While filling up on the hor'dourves, we entered a screening room where Project Director Casey Hudson gave us a crash course on the game. He started off with a male character at the beginning of the game. It was impressive how the dialogue and animation was subtly modified to work with whether you're male or female, as well as your chosen background history - before you even begin to make any choices.
1. Your Actions Have ConsequencesLucy, you got some 'splainin' to do.
We were then shown scenes where you can make several decisions on the fly and see how they pan out. The more indepth uses of the interactive conversations - where things are far more complicated than "yes" or "no" - show how emotionally charged (or humourous, however you look at it) the reactions from NPCs can be. One can choose whether to listen, interrupt, or simply pull out the big guns. In a later scene, we watched as the player decided to kill off a squad member, Jack Bauer style. Acting too soon or too late also changes the course of events.
2. You Have To Work For The PayoffDandy fetch quests don't earn trust.
On the surface, Mass Effect is a "choose your own adventure" movie that will appeal to anyone willing and patient enough to overcome the gameplay's complexity. Unlike the old children's books, in this game there are actual repercussions and you might miss something if you don't pay enough attention. All of your choices weave the tapestry that is not only your character's story but the relationships she or he has with other characters. "You have to work and build those up over time, like in real life," Hudson explained. There's even the possibility of romance but despite what rumors suggest, whatever is in the game has been "done tastefully".
3. Real-Time Conversations » Dialogue OptionsNo falling asleep at the cutscene wheel.
Mass Effect is fairly immersive during cinematic conversations and low on the cheese factor. Rarely are you thrown out of the game or laughing at (not with) the game. Still, I only say that it's 'fairly' immersive because learning how to play the game takes time. But it doesn't take time to learn how to create a character (though it does take time to get them appearing just right in-game). The creation system boasts an endless amount of options when it comes to your appearance, making the amount of possible faces in the millions.
4. Character Customization Doesn't SuckI can has freckles?
The level of character customization is a definite first for gaming. The character's face looks as detailed as any other character you encounter in the game - no more, no less. The eyes, mouths and expressions are also fully animated, whether you are human or not.
5. Mass Effect Is A Real RPGYou don't have to be a whiny lovestruck teenager.
My only gripe with creation is that since you're a character in the military, women can't have long hair. There are some make-up options, however. Community Manager Chris Priestly mentioned that a bug allowed male characters to put on make-up while women were able to put on facial hair. I said that they should have left it in since some people might like that. It's not a bug... it's a feature!
After the demo, Hudson was kind enough to grant us a lengthy Question & Answer session. I asked whether the game will be released on another system or PC but right now he couldn't give a definite answer. On the Baldur's Gate side of things, Mass Effect will be a trilogy and you will have the option to continue your character in the next two games. Sweet.
Images courtesy BioWare
Event photos by Coralie