"The real success in a game is creating multiple moments of real emotional impact," asserts Ray Muzyka. "We don't want players to ever stop playing the game once they've started." Muzyka, co-CEO of BioWare, is certainly working for the right company. Having made Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, KOTOR and Jade Empire, BioWare has proved itself to be the RPG creator par excellence of the last ten years.
Mass Effect, freshly revealed for Xbox 360 at Microsoft's X05 event in Amsterdam, looks forward to 200 years from now, when the human race has entered the Galactic Community and found the universe to be a very crowded place.
Your mission, as an elite human Specter, is to track down a rogue general wreaking havoc in the galaxy. Cut and dry, huh? Well, no. Soon enough, whaddya know, the fate of the universe hangs in the balance, between the forces of civilisation and the forces of liberty and you're not quite sure which way to tip it. So... Apocalypse Now in space then?
On the way to el generale, you'll be charged with commanding your own starship, navigating a massive civilisation contained in a humongous space metropolis called the Oculon, discovering unknown and uncharted areas of the galaxy, and directing an eager crew of cohorts that can reach up to ten strong throughout the game. Do well, and you'll find yourself rising up the ranks and hobnobbing with the elite of the universe. Do badly... and you'll be dead.
Yet there's more. The gritty combat, dark secrets and astounding visuals aren't a fly-by-night affair. Casey Hudson, producer, tells us: "The story was too big and the story arc too massive, so we decided to tell it across three games instead of cramming it all into one. It's an exciting idea to play as a character you can take all the way through an entire [three-game] story arc."
So three enormous chain-linked games from the makers of the best RPGs around? Massively affecting!