected by the player's personal choices. Project Director Casey Hudson of BioWare has said "[the player's] style of play throughout the game will result in diverging endings that determine the fate of humanity itself", affecting not only the first installment, but also the planned sequels.[37] Morality is mostly determined by the player's choices during conversations.[36]

Hudson has further stated that instead of the "good" and "evil" approach that past BioWare games have taken, Mass Effect morality is based on giving points as a "Paragon" for choosing more polite and professional military actions, or as a "Renegade" for taking a more ruthless and take-no-prisoners approach. "Paragon" and "Renegade" points are scored on two separate scales (i.e. taking a "Paragon" option does not negate a past "Renegade" option), as opposed to other BioWare titles such as Knights of the Old Republic in which morality points were scored on a single scale so that making a "Light Side" choice negated the morality change characters underwent for making a "Dark Side" choice. NPCs react differently to a character depending on their past morality choices.[38]

[edit] Travel

The SSV Normandy, the player character's ship, and a technological marvel in the setting of the game, serves as the primary mode of transportation.

Since the game spans the galaxy, many trips have to be made from planet to planet. Players choose destinations by selecting them through a galactic map of the Milky Way.[37] The galaxy is divided into numerous levels of organization, shrinking in scale from star clusters, to star systems, and finally down to planets.

Travel through the Mass Effect universe is aided through the use of Mass Relays, which are technological artifacts that are capable of transporting vessels nearly instantaneously between star clusters and systems. There are two types of Mass Relays, primary and secondary. Primary relays are "linked" with a twin, and so have a single line of travel, but can span as many as a hundred thousand light years — according to the game's "Codex". Secondary relays are omnidirectional and can send ships to any relay within its limited range of about a hundred light years.

Once the player decides on a system to visit, several options are available. Some planets are simply there to complete the system. Others can only be surveyed for valuable materials. Some astral bodies such as asteroids, moons, and small space freighters are also available for survey. Finally, some planets can be landed on and explored. The player can move about on foot or using an all-terrain armored personnel carrier called the M35 Mako. Some segments of the game feature combat requiring the use of this vehicle. Most main story segments (and many side missions) are geared toward on-foot shooter action.

Although the game follows a main story, Mass Effect includes a large number of side missions and free-roam "uncharted worlds" that can be reached by selecting them through the galactic map.

[edit] Enhanced Achievements

As with all Xbox 360 titles, Mass Effect contains Achievements that are unlocked when certain conditions are met. However, unlike other Xbox 360 games, in addition to adding to a player's Gamerscore, certain Mass Effect Achievements will grant permanent in-game bonuses for the player, once unlocked. Some open extra options during new-character creation, allowing a player to pick one bonus skill (depending on which possessing skill-based achievements had been unlocked prior to that point) that their new character's class would not normally have. For example, killing 150 enemies in one playthrough with the shotgun unlocks the Shotgun Expert achievement, and allows any future characters created by the player to specialize in the shotgun, even if the chosen class does not. Other achievements grant permanent increases to stats such as health or shields. Bonus skills can be leveled up immediately, such as adding a Shotgun to the Adept, where a Vanguard requires a sum of pistol skill before the Shotgun can be leveled up. There are a total of 1050 Gamerpoints that can be obtained on the 360 Version.

The Windows version of the game also retains the Achievement system independent of any service such as Xbox Live.

[edit] Editions

The cover art for the PAL version of the limited collector’s edition.

Mass Effect was released in both a Standard and Limited edition of the game. The Limited Edition was available through pre-order only at online retailers GameStop, Electronics Boutique,, and Best Buy within the United States, and in-store in Mainland Europe. The Limited Edition features are as follows:

  • A fiction book titled “Galactic Codex: Essentials” – A 36-page guide to the Mass Effect universe, including a Citadel timeline, and a guide to all non-human races, biotics, and the key locations in the Perseus Arm of the galaxy
  • An art book titled “A Future Imagined”, which includes a collection of concept art from the game.
  • A bonus DVD of exclusive Mass Effect background material and additional content, including:
    • “The Vision of Mass Effect” documentary.
    • “The Making of Mass Effect” documentary.
    • “Interactive Storytelling” documentary.
    • “Inside BioWare” documentary.
    • 18 Mass Effect themed gamer-pics.
    • 4 dashboard themes.
    • Ten songs from the Mass Effect soundtrack.
    • Five historical trailers from X05 through E3 2007, and the official TV trailer.
    • A demo for Blue Dragon and videos for Lost Odyssey, Halo 3, and Halo Wars.
    • Design galleries featuring 600 concept-images with full audio commentaries by the game’s art directors.

