At first glance, the Mass Effect is a typical Sci-Fi RPG blockbuster: the storyline is superbly written, the dialogue is well delivered, there are plenty of planet-exploring side quest shenanigans to take part in, and the graphics are just about the best I have seen from the Unreal 3 engine thus far, complete with astonishingly high resolution textures and effects made possible only by the sheer grunt of today's PC's.
What Mass Effect does differently is that it takes all this KoTOR-esque RPG goodness and combines it seamlessly with a equally awesome (if under used) combat system that employs a ‘cover & shoot’ mechanic similar to that found in dedicated shooters like Rainbow Six Vegas and Gears of War. That your effectiveness in combat is still effected by not only your own skill with a mouse, but your equipped weapon, upgrades, ammo and your experience level with said weapon makes the combat system almost as deep as the role-playing aspect, which is very deep indeed.
Like any ambitious game, Mass Effect isn't perfect: there are the occasional weapon overheating and loss of mouse control bugs, the odd side quest doesn't trigger properly and there are few quirks in the friendly and enemy AI, but Bioware is already working on a patch that is likely to fix most, if not all of these relatively minor shortcomings. Gameplay wise the game was a bit on the short side (around 20 hours) dialogue can drag on at times and I felt that the brilliant combat system wasn't used as often as it could have been, but hey – this is an RPG, right?
In short, if you like Bioware's past efforts, or just well-written Sci-Fi storytelling, then this game is well worth the purchase.