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There is a reason that Bioware has been labeled the king of the single player RPG, and that reason is Mass Effect.  Knowing that Shepard’s story is ending, we were interested in finally getting our hands on Mass Effect 3 here at SDCC.  It the first appointment I had during this year’s Comic-Con, and it was the first game I played of the Bioware offerings this week.

First, an admission:  I am not a console gamer, especially not with FPS or RPGs.  My experience with both Mass Effectand its first sequel was entirely on PC, so when I picked up the controller to play ME3, I spent a great deal of time learning how to navigate Shepard with the Xbox controller.  Because of this my time with the game was truncated by my lack of console prowess. 

The mission we played through involved an injured female Krogan needing rescue from a scientific facility.  First of all, let’s just stop a moment and enjoy that phrase – female Krogan.  I’m not exactly sure how she fits in with the larger story (and at this point I don’t really want to know) but am completely thrilled to see more about the Krogan culture. 

Gameplay wise, the demo was pretty solid.  The group members you party with react intelligently to combat rather than standing around waiting for orders.  The mission was a tad basic, a standard run and gun affair punctuated by moments where Shepard had to touch a magic panel to continue the story.  I’m hoping this is an early mission build, because this sort of linear mission is a little boring without any twists and turns.  Granted, the ending boss fight they teased doesn’t look boring at all, but the journey to him was pretty ho hum.

Combat is fluid, and the enemy AI is moderately smart enough – although they did stick to basic cover patterns that made them easy pickings if flanked.  More interesting was the fact that they lose limbs if shot in the appropriate joints.  More than one baddie lost an arm in the face of Shepard’s leet pistol skills.

I noticed a good amount of story dialog was being exchanged as Shepard and his team moved through the mission area.  This innovation leads to a more dynamic feel when you’re playing the game, since the characters aren’t stopping to face each other and talk every time something important needs to be said.  I don’t do that in real life, and it feels awkward when it happens in games.

Visually ME3 is lovely to behold.  The vistas, or what we could see of them between gunfights are highly detailed, as are the character models.  I couldn’t tell much about the sound design in the game, but it didn’t distract me or anything, so I guess that’s good enough.

When it comes down to it, I enjoyed my time playing Mass Effect3, and I look forward to getting more time with Shepard as the game convention season continues.

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