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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Spectre in the Machine

Now that I'm ten hours into Mass Effect, I can honestly say that this game has everything you could want from an RPG. The story is well-written and interesting, the voice acting is terrific, the graphics are some of the best out there, and the combat system is superb. Honestly, who knew that fighting in an RPG could be a strong point of the game?

Playing as an Adept, I can't charge my character into the thick of things during a fight. Instead, I tend to stay back and use my biotic powers to strike from a distance. My favourite power right now is Singularity: it allows me to create a gravity field that lifts opponents into the air, allowing me and my team-mates to pick them off as they float harmlessly above our heads. This attack doesn't seem to work against bigger enemies or bosses but its effectiveness is undeniable in the various skirmishes that occur during game-play.

The most important weapon that I have at my disposal as an Adept seems to be my personal supply of grenades. When you're stuck fighting a biotic Krogan bounty hunter, pistols and biotics just aren't enough to get the job done. I've found that a grenade or two are usually enough to help my squad get past any obstacles in our path.

So - let's talk achievements! Unlike some other games, Mass Effect's achievements come quite slowly. The game is quite difficult at times and the missions can be long. Luckily, the game is fun enough to allow me to concentrate on the story instead of focusing on the achievements I plan on picking up. That's not to say that I don't look forward to clearing achievments.

I've managed to pick up four of Mass Effect's achievements. I actually picked up the first one, Distinguished Service Medal, a couple weeks ago but I haven't had time to write about it. The other three achievements were all picked up this week.

Distinguished Service Medal [25 GamerPoint]: Many games include a tutorial level to help players familiarize themselves with the game-play and controls. Mass Effect does the same, although the tutorial level plays an integral role in setting up the rest of the game. The planet of Eden Prime is in trouble; fortunately, the Normandy, a System Allliance frigate, is close by and able to lend a hand. When you first land on Eden Prime, it becomes quickly apparent that something awful has happened and it's up to Shepard and his squad to figure things out. As for me, I was happy enough just playing the game: the 25 GamerPoint I received for finishing up on Eden Prime were just gravy on the cake!

Spectre Inductee [15 GamerPoint]: There's something to be said about being given the power and authority to act according to your own will and to be completely above-the-law in all regards. That's what it means to become a Spectre and if you're like me, you'll enjoy watching this cut-scene unfold more than the 15 GamerPoint you'll be awarded for becoming a member of the Citadel Council's right hand.

Medal of Exploration [50 GamerPoint]: This is the easiest 50 gamer points you'll ever get! Once you're on the Normandy, simply open the Galaxy Map, find a planet, and land on it! That's it! You get 50 GamerPoint for such an easy task and yet, you'll only get 10 gamer points for the next achievement...

Search and Rescue [10 GamerPoint]: After battling through wave after wave of Geth, my squad managed to work their way deep underground to a Prothean dig site. Here, we found Liara T'Soni, an asari researcher who has spent the past fifty years of her life studying Prothean technology and culture. I'm sure that finding and saving Liara is a little easier when playing as a soldier as compared to the constant life-and-death struggle I faced as an Adept. Sure, I got 10 gamer points for my troubles but this rescue was clearly worth at least 25 GamerPoint in my mind.

There are a number of achievements unlocked by killing a certain number of enemies using a particular weapon; others are unlocked by using certain powers or abilities a specific number of times. Once I've picked up all the biotic-related achievements, I may start up a new game on a harder difficulty level using a soldier character. If I want to pick up all the achievements in the game, I'll need to figure out the best way to go about doing so given my limited playing time. Unfortunately, this probably means trying out a number of different characters until I've figured out the right one for me and my gamer score!

Okay - time to get back to playing Mass Effect!

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