Hard science fiction is a literature genre for intellectuals. As opposed to space operas or hackneyed fantasy worlds, it is based on a scientific basis that does not allow far-fetched inventions. Although hard sci-fi can describe phenomena we don’t have with the current level of technology such as space travel, an author willing to follow the glorious path of such classics as Arthur Clarke, Robert Heinlein or Stanislaw Lem has to curb his fantasies and take a scientific approach. This naturally requires vast, encyclopedic knowledge in many fields of scientific research. No wonder that this intellectually challenging genre is not really for the masses and there are very few worthy works in it, especially if you take such a recently developed (in comparison with cinema or literature) entertainment as video games. And it is even harder to find a well-made RPG game with a sci-fi plot because RPGs are all about elves, orcs, mages and all kinds of other fantastical but absolutely unscientific creatures the authors don’t even care to explain the existence of. Recalling RPG games with a sci-fi element, we can only come up with the post-apocalyptic Fallout, the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series, and the highly creative Arcanum.
Against this bleak background, the star of Mass Effect came to shine especially brilliant three years ago. The game was doomed to be a success because it had been developed by the BioWare studio. This name rings all the bells with each RPG fan as this developer has produced such famous titles as Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, and the above-mentioned Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. In the best traditions of the popular space series Star Trek and Babylon 5, the story of adventures of Commander Shepard and the crew of the experimental space frigate Normandy won the hearts of all cRPG players who had longed for a good piece of hard science fiction. Mass Effect was a detailed and large world where you did not find typical good and bad guys. Every party in the game had its own truth which you could understand if not accept.
We had a look at Mass Effect soon after its release, noting a few shortcomings such as a somewhat linear plot and simplified graphics (this simplification helped it run on game consoles fast, however). Anyway, the game took a deserved place among the best representatives of the cRPG genre and was hailed as one of the best sci-fi games ever. But that was only the beginning. BioWare had conceived Mass Effect as the first part of a trilogy. It is too early to talk about the third part, but the second part, officially released on the 26th of January 2010, is right here for us to play. So, we will run it a little to see how its system requirements have grown up over the last three years and whether a Mass Effect fan has to upgrade his gaming platform to enjoy the second installment.