A stunning story and believable universe marred by some bizarre moments of pointlessness.

I'll set this straight from the start, Mass Effect is an excellent game, one of my favorites of all time in fact. At the same time I am very critical of it.
This is because the game is a work of contrasts where obsessive effort and dedication sit side by side with moments of apparent laziness and uninspired tedium.

It's the story that shines in Mass Effect, and it's the story that only really matters in the end, allowing you to ignore the games deficits. I can't think of an even vaguely weak moment through the main plot. It soon unravels into an intensely politically
charged sci fi plot line with fantastically detailed characters and worlds, moments of humour and emotion and lashings upon lashings of hot steaming action.
The amount of time that seems to have gone into making it a believable universe is absurd. You could potentially spend eons
reading detailed information about the various races, having conversations with the many wonderful characters and even looking at the geological facts of many a planet.

To anyone having not yet played Mass effect who is a 'complete-ist' and will endeavour to scrape every last morsel from the game, I would suggest undertaking any assignments (side quests) as soon as you can, before carrying on with the main plot.
The reason being is that a lot of them, for various reasons, are the weakest points in the game and can brutally drag you out of the experience. During the story itself you will be fully immersed and often thrilled, excited and entertained.
However with many assignments you will be just playing it to 'get it over and done with' and reap the reward of experience or items that you may receive.

It seems that this only applies to assignments that take you to any of the planets away from the main plot locations. They sound exciting in the info screen, but when you arrive you will see that they are all the same just with different colour schemes.
even to the point that each planet has standard things to 'find. After each landing you will usually find an anomaly, some debris and some minerals, all of which you will acquire something from by exactly the same process (A dull 'minigame'). You don't even have to find most of them as they are pre marked on your map so all you need to do is navigate the fantastically pointless 'Mako' around the unnecessarily mountainous landscape.

If you do get to explore a structure of any kind you will soon realise they are also all just shameless copies of each other, albeit with a slightly different arrangement of boxes inside.

What makes the process even more irritating is the items you will receive, throughout the various locations you visit you will procure an abundance of weapons, armour and mods. However there is minimal to set these apart from each other.
The weapons look the same regardless of what you have equipped and to be honest the menu system is so long winded that you will just end up selecting whatever seems best rather than worrying too much about the details of the specs, just to get it over and done with.
On my second play through I rarely bothered with the weapon mods and it really didn't make much of a difference to my combat ability, it just saved me time from not having to sort through them.

The sheer volume of weapons etc you can find also renders any shops completely pointless. I seriously only ever bought the final unique weapons that become available to you towards the end of the game, there was never a need to purchase anything else.

But, regardless of these issues, the quality of the storyline and sheer thrill of interaction, particularly with some characters, is just unrivaled. Granted the characters you can employ in your team seem unbalanced and some are slightly uncharismatic and forgettable, you will probably end up just utilising the same team despite having 6 to chose from.
But still you will feel a connection with them as a whole, you will feel as if they are actually on the journey with you, you will feel genuine conflict with some of the decisions you have to make and once you finally reach the stunning, climactic end, you will be eager to return to your role as Commander Shepard in Mass effect 2.