I’m still not planning on finally deciding my HD console allegiance until the new year, on account of the fact that I’ll have a bunch of stuff to play in the run-up to xmas anyway, like Guitar Hero III, Mario Galaxy, the new Zelda on DS etc, plus the fact that we’re on holiday for 2 weeks in between now and then. However, I’m edging toward a conclusion that there’s really only one console-exclusive that really, really excites me, and that’s Mass Effect - on the 360.
The more I read about it, the more I’m intrigued, since it sounds like KOTOR++, without the Star Wars license. I absolutely loved Knights of the Old Republic, because of the great storyline, something that for me is crucial in an RPG. It’s the reason I lost interest in Oblivion really - the story as far as I followed it was pretty uninspiring predictable fantasy fare featuring characters I didn’t give a sod about in the main, with side-quests which were on the whole fairly dull and felt mostly like chores. KOTOR in contrast threw together some fantastically voice acted characters who were actually complex and varied enough to care about , in a story which had some nice twists and which I really did want to resolve. If they can pull that off in Mass Effect, and even improve upon it, I’m sold.
Mass Effect was originally signed as a series exclusive to 360, with at least the first and second games signed to the platform as I understand it. In the past (with KOTOR and Jade Empire) a PC version has appeared anywhere between 6 and 24 months later. PC Gamer ‘reported’ that a PC version of Mass Effect was due in 2007 back in 2006, but that’s been largely discredited. Since then EA has bought Bioware which has again raised debate about a cross-platform release to PC and maybe even PS3. So does this mean it’s worth letting it sway my preference?
Obviously EA has to abide by any deal Bioware signed, but these things are always negotiable when money changes hands. I personally believe that a PC version will appear eventually, but it’s likely to be at least 12 months out, because Microsoft know how important an exclusive like this is and they’re not going to cede control of it lightly. I get the impression that they regret allowing KOTOR go to PC from the original XBox so quickly, based on the fact that Jade Empire took much longer to make the transition - so who knows how long it might be. I doubt a PS3 version will appear in that timeframe, my guess is that perhaps EA will be able to buy out the exclusive on the second title more easily because that will be perhaps 2 years away and MS will be looking at the 360’s successor by then.
In the end, this may well be the tipping point for me. Little Big Planet is the only other exclusive I’m interested in (MGS and FFXIII aren’t my thing) and it looks really nice, but if Mass Effect delivers its potential I don’t think it’ll be a contest. Whilst I think the PS3 has potentially more longer-term appeal, which may result in me transitioning from 360 to PS3 sometime in the future, for 2008 the 360 is looking increasingly attractive as a personal purchase.