While I’m on the subject of frustration, I have to mention the boss battles. Although you can liberally save your progress, there are all too many instances where you’re not allowed to save, and this is especially true before a boss battle. For instance, early on in the game I had to rescue an Asari scientist who would then become one of my party. After rescuing her I had to have a conversation with her, I then had to have a conversation with the pilot on my ship and I then had to endure a long ride on an elevator (there are way too many of these and they can’t be skipped). When I got to the top of the elevator I was then approached by a group of bad guys, who proceeded to have another conversation with me, after which a battle commenced.
Now, when I inevitably died during this conflict, do you think the game restarted from the beginning of that fight? Of course not, it threw me all the way back to the point where I rescued the scientist, leaving me to sit through multiple conversations, elevator rides and cut scenes, before I could get killed again and have to go through the whole frustrating process again and again and again…
So, whereas Bioware reckon a total playtime of around 25 hours on a linear path, you can probably double that when you take into account the amount of time you spend going over the same ground over and over.
But even with these seriously annoying shortcomings, I can’t help but like Mass Effect. Unlike a Lionhead game which promises the world while in development, only to arrive with a small fraction of those features intact, Bioware has delivered so much, that its failures can almost be forgiven.
Many games are described as space epics, but Mass Effect really does live up to that moniker. The visuals and conversation system are groundbreaking, and I defy anyone not to be impressed when they see this game running for the first time. It’s a shame that the game play is let down in some fundamental areas, but even so, I have to recommend that any Xbox 360 owner give it a try.