The Limited Edition was made available for pre-order at online retailers only in the United States and Canada, as well as in-stores only in Mainland Europe. A DVD containing content concerning the development of the game was also distributed to all those who pre-ordered the game in the United States at GameStop, Electronics Boutique, and some Best Buy locations. The bonus content DVD was also made available for those who pre-ordered the game in Australia at selected retailers, but the Limited Edition is not.

BioWare has announced that no collector's edition of the Windows version is going to be released. However, CD Projekt, the Polish publisher of Mass Effect released a limited edition version. This edition features:

  • Game in four language versions (original English, full Polish dubbing, English with Polish subtitles and Polish with English subtitles) on two DVD discs.
  • Documentary of making Polish version.
  • Instructions and a walkthrough in Polish.
  • Mass Effect themed postcards.
  • N7 T-shirt.
  • Artbook containing concept art from the game.
  • USB flash drive with Mass Effect logo.
  • Mouse pad with graphic of Normandy.
  • Mass Effect key holder.
  • Box containing all elements.

The European edition of the Windows version included a second DVD with the game localized for German, French and Italian languages. A localized Japanese version of Mass Effect is in development for the Xbox 360.

[edit] Downloadable content

The first piece of downloadable content was announced on February 6, 2008. The "Bring Down The Sky" pack was released on March 10, 2008, for the Xbox 360 and July 29, 2008, for Windows.[13] It should also be noted that as of late January, 2009, the DLC was made compatible with the Steam version, titled revision a. As with retail box copies, players will need to register their Steam serial number on BioWare's website in order to receive the serial number required for installing the DLC.[39]

"Bring Down the Sky" includes a new uncharted world that introduces the notorious and feared batarians, a humanoid species with four eyes. A batarian extremist group has hijacked a mobile asteroid station in the Asgard system, setting it on a collision course with the nearby colony world of Terra Nova. Only Commander Shepard can save the millions of innocent civilians before the asteroid completes its deadly descent. This mission is concurrent with the main storyline. BioWare has stated that the adventure should take 90 minutes to complete. The expansion also features an additional achievement awarded upon completion of the mission titled as "Colonial Savior" with a value of 50 points.[40] Additionally, a message may be found in a small music outpost on the asteroid when the computer inside is read twice; The message appears to be a humorous jab by the developers at those who stirred up the controversies surrounding the game's romance scenes upon its initial release.

At the New York Comic Con in February 2009, community manager Jay Watamaniuk confirmed that a second DLC is in development. It will add a casino and a gunfighter's arena.[41]

[edit] Reception

Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 91%
Metacritic 91%
Review scores
Publication Score A
Edge 7/10
Electronic Gaming Monthly 27.5/30
Eurogamer 8/10
Game Informer 9.75/10
GamePro 4.75/5
GameSpot 8.5/10
GameSpy 5/5
GamesRadar 9/10
GameTrailers 9.6/10
IGN 9.4/10
Official Xbox Magazine 10/10
X-Play 5/5

The Xbox 360 version of Mass Effect has received wide critical acclaim. On the review aggregator Game Rankings, the game had an average score of 91% based on 75 reviews.[42] On Metacritic, the game had an average score of 91 out of 100, based on 71 reviews — indicating "universal acclaim."[43]

