I have never been more torn over a game than I am over Mass Effect.

On the plus side, its conversation system was apparently designed by God.

The main character is engaged by an NPC – always a good start. Notice how you quickly and easily direct the tone of the conversation rather than choosing specific dialogue. I love that – those short phrases are much easier to parse on the fly, which keeps the conversation flowing in a natural fashion. It’s not in this video, but you can also do things like cut people off if they’re annoying you by quickly choosing a hostile response.

And then we’ve got the best dynamic acting I’ve ever seen on a video game character. It’s not just the real-time lipsynching, either. Notice how Wrex looks conspiratorially to the side when he says “Now I hear you’re going after Saren” and shakes his head a little when he says, “I’m not in this for the money.” Good voice acting makes it even better. Frankly, any RPG fan that doesn’t feel funny in the pants after watching this video isn’t really an RPG fan.

So what could possibly ruin this game for me? What could possibly make it so that I don’t know if I want to play it?

Try insipid real-time squad-based combat. With Force Powers thrown in.

Ew. Ew, ew, ew. If that doesn’t look a whole lot better when the game ships…

…okay, I’ll still buy it. But it seems like such a shame to come this close to making the ultimate sci-fi RPG and then trip at the finish line.