Mass Effect Galaxy in Review – A Dimming Star

masseffect_galaxy1This is not the critically acclaimed action RPG known as Mass Effect that was released on the Xbox 360 and PC back in 2007. Mass Effect Galaxy is EA and BioWare’s rendition of Mass Effect for the iDevice with a completely different story, gameplay, and characters (two of which will be appearing in Mass Effect 2). While Mass Effect Galaxy does not fully live up to its “Mass Effect” title, it is still an entertaining game that unfortunately suffers from a few aspects.

masseffect_galaxy18Jacob Talor is the main character in this top-down shooter style game. Along the way you team up with Miranda to stop the Batarian threat from unleashing a biological weapon on the Citadel. You progress through the game by traveling to different planets, and encountering new enemies all while having the same goal in mind: to stop the Batarians.

As you encounter people, you interact with them through choosing dialog during conversations. Just like the original Mass Effect, you can either tick them off and instigate a fight or avoid the bloody confrontation altogether. Despite being able to avoid a battle here and there, conversations never altered the outcome of the game.

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Being the biotic soldier that Jacob is, has its perks. Jacob is able to stun an enemy, break his shield, or shoot a special bullet (exploding grenade). Since you don’t level up like in Mass Effect, you get upgrades to these special attacks once you pass certain points in the game. Each time you activate a special, it has to recharge before you can perform it again. Jacob also has a recharging shield that protects him before his health bar gets depleted from enemies. You can also collect powerups that can increase the speed of your bullets and heal your health/shield.

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The controls are quite different than what you’d expect from a top-down shooter on the iDevice. You control Jacob using the accelerometer and he automatically fires at your enemies (which can be individually targeted by tapping on them). Although the accelerometer re-calibrates every time you pause and unpause the game, it is in fact one of the downfalls of Mass Effect Galaxy. During levels where there are several enemies shooting at you, the framerate will drop to a snail’s pace. This along with the accelerometer controlled Jacob makes it look like he’s had one too many drinks and it becomes almost impossible to control him. Not only that, but once you clear a room of baddies, the game automatically goes to a loading screen before you can enter the next room or conversation. These abundant loading screens became annoying and the hints that came along with them were too repetitive for my taste.

masseffect_galaxy5On a more positive note, I enjoyed the short partially animated cutscenes (which were unfortunately too few and far between) with full voiceovers. Fans of Mass Effect will immediately recognize some of the music and locations. The graphics are well done and the different planets have their own unique look to them. The story, while enjoyable (along with the plot twist…), was a tad too short and I completed the game after two hours.

I’m all one for new approaches such as the top-down style. Mass Effect Galaxy executes this style quite nicely but has too many faults to make it a “shining star”. I’m not saying Mass Effect Galaxy is a bad game, because it isn’t. Unfortunately the game just has a few crucial problems such as the controls, lag, and loading screens which stab Mass Effect Galaxy in the foot and hinder it from attaining its full potential. My suggestions for Mass Effect Galaxy are to add an optional control scheme such as a directional pad and allow the user to control the shooting. With automatic fire, Jacob would just randomly shoot behind a wall or not shoot at all when he was supposed to. The game doesn’t seem fully optimized for the iDevice. There was major lag even when I rebooted my iPhone and during scenes which weren’t even graphically intense. An update that addressed these issues would easily make Mass Effect Galaxy earn a Grab It rating.

masseffect_galaxy6But, in the end, even with its reduced $2.99 price tag (originally $4.99), I still can’t fully recommend Mass Effect Galaxy. Fans and newcomers of this series will be disappointed by Mass Effect Galaxy’s amount of lag and loading screens as well as the difficult control scheme and lack of replayability. I have already beat Mass Effect Galaxy twice and took two different paths during dialogs (aggressive then kind), but now there’s not much to tamper around with besides that. Until these problems are fixed, Mass Effect Galaxy earns itself a Tap It rating.

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App Summary
Title:Mass Effect Galaxy (v1.1)Developer:Electronic Arts
Price:$2.99App Size:127 MB
  • Voiceovers
  • Animated cutscenes
  • Special attacks and powerups
  • Top- down shooter
  • Dialog conversations
  • Low replayability value
  • Lag
  • Abundant loading screens
  • Only control scheme is accelerometer

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