E3: BioWare shows off its new sci-fi role-playing game

by Erin Bell, special to CBCNews.ca

BioWare, the Edmonton studio responsible for creating the Star Wars-based role-playing game Knights of the Old Republic, as well as the fantasy-themed Jade Empire for the original Xbox console, were on hand at E3 to demonstrate their latest project, Mass Effect.

First impressions of the science fiction-themed role-playing game (an Xbox 360 exclusive) seem to indicate Knights of the Old Republic on steroids. The story follows Commander Shepard, who is who is a sort of galactic law enforcer trying to uncover a mystery that could destroy all life in the galaxy. Like Knights of the Old Republic, various characters can join Commander Shepard's party and fight together in real-time squad-based combat.

Mass Effect6sized.jpg
Screenshot from Mass Effect.

Another similarity is that these characters interact with each other within the party, and depending on their allegiances and dispositions, will either behave with hostility or affection. (In the demo, for example, there was tension between Garrus and Wrex, two different aliens whose species traditionally hate each other.)

Further similarities to KotOR include the ability to travel through the galaxy by spaceship, and to land on and explore several planets, some of which are part of the main storyline and others of which are simply there to be discovered and uncover new side-quests.

However, Mass Effect seems to expand on KotOR's concept of moral choices affecting the game experience. Throughout the course of the game, Shepard will be forced to make serious decisions that can permanently affect his relationships with other characters and alter the course of the plot.

Erin Bell is a Toronto-based freelance video game and technology journalist, and is reporting on her fourth E3.