Mass Effect 2 slims down the RPG

Bioware is a game developer steeped in RPG tradition. For the best part of 15 years it has been producing games that revel in stats representing every

But its latest release - Mass Effect 2 - has taken the brave step of putting the stats on the back burner.

The first Mass Effect was without question a RPG; even the weapons were treated like mini-RPG characters. But Mass Effect 2 has put the stats on a crash diet. They're still there of course, but a lot of work has gone into making them an almost beneath-the-surface feature.

In the first game players had to decide whether to invest experience points in making their character more intimidating or charming but now these attributes improve based on how you conduct yourself in the game. The weapons are no longer treated like mini-characters and the choice of how to improve your character when you level up has been slimmed down to a minimum.

For hardcore RPG fans its relatively lightweight approach to role-playing could be seen as heresy. But in reality it is a game that focuses on what's best about RPGs - the chance to mould a character - while avoiding the tedium of stat management.

It's just one reason why Mass Effect 2 is one of the best games of the past 12 months - the Gears of War-influenced combat and a feeling that your decisions really do affect the world around you being two more.

But should other mainstream RPGs - Fallout 3 for example - start thinking along the same lines when it comes to stats?