GDC 07: Mass Effect Impressions

BioWare shows off some the early content from its upcoming sci-fi action RPG ahead of GDC.

Earlier today, during a meeting with BioWare, we were treated to a lengthy presentation of Mass Effect that focused on the game's early content. Before being shown any gameplay, we were told that one of BioWare's goals for the game was to make it a truly memorable experience by ensuring its characters and storyline are so full of emotion that you can't help but get involved with them. Other key goals for Mass Effect included epic exploration, great combat, and plenty of customization, which all appear to have been met based on what we saw of the game today.

Interactive conversations with other characters will be commonplace.

In Mass Effect, you'll assume the role of Commander Shepherd, a human whose history, gender, appearance, and skills are all customizable and will have an impact on your experience. The only reason you can't change his or her name, we assume, is because Mass Effect features a lot of voice acting. After creating your own Commander Shepherd, your adventure will get underway onboard the Normandy, which is a spaceship that serves as your mobile base of operations throughout the game. Conversations that you're not a part of will help to set the scene because they contain nuggets of information not only about the current state of the universe, but also about how you're perceived by other characters.

Everything that we saw today was taken from the first hour or so of gameplay, so we can talk about some of the story details without spoiling anything too significant. After impressing your superiors greatly with exploits that occurred before the game gets underway, it seems that you've attracted the attention of the shadow council, which is an elite organization whose members are known as specters. No human has ever been accepted into or even considered for their ranks, but early on in your adventure, you'll be joined by a specter that has been sent to assess you. It's believed that your being admitted into the alien shadow council would serve to symbolize just how successful the current alliance has been, but we'll wager that not everybody likes the idea.

As you walk around the Normandy, you'll notice that the ship's crew appears to be going about its business, which helps to create the illusion that you're about to embark on an adventure in a living, breathing universe. You'll see crewmen working at their stations, leaning against walls while talking to each other, and walking around with a purpose. Characters you outrank will salute you as you pass, and you'll have the option to strike up conversations with anyone of interest. These conversations are a noteworthy feature because there will be a huge number of them, and they're far more interactive than those that we can think of in any other game.

Shortly before it's your turn to talk, you'll be presented with up to six options with which to continue the conversation, and rather than entire phrases or lines of speech, your choices will comprise just keywords or emotions as appropriate. For example, if someone asks you for help, your options might simply include such responses as "mean" and "kind." Your choices will, of course, have an impact on how other character's react to you, but one of Mass Effect's most intriguing features is the ability to interrupt other characters while they're talking, which will also have consequences. Because conversation options of the same kind always appear in the same position on the small wheel that's used to make your choices, you should have no problems reacting to characters quickly, although you can certainly take some time to consider your next move carefully if you prefer.

Through talking to other characters onboard the Normandy (a number of the conversations are mandatory), you'll learn that your destination is Eden Prime, which is humanity's showpiece colony in an area that's dangerously close to space controlled by aliens. Your mission there appears to be routine, but when an emergency transmission from the planet's surface clearly shows that the colony is under attack, things get a lot more interesting. You'll be tasked with leading a small strike team down to the surface to secure a beacon of some kind. There are survivors to be rescued as well, but it's made very clear in the mission briefing that they're not a priority.

Much like its conversations, Mass Effect's combat can be played at your own pace--at least to some extent. Those of you with a penchant for squad-based shooters can run around and issue simple orders to your colleagues. But if you prefer the pseudo turn-based-style of combat that features in previous BioWare games, you'll purportedly be able to do something very similar. The combat that we got to see during today's demonstration was surprisingly tactical, with objects that provided cover and proved to be all-important. Which of the six classes your playing as, as well as which other characters you have in your party, will determine which skills and abilities you have available to you in a combat situation. Much of our demo was spent watching a soldier, whose skills revolve around weapons and armor for the most part. Other equipment that you've acquired will also come into play, such as the semitransparent shield barriers we saw dropped in front of characters and then used for cover at one point.

Looks like trouble is headed your way.

The enemies encountered on Eden Prime during our demo included small hovering drones, roughly human-sized aliens that appeared to be almost entirely mechanical, and colonists who, through some unspeakable act, had been turned into what BioWare affectionately refers to as "space zombies." Another enemy that could end up being one of Mass Effect's main villains presented itself toward the end of our demo, but we'll keep its name to ourselves for fear of spoilers. At the end of demo, we were afforded a brief glimpse of a large city named Presidium, which it seems will serve as a hub of sorts after you've played through the mandatory first hour or so; then you'll have the option to explore planets all over the universe.