[edit] Xbox 360 version

Game Informer awarded Mass Effect a 9.75 out of 10, declaring it "the next big franchise for science fiction junkies to latch onto", "a huge step forward for video games", and that it "rings in a new age of interactive storytelling". The key negative points of the review were the balancing issues and problematic AI of the combat system.[44][45] Official Xbox Magazine gave Mass Effect the sixth '10' in the magazine's history, raving, "Mass Effect is a great science-fiction novel in video game form. Meaning, it mixes the highest caliber of pure story with the decision making and raw action of the best games." The OXM reviewer also praised it saying "It's the best game I've ever played" and remarked that it had "The best story ever told in a videogame. Period."[46] Electronic Gaming Monthly awarded Mass Effect a Gold Award with scores of 9, 9.5, and 9, also citing that the negative points of the review were balance issues with the character classes, as well as a steep learning curve with the Mako IFV.[47] GameSpy and X-Play gave it their highest rating, 5 stars and a special episode "Mass Effect takes interactive entertainment to breathtaking new heights and is wholeheartedly recommended. This is one of the best games of the year, and will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the greatest games ever made."[48] Shacknews praised, "While the core gameplay is nothing new — sometimes disappointingly so — Mass Effect represents a generational jump in storytelling artistry."[49] Slashdot's review also praised the storytelling, saying "[The] storyline Mass Effect will have you laughing, furious, and deeply saddened — in some cases all about the same character." gave Mass Effect a 9.6 out of 10, one of its highest reviews ever.[50]

IGN awarded the game a 9.4 of 10, and while saying it was "a new high mark for storytelling in games", it also pointed out a common criticism in most of the reviews for the game, that while "the RPG elements are outstanding", the "glitches, poor AI, and weak squad mechanics weigh the game down".[51] Eurogamer stated in its review, "Mass Effect is most definitely a great game with an awful lot going for it — but one that doesn't quite deserve unquestioning praise."[52] Awarding Mass Effect "The Best RPG of 2007," Gamepro raves about the tremendous amount of depth to the game, from the character customization options to the world at large. The negative to the game they mention is that "the elevator rides are ridiculously long."[53] In October 2008 IGN declared Mass Effect the Best Xbox 360 game.[54]

In an interview with Gamedaily Corporate Vice President of Global Marketing for the Xbox 360, Jeff Bell was quoted as saying Mass Effect "...has sold more than a million copies in less than three weeks."[55] According to updated figures from Microsoft, in the six weeks after the game was released, it had sold 1.6 million copies.[56]
On the other hand, there was at least one negative review from GameBanshee[57] where they classify the game as being the disappointment of the year due to the mass reduction of character development options, simplification of inventory items, and scaling of enemies and looting towards the player's own level.

[edit] Windows version

Official system requirements[58]
Minimum Recommended
Operating System Windows XP or Windows Vista
CPU 2.4+ GHz Intel; 2.0+ Ghz AMD 2.6+ GHz Intel; 2.4+ Ghz AMD
Memory 1 GB (XP), 2 GB (Vista) 2 GB
Hard Drive Space 12 GB of free space
Graphics Hardware NVIDIA GeForce Fx 5200 GT or higher, ATI X1300 XT or higher NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GTX or higher, ATI X1800 XL or higher
Sound Hardware 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card and drivers 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card and drivers – 5.1 sound card recommended
Network Internet connection required for activation

A Windows version of the game, ported by Demiurge Studios was released 28 May 2008, with aspects of the game rebuilt in order to address criticisms of the earlier Xbox 360 version. Early reviews of the Windows version by Ars Technica and PC Zone have hailed it as the "definitive" Mass Effect, and an outstanding port to the Windows platform. The game entered the US Windows game charts at number 3, beaten by two different versions of Age of Conan at 1 and 2. The first mainstream print magazine review of Mass Effect for Windows was from PC Zone, scoring 92%. PC Gamer US gave the game a 91%, stating that its main flaws were its "horrible inventory system" and the fact, though mistaken, that it only has one ending.[59]

[edit] Awards

Mass Effect's showing at E3 2006 was well received and resulted in the game winning several awards during the expo, including the Game Critics Awards' Best Role-Playing Game.[60] One of the most recent and arguably more significant awards the game has been awarded the #1 spot on IGN's list of "The Top 25 Xbox 360 games. [61]

The game earned the following post-release awards:

Spike TV Awards
  • Awarded: Best RPG
GameTrailers Awards[63]
  • Awarded: Best RPG, Best New Game.
TeamXbox Awards[64]
  • Reader's Choice Awards: Best RPG, Best Story.
  • Awarded: Game of the Year, Best RPG, Best Story.
GameSpot Best of 2007 Awards[65]
  • Awarded: Best Voice Acting, Best Original Music.
IGN Best of 2007 Awards[66]
  • Awarded: Best RPG, Best Original Score, Best Story.
X-Play Best of 2007 Awards
  • Awarded: Best RPG.
The New York Times[67]
  • Awarded: Game Of The Year

