I had expected a sci-fi version of Dragon Age 2, which it is -- except for the fights. Whereas you can just wade into the fight and start bashing evildoers with your weapon, ME is a shooter. And I gave up on shooters when a mouse became necessary to play them -- Doom 2 was the last one that I could play comfortably with the keyboard. So it took some getting used to getting past the fights, but I had chosen the best type for me: the Infiltrator. While I let my squadmates do their thing, I just hung back with a sniper rifle and picked off the enemies one by one. It didn't take me long to get the 'Headhunter' trophy for 30 headshots.
As usual, I got all the companions and did all their quests. And with the Cerberus Network code in the box, I got quite a bit of 'extra' content as well, most of which was a lot of fun. I liked the Paragon/Renegade points, which you get for choosing certain dialog options or pressing a button during a cutscene that let you do something heroic or nasty (like shooting a mercenary while he is trying to negotiate with you -- it'll end in a shooting anyway, so might as well start early, right?).
There's not much variety in the types of enemies you face: there's lots of missions where mercenaries have been hired to protect the bad guys (or are the bad guys themselves). Most are so-so, but the missions in the main quest were quite intense. (Also, I have a burning hatred for Husks, especially when they simply bull-rush you.)
The aliens are all vaguely humanoid, though some more so than others. And still, they are alien. Sure, the Krogan have some sort of Klingon look at life, but they're by no means cookie-cutter characters. And the (facial) animations are all quite good. I was especially amazed by the 'facial' animations for Legion: somehow they managed to give a robot that doesn't even have a face (just a lightbulb, really) quite different expressions when he talks.
Of course there's romance. At first I was gunning for ice-queen Miranda, but in the end I dumped her for Tali. But I still didn't get to see what's behind her mask! And I failed to gain the loyalty of Zaeed and Jack, so they were my two casualties during the suicide mission -- I wonder what happens if I take them with me for the final battle, I might try that out some time.
I will play the game another time around and make slightly different choices -- see where that takes me. For now, I've bought Legacy for Dragon Age 2, and I'll be doing that again first.
Also, I wonder why I played four times through three Bioware games, and still haven't finished Final Fantasy XIII. I think JRPGs have evolved into a form that is too abstracted and restricted to appeal to me. In contrast, the Bioware games:
- require no grinding. Whereas in FF, you have to walk along the same stretch of the world for a few times and kill all the random monsters that appear to level up -- else you will get killed by the next big monster. In FFXIII, I got to the end boss without too much trouble -- but it can kill me in a single attack. Where's the fun in that? The Bioware games scale along with you -- and when you have to get stronger, you do a few side quests instead of trolling along a particular stretch of dungeon.
- involve you in the story. I can choose what I do (within the confines of the greater story, of course). In contrast, in FFXIII, I'm on an escalator and I can't get off -- it's especially stupid because the whole thing is a set-up so you will kill this one demon, and you don't want to do that. So why is that demon the end boss anyway!? Where's the choice?
- have a social element. You meet characters, interact with them and influence how they talk back to you. In FFXIII, you just walk around a wilderness and interact only with monsters (by killing them).
I think the last one is the killer: Dragon Age and Mass Effect are RPGs, whereas FFXIII is merely hallucinogenic spreadsheet made for a Neanderthal.