Mass Effect Galaxy, from Bioware and Electronic Arts, was one of the bigger games we saw at E3 a few weeks ago. Billed as a sort of teaser for the upcoming Mass Effect 2, this game introduces you to some of the new console game’s major characters as they fight through a side story.
If that exposition was all we cared about, we’d be pretty satisfied with Mass Effect Galaxy. But we paid our $4.99 expecting to play a video game of some kind, too–and that’s where this app falls flat on its face. You’ll need one of those faster-than-light accelerators to bridge the gulf between its quality and the high expectations attached to its name.
Biotics in his left hand, Tech in his right.
Jacob Taylor, formerly one of the Human Systems Alliance’s crack super-soldiers, has been yanked out of retirement to save humanity once again. The vaguely Wookie-ish Batarians don’t play nice with the rest of the galaxy; now they’re plotting to sabotage a peace conference on the giant Citadel space station with a biological weapon. Punks!
The plot runs deeper than that, of course. There are some nice twists and turns in there, and the dialog is the same top-shelf stuff that we’ve come to expect from Mass Effect. Understandably, there’s not the same abundance of things to say–but you do get to experiment a little with “good cop vs. bad cop” choices, even if they usually come to the same outcome and don’t affect your character’s rep.
The problem is that the cool animated cutscenes and interesting conversations are bridged by an incredibly janky top-down shooter. You’re literally rolling Jacob around like a marble using tilt controls, mowing down room after room of generic mooks with auto-targeted fire. There are only three special powers (down from dozens in the console game), and they’re really not that useful anyways.
In addition to being boring, all this has next to nothing to do with Mass Effect, which was built on equipment upgrades, character-building, and sophisticated, strategic combat.
But even if those features had made it into the game in some fashion, Mass Effect Galaxy still wouldn’t be any good, because it runs terribly. Combat slows to a crawl whenever there are too many sprites on the screen at once, or if you use a special ability. The game plays like it’s half-broken, and resetting the phone doesn’t make a difference.
Mass Effect Galaxy is a thin layer of franchise floating on top of a big bucket of yuck. As it stands right now, the best things about this game are its attractive cartoon cutscenes, the kick-ass techno soundtrack, and the passable story. Nothing else is remotely worth buying.