A complete list of awards can be found at the game's official website.[68]

[edit] Controversies

[edit] Sex scene coverage on the internet

Controversy over the sexual content of Mass Effect occurred when evangelical blogger Kevin McCullough wrote an article titled, “The ‘Sex-Box’ Race for President”.[69] McCullough employed strong, false statements such as “Mass Effect can be customized to sodomize whatever, whomever, however, the game player wishes,” and “with its ‘over the net’ capabilities virtual orgasmic rape is just the push of a button away.” The game itself does not feature rape, as each romantic sub-plot involves consent on the part of the player and the NPC, and cannot be done with "whomever" the player wishes, only two NPCs for each PC gender are considered romantic interests, and furthermore the game lacks a multiplayer component of any sort.

McCullough’s article was met with an outburst from the gaming community. McCullough issued an apology by saying, “I DO apologize to the gaming universe!” He then goes on to say, “I still do concur with my original position that the objectionable content in Mass Effect is still offensive”.[70] McCullough’s handling of the situation was parodied by popular gaming webcomic Penny Arcade[71] and online comedy site LoadingReadyRun.[72] The controversy eventually resulted in his article being taken down by[73]

[edit] Fox News on the sex scene

The romantic subplots each have a short cut-scene that displays a series of fast cuts of a sexual encounter between the characters, although no specific sex act is clearly shown. A New York Times article on the controversy compared the contents to U.S. evening network television.[74]

On January 21, 2008, a Fox News segment "The Live Desk With Martha MacCallum" discussed Mass Effect[74] with the heading '"SE"XBOX?' New video game shows full digital nudity and sex.' MacCallum stated that the game "leaves nothing to the imagination," features "the ability for players to engage in full graphic sex" where the player gets to decide what happens, cited critics as saying that the Mature-rated game is marketed to children and teenagers, and read a rebuttal from publisher Microsoft stating that the company abides by rating systems and provides monitoring tools for parents. Psychology specialist and author Cooper Lawrence and video game journalist Geoff Keighley were interviewed. The former described sexual content in video games as teaching their active users, adolescent boys, to consider women as objects of desire valued solely for their sexuality. She added that the game's player character is a man who decides how many women he wants to be with. Keighley focused on challenging the accuracy of previous statements, saying it is a choice to play the protagonist as a male or a female. He also described Mass Effect as having an optional, brief sexual situation as the culmination of a romantic relationship in a 30+ hour game. Adding to Lawrence's inaccuracies is the fact that the main character is not allowed to be with more than one individual, sexually and romantically. MacCallum and Lawrence admitted that they had not played the game.

Electronic Arts, the parent company of BioWare, requested a correction of "serious errors" from Fox News in an open letter.[74][75][76] Fox News replied by stating that EA had been offered a chance to appear on the channel.

On the 25th, Lawrence, who had since watched someone play the game for about two-and-a-half hours, retracted her earlier statements in an interview. She added that she had been told the game was similar to pornography, and noted that she "has seen episodes of Lost that are more sexually explicit." In the interim, largely as a reaction from an offended gaming community, her latest book attracted a number of customer reviews on which rated it one star out of five.[74] In an editorial, G4's Adam Sessler referred to the interview as a "litany of falsehoods" and parodied Lawrence's statements.[77]

[edit] Singapore M18 rating

Mass Effect was banned in Singapore for a short time before it was lifted with an M18 rating. Censors in the country said that a scene with an alien and human female caressing was the main reason why the game was not allowed to be sold in Singaporean video game stores.[78]

[edit] Street date violations

On Friday, November 9, 2007, 11 days before the official release date of the game, news on the internet surfaced that the game was available for sale at several Kmart stores in the United States. This was later confirmed by BioWare Community Coordinator Chris Priestly on the official Mass Effect forum.[79] The street date was also broken in Australia on November 16, 2007 by EB Games who received their copies of the game early and took it as a sign to begin distributing. This was shortly followed by many game retailers including -- JB Hi-Fi, Gametraders, Zellers and GAME.[80]

