The Mass Effect games are among my favorite video games of all time. However, because I predominantly played on PlayStation 3 during the last console generation, I only played Mass Effect 2 and 3. The original Mass Effect was exclusive to Xbox and PC for many years, and consequently I jumped into the series later than some other people. When I played Mass Effect 2, the game gave me a summary of Mass Effect 1’s major events and let me decide the bigger choices of the game, and some time later I went online and looked up Mass Effect 1’s story in detail. Consequently, I was fine not playing it, and even when Mass Effect 1 became available for PlayStation 3 as part of the Mass Effect Collection, I skipped over it. For a long time I felt no guilt whatsoever in not playing Mass Effect 1, but when Microsoft announced last year that a number of Xbox 360 games, including Mass Effect 1, were going to be playable on Xbox One via backwards compatibility, the thought crossed my mind that maybe I should finally give it a try.
Two weeks ago I put Mass Effect 1 into the Xbox One and began my journey. I elected for a male Commander Shepard with the default appearance and the soldier class. The beginning of Mass Effect introduced me to my ship and some of the crew, and then sent me into the first mission. Years ago, when I was reading reviews of Mass Effect 2, one thing that came up consistently was reviewers noting how much the gameplay of Mass Effect 2 was better than Mass Effect 1, and from the opening minutes of that first mission I could understand what they meant. To put it bluntly, Mass Effect 1 plays terribly. It’s the sort of game where half of the difficulty comes not from the enemies, but from having to fight the game itself to get it to do what you want. Taking cover is harder than it should be, the guns are inaccurate, your teammates are stupid beyond measure, and a number of times when I died I felt more cheated than bested. The problems with Mass Effect 1’s gameplay can be somewhat overlooked, though, because when you’re not on missions you get the Mass Effect experience we all know and love. It was cool to see Shepard meeting characters like Tali, Garrus, Wrex, Ashley, Joker, and others who would play such a big part of the rest of the Mass Effect story in the successor games. The storytelling of Mass Effect 1 is top-notch, something that would continue through the other games, and if there was a way to play the game while skipping all the combat, I would be completely down for that. Unfortunately that’s not possible, so I’m not sure if I’m going to keep playing Mass Effect 1, or just return it and start working on another game. Since I already know the rest of the story of Mass Effect 1, there are no surprises or plot twists that I won’t see coming. The story of Mass Effect 1 is outstanding, but having to go through the game’s missions to progress it may be a price I’m not willing to pay. Still, even if I don’t finish it, I am glad I played Mass Effect 1 in at least a limited capacity, as now I am more able to discuss the Mass Effect series as a whole.