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Mass Effect

Mass Effect

Mass Effect

Mass Effect is an action role-playing game, developed by BioWare for the Xbox 360 and ported to Microsoft Windows by Demiurge Studios. The Xbox 360 version was released worldwide in November 2007, published by Microsoft Game Studios. The Microsoft Windows version was released on May 28, 2008, published by Electronic Arts. A PlayStation 3 version was released through the Mass Effect Trilogy and digitally as a standalone title on PlayStation Network in December 2012.

The game takes place in the year 2183, with the player assuming direct control of an elite human soldier named Commander Shepard and setting out to explore the Galaxy on a starship, the SSV Normandy. The eponymous "mass effect" is a form of inertia-suppressing technology, allowing faster-than-light travel.

A sequel, Mass Effect 2, was released on January 26, 2010, and takes place two years after the events of the first game. Mass Effect 2 also directly uses players' completed save data from the first game to influence events and storylines within the second game, basing certain events and narrative threads on decisions and actions that the player made in the first game.

In addition to the sequel a third game was released in March 2012 to complete the trilogy. BioWare has also released episodic content online to fill in the story between each game, though these episodes are not essential for understanding the main plot line. The first downloadable content package, Bring Down the Sky, was released on March 10, 2008 . The second downloadable content package, Pinnacle Station, was released on August 25, 2009, for the PC and Xbox 360.

Mass Effect Plot

In 2183, the experimental SSV Normandy is sent to the human colony of Eden Prime to recover an unearthed Prothean beacon. To assist, the Citadel Council, the galaxy's primary governing body, sent Nihlus, a turian Spectre. In addition, Nihlus is also observing veteran soldier Commander Shepard, who is a candidate—notably the first human candidate—for becoming a member of Spectre corps, a force of peacekeepers who are above the law and answer directly to the Council.

Nihlus, Shepard, and biotic Kaidan Alenko land and meet Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams, who reveals that the colony is under attack by the robotic race known as the geth. The geth are led by a rogue turian Spectre named Saren Arterius, who kills Nihlus and activates the Prothean beacon. After the battle ends, Shepard locates the beacon and receives a vision showing scenes of war and death.

The Normandy and its crew are summoned by Ambassador Donnel Udina to the Citadel. Unfortunately, Shepard is unable to convince the Citadel Council of Saren's treason without solid evidence. Citadel Security officer Garrus Vakarian and krogan mercenary Urdnot Wrex lead Shepard to a quarian mechanic named Tali'Zorah nar Rayya, who possesses a recording of a conversation between Saren and an asari Matriarch named Benezia. In the recording, the two discuss their victory while also mentioning an artifact called the "Conduit" and the return of a force known as the Reapers. Confronted with this evidence, the Council revokes Saren's Spectre status and makes Shepard the first human Spectre. Shepard is ordered to hunt down Saren with the assistance of Kaidan, Ashley, Garrus, Wrex, Tali, and pilot Jeff "Joker" Moreau.

Captain Anderson relinquishes command of the Normandy to Shepard, who uses it to follow several leads provided by Anderson and Udina. On Therum, Shepard rescues the archaeologist Dr. Liara T'soni, Matriarch Benezia's daughter. Liara joins Shepard's squad because of her biotic abilities and expertise in the Protheans. On the colony of Feros, Shepard fights off Saren's forces and the Thorian, a sentient plant-like creature allied with Saren that can control individuals. From these agents, Shepard learns that Saren's flagship, Sovereign, also possesses unique mind-control capabilities. On Noveria, Shepard tracks down Matriarch Benezia while fighting off both the geth and the rachni, an insectoid race once thought to be extinct. Benezia is eventually defeated, revealing that she and Saren are being controlled by Sovereign. Shepard is also confronted with a rachni queen, who has been revived by Saren in the hopes of creating an army, and must decide whether to release or kill her.

After completing these missions, the Council informs Shepard that a salarian infiltration unit has uncovered Saren's main base on Virmire. Upon arrival, Shepard learns that Saren has discovered a cure for the krogan disease known as the genophage. Using it, he plans to breed an army of unstoppable krogan warriors. When Wrex finds out about the cure, he betrays the team and Shepard must either kill Wrex, have Ashley kill him, or convince him to stand down. After this conflict, Shepard assists the salarians in destroying the base by planting a nuclear improvised explosive device in it. Shepard leads the infiltration team, while salarian Captain Kirrahe leads a diversionary attack with the assistance of either Ashley or Kaidan.

Inside the base, Shepard is confronted by Sovereign, who reveals itself to be an actual Reaper. Sovereign explains that the Reapers remain outside the Milky Way Galaxy, waiting for organic life to develop, discover the Citadel, and Mass Relays. Upon reaching their peak, all sentient organic lifeforms are harvested by the Reapers. Saren attacks and claims that his allegiance to Sovereign will save organic life forms by demonstrating their "usefulness" to the Reapers. After Saren retreats, Shepard soon receives news that both Ashley and Kaidan have become pinned down. Shepard has only enough time to save one of them; the other is killed in the nuclear detonation.

