Also, just wanted to throw in there that I liked that there were some NPCs that you either couldn’t talk to, or engage in heavy dialog with. It helped streamline the whole running around a large area hoping to find someone to talk to aspect that is in most RPGs.
The leveling up:I really liked choosing where all of my points would go, it felt like a little mini game in and of itself. My only complaint is that it got a little annoying toward the end of the game when I would only get 1 point here and there to put where I wanted.
I would get excited when I gained a level, but the more experience points I had to use, the more fun I would have. Picking where my points would go gave me a lot of satisfaction and I would plan in advance where I would put my points when I gained my next level. Earning new things, such as the ability to equip new armor or opening a new ability branch, was a little joy that I would get often and it was great.
The diversity of the party members: As any great RPG should have, Mass Effect has an excellent cast of characters. I like all of my party members, and they all lend to diversify the gameplay in one way or another.
I remember exploring a planet without an expert in decryption only to find that I was missing out on a bunch of hacking opportunities. I also had a really hard time in one section because I took Tali, the weakest of the party members, into a real firefight where she wasn’t up to the task. These choices should be important, and thankfully they are here.
Also there are points where there are story conversations that are directly influenced by missions in the game and will further your understanding of your party members.
When fighting worked, it worked really well: Combat wasn’t always a chore and I had fun with it from time to time. Many times the fighting worked so well that I didn’t have to game the system to get through an area alive and could just enjoy the fights. I really enjoyed the biotic powers I had and felt that things such as Carnage (an ability for the shotgun that allowed shooting a big burst of energy) worked very well and were rather satisfying. Also occasionally my partners weren’t playing the fool and decide to step up and actually help me out in a fight, especially that Asari woman with the especially strong biotic powers. Fights could turn into slow motion, balletic affairs with the right combinations of powers and attacks and it was these times where I could really enjoy the aim of what Bioware was hoping to achieve.
A great idea that I wish more games would implement is the use of overheating weapons in lieu of limiting bullets. It was effective to keep combat moving forward without causing the player to have to engage in the whole “hump every corner and wall hoping to find bullets” behavior that many traditional shooters passively encourage through relying on ammo dropped by enemies or poorly placed refill points.
In the end the best parts of Mass Effect were primarily those involving the RPG elements and not when the game tried to do anything else. While they were good, some parts faltered even still in the RPG department. The fighting was more often a mess, though when it worked it was a delight.
I suppose you could say that the setting and wide scope/ambition of the game made the lesser components seem like they weren’t as bad as they were until you took the time to really evaluate the overall experience. I have probably left out more of what I didn’t like (in fact, I know I did) but I think the point is made. This felt very much like an unfinished game to me, and from all that I have heard about ME2, Bioware clearly saw that.