I was planning on writing my own complete review of Mass Effect sometime, beyond my initial impressions. I wasn't looking forward to it, since it seemed I am the only person who thinks Mass Effect isn't really that impressive.
Lo and behold! Reverend Anthony of Destructoid has put up a review that I agree with. I don't feel so alone now. =)
Since it's looking like I won't be able to squeeze in much playtime in the next few weeks, I wanted to just point you toward his review. Basically: it's not a bad game, but it's not a game that really stands out either. I'd probably rank it somewhere toward the top of the "average" range. Mass Effect is interesting enough to make me want to keep playing, but I'm rarely excited as I'm playing. That's largely because of the surprising number of glaring flaws.
To be fair, some of it's problems are due to the game reaching toward better gameplay. I wrote about that briefly here. But other flaws are not so forgiveable.
Sometimes, you get looped back into a conversation you've already heard. And, unlike in Neverwinter Nights, you can't leave the conversation at any time. You must wait for the "Goodbye" dialogue option to reappear, which can take a while.
The first time this happened, it was because I didn't know what to expect and chose a familiar dialogue option, thinking I would get a new response based on my character's new knowledge. Bioware apparently wants players to be able to refresh their memories by reselecting a conversation tree. But I soon learned that you can get the same line of dialogue from asking a different question -- you can be tricked into enduring an old conversation. That's a result of poor planning/editing.
And, as Anthony mentioned in his review, the vehicle controls are awful. All the bouncing, ala Halo's Warthog, is fine. The fact that the various gravities of different planets affect the vehicle's hold on the ground... that's awesome. But place this vehicle in a flat, paved parking lot and it would still be hell to control. Going straight's easy enough, but turning accurately is a chore. Reverse? Don't bother trying. You will get used to it, but combat's always a pain with the Mako.
It's a game worth checking out. But, in hindsight, I probably would have bought something else first and Mass Effect later. Worth buying, but not a priority purchase. Bioware's a great company, so I expected better.