Mass Effect 3
Single player campaign
Voice chat (somewhat buggy)
Achievements and challenges
Engaging story (up to the end)
Main character feels more agile compared to the previous games
Fast paced gameplay
Many weapons and skill combinations
Mass Effect 3 is the last installment of probably one of the biggest gaming series to date. Where Mass Effect 1 eased you into the wonders of the ME universe, Mass Effect 2 allowed you to get into the nit-grit of it all, with an improved combat system, yet with weaker story telling compared to its predecessor. Neither game was perfect, still the two of them together were part of an impressive story, one I spent hundreds of hours exploring, leaving no rubble unturned, punching pyjaks and journalists, or telling them they had better realize just how much they owed the Alliance fleet who gave their lives for them. Well, I told the journalist, not the pyjak.
Possibly the main feature of the Mass Effect series is the ability to make choices that will reflect on how the story goes, not only for the game you are playing, but also for its successors. If you decide to kill or help someone in the first game, they might show up not only later on, but also in Mass Effect 2 or even 3. All your choices are remembered and you can import your beloved FemShep to the next installment of Mass Effect. Because, let’s face it, we all know the real Shepard is female.
With such a well crafted story and gameplay, the third and last of the series had a lot of expectations to live up to. Did it? The short answer is: yes, aside from the ending. The long answer is… well read the rest of the review, but be aware that it may contain spoilers.
If you wondered whether Mass Effect 3 was going to answer all of your questions about the story lines that unfolded in the previous two games, rest assured, it will. You will be able to resolve the situation with the Genophage, with the Quarians and Geth, and more. You will find that making choices in this game is a lot harder than in the previous two. Many of your decisions will have huge impact, a lot more than they did in the previous 2 games.
While all your decisions are imported into ME 3, BioWare still forced some of those decisions to go their way. You might have decided to give the Council’s seat to Anderson in ME 1, and while Anderson will be a Councilor in ME 2, you will find Udina took his place anyway in ME 3. If you decided to sack the Council in ME 1, ME 3 will have a new one with a brand new set of aliens assorted with a Turian, an Asari and a Salarian, rather than having one composed exclusively by humans. So yes, at the start you might feel that some of your important decisions have been set aside, but that’s also where it ends. Once the (re)introductions have been made, every other choice you made counts.
The final result isn’t only influenced by your decisions, but also by the amount of content you play. I diligently did almost every single side quest I found, thus collecting a lot of war assets. These war assets influence how well you will do in the end.
Sooner or later, if you are good with your side missions, you will also meet every single companion you met in the first two games, aside from the ones you got killed of course. They too will help you at the end if you play your cards right, and some will join you as squad members, although not all will.
While we are on the subject of side missions, I heartily advise you to do all of the missions pertinent to certain story lines. So if you get 3 missions to do with the Genophage, rather than going ahead and trying to do the main mission to resolve the situation ASAP, you want to do the other two missions as well. Like I said, I diligently did almost all side quests, however, when it came to the story line to do with Quarians and Geth, I decided to leave out a certain mission. I then found myself with a very hard choