Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mass Effect: Initial Impressions

Can't talk, playing Mass Effect.

I'm about three hours in. Haven't gotten command of the Normandy yet. Exploring Citadel Station and finishing the prologue. I hope that's a true indicator of the scope of the game: more than three hours to finish the prologue.

Here's my first take, which will of course change as I figure the game out and get deeper into it:

This is KOTOR on steroids. That's a good thing and a bad thing. The good: buckets of plot in which to wallow, the best NPC-conversation system yet devised, and a rich backstory that makes you feel like you're starring in a 1980s science fiction movie. The bad: talk talk talk talk talk talk, I still feel constrained by invisible walls, squad members get in my way when trying to select objects or talk to NPCs. Also, the tutorial-to-handholding ratio is weirdly skewed. There's an acre of text telling me how to use the (simple and intuitive) mission computer, but not a word anywhere about how decryption works, exactly.

The combat is odd, but fun so far. It's easy to pause the action and issue squad commands, but the targeting (or absence of) is weird, I haven't figured out how to use the sniper rifle yet, and I'd like an indicator in my HUD telling me how many medkits I have available.

Visually the game is gorgeous, and the pop-in and frame-rate stutters that other reviewers have mentioned don't seem that bad. I've yet to see the game really rev up for a big boss battle yet, so that may change.

Thoughts so far: do you like words? Lots of words? Spoken, displayed, and scrollable words? Yes? Then you'll like this game! I'm enjoying it, but I can see how people with less patience would toss away the controller. I'm looking forward to seeing how the world opens up after I get command of the starship.

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