Mass Effect is a single-player role-playing game developed by BioWare Corporation. It was initially exclusive to the Xbox 360 but was later released for Microsoft Windows both at retail and through the digital platforms Steam and Origin. The PlayStation 3 enjoyed a release through the Mass Effect Trilogy, which is also available on Origin. Mass Effect was one of the first Xbox 360 titles that Microsoft confirmed would be backwards compatible with the Xbox One. Both Downloadable Content packs are available to those who have already purchased access to them via the Xbox Games Store, although they are not available through Origin, nor is Pinnacle Station available for the PlayStation 3. However, the player can use the DLC on Origin if the player already has access to the installer executables, or if the player purchases the Mass Effect Trilogy. Redeeming a retail Mass Effect CD-Key will also grant access to the DLC.
Del Rey Books released a novel that acts as a prequel to the events in Mass Effect titled Mass Effect Revelation. The book is 323 pages long and is written by New York Times best-selling author Drew Karpyshyn.
Mass Effect is an action role-playing game with third-person shooter elements embedded into the gameplay, similar to Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon. A player has the ability to pause real-time combat and issue commands to their comrades and resume gameplay. The player also has the ability to upgrade both the main character and their squadmates in many ways to allow special skills to be used during combat (i.e. more damage, better protection, etc.).
During the adventure, the player assumes the role of Commander Shepard. The game features an avatar editor that allows the payer to choose Shepard's physical appearance, including gender, as well as background history to influence their avatar's military background. The customization system was heralded at the time as very detailed and photo-realistic. During the course of the adventure, Commander Shepard is given command of a ship called the SSV Normandy and it's crew. The Normandy is the primary space vehicle and carries the crew to their destinations. The galactic map in Mass Effect allows access to over 30 planets with different environments that range from arctic to desert. Some of these planets are not part of the main story arc and add additional side missions to the game.
Mass Effect houses an extensive campaign that runs from between 18 to 30 hours long. The story surrounds an ancient prophecy that a technology-based race will return to the galaxy to eliminate all organic life, as it did fifty thousand years before the events of the game.
Aside from the extensive story involved in the campaign, the game houses a complex dialogue system (that is an evolution of the conversation system employed in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic) that allows for detailed character interactions. When a conversation is initiated, the player normally has three choices during the conversation. These choices can negatively or positively affect the way the corresponding NPC feels, and responds to Shepard. For example, during a conversation, the player can instruct Shepard to interrupt the NPC and demand an item from them. This same scenario could play out in other ways, potentially with Shepard allowing the NPC to complete their thought and responding kindly. Mass Effect also features realistic physical reactions from both NPCs and Commander Shepard.
The novelization by Drew Karpyshyn introduces the potential player to the universe of Mass Effect. The story takes place around David Anderson, a Staff Lieutenant for the System Alliance Military. The story begins with an attack on a research station in Sidon in a section of the galaxy known as the Skyillian Verge. Once the SSV Hastings receives notice it is dispatched to investigate and sends Anderson into the base with a few other marines. To their horror, they find that the base has been ransacked and all the scientists and guards have been killed. At the end of their investigation, they realize that mercenaries rigged the base with a bomb. Anderson and company barely escape the blast.
After returning to the citadel questions start to arise. It is found that a member of the research team left the station before the attack. Kahlee Sanders is considered a fugitive and the ambassador for the system alliance sends Anderson to find her and bring her back for questioning. His investigation finally turns up a lead with Rear Admiral Grissom, an old earth hero. Grissom is found out to be Kahlee's long-lost father.
When Anderson arrives at the Grissom residence Kahlee has already been to her father. He admits she came to him the night prior and asked for help, and he sent her on her way.
The game received rave reviews, Official Xbox Magazine gave it a 10 out of 10 and said that it was "a great science fiction [story] in video game form". The game review show, X-Play, gave it a 5 out of 5.
- OFLC for New Zealand rating for Mass Effect. Office of Film and Literature Classification for New Zealand.
- BBFC rating for Mass Effect. British Board of Film Classification.
- ESRB rating for Mass Effect (EA). Entertainment Software Rating Board.
- ESRB rating for Mass Effect (Microsoft). Entertainment Software Rating Board.