With the information Shepard's squad has gained, Liara is able to pinpoint the Conduit's location on a Prothean world known as Ilos. Shepard follows Saren into the planet and encounters a Prothean computer intelligence named Vigil, which explains the Reapers' methodology. Vigil explains that the Citadel Station is actually a huge mass relay that the Reapers use to invade the galaxy. During the last extinction cycle, a few Protheans survived on Ilos via cryogenic suspension and then re-entered the Citadel via the Conduit, a reverse-engineered miniature mass relay disguised aboard the station as a statue. The scientists managed to sabotage the process that would summon the Reapers in order to prevent future extinction cycles from succeeding. Saren plans to undo this sabotage, and needs the Conduit to get him inside the Citadel.

Shepard pursues Saren through the Conduit, arriving at the Citadel as it is under attack by Sovereign and a massive geth force. Shepard fights through and confronts Saren, who has received cybernetic augmentations. Shepard can fight Saren or convince him to rebel. If convinced, Saren commits suicide, thanking Shepard for his freedom.

The Citadel Fleet has custody of the Council but is losing the battle. Meanwhile, Joker informs Shepard of a human Systems Alliance fleet massing to counterattack. Shepard can order the Alliance fleet to save the Council and risk heavy casualties, go directly after Sovereign while risking the death of the Council, or even abandon the Council. Regardless, Saren's corpse is reanimated by Sovereign, who then attacks Shepard while simultaneously fighting off the Alliance in ship form. Eventually, humanity prevails, and Saren's corpse is destroyed while Sovereign is dispatched by the Normandy.

The precise ending of the game depends on several factors, including the fate of the Council and whether Shepard has taken a Paragon or Renegade path. If Shepard chose to save the Council, the Council will thank humanity and add a human member to their ranks; the other two choices will result in the death of the Council, letting humanity take over. Regardless of outcome, Shepard is then asked to nominate either Anderson or Udina to this new leadership position. Shepard does so, then turns away from the proceedings, vowing to end the Reaper threat.

Mass Effect Gameplay

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

The game includes six character classes. 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. Characters who have reached level 20 will unlock a "Rogue VI" side-mission on Luna (Earth's moon) in the Sol System, upon the completion of which the player is allowed to choose a new specialist class, which in turn unlocks a new talent bar. The specialist class the character is offered depends 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 the most use of the omni-tool and tech-abilities, and Adepts are the best at using biotic powers. The other three classes are combinations of the first three: Infiltrators are a combination of Soldiers and Engineers, Sentinels are a combination of Engineers and Adepts, and Vanguards are a combination of Soldiers and Adepts. While the combination classes do not have the focus of the main classes, they are versatile and offer unique game-play opportunities. (Vanguards, for example, have access to half of the soldier skills and half of the Adept skills).

Players also have some control over their character's back story. They are able to choose to have been either a "spacer" (born and bred in space), a "colonist" (born on one of Earth's extra-solar colonies), or "Earth-born" (hailing from the streets of one of Earth's cities). 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 will reference the player's chosen background when talking to Commander Shepard. The character's background can also affect whether some side quests are available or not. With only a few exceptions, the character's background does not directly affect the player's dialogue choices.

Reception
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. 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." 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. GameSpy and X-Play both gave it a 5 out of 5 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." Shacknews praised, "While the core gameplay is nothing new — sometimes disappointingly so — Mass Effect represents a generational jump in storytelling artistry." Slashdot's review also praised the storytelling, saying " storyline Mass Effect will have you laughing, furious, and deeply saddened — in some cases all about the same character." GameTrailers gave Mass Effect a 9.6 out of 10, one of its highest reviews ever. GameSpot reviewed the X360 version as "a great game with moments of brilliance and a number of small but significant obstacles that hold it back from reaching its true potential." It subsequently reviewed the PC version and gave it a higher score calling it "best choice for experiencing this excellent game."

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." Eurogamer stated in its review, "Mass Effect is most definitely a great game with an awful lot going for it — but one that does not quite deserve unquestioning praise." Edge commented that the game's RPG statistics did not blend well with its action elements, and concluded that the space opera setting failed to provide "the myth and exotica to adequately follow Star Wars". The game's cast of characters and overall tone were also criticised: "Few are actually worth the effort of conversation. 'Tell me more,' says your character. 'Please don't,' says the voice inside your head. Where are the vaudeville rogues in this galaxy? Where are the entertainers? … The game strives so hard to be taken seriously that it winds up feeling relentlessly dour." Naming Mass Effect "the best RPG of 2007", GamePro praised the game's story, depth and presentation, while criticizing the lengthy elevator ride sequences. In October 2008, IGN declared Mass Effect the Best Xbox 360 game.

According to updated figures from Microsoft, in the six weeks after the game was released, it had sold 1.6 million copies.


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