This is the second portion of my Mass Effect review, because of size constraints. Please see my first part here: Pt. 1!
Graphics & Sound
I think the graphics in the game were gorgeous. The character designs were varied and interesting, the weapon and power effects were beautiful, but there were some problems I had with them. For one thing, the frame rate dropped far too often for my liking. Many times, in the midst of battle, the engine would chug, causing disorientation and confusion.
**Side Note: I loved the fact there was a gun folding animation when you switched weapons. It was a cool little touch that reminded me I was using futuristic weaponry.**
I thought the Geth were particularly breathtaking designs.
I also hated all of the load screens wherein similar frame rate dips would occur. Walking from one side of the Normandy to the other shouldn’t cause slowdown. It simply shouldn’t. I appreciated the small animatics used to mask some load times, such as when travelling amidst star systems, I just wish they were more varied. Watching that Mass Relay spin over and over got real boring real fast. The fact it was often used when entering buildings on planets didn’t make much sense to me, either. I kept wishing they were more unique to the specific planet, kind of like what the Ratchet & Clank titles have done. Since they didn’t technically cripple the experience, I guess not much else can be said.
What else can be said? Well, along with the odd load times, there were quite a few issues with texture loading and pop-in. Entering one of those damned elevators only to have all my party members’ suit textures disappear was simply odd. The fact the elevators were used far too often and took far too long also pissed me off.
One nice touch I liked was the visual filter used to make the game appear more “cinematic.” It was an interesting touch and while some argue it made the game appear more “muddied” I kind of liked it.
In terms of audio, I thought the voice acting was done pretty well. The only voice actor I recognized was Seth Green, who voices the Normandy’s pilot, Joker. The fact he voiced him doesn’t bother me, the fact I recognized him immediately and having to listen to him so often did. It just sort of drew me out of the world too much for my liking.
**Side Note: For all of the care that was taken to explain every little aspect of the game world I was REALLY upset why they never explained why every alien race in the known galaxy besides the mechanical Geth speak perfect English. No Babble Fish-esque explanation or anything. HUGE oversight, in my opinion.**
However, I thought everyone else was superbly done. The dialog, overall, was arguably the best and most convincing I’ve heard in a long while. The dialog wheel mechanic also worked nicely and allowed for smoother conversations with NPCs than I’ve ever encountered in a game. The only time it backfired was when I sometimes talked myself in loops by accident. Having a little more variety to responses or visually marking which options/questions I already asked would have been a nice way of making sure I didn’t talk myself in loops. Since it’s sort of my fault, I can’t take off too much for it, though.
I thought the ambient music when exploring or walking around was decent, too. It managed to kick into high gear when enemies were around and really drew me into the battles. It performed just like a well-made movie score did and for that I applaud it.
Graphics & Sound Score: 7/10 – Art direction and style abounds in both departments, but graphic engine issues really pulled this down.
Overall Score: 8/10 – I think the game did what it had to pretty effectively. The story itself is worth devoting your time to it just to reap the rewards of one of the most enthralling stories I’ve encountered in a game in years. If some more time would have been taken tweaking the game’s engine and implementing more game mechanic explanations, the game would have been much better off in the long run. As it stands, it’s a somewhat hard to learn title, but one that offers a great experience to the player if they’re willing/able to get past the first few hours of learning everything on their own. I, for one, cannot wait for the inevitable sequel.