August 27, 2007 - With just a few months left until Mass Effect's launch, BioWare is scrambling to make sure the game is the best it can be. With audiences gathering around the Microsoft booth, curious for what's in store for the fate of the galaxy, BioWare brought the latest build of the RPG to this year's Penny Arcade Expo. The demo that we were given was the same as seen at previous events, but since it was literally a build completed a few days prior to the show, it was a lot smoother than before.
The demo picks up as Commander Shepard is in the bridge of his ship, the Normandy, which allows players to travel throughout the galaxy using a slick 3D map of the Milky Way in the boat's navigation room. As you wander around the ship, you'll find various service men and women going about their business and conversing with each other. On top of that, as you're their commander, they'll salute you as you walk by. There look to be all sorts of small touches like these strewn throughout the game, helping with the organic world that BioWare is trying to create, and it's things like this that really help the game be as appealing as it is.
After a quick introduction, the Normandy receives a distress signal from Eden Prime, as it's under attack from an unknown alien force. The message shows a chaotic battle breaking out on the planet's surface, as the human forces are being decimated by the attack, with the signal eventually being broken entirely. BioWare tells us that this is especially important as Eden Prime is the first success story of mankind, as it's the first colony that mankind managed to create and nurture into a system worthy of the attention of the galactic government known as the Citadel Council.
Your crew arrives on Eden Prime, and you soon find that whoever attacked the colony turned it into a slaughterhouse, as you'll run into the corpses of the fallen as you explore the area. It turns out an alien race called the Geth have attacked, but for what purpose is unknown. While you further scout the area, you'll run into a pair of survivors and this is where we got a chance to see the conversation wheel in action. The conversation wheel allows for players to steer the tone of what's being said, while customizing what sort of characteristics Shepard will have. You'll be able input your response even before another person is done speaking and your response won't necessarily be the exact words that you choose. Rather, this wheel decides the tone of your response rather than the actual dialogue.
When dealing with a panicked doctor, you can choose a more diplomatic response, as you'll try to talk him down from his manic state, or you could take a more aggressive route. If you choose a response along the lines of "this guy's going to get us killed," you'll simply knock him out, and when another NPC questions your actions, you can either try to calmly explain why you punched him, or you can take a gruff route and choose the "he had it coming" response, which had Shepard say "it would have happened eventually ma'am." This dialogue wheel will also act as the morality scale throughout the game, as your character can either take on the characteristics of a harsh, no-nonsense jerk, or a silver-tongued champion. It certainly sounds like an interesting dynamic and we're really curious as to how it will play out over the span of the game.
As the team continues to scout the area, we were treated to a taste of combat, which is a quick, fun mesh of strategy and action. Taking bits from games like Knights of the Old Republic, Rainbow Six, Resident Evil 4 and even some GRAW, the action of the game looks like it will be a rather dynamic experience. Players can command their crew to take cover and target specific enemies, or even specify which attacks they'll use, and they'll follow your orders to the letter. When you're participating in the fray, you'll be able to zoom in on a mark, which will bring you into an over the shoulder view, as you bead in and take your shots. You'll be able to use a cover system, similar to what was found in recent shooters like Gears of War or Rainbow Six Vegas, and it's looking like it will work rather well, as you'll press up against a rock or a building with the push of a button. Armed with both guns as well as your biotic powers, you'll be able to really stick it to your foes in some really amusing ways.
Of the six classes available at the start of the game, the class used for the demo was the Vanguard, as it offered a nice balance of both gunplay and biotic abilities, showing everyone in attendance just how formidable Shepard can be. You'll also be able to customize your weapons, creating new items specific to your evolving needs as you progress through the game. As you pick up new parts when exploring, you'll have the option to swap out any part on a weapon, from the barrel of a shotgun, right down to the specific ammunition that the situation calls for. You'll also earn ability points as you advance through the levels, similar to what's found in past BioWare titles, allowing you to specialize in one thing or become a balanced soldier. Equipped with a shotgun, pistol and the lift and barrier abilities, the commander laid waste to the enemies in the zone with relative ease. As small drones draw near, you'll can just take aim and demolish them with your shotgun. If want a balance of your weapons and your biotic powers, you can use your lift ability on an enemy which will pick them up, rendering them helpless, and as they struggle to get free, you can take your shot and dispose of them. It's all your decision in how you play it.
The demo that BioWare gave displayed just a small fraction of the scope of Mass Effect, with a lot of surprises in store for us when we get started on the final game. With its massive story, quick gameplay and stunning amount of customization, we're really excited to get our hands on the final game. Keep an eye out for a full review when Mass Effect launches this November.
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29.08.2007, 01:22 #1