I finished Mass Effect last night. I mentioned a little while back when I finished Portal how rare it is for me to stick with a game long enough to ‘finish’ it, and now I’ve done it twice.
To be fair, though, while Mass Effect is quite a bit longer than Portal, it’s not really all that long; I finished it up in about 15 hours, although I pursued only a few of the side quests and wasn’t playing on anything like hard mode. Still, I don’t imagine that even the most thorough playthrough would take more than 25 hours or so.
This is interesting to compare to Dragon Age (also a Bioware offering,) and its alleged 80+ hours of content because (while I haven’t played through to the end of DA,) Mass Effect seems to me to be considerably more polished, for the most part. The Mako gameplay and inventory system are well-documented as being half-baked, and there were some odd discrepancies between spoken dialogue and actual objectives in the quest log, but other than that I have very little to say about Mass Effect that’s negative – not that there weren’t a couple areas where I thought the game could have been better.
For one, ME is exactly the kind of game I was referring to a few podcasts ago when I talked about games that seem sandboxy but actually aren’t at all. In ME this is particularly pronounced; there’s a bunch of little one-off conversations you can have that result in XP, and there is certainly some territory to explore both in space and on the Citadel, but it’d be hard for me to regard spending a significant amount of time on these as anything other than time-wasting. Especially given the huge momentum of Mass Effect’s plot; I played a lot of the game with the attitude of “I don’t have time for this nonsense, I have to stop Saren!”
That said, I would love an MMO, which by its nature would tend to be more sandboxy (or would suck, and I mean you, Warhammer Online,) with this gameplay and in this setting. Shepard’s story was really compelling, but the ability to make my own character and decide his destiny for myself is really appealing. It’s possible that SWTOR will resemble that game.
All that having been said, I really enjoyed Mass Effect, and am now really looking forward to playing the sequel – although money issues prevent me from picking it up right this minute.