Developed by Canadian company BioWare and released in 2007, Mass Effect is the first part in a trilogy of futuristic RPGs featuring an elite human solder called Commander Shepard.
You play as Commander Shepard himself (or herself) and must complete a variety of quests to stop an advanced alien race called The Reapers from threatening galactic human civilisation.
You can customise Shepard‘s gender, appearance, military background, combat training and first name before the game begins, and there are six different character classes to choose from, all of which have a variety of talents and abilities and will also determine what kind of weapons you can use during the game.
Mass Effect is played from a third-person viewpoint and features real-time, squad-based combat and cinematic cut scenes to tell the story. The game has all the usual elements of an RPG, such as experience, levelling, non-player characters, weapons, armour, items, shops, maps, and multi-choice dialogue that affects the way the story unfolds. There are vehicles to use and Shepard also has a spaceship that serves as his base of operations.
The ‘overworld’ is a galaxy map that you use to explore and receive quests, some of which are combat missions and others are item-gathering or character-development quests. As you progress into the story six squad members also become available, each of which have their own talents that can be developed.
Dialogue plays an important role in Mass Effect and how you converse with others affects how non-player characters react to you. Choices are shown via a radial menu and you’re usually given a variety of polite versus hostile responses. Your dialogue choices affect the main character’s morality through Paragon (charm) and Renegade (intimidate) points, and these allow you to develop talents that affect the availability of other special dialogue options.
Overall, Mass Effect is an engrossing, involving and spectacular game that is well worth playing. It was a commercial and critical hit and sold over one and a half million physical copies in its first three months on sale. Two downloadable content packs were released in 2008 and 2009 which added more missions to the base game.
The first sequel, Mass Effect 2, was released in 2010, and the second sequel, Mass Effect 3, was released in 2012. Mass Effect was also remastered as part of the Mass Effect Legendary Edition in 2021. These screenshots are from the original release of the game.