MY EYES HAVE BEEN BLOODSHOT for about two weeks—a timeframe that, not coincidentally, corresponds with how long I've been playing Mass Effect. Epic and ambitious—sometimes overly so—the game's most notable characteristic might be its ability to convince you that you really only need an hour or two of sleep a night.
I had the same bloodshotty eyes thing with Knights of the Old Republic (2003) and Jade Empire (2005), two similar role-playing games from BioWare, Mass Effect's Canadian developer. While Knights dropped you into the Star Wars universe and Jade transported you to a mythical China, the superbly imagined Mass Effect—the first in a planned trilogy—tasks you with deciding humanity's future. When Mass Effect begins, we've spread to the stars and are taking our clumsy first steps into a vast intergalactic society. It'd all be grand, if a mechanical race known as the Geth hadn't begun ruthlessly attacking outlying worlds.
BioWare's recent RPGs have been as much about talking as they have been about combat; here, great writing, detailed dialogue options, an engrossing story, and nuanced voice acting combine to make interacting with Mass Effect's kazillion characters the most enjoyable part of an already gripping game. When you're not talking (or watching the game's impressively emotive characters... um, emote), you'll be blowing shit up: A hybrid between a traditional RPG and a squad-based shooter, Mass Effect's one-two punch of engaging dialogue and frenetic combat is varied and addictive.
Frustratingly, Mass Effect isn't quite the game it should be: There are ugly graphical glitches; the lack of an in-game tutorial makes the game's first hours awkward; loading times are annoyingly constant; and the poorly designed menus make managing your inventory a pain. It'd be a cop-out to excuse these flaws by saying they'll inevitably be fixed in Mass Effect's sequels—but I will say that, even taking the game's warts into account, right now there's nothing I'd like more than two more Mass Effects. Also some Visine.