Version Reviewed: 1.0
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The fate of the human race is at stake; alien terrorists are plotting to wipe humanity from the face of the galaxy with a deadly biological agent. You assume the role of Jacob Taylor; a biotic-powered super soldier who must intervene in order to preserve mankind’s right to exist.
As the game begins Jacob is vacationing on the luxury cruiser the Arcturian Jade. Suddenly, an attack is launched on the cruiser and our hero learns of the devious plot. Will Jacob reluctantly join the fight, or hear the call of duty and move to save humankind? Through dialogue choices and the ensuing conversation, we learn some detail of our hero’s backstory and of the impending terrorist attack. To simplify the process of making dialogue choices and at the same time help to avoid fat fingered dialogue faux pas, all dialogue is controlled through a radial menu on the right hand portion of the screen. When making dialogue choices the player will roll which snippet of dialogue they choose into the bottom position and click to confirm it. Each choice has an icon next to it giving the player an idea of the tone of the selection, helping to avoid misinterpretations of what is written on screen - the player usually has the choice of making a “smart alec” response, a good-natured response, an evil response, or an aggressive response. As was the case in the console predecessor to Mass Effect Galaxy, dialogue plays an important role in the game. Together with the dialogue, the cutscenes help to bridge the gap between Mass Effect 1 and the upcoming Mass Effect 2. As you play through, Galaxy will essentially alternate between dialogue, cutscenes, and combat. Each cutscene is done in such a way that it feels as if you are watching the pages of a graphic novel come to life. The main characters in Mass Effect Galaxy are said to hold leading roles in Mass Effect 2 alongside of Commander Shepherd. As a story telling device, the dialogue and cutscenes make Mass Effect Galaxy a win.
Combat in Mass Effect Galaxy is done from a top-down third person shooter vantage point. Using tilt controls, the player will move our hero around on screen while the character remains “auto-locked” on target and will auto-fire as long as he has a free line of sight, leaving the player free to worry about taking cover and using special attacks. The cover mechanic isn’t complex; ample cover is provided by crates and room dividers the player can hide behind. When the opportunity strikes, the player can run out from cover and unleash one of his special attacks, freezing the enemy in place, destroying their shields, or blowing them up with rockets. A number of droppable items are available which can heal Jacob, regenerate his shields, and boost his firepower.
As an iPhone exclusive game, BioWare made the decision to make Mass Effect Galaxy as iPhone-friendly as possible. In order to make the game more appealing to the iPhone user base, they decided to eliminate some of the more “hardcore” RPG elements and focus making the controls as unobtrusive to the screen space as possible. In making the aforementioned changes, some of the “Mass Effect” feeling is lost. Character customization is non-existent in Galaxy; the player is unable to modify anything such as character class, skills, or traits. Taking into account that the game has about 2 hours of playtime, it is difficult to say whether if any customization would truly have time to show its impact or not, though some feeling of customization would make the game appeal even more to Mass Effect’s player base while still appealing to new players. In order for Galaxy to be a viable iPhone game, some dilution had to occur when it came to dialogue as well. Rather than long, highly detailed dialogue trees, conversations had to be stinted in order to fit within the context of the game - this results in a feeling that the dialogue may not truly have a tremendous impact on the game outside of maybe inciting or avoiding a fight here and there. You could almost call Galaxy a departure from the RPG genre in favor of becoming exclusively an action game - ultimately this was a purposeful departure, but one which feels as if it could have been done to less of an extent and still accomplished the same iPhone-friendly effect.
For continuing players of the franchise, Mass Effect Galaxy is a great way to get your fill of story from the Mass Effect universe. Galaxy will help bridge the gap between M.E. 1 and M.E. 2 and give a back story to some of the leading characters of the upcoming game. BioWare has said that like the books, Mass Effect Galaxy wont be absolutely necessary to follow along with Mass Effect 2. For new players to the franchise, Mass Effect Galaxy will be a great preview of the world of Mass Effect, albeit somewhat different than the original game in genre and style it will hopefully attract new players into the franchise. For existing and new users alike, Galaxy, even with its few blemishes, is a great addition to the game library and will provide a few hours of entertainment for the price.
As a short parting note, comments about the game’s performance on different generations of the device would be appreciated. At times, as a 1st Generation iPhone user, I experienced some setbacks with drops in frames per second as well as load times. Sometimes levels would load and action would start while I did not have access to some of my special attacks due to the game still loading. That said, the game at all points was playable, after all, I was able to complete it from start to finish. From talking to a few other people, iPhone 3G users were able to play the game with no reported performance issues, that said, 3GS performance should follow as excellent.