posted by Thom Holwerda on Tue 26th Jan 2010 17:51 UTC
IconI just went out in the blistering cold (windchill factor -12) for a very specific purpose: a certain online retailer had broken the embargo on a certain product, and in the faint hope that real-world stores would follow, I figured I'd be able to get my hands on said product that way, too. What are we talking about here? Oh, only what will most likely be the game of the year.

Mass Effect 2 was supposed to be released in North America today, followed by the European release coming Friday, January 29. Luckily, though, for die-hard Dutch Mass Effect fans such as myself, online game retailer GameMania decided to violate the embargo, and ship the game today. Other online retailers followed (I contacted them), but since I didn't want to wait until tomorrow (order today, ship today, receive tomorrow), I decided to weather the cold (in the comfort of a luxury car, but it's the principle of the thing) and shop around in Alkmaar, the "big" city near my little hick hometown.

The big retailers here are indeed sticking with the embargo, so I had no luck there. Fortunately, Alkmaar has a tiny, old-fashioned game store for more die-hard gamers, and they had no trouble breaking the embargo. "Thank GameMania, son," the shopkeeper told me, smiling, "They broke the embargo and get the fine - you get the game now."

I smiled back at him. "There goes my social life," I told him jokingly, "I don't think I'll be leaving the house for the coming weeks." We're talking two discs of BioWare space opera goodness here, people, this is stuff I've been looking forward to ever since I first played Mass Effect ages ago.

"Weeks?" he wondered, "Make that months." I walked out, giddy as a schoolgirl.

Okay, that's slightly dramatised, but the quotes are true to the word. Yes, I've indeed been looking forward to this one for a long time. BioWare is my favourite game company, with franchises like Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, the brand-new and insanely awesome Dragon Age, and, of course, Mass Effect.

You might be wondering what this story is doing on OSNews - and you're probably right in wondering that. The reason I'm posting it is that many people complain that there's very little - if any - true space-faring science fiction on TV any more these days. Sure, we had the fun Star Trek film last year, but that's about it. You could include Battlestar Galactica, but I think BSG deserves more than that simple moniker.

Instead, you have to move to the realm of games to get your fix, and the Mass Effect universe is pretty much as good as it gets. Mass Effect is the story that fans of Star Trek and Babylon 5 are waiting for, except it doesn't come as a TV series but as a game. I know quite a few people who are totally into this type of scifi, but who are missing out on Mass Effect because it's a game.

And that's a very sad thing. Mass Effect has a lot to offer, not just necessarily as a game, but more as a story, drama, action. The characters have depth and interesting histories which you explore through rich and intricate dialogues. The relationships between the people, the decisions you have to make, the mature (not adult!) themes discussed during the game, the overarching story with more twists and turns than an Alpine highway; it's top-notch scifi that deserves to be enjoyed by more people than just gamers.

The voice actor list for Mass Effect 2 is equally impressive: Adam Baldwin, Seth Green, Martin Sheen, Tricia Hilfer (number Six), Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity from The Matrix), and many more.

If you don't mind, I'm off playing Mass Effect 2. I have two save games from part 1 which I can load up into part 2, so I've got enough work ahead of me. OSNews will shut down for the coming weeks or months.

Bye.

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