Mass Effect is one of the best and most engaging video game franchises of this or any generation, I don’t think many people would dispute this claim. Bioware not only created believable characters in a believable universe, but they let you create and take control of your own vision of Commander Shepard. One of the best things about the games was the ability to create your Shepard in the first game, play through it and make all of the decisions and choices, and then go directly into the second game with the same character and have all of your choices carry over. This was true for the third game as well. At this point, these games stopped being singular entries and the universe was seamlessly strung between all three of the games in the franchise. This is why this moment is so important for the PS3.
Before the release of the Mass Effect Trilogy collection (and Mass Effect 1 for digital download on PSN,) all three games could only be played on either the 360 or the PC. Bioware found a way around this when the second game released on PS3 eventually, as they created a short comic book-style set of interactive cutscenes to pick through the “important decisions” of Mass Effect 1. This was an effective solution, but not a sufficient one. Anyone that had played the original and then played the second knew that a large majority of the emotional connection that tied the player to the universe and its characters would be lost for newcomers to the franchise. Now, EA and Bioware have brought all three of the games to the PS3 (and re-released the trilogy pack on the other two platforms as well.) However, is it worth picking up? I’ll look at each game individually, with an overall assessment of the package at the end.
Mass Effect 1
The original Mass Effect was first released as an Xbox 360 exclusive title in November of 2007. The game was developed by Bioware and published directly by Microsoft Game Studios. The game was then later ported to the PC by Demiurge Studios in May of 2008 and published by Electronic Arts. Mass Effect 1 is now available on PS3 on disc via purchasing the trilogy pack and digitally from the PSN ($15 USD.) The game’s Bring Down the Sky DLC is also included, on the disc. The game allows players to create (or play the pre-made version) of a character named Commander Shepard. The year is 2283 and humans have discovered space travel and made contact with various different alien species. The game is an action-RPG/third-person shooter hybrid. Combat is performed entirely from a third-person view and involves hiding behind cover and juggling weapons and different abilities.
The primary draw of the game, however, is its attention to detail in storytelling and narrative flexibility. In conversations (and many critical moments in the game) you make decisions. These decisions aren’t just “go left, or go right” but are instead more like “save this person’s life, or save that person’s life.” I know what you’re thinking: “It’s just a game, that sounds awfully superficial.” Well, you’re wrong, sit down and listen. In Mass Effect, the choices you make really do have a pretty large impact. If you let one person die, they are not alive anymore, in the rest of the game and all future games. Remember how your decisions carry over? Choices don’t stop there, it’s not just the massive plot points you influence, but all sorts of decisions throughout the course of the game influence how your character develops.
The gameplay itself is rock solid, the story is well written, the universe (I use that term literally, not just the game-space itself) is incredibly immersive and the game engages you in a way that isn’t really seen in any other game, or medium for that matter. Now, instead of shooting bad guys then watching a cutscene, you are shooting bad guys then choosing what happens in various cutscenes.
If you’ve played the game or franchise itself before, then you’re probably just interested in knowing how it runs. Well, thankfully they were able to faithfully bring over Mass Effect to the PS3 and you might even notice a very slight graphical upgrade, especially in the lighting and texture quality department. However, all of the old issues from the 360 and PC version still exist for the most part. Load times are pretty awful, framerate stutters aren’t scarce and animations tend to look a bit off at times. None of this detracts from the overall experience, however, so if you haven’t played the original because you only own a PS3, or missed the series entirely, now is as good a time as any to start.
Mass Effect 2
The second game in the series originally released in January of 2010 for both the PC and the Xbox 360. The game was then later released on the PS3 a year later in January of 2011, with a slight graphical overhaul. You can check out PSUni’s original review of the game right here. This version of the game seems to essentially be the same version already released with the inclusion of the Kasumi, Overlord and Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC packs included on the disc. This second installment in the franchise undoubtedly moves in a more “action-focused” direction, while still maintaining the most important role-playing elements from the original game to maintain the supreme level of quality and interaction. Gone are the inventory and weapon upgrade screens, replaced instead with managing your loadout between missions. The ability and level-up screens no longer have passive upgrades to unlock for dozens of different minute specialties, but instead more specific and unique skill areas for each individual class.
While this entry put-off some of the more die-hard RPG fans of the original, it is also the game that shot the series to the top of many gamer’s lists for one of the best this generation. The narrative is on a much smaller scale than either of the other two games, as it focuses almost exclusively on you building up a team of elite operatives constructed by parlaying with all corners of the galaxy. This character driven narrative accents the already superb writing and role-playing choices at hand, making the diverse cast of characters all the more interesting to interact with.
Keep reading on the next page to see the rest of my thoughts on Mass Effect 2 and what I think of Mass Effect 3 and the overall trilogy itself!