The expanding universe
Many things could be said about this great game. Mass effect is the beginning of something big, a new videogame universe with many possibilities is now open, and it's just the beginning. The similarities with the Star Wars saga are clear, a Citadel with a council that rules the destiny of many worlds, different species with different culture and history really attractive to be known, political matters or special combat units trying to keep the order in the galaxy, but that's not all.
Mass Effect is something more than a videogame with some Star Wars references, it's much better than that. Mass effect is a new universe for the player, with a perfect argument that could be the script of any successfully science-fiction film. The story is deep and interesting from the beginning to its ending, and it's because you can change many things of that with your decisions. In this game was really necessary to talk a lot, explaining the main story as well as other aspects such as creatures, political matters and other things. The need to talk was the reason to make a perfect system in which you can say anything you want, with that the game is more than bearable and you don't have to watch how they talk during hours. You'll have to say what you want almost every time, and what you say will have an effect on your mission and progress. If this system would have never existed the game probably would be boring and tedious with hours of talking and the player would lost the interest on the main story.
Beside the deep story, Mass Effect is also good as a game. Gameplay is good, with a tactical group battle system which is not explosive and spectacular but it's ok. You'll need some time to know how it works and many more to know how the weapon system works, with many weapons, different kinds of ammo and other item upgrades. It's a little confusing at the beginning but when you know how to deal with it you'll have no problem.
Graphics are beautiful, every world of the main story has many details and cinematics are good too, which is something important because the whole game is like a movie. Graphics of the secondary planets are a little bit repetitive but they're ok. Facial expressions are good and that's a good point to remark because you can customize your character, with the possibility of being a female character. All the members of your crew are well done too.
No matter what character you make or if you use the default one, he/she will be charismatic. We're not talking about one of those games in which the main character don't say a word (it doesn't matter if he's about to die, he won't say anything!), here, Shepard will talk with everybody as a specter and will take care of anything that you want actively. Every character has their own way to be, with different points of view and they will give you their opinion during the game. Beside that they have different skills which makes the game more tactical.
The RPG elements are obvious, it's an action game mixed with some occidental RPG elements. You will gain levels destroying your enemies and you can win some skills with that, different weapons, lots of secondary objectives and different things to do in the order that you want to do.
Sound's good, specially the voices. Voice acting is a good point of the game, and as I said it's important for a game in which talking is something priority. FX is on a par and music is epic and emotive. it's background music at the beginning and maybe you won't even notice it, but when you progress in the game it changes to much more epic and moving.
Beside some technical bugs, we have many other things that could be much better. To start with, game duration is short, really short. If you don't want to play the side quests you'll finish the game sooner than you expected. The storyline is short and it's a game made to be played with patience and, overall, doing the secondary objects, because if you don't do that you won't enjoy the game as it should be. You can finish the game with all the secondary quests in 35 hours or so, probably 25 of them are just for secondary missions.
Linking with that, secondary objectives aren't spectacular, some of them are boring and just a message will tell you what's happening, something like "with that shot you've killed the enemy, go tell your friend what you've done". We understand that we can't have a cinematic for every secondary mission but... there are many other ways to make them more attractive.
Exploring the planets is cool, the Mako is easy to use but some of them looks like the shame. It's difficult to make an amount of planets, but some of them could be even more singular. You can climb almost every mountain, but there are some planets which have lots of them, and to drive the Mako on those planets is a little irritating. Also, there are many planets and you won't be sure about which of them you've visited, and that's not a help if you're one of those players that want to see everything of a game,
Battles are good, but maybe some explosions could make them much more spectacular. Anyway it's possible that the essence of the game would change because of that, so, that's just an opinion. What's not an opinion is the fact that weapon system isn't the best ever. You'll gain many objects during your battle, and you have to stop just to see what you've taken, and you'll spent A LOT of time in your inventory administering it. You don't have to do it just for you, you have to do it for the rest of your squad, and sometimes you will rule out some items which are better than yours without knowing it. For example, you can't compare the weapon you've just taken with the weapon of a squad member which is on the Normandy because you decided not to carry him with you. A game like this need to resolve that problem.
Difficulty is strange, it's probably one of the few games that has an inverse difficulty. When you start you'll be killed a lot of times, and that's not because you don't know how to play (it could help too anyway), that's because you don't have heavy weapons or special ammo. When you've played some hours and finished some secondary missions you'll gain extra items and it's going to be really easy to kill all your enemies. You'll gain extra skills too, and it looks like the enemies has the same level all the game (which is not true at all, but that's what it looks when you're playing) and that's why the game is difficult at the beginning and easier as you progress.
The Bottom Line
Mass effect is the beginning of a important saga, which needs some improvements in some aspects and much more length on its main playable storyline, but good enough to be one of the best games in some years mixing tactical action with RPG elements. If you love science-fiction movies don't doubt about playing it, the story is attractive enough to caught you from the beginning, short but really intensive.