Saturday, June 07, 2008

Byte: Massively Sinful

This month finally brings some succour to PC gamers, for whom 2008 has been a pretty barren year so far. The UK finally gets a retail release of Sins of a Solar Empire in a couple of weeks, so I've been taking a look at it for videogamer.com, who put up the Q&A preview I did for them. It's a very interesting and ambitious game - expect to see my review go up in the next week or so.

However, the really big title out on PC this month is Mass Effect, which it's pretty fair to say is rather bloody awesome - well worth the wait. I got to have a fairly brief flirt with the 360 version before Christmas at the videogamer.com launch party and was very impressed. Having put in about half a dozen hours in on the PC version so far, as conversions go, it's looking an absolute corker.

Obviously the game is graphically impressive, but that's not what really strikes me as being the hook that draws you into the game. Typically for a Bioware game, the production values are fantastic, with a great voice cast, all the characters are interesting and strongly defined, but it's the completeness of the game world that's the most seductive. A lot of people have summed up/dismissed Mass Effect as "Knights of the Old Republic without lightsabers", but I think that's a little unfair. Sure, the games do share a lot of similarities in the structure of the RPG mechanics, but the combat system is very different from KotOR and the game world feels very different. Humans are the young galactic upstart race, rather than the masters of the universe - though being AMERICANS IN SPACE, they have an insufferably high opinion of themselves, making relations with the rest of galactic races somewhat strained, to say the least. Already I can see a lot of replay value in the game, since you can play to the stereotype of being a xenophobic, pro-human dick or not, and Bioware usually do a better job than most developers in giving the player a sense of feedback as to the effects of the morality and consequences of their actions.

I'm not sure whether it'll get as many replays as KotOR, but it should certainly keep me from overdosing on the old Warcrack for a few weeks.
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