Mass Effect - BioWare Interview, Part Two

GamesRadar: At a panel on the evolution of RPGs earlier this week, you described four "pillars" that you believe make up the foundation of any great role playing experience. How does Mass Effect innovate on those four pillars? Starting with story.

RM: In terms of story, I think we've created something which has emotion to it... and which really flows. The story doesn't stand out as a separate element - it flows seamlessly between all the other aspects of the game. How we're conveying the story is mainly through digital actors and we've got some of the most advanced ever created in terms of nuanced facial expressions and dialogue choices. Players are going to really feel that they're credible, realistic and natural. They just pull you in. You believe in them. You feel something for them. You hate them. You love them. You may feel betrayed by them.

Story and character is a big pillar for us - it's one of our most important focuses at BioWare. Our mission statement is to deliver the best story driven games in the world.

GamesRadar: What about the second pillar, character customization?

RM: It's not just about customizing your character; it's about evolving and progressing them as well. You can put a ton of different equipment on your party members and feel satisfaction as you gain new loot. It's very addictive... you have to get that last X-Mod, you have to get more ammo for your weapon or another suit of armor. You can also salvage as you go around the uncharted worlds and convert economic systems.

GamesRadar: And the third? Combat?

RM: We're definitely advancing that. There are three layers of depth and accessibility. You can play it in real-time if you want, which I think is a first for a game that's as deep as Mass Effect. The combat is action-oriented and intuitive. You can just lean against an object and suddenly you're in cover mode. Your party members are autonomous; they have smart AI and are going to go ahead and do the right thing. The squad commands are a second layer. You can generally tell them where to go and what to attack. In the third layer, you can hit the pause button and assign specific actions to specific members of the party.

So you play the game how you want to play it. It's quite innovative in that all types of players who love different styles of RPG combat - or just action games - will be able to get something out of Mass Effect.

GamesRadar: Finally, how will Mass Effect advance the fourth and final pillar - exploration?

RM: This is maybe a first for BioWare... unless you go back to the Baldur's Gate days. You have a vast universe to explore with hundreds of different locations and dozens of planets to visit. You have your own personal starship and can travel around at will, not just on a main path. Go to other places, have fun, explore. But it's all tied together seamlessly with amazing production values, audio and visuals. You really feel like you're in your own interactive, cinematic experience.

Charlie Barratt
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