PAX 2007: Live Demo of Mass Effect Really Was Disappointing



Apparently there’s been some controversy surrounding the live demo of Mass Effect at PAX that got started when Destructoid posted an unfavorable review of it. Now I saw the exact same demonstration they referred to and I have to say, I agree. It really was a pretty disappointing show. Maybe the game just has so much hype surrounding it, or maybe it’s because these are the same folks that brought us Knights of the Old Republic; but many people are expecting some real innovation to come from this game. Unfortunately, what they showed at PAX doesn’t really cut it.

For one, the demo focused a lot on the conversations and making decisions, rather than the action. Because of this, really all we saw in that respect was some enemies being shot and one bionic power (“lift”) being used. Now imagine you’re there, watching someone play the actual game for 20 minutes, and all they really do is…talk. Just talking, with maybe five minutes of action thrown in. That may be fun to do yourself, but to watch someone else? Seriously, I was falling asleep in the stands, and I’m looking forward to this game. Even the action they showed though looked all too familiar: moving a targeting reticule around and shooting at enemies in real time. It didn’t feel like an RPG, but more like a third-person shooter with RPG elements (which we didn’t get to see in action either). We were shown a menu with different upgradeable abilities, but it was never really explained how these would be used in the game.

I will say though that the facial and character animations are some of the best I’ve seen in a game…ever. Even in the character menu, you can see the protagonist’s face twitch and move in a very natural way; as if he were really just standing there waiting for you to continue playing. Also, the conversations really are about as interactive as you can get. To demonstrate, we were shown two ways of handling a guy who has gone crazy. You can either talk to him and try to calm him down, or you can just punch his lights out. I don’t think I need to tell you which one looked most satisfying.

I’m not dismissing the game entirely based on this one demo though. This could just be one of those games that isn’t very entertaining to watch, but loads of fun to play. Still, when I buy Mass Effect, it’ll be more out of what I’ve heard about this game already and my trusting BioWare to deliver yet another solid title than out of this demonstration. It certainly didn’t match up to the awe-inspiring live demo of Assassin’s Creed.

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20 Comments on PAX 2007: Live Demo of Mass Effect Really Was Disappointing

Mr. Sadistic

On August 26, 2007 at 2:10 am

I’m still not giving up on this game, even though people keep complaining about the demo shown. It’s just the PAX expo, I’m sure Bioware is saving the best stuff to show when the game is near release. One final thing…I thought the developers actually stated it was a 3rd person action/RPG? Or am I missing something?


On August 26, 2007 at 2:34 am

I loved KOTOR. But, Jade empire was kinda meh. If you recall, Jade Empire had lots of hype. I got it based on the reviews. I thought I was getting another KOTOR. It just didn’t live up to my expectation.

I guess because it’s Bioware fans want it to succeed. They’ve done me more good than bad.


On August 26, 2007 at 5:27 am

Dear Editor

Apparently, you didn’t watched the live coverage all the way through. I saw something different than you. I saw, for the first people, being turned into Husks, which was nice. And no, the live coverage didn’t focus on talking, they showed different features in the game. For the first time, it was confirmed that you can play as male or female, if you so choose.

Yes, you can shoot enemies in realtime, but you can also pause the game, if you like. LIke in ALL Bioware games (except Jade Empire) since Baldur’s Gate…

Did you totally miss Kim’s walktrough of the character customization? It was the most in-depth disclosure of character customization I’ve seen so far.

As for innovation, the cinematic feel of this game is rather innovative as is the topical dialogue system where you choose a sentiment – and then Shepard says something. The ‘I’ll shut him up’ option didn’t have to be the knockout choice, but Bioware apparently thought it would be cool to have this ‘no-nonsense’ Shepard knock the stuttering and murmering guy up this way.

The reason, it didn’t feel like an RPG is this: Bioware are marketing this game to the FPS gamers, and the action shooter gamers. I think that this is a very stupid move on their part, but maybe they figured that their (loyal) fans will buy this game anyway. And so they need to expand the market. So, yes you can play this game like a third person shooter if you want to do so, you can, however, also play this game like an RPG, action or not, go exploring all over the place, choose dialogues and customize your main character.

If you’re a Vanguard, and use the lift ability, you will need to bring the abilities wheel up on the screen and then choose an action. This gives grounds for pause and tactical choices as well as planning a strategy out in advance when fighting gets – just like you did in Baldur’s Gate 1, when fighting the big baddie at the end of BG1. The only difference is that in BG1 you did so with swords, spells and crossbows, in ME you fight the geths with rifles, biotics and the mako. Just beacuse a game has moderns weapons like plasma rifles or laser rifles doesn’t make it a FPS game, the fallout games should be prove enough of that.


