Mass Effect [360] – First Impressions

Mass Effect Box ArtAs I usually do, I’ll keep this short and simple, in bullet form. Since the missus wanted to watch The Biggest Loser, I get to blog. So here are a few impressions I’ve had. For context (generalized to avoid spoilars) I recently got my ship and started exploring planets. I think I’m about five hours in and have already explored three planets.

What I like:

  • I’m not usually distracted by shining objects, but Holy Moses eating a Twinkie, this game is beautiful. It feels like space.
  • The music. It fits perfectly. I hear a little Terminator and other sci-fi influences.
  • The character customizations, the RPG elements, the ability to control what your squad has equipped and the skills they use.
  • Exploring space. I’ve been ignoring the main missions, I’m just flying around and checking out new planets.
  • The story and all the lore (especially the narrated information). It is really engaging and almost overwhelming. I’ve been listening to everything, reading everything and really enjoying it. It’s worth the time to read and it’s really well fleshed out.
  • The combat. I actually didn’t like the shooter elements at first (along with the cover system) but it’s growing on me. It works well and being able to pause whenever I want is perfect.

What I don’t care for:

  • The conversation wheel. While it is really cool and fun to control a conversation, it’s actually a source of consternation. I am always conflicted with which way to go with the conversation. I am guiding my character to be a “renegade” (there are two “alignment” paths: paragon (goodie two shoes) or renegade (ne’er do weller)) but I struggle constantly with choices. The “renegade” choice doesn’t jive with my personal moral compass. I want my guy to be the renegade but I feel guilty doing the “mean” thing. It doesn’t feel right.

    The conversation wheel also stresses me out because I feel like I’m going to miss something if I don’t make the “right” choice to move the story along. Sometimes options disappear after you’ve got done a particular path. The obsessive in me wants to see it all!.

  • The acting. It can be absolutely wooden at times. It doesn’t always work. We have not entered the Uncanny Valley quite yet in Mass Effect.
  • While I do like the control they give you over the squad customizations, I don’t actually care for having a squad most of the time. The path-finding is horrible, too. Can you please step aside, dude? You’re getting in the way and you’re about to get lasered.

So yeah, the good outweighs the bad by a huge margin. Mass Effect has been very food thus far.


  1. My advice re: the conversation wheel is not to worry about it. The game is made to be played multiple times. Do one playthrough where you do EVERYTHING, then start a new game and just stick to the main story missions.

    There is so much about the game that changes based on your conversations, the order in which you do things, etc. that it’s built to be played at least 2 or 3 times. Thankfully the core story doesn’t take much more than about 15 or so hours to beat.

    I had a few instances where I’d be boxed in by my squadmates and I was praying for the ability to switch control so I could move them out of the way. Sadly, this wasn’t to be, but I was eventually able to get past them in all of those instances.

    I disagree with you about the acting. I thought it was phenomenal from start to finish and that it had skipped merrily across the Uncanny Valley. Try playing the CSI game on the 360 if you want to see creepy human models attempting to act. *shudder*

  2. @Brock – I may have been a bit harsh on the acting. My biggest problem has been the way conversations end — there’s no flow. The NPC finishes his bit and if there’s nothing more to say, Shepard just says something like “I should be going.” If there was some variation to that, I wouldn’t have such a big problem with it.

    Being able to take over squad mates would have been perfect. Even the squad controls don’t seem to work perfectly.

    I think my first play through will be for doing everything. Glad to hear the core of the game is doable in a week or so, I’ll have to give it a second go down a different character path.

  3. I’m about three hours in and I’m still not all that impressed.

    • Why upgrade weapons if you keep getting new ones?
    • I’m finding the text hard to read on my 36″ widescreen at 1080i. There’s also a weird blur effect with the text. It’s sharp in the center of my screen and it gets blurry as it moves towards the sides. No other games do this.
    • There is also some screen overscan problems. How do I know? Text on the sides is constantly cut off. It’s the worst in the equipment and character stats screens. I don’t even get the first half of names or what trigger you press to cycle through your squad.
    • The combat is…weird. It just doesn’t seem fluid.
    • The story is interesting so far. I didn’t like it when that first died. I was surprised to catch myself caring that early in the game.
    • Good to hear known Hollywood actors. Is that Seth Green? LOL.

    I’ll keep playing. Maybe my initial impressions will change, but I don’t know. It’s not perfection, and I don’t think it’s anywhere near it. I can honestly say it’s not GOTY material. Maybe to some desperate few, but not me.

  4. @Nat – I hadn’t noticed the issue with the text. I’ll have to pay attention next time. I felt the same way about the combat. I think it gets better.

    As far as weapons go, I haven’t been paying attention 🙂

    What class did you go with? I’m an infiltrator.

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