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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Published by: Microsoft
Developed by: BioWare
Genre: RPG
Rated: RP (Rated Pending)
Release Date: TBA 2006
Written By: Andrew S.

Ever since the release of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Bioware has become the premiere RPG provider for Microsoft. After the successful release of Jade Empire, the company’s first original intellectual property, Bioware is now returning to space with Mass Effect to make their first debut on Microsoft’s Xbox 360.

Like all good sci-fi stories, Mass Effect takes place in the distance future in the year 2183, where mankind has spread its boundaries far beyond Earth. Humanity now exists thousands of other alien life forms and what appears to be a prosperous age for man, will come to an end. A prophecy written in ancient text foretells coming of machines that extract life from the galaxy every 50,000 years. The time has come again. In Mass Effect you play as Commander Shepard who is tasked with exploring alien worlds, both friendly and hostile and solve the mystery of the prophecy.

Customization, like all Bioware games, plays a major role in Mass Effect. At the beginning of the game, you’ll be allowed to create Shepard’s image from gender, to hair style, to skin color. Be sure you pick a look that you like because you’ll be sticking with it for a long while. Shepard’s appearance also depends on what you equip him/her with. Outfits, guns, gear, equipment and accessories all appear on Shepard in real time. Throughout the game, you’ll be to customize Shepard’s stats, outfitting him with attributes that suite your play style. You’ll also ally yourself with a host of various characters, all of which you can customize in attributes as well.

Morality was big in KOTOR and Jade Empire, but this time the stakes are much higher. As a commander, you act as a representative for the human race. Your actions will affect how alien life forms perceive humanity and how humanity behaves around these other aliens. If you are a peaceful diplomat, then humans will be looked upon as a peaceful race but act aggressive, then humans will be viewed as war mongering and barbaric. Your morality will mostly depend on your actions during conversations with NPCs. Unlike past Bioware games, you do not pick a specific line for your character to say. Instead, you choose a specific emotional reaction (Examples: Threaten, bribe, persuade). After you make your selection, your character will proceed from there with their own line of dialogue that reflects the type of reaction you have chosen. One example shown in the E3 demo was when Shepard was talking to a local bartender on the whereabouts of a diplomat. The conversation started off nicely but the bartender refused to give the location of the diplomat, so “forceful” was chosen and Shepard out his gun and threatened the bartender to give him an answer. You’ll be able to interrupt NPCs in the middle of a conversation which always you to have a more natural flowing conversation or to simply skip what else that they have say.

Mass Effect will take your across a wide variety of different planets throughout the Milky Way. Planet selection is simple. You begin with an overall view of the Milky Way. You then can zoom into star systems, then solar systems, and eventually individual planets. Your home base it Citadel, a 30 mile long capital ship that contains its very own city. The ship you’ll be using to journey to other planets is known as the Normandy. During the E3 demo, a desert planet and jungle planet were also shown and this is just the beginning.

Players will not only get their own spaceship to command around the galaxy, but they also get an all-terrain buggy which the player has direct control over. The buggy will be used to explore vast lands on the surface of planets as well as combat. It can be outfitted with new weapons, armor, etc. to increase its performance. Unfortunately, Bioware has no intention of including space combat in this installment.

The biggest surprise of Mass Effect is its combat system which is entirely in real-time. While exploring, the camera will be set in the third person but when Shepard enters combat, the camera switches to an over the shoulder perspective also Resident Evil 4. You then have to manually aim your weapon yourself to the intended target and fire your shots. From there, the RPG aspects take over. How effective your shots are depend on your stats. Higher strength causes more damage and greater accuracy can effect how easily your character aims. Even what weapons and type of accessories you are using come into play. Aside from your weapons, Mass Effect also has its own form of magic which is simply known as energy. Energy can be used to damage your enemies, affect the enemies’ status or increase the power of you and your team.

Throughout most of the game, you’ll be accompanied by two other squad mates. They’ll react to combat on their own or you can switch characters to take direct control of them or initiate squad tactics. When you want to command your squad the gameplay pauses, allowing to time to sort out your plan. The only squad tactics shown by Bioware is the ability for you to tell your teammates where to move. Once you chosen a location, the game will start up again and your squad will perform their assigned tasks. There will likely be squad maneuvers once the game is finally released.

Mass Effect is one game in a trilogy, set to be released throughout the 360’s lifespan. In between games, Bioware will send out downloadable content through Xbox Live, allowing you to continue the story and prepare for the next installment. Earth will soon be on brink of extinction. Can you save humanity? Find out Winter 2006.

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