On August 26, 2007 at 7:08 am

If you think about it, if you saw someone play KOTOR, you’d feel the same way.


On August 26, 2007 at 10:11 am

I think it’s funny how one little fanboy standing at the back of the room can make such guesstamates. Of all the game footage and videos we’ve seen so far contradict what has been said on the Destructoid site and it’s even funnier that a site like file front whom I used to respect, finds printing some lil nerds blog as a front page news item news worthy.

Seeing ppl who all of a sudden..think Mass now sucks because of one persons opinion makes me laugh and quite frankly…I don’t care if those ppl don’t play it. They can go back to playing WOW and Oblivion…you don’t deserve to play Mass.


On August 26, 2007 at 10:41 am

a RPG that stays away from too much mindless action and focuses on dialogue and interacting with NPCs…

and that’s a bad thing?!?


On August 26, 2007 at 11:46 am

It’s an RPG for god’s sake! If you liked KotOR, you’ll love this game. I saw all those videos at PAX and it was amazing. Like someone else said, watching the great KotOR wouldn’t be very fun either, but playing it would be. I have no doubt in my mind this game will get some of the highest review scores this year and win most of the GotY awards.

Your preview contridicts nearly every complaint the Destructoid preview made, example: character animations, destructoid said they were bad, you said they were they best in any game ever, not much consistancy in complaints, is there? Everyone knows Destuctoid’s preview was BS. Now yours just shows you simply don’t like RPGs to say you wanted more action. Story is what RPGs are about! Just watch the reviews when it comes out, I garantee you’ll feel like an idiot.


On August 26, 2007 at 1:12 pm

I saw the same demo being shown at PAX. After reading your article, I’m convinced, good sir, of one thing: You are out of your mind.

The game still looks incredible.

There’s not much more I can say on top of that. Perhaps just that you don’t deserve this outlet to write-up about games, and cutting this career of yours short would be a benefit to game news in general.

Or perhaps you should start writing for a site whose word counts for even less. You know, I hear Kotaku is hiring…

Wait, what website am I on again? [x]


On August 26, 2007 at 1:34 pm

Wow, it’s great to see everybody embracing one another’s opinion’s…

Besides, he isn’t saying the game sucks, he’s simply saying he was’t impressed with a demo.


On August 26, 2007 at 1:59 pm

I honestly have no idea what videos you are referring to. I didn’t watch a video; I was standing right there on the PAX floor when they were giving the same demo they’ve been giving every other hour. I could’ve reached out and smacked the guy talking if I wanted to. I wasn’t even going to write anything about it at first, because there didn’t seem like there was much to report. It was just a lot of the same old stuff, with nothing really exciting at all. In other words, it was “disappointing,” particularly for such an A-list title at a convention with over 30,000 people in attendance, not too mention a whole lot of media people. But then I started seeing how the internet seemed to be going nuts over this Destructoid article, and I thought I’d voice my thoughts. I didn’t agree with them on all points, but the general air of disappointment was there. In the middle of all the extravagant displays and hordes of impressive demos, the Mass Effect demo stood out as being just not that great. The only time the audience even really got excited about it was when they started tossing out free t-shirts at the end. Again, I’m not writing off the game entirely (or even all that much really) based on one demo that I was unimpressed with. But as far as ways to get people excited about an upcoming game, that just wasn’t it.


On August 26, 2007 at 2:38 pm


You failed to recognize two vital points when looking at a title like Mass Effect.

1) The game is an RPG and as such will be littered with talking and conversation. Why would this bore you? Why were you disappointed? Do you like RPGs? How was KOTOR more exciting? Just popping up with an article about how the demo disappointed and qualifying that disappointment with “…the demo focused a lot on the conversations and making decisions, rather than the action” makes you sound very ignorant with regards to both Mass Effect and RPGs in general (Assassin’s Creed and Gears of War this game is not).

2) The scope of the game is phenomenal. Were you disappointed because the scope of the game (and all the ‘stuff’ that you can do) was not nicely condensed Reader’s Digest-like into the 20 minute demo. Would you (or anyone) actually want that? Pure action titles always show better than RPGs because the pay-off is more immediate (the fight with the Brumak comes to mind with the Gears for PC demo). RPGs are the sum of their parts and those parts are deep in a game like Mass Effect.