Although a May release date for Mass Effect has been rumored, no official announcement has been made at this time. We look forward to bringing you more information as soon as it becomes available.

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Discussion

292 comments
Scotland01
Scotland01

can't wait for this it's a must buy, hope it has got online could be bigger than halo, shame for the ps3 owners, NOT haha.

blaze11987
blaze11987

only one thing to say....it's a good time to be an xbox 360 owner :)

LFXFox
LFXFox

I can't believe how freakin awsome this game looks. Man the 360 has got some of the greatest games coming out this year.

wjkflke
wjkflke

This game looks too good to be true.

andiputra
andiputra

This is the only game that make me wanna hav 360, man! after Gears of War make a move to PC. Hope this game would also be available for PC too. I don't mind waiting for a year to get this

kazraycrawley
kazraycrawley

that would be kinda raw if they had the oblivion exploration system intergraded into this game so the game could get some major replay value, like you would see wild animals and stuff like that in the wild

LowlyKnight
LowlyKnight

There's so many good games coming out all at once!!! Of course I have to buy Mass Effect, I've been salivating over screenshots for a long freakin' time... and BioShock.... and Blue Dragon.... Unreal Tournament III.... how is it that I've heard about these games for over a year.... and they're all coming out within a few days of each other... sad for my wallet... happy for me!!!!

mingfu
mingfu

I want this game!!!!!!!

Arbiter_92
Arbiter_92

I wonder how much you can explore each planet... A great game and definately a game I will buy as soon as it's released.

Yokuz1166
Yokuz1166

I heard the Universe in Mass Effect will be twice as large as Oblivion's Tamriel. This is one game I can't miss on. And, just FYI, there is a book out called Mass Effect: Revelation, that gives some of the background story to Mass Effect. It's written by the lead writer FOR Mass Effect so I'm thinking there are gonna be many similiarities between the book and the game. Check it out.

baconbits3425
baconbits3425

i hope bioware can live up to everything it says. . . it looks amazing and if it has a great storyline and is any thing like KOTOR i will be playing this game nonstop

SaintRasmus
SaintRasmus

A "Most " have game. Release in August. Can´t wait

doysh121
doysh121

this game sound grate too bad my 360 broke the other day. 25th december-23rd may R.I.P

GibboViper
GibboViper

This is the game of the year, cant wait !

oumir
oumir

this is one xbox game i am excited about and thats hard for me to say, but it shows that i am becoming less of a fanboy. we need to stop being fanboys, if we don't we could be helping the down fall of video game........maybe.

neoteny
neoteny

im gonna play the hell out of this game. IT JUST BETTER HAVE A GOOD STORY. if it doesnt...then i'll play it anyway. if it sucks....then i'll just play it with some booze. but it cant suck, its made by one of the best developers. they worked hard on this one....

Player_69
Player_69

I think we can assume it will at least live up to KOTOR standards. (and most definitely utterly surpass them)

nick3333
nick3333

If this game lives up to the masterpiece that was Knights of the Old Republic then that'll be reason enough for me to run to the shops and buy it immediately. As it stands I don't think Mass Effect is poised to disappoint anyone, but I'm holding off my genuine excitement for when it actually comes out. (Previous experiences have shown me that any game, no matter how promising or how hyped, can be a huge letdown. Cautious optimism is the way to go.)

lil_d_mack_314
lil_d_mack_314

this game is going to own, i haven decided between this and ESIV-oblivion+shivering isles but i think i might get this one, seeing as i have wanted to venture into space for along time now "freely" and this tittle looks amazing. hell i might just have to get both, looks like my summer is going to be hella fun 8)

dastang21
dastang21

This game looks so nasty! I'm psyched!

dwizzyak
dwizzyak

Way to go luigi, Deus Ex is one of my favorites of all time also! This game does remind me of it but it also reminds me of Knights of the Old Republic. Mix those two games and you got a recipe for success.

luigi13579
luigi13579

This game reminds me a lot of Deus Ex for the PC, which is one of my favourite games of all time. I loved that game because there were so many different paths to the same goal and it was so open-ended (you could kill your own boss or a member of your team if you wanted). It also allowed you to completely customise your character too. You could level up swimming if you wanted to swim to secret areas and avoid enemies, you could level up your security skill if you wanted to bypass many of the security systems throughout the game and so many other options. You could also customise weapons too. Those were some of the things I loved about Deus Ex, and this game looks as though it contains a good few of them and more. Can't wait for this!!

