A space odyssey of epic proportions
The core of any Bioware RPG is made by three factors: the story, the characters and the game world. Strangely enough, even though the story is standard action movie fare, the characters aren't anything you haven't seen before and the world is outright clichéd, everything still works perfectly. There is a LOT of dialogue, all of it entertaining, with brilliant voice acting. The fact that Shepard, the protagonist, has a voice of his/her own, is also great, since most BioWare PC's are mute.
Speaking of the dialogue, the dialogue wheel is a great idea. Even though the choices aren't always to your liking, I still prefer the wheel over the system in older BioWare games.
The story is entertaining, with enough twists and turns to keep you interested. The characters, including Shepard, are all interesting. Though Tali, Liara and Wrex sometimes feel like they were just designed to tell tidbits about their species, they still feel stunningly real. I especially like Wrex's cynical comments.
The actual gameplay is good enough, at least the shooting. Unlike most people, I really enjoyed the Mako-parts. Not so much in sidequests, but in story missions like Virmire, the Mako is a nice change: running over geth is much more satisfying than shooting them on foot.
The sidequests all have interesting stories behind them, but gameplay-wise, they're infuriatingly similar. It basically boils down to this: drive the Mako to a place, go inside place, shoot a lot of enemies inside a space station identical to the ones you already visited a million times, some dialogue, the end. The level architecture in particular is dull, with the cut- and paste-levels. Even the story missions, like Therum, suffer from unimaginative design. Not all the worlds are bad, though: the Citadel and especially Virmire are great.
And the inventory... without a doubt, the worst part in the game. Who at Bioware thought it was a good idea that you pick up new stuff and new guns every five seconds? Still, at least it *has* an inventory, but it's just so bad you never really get used to it.
The shooting segments, while passable, don't really shine, especially when fighting human enemies. Hearing "ENEMIES EVERYWHERE!" a gazillion times may seem funny in retrospect, but during the gameplay it made me feel like crying.
Funnily enough, even though the game has plenty of design flaws, they never really make the game bad or even mediocre. The good parts are just that good.
The Bottom Line
An Action-RPG with emphasis on the action. Unless sci-fi makes you hurl, the story is absolutely fantastic and worth experiencing. Like in all BioWare games, there will be lengthy conversations, so if you're the kind of guy or gal who skips cutscenes and ignores the dialogue, this game is not for you. To anyone who appreciates good RPG's and storylines, get it. The first one is easily the best.