Monday, June 16, 2008

Byte: Stellar

My Sins of a Solar Empire is finally up, in order to coincide with its retail release in the UK this week. I bought via download, direct from Stardock months ago, and other than WoW, it's been the only thing that's been able to tide me over until Mass Effect finally arrived. If you've not bought it yet, because you're some kind of freak who actually likes manuals and disks cluttering up the place, I do recommend you give it a try, albeit with the same caveat I give at the end of the review: it's big, fairly clever and rather complicated, so takes some getting to grips with. It's a fine game, though and one you can easily lose yourself in for a few dozen hours at a time.

Mass Effect continues to push all the right buttons. I'm about a third of the way through my second play-through (with an Adept character). The Biotic powers are really rather cool. The Singularity power is particularly rewarding when you create what's essentially a mini-Black Hole in the middle of a group of enemies and they get thrown up into the air, sucked into the singularity and then ripped apart. The Throw power is also rather good, since you can target enemies hiding behind cover and then use the object they're hiding behind as a weapon to crush them (assuming that it's something like a crate, rather than an immoveable wall), and the Barrier ability gives you a massive shield boost, letting you tough it out nicely in a firefight, too. Though while the combat is nice, whichever character class you pick, it's the little incidental details that I'm really noticing.

For example, the animation of the characters when they're running is really well done. In KotOR, for example, when you were running around your character stayed bolt upright when you turned. In Mass Effect, you can see the character shifting their weight and leaning into the turn as they change direction, and the faster you turn, the further they lean over to maintain their balance. It's a little thing, having avatars that obey the laws of motion (rather than sliding about rigidly like a robot), but it really makes me smile. I also enjoy using the thrusters on the Mako to do some limited vehicular acrobatics on the planets. Give me physics and I will play with it...
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