** SPOILER ALERT: THERE ARE NO SPOILERS HERE! ... NO, REALLY.**
Alright, I'll start with the basics first and get into the meatier elements later. Safe to say, it's good. Real good. Not that I was expecting anything less from a series I've grown to love more and more since my first taste back on the Xbox 360 all those years ago (true story, I was given ME1 free at a Microsoft event in Sydney. Before that, I didn't really know much about it. Silly me.)
The original plan was to play through all three games on PC, start to finish. Since I haven't had the chance to do that (yet), I'll be playing this on PS3, where my existing game save from ME2 awaited the upload. Yeah I know, I've heard about the bugs that seem to only exist on this edition of the game, but so far I haven't experienced anything of the sort (and if I have, I haven't noticed it), so I'm not worried about it.
Story wise, it's fairly full on. There's a few twists, though most of those were kinda obvious if you've been following the DLC updates to ME2. There's a nice flow to the events so far, cut scenes seemlessly slip into the action and the dialogue has some nice emotional moments, with both new and returning characters filling out the roster. Like I said, no spoilers, but there's some really cool spots already in the early stages, and some surprisingly humorous moments too. Surprising since, well, there's a war going on!
I've stuck with the default Shep since the start. My reason for this, simply put, is because I feel he's the character Bioware designed the game around to begin with. That's no disrespect to FemShep or any alternative design, I'll muck around with those at a later time, but I believe in playing the game the way it was intended. In keeping with that, I kept the RPG elements to the fore, since there are some new options at play to alter the style of the game entirely, skipping certain chatty moments to get straight into the action. Yeah, I doubt I'll ever change to that, I'm having more fun chatting to everyone I see than just shooting them.
Speaking of RPG, the character building has taken a good step forward this time around. The same skill sets exist but have been fleshed out to the max, more like a traditional RPG or MMO in that respect. I'm liking that option, it seems to add a little more strategy to upgrading than before (do you go offensive, increasing your attack, or defensive to up your health and armour ratings?) As I always seem to do, I'm trying to balance it as best as I can, and so far so good.
Weapons and armour can also be upgraded, with new items discoverable on the battlefield or, if you wish, they can be purchased from the multitude of outlets available on the Normandy itself. I've already tricked out a few weapons, adding scopes and larger ammo clips.
If nothing else, because I've uploaded an existing character, I feel as if he hasn't lost much of his touch from the old game. I maintained my existing level cap and skill points (not all of them, it seems, but most of them), and with new upgrades to each skill now available, it seems to make Shep even MORE powerful than before, instead of going back to default with nothing to start with and trying to build up again. Thankfully, ally characters also upgrade to the same level.
I know some people hate it, but I love the tactics of Mass Effect, pausing the game to quickly change weapons and commands. Bioware have said they've streamlined the combat, but honestly, it feels about the same to me. Maybe a little faster, but that sense of satisfaction in ordering a character to strip an enemy of its shield barrier, asking another to throw a grenade, then follow Shep in with a barrage of fire hasn't been lost. I love it!
I'm sure anyone who started from scratch would find no difficulty in upgrading and enjoying the action at the same time. Then again, if you ARE starting a new game, where the hell have you been in the first place! Besides the fact that there's no 'previously on' or animated re-telling of events, so you'd be completely lost.
I'll end this first update with a few brief snippets on ME3's presentation. The game looks great, really great, though I've always thought the human character models fail big time in detail compared to the many alien species on show.
On one particular level, I found myself watching what was going on in the background half the time, such was the added detail as the war carried on no matter what you found yourself doing. Having said that, I have noticed a few glitches here and there, but nothing game breaking (not even close).
So far so good then. There's so many moments I can already see on the horizon, so much story to dig into. That's what makes any Bioware game so damn compelling, they really do know how to tell a good story.