Strife2381
Strife2381

yeah yeah i hear "this is the only reason i'm getting an xbox" almost every day out of somebody's mouth and its always for different games. lets all just admit the xbox rox, along with this game. xbox live will always own ps3's online gaming community, hands down.

Chrissyc86
Chrissyc86

can't wait for this game! XTheExploited: don't forget Bioshock either! will we have any time left?!?!

xTheExploited
xTheExploited

Well everyone you can now see what I'll be doing over summer break. 90% Mass Effect 9% Friends 1% Sleep

mithon81
mithon81

Muh.. Gimme port to the PC! If not I might very well have to stoop to console-gaming. In any event... like most stuff comming from BioWare, it looks and sounds like a great deal of fun. Now.. where did that xbox360 retailer go?

adompe
adompe

just take my money now, bioware. JUST TAKE IT!!!

icecoldkilla78
icecoldkilla78

when is this game coming out?????????? i need something to play that doesnt require xbox live!

velocity99
velocity99

It looks flashy enough but i hope it's not KOTOR-like because i'm getting tired of the KOTOR formula.

duke1nukem
duke1nukem

omfg this game just keeps getting better ! and it should this is the only reason i got an xbox360

Darth_Bourkas
Darth_Bourkas

I personally never really had a problem with glitches and bioware. Baldurs gate 1 and 2, Jade empire and neverwinter didn't have anything significant. Kotor only had a few. Maybe im jus lucky.

Kartel101
Kartel101

This game will be my first RPG since Final Fantasy X. I'm not that much into RPG's but I must admit I look fwd to playing this one(it kinda reminds me of psi ops). For a while there it looked like all the good games were coming out near the end of the year but its good to see at least one coming out soon:-)

EldarLord123
EldarLord123

If only it would come for the PC............................... Oh well, enough dreaming. I WANT THIS LIKE FORD NEEDS MORE CUSTOMERS!!!!!!!!!

SagevMansaw
SagevMansaw

Well, when I look at these previews and such, I have a hard time containing my innards from spilling all over my keyboard. That probably sounds pretty grotesque and offencive to bioware, but in reality, my innards are a good sign. This game excites me in ways drunken sex could never do. Looking forward to it and further titles, deffinately.

GibboViper
GibboViper

can't wait, its going to be awesome !

FinalChosen
FinalChosen

I agree with Gforce, it's why I couldn't be bothered with KOTOR 2. Well, that and I couldn't import my abilities from the first...

BloodLoss
BloodLoss

BioWare allways makes great games with exelent storylines, characters and gameplay, but they never seem to get the coding right. They're littered with bugs and glitches that will take you to hell and back. I really hope they get that right this time, because Mass Effect looks bloody brilliant so far.

gforce2588
gforce2588

Looking forward to it....BioWare has done some great work so far and from the sound of it, Mass Effect will not be an exception. I just hope the combat is more interesting...I appreciate the tactical aspect of KOTOR and everything but I always wished the fighting was more fun.

Nakkie34
Nakkie34

It's coming out in america pretty soon I think. But I don't know how long I am gonna have to wait because I'm from Holland. But I know for sure it's gonna be worth the wait. I absolutely loved Jade empire, and I personally think it's one of the best RPG's ever created. i've gotta admit it hasn't got the best skill system or the best fighting system but It dragged me in for 3 days and then spit me out completely satisfied. And I hope that's the same with mass effect. I love the massivenes(?) of it. And I really hope just like Jade did, that it will suck me in for like 16 days and than spits me out. Its gonna be great, but they better start making jade 2 shortly after Mass effect.

AFVerlin
AFVerlin

This game definately has my vote for the best single player game of the year. (if it comes out this year lol).

Killjoyrules
Killjoyrules

Quote cbell_83: "it better deliver, otherwise i can always hope for that fallout 3 to actually hit the system, viva la black isle" Black Isle no longer exists, and the Fallout license was bought by Bethesda. That said, there has never been a Bioware RPG that did not deliver.

DuaneDog
DuaneDog

This is a game I certainly plan to get. It's hard to imagine that it won't be one of the better games coming out this year.

mesony
mesony

WHEN DOES IT COME OUT!!!!!!!!

ShadyNinjaMan1
ShadyNinjaMan1

I'm gonna have to wait for a review to try it out, although it already looks insane!!!