AMSTERDAM--If ever there were a developer whose work can be seen as essential for the Xbox 360's success, it's BioWare. The Canadian developer filled a mighty RPG-shaped gap in the original Xbox's software library with the original Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and last year's Asian-themed Jade Empire. Anyone wondering if the seasoned developer was on board the Xbox 360 train stopped wondering when Microsoft showed off a brief trailer announcing Mass Effect, an original RPG for the Xbox 360 from the veteran studio.
The game is being developed by an internal team at BioWare, made up of vets who worked on the original KOTOR. Set in the distant future, the game lets you play as the first human "specter," one of a group of defenders of galactic peace who have gotten unseasonably busy lately. It seems a rogue member of the group controls armies advancing on defenseless worlds. But, as you lead an elite team to stop him, you come to discover that your rogue comrade is the least of your worries.
Though Mass Effect is an original title from BioWare, it shares many of the same elements seen in the Canadian developer's previous work. The game will offer an action role-playing experience that leans heavily on choice-based gameplay in an adventure that spans a galaxy. Though the conflict initially seems clear-cut, you'll discover it's just a piece in a larger conflict between organic life and artificial intelligence. Your actions throughout the game will help humanity fight battles, elevating it to the pinnacle of galactic civilization through either noble or tyrannical means. The rich story, definitely epic-sounding in scale, is so big that Mass Effect is meant to be the first in a trilogy of games set to tell the dense tale.
As far as gameplay goes, it was hard to get an exact sense of what to expect from the game based on the footage from the trailer. Thankfully, questioning of those at X05 yielded some info. The game's core focus is a campaign that has you working to elevate humanity by one means or another. Along the way, you'll option to explore the game's rich worlds and discover new alien life, resources, ruined civilizations, and powerful technologies by visiting uncharted, unexplored planets. Your investigation can even take place via an all-terrain rover. Combat's pretty straightforward and makes use of a real-time, squad-based, tactical combat system. The visuals in the game are contemporary and are dramatic looking. From the look of it, Mass Effect will be a powerful title in the Xbox 360 software library for those hankering for a unique RPG. Look for more on the game shortly.