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Mass Effect, a bit of a stealth release when it first came out, It was shadowed by games like Oblivion and while it doesnt have as much free roam as games like Oblivion, the story-telling is to Biowares typical world class standards and the plot is compelling. The action is edge of your seat for the most part although some of the side missions can be a little tedious. Exploring in the Mako is exciting at first but once you have explored one planet you tend to find they are all very similar in the sense that they all seem to be hugely rocky and a nightmare to traverse in your little buggy! That to be said there is a lot of variation in Mass Effect in terms of planetary surfaces, from running around on lush garden worlds to frozen wastelands, all the way to volcanic planets that erupt around you, one of my particular favorites is landing on the moon and looking at the Earth, the rendering is flawless.
The combat system takes a little bit of getting used to, on some of the easier difficulties you can just run and gun but towards the harder more challenging difficulties you need to make the best use of the cover around you otherwise you tend to get one shotted by snipers and rockets. The transition into cover can be annoying because sometimes it does it when you dont want it to and others it wont do it when you want it to, for the most part though it works.
One of my favorite features in Mass Effect is the literature that seems to go with everything, Bioware did an exceptional job of creating an entire galaxy of planets, giving them all their own little backstory and their own place in the galaxy and their own solar systems. They also did a fantastic job of explaining the technology in the universe of mass effect, to the point where it is concieveable. You can also spend a lot of time learning the backstories of your crew members and even romancing one of them.
All of this said if you are a fan of RPG's and a fan of Sci-Fi I would seriously reccomend this game, not only for the game itsself but for the ability to transfer your characters into the saves of ME2 and ME3, The story is outstanding and you will be on the edge of your seat for hours on end, your cat wont get fed, your girlfriend will be worried about you and you will probably pull a few sick days from work, but in the end it will be worth it.