[edit] Digital rights management

On May 6, 2008, BioWare confirmed that it would be using the latest version of digital rights management software SecuROM with the Windows release of Mass Effect.[81] This decision attracted criticism as SecuROM would require online activation after installation in addition to a "check-in", where the product must re-validate itself every 10 days or it will cease to operate until the next successful check-in.[82] On May 9, 2008, BioWare decided to remove the 10 day periodic re-authentication, saying that they "listened very closely to its fans and we made this decision to ensure we are delivering the best possible experience to them." Players will still need to connect to the server before they launch Mass Effect for the first time or download new game content.[83][84] The game can be authenticated 5 times. After that players will have to contact EA Customer Support, who may then on a case-by-case basis "supply any additional authentications that are warranted."[85] EA has since released a De-Authorization Tool for certain SecuROM Protected games released after May 2008, which includes Mass Effect. [86]

The March 2009 Steam release of the game removes the SecuROM DRM and replaces it with Valve's online distribution and DRM system, which ties the game license to an online user account.[87]

[edit] Novels

On February 21, 2007, it was announced by BioWare that Del Rey, an imprint of Random House Inc., had acquired Mass Effect: Revelation, the prequel novel to the game. The novel, authored by the lead writer of the game (Drew Karpyshyn), will subsequently be accompanied by another book set in the world of Mass Effect.[88] Revelation was released on May 1, 2007. The second novel, Mass Effect: Ascension, was released on July 29, 2008.[89]

[edit] Audio

Mass Effect Original Soundtrack
Mass Effect Original Soundtrack cover
Soundtrack by Sam Hulick, Jack Wall et al.
November 20, 2007
Genre Video game soundtrack
Length 75:56
Producer Jack Wall

The Mass Effect Original Soundtrack was composed and produced by Jack Wall and Sam Hulick and featuring additional music by Richard Jacques and David Kates, the soundtrack was released on November 20, 2007. The soundtrack, composed by Jack Wall, Sam Hulick, Richard Jacques, and David Kates, was published by Sumthing, and features 37 tracks. The soundtrack also contains the ending song performed by Faunts, called M4 P2.[90] According to the liner notes and press release, the music was inspired by classic sci-fi movies such as Blade Runner and Dune. Pieces of the soundtrack are featured in Video Games Live.

[edit] Sequels

Mass Effect was originally conceived as a trilogy, but EA has confirmed that Mass Effect "will be a franchise for [EA] for a very long time" indicating that the franchise may extend beyond the planned trilogy.[91] The next title in the series, tentatively titled Mass Effect 2, plans to use much of the same game mechanics as the first title in the series. Not much is known yet about Mass Effect 2 – Casey Hudson, Project Director for BioWare, has said that players should keep their Mass Effect save-files, because decisions made by the player in the first game will continue to have influences on their character in the sequel. Players who have not played the first Mass Effect will start a new character in Mass Effect 2, and will be brought up to speed on the story elements that have taken place thus far in the series.[92] BioWare announced that they will reveal level design for the sequel at the upcoming GDC.

Electronic Arts announced that Mass Effect 2 will be released sometime in the 1st quarter of 2010. [93]

A Teaser Trailer for Mass Effect 2 was released by Bioware on February 20, 2009[94]

[edit] Upcoming DLC

BioWare talked about the next downloadable content (known as DLC) for Mass Effect, this announcement was released with the Mass Effect Platinum hits version. Preston Watamaniuk went into further detail about the DLC stating: "Things we’re working on right now, for the Mass Effect universe next … we had something in Mass Effect 1 that again, we weren’t able to pull off just because we didn’t have the time and we didn’t think we’d be able to do it well enough, which was a fight club or an arena. So we’re actually working on that for our next downloadable content piece and we’re hoping it’ll be really special..." Casey Hudson, Project Director For BioWare also added: "So we wanted to be able to give people a much more combat-oriented, lighter-story experience. You’re going to go to a kind of casino gaming fight club space station.” [95]

[edit] Film adaptation

Ex-Marvel CEO, Avi Arad recently obtained the rights to create a film adaptation of the game. It is reported that it is still in planning and that Arad will be looking to attach a writer, director, and studio to the project. [96]

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