I’m disappointed every time I read and article or see a video of Mass Effect. Why? Because I’m a big Bioware fan and this is shaping up to be their best title yet, and I can’t play it yet.

I think that crazy Denis Dyack was right after all: showing your game early exposes you to unjustified criticism and a luxury that we might someday lose.

shawn sines

On August 26, 2007 at 6:37 pm

I’ve seen other demos of Mass Effect. Personally I think it looks really good. I’m excited by the things I think it changes and embraces about the RPG and action game genre. That said, I don’t think Johnathan and I share the same opinion of the game at this point but I respect that he stated that opinion and stated it concisely and distinctly. Destructoid really failed to do that.

Its great to defend Bioware. I did it in the latest podcast on hype, and frankly reactions like this are a lot of what Ron and I discussed with regard to hype.

I don’t think the criticism is unjustified if people actually read and consider the comments being made. It’s just that so often people with the freedom to comment anonymously on the internet feel they are personally slighted when someone deigns not to agree with them. Its sad really. Agree or not with Johnathan, I still respect his reporting on what HE saw and HE felt… I read it looking for new information and though I personally don’t agree with his perspective it did make me think about how some folks might look at Mass Effect differently than I do and left me considering why. Isn’t that what good experiential reporting should do? Make you consider your own position on a subject and help to inform it in some way?


On August 27, 2007 at 3:02 am

What a pointless comment. You obviously don’t appreciate RPG’s. So why are you even on this site? At least everyone else can supply some constructive criticism. Why even bother commenting?

Personally I think this game looks great & can’t wait to play it!


On August 27, 2007 at 1:44 pm

@XBOXGamer: You are entitled to your opinion completely. But to say someone shouldn’t work for a website because they don’t appreciate a certain genre of a game is just absurd.

I’m not a fan of sports games. I find them boring and redundant. There is nothing interesting or new about passing a ball from one player to another. Does that mean I have no right to work for any gaming website? There are many game journalists that don’t like a certain genre of game, but put up with it because it’s for the good of the site. I’m not saying Jonathan isn’t a fan of RPGs, because I honestly don’t know. All I’m saying is that your comment was one that really doesn’t make any sense.

And I can totally understand Jonathan’s problem with the demo that was shown. If you’ve ever been to one, then you know that the devs usually try to entice you as much as possible by showing off some cool things and new features with their upcoming game. 20 minutes of dialog is by far the most exciting thing to see.

And to remind you all, this is his impression on the demo that was shown. In no way did Jonathan get to play the game at all. I’m sure that if he did get some hands-on time with it, the results of this article might have been a little different.


On August 27, 2007 at 1:52 pm

I agree with Daniel. Do you guys really want game journalists who love every genre? I’d also never make my mind up about a game based on one article. Mass Effect has a lot of potential and will probably be a great game, but I have to agree that some of the promotional material for the title that has been released is less than stellar.

And when I say game journalists, that’s just a term. Personally, I wouldn’t even want to consider myself a journalists. People come to game sites to avoid the mainstream journalistic news, because it simply does not work. We have more freedom than a typical journalist and sometimes people will have problems with our opinions. That’s just part of life.


On August 28, 2007 at 3:41 am

@ Daniel
I wasn’t giving out to the writer of the article. There was a comment posted before mine – it has been since removed. Someone posted before me just stated that all RPG’s suck. So I said that was a pointless comment. The comment is gone now for some reason (maybe the author removed it?)

So I think dat if you’ve got nothing constructive to say don’t say it! I mean feel free to express your like or dislike for the demo but don’t just say a genre is crap just because you don’t like it. If you know what I mean? I agree with you – I dislike sports games too but I’m not going to go on to a sports website & say all sports games suck! I know the author is entitled to his opinions but I wasn’t criticizing him. Sorry for the misunderstanding.


On August 28, 2007 at 7:30 am

@XboxGamer: No problem man. Thanks for clarifying the misunderstanding like an adult instead of how most commenters would, with a bunch of cursing and dumb name calling. You sir, get a star!

Ron Whitaker

On August 28, 2007 at 8:25 am

@XboxGamer: The comment you refer to was removed because it was a pointless, profanity-laden, waste of space. I apologize for the resulting confusion.


On August 28, 2007 at 10:26 am

Cheers mate!

Thanks for the star. You’re so kind! :grin:


On August 29, 2007 at 7:41 pm

Q. Why did all the dinosaurs die out?

A. Because you all touch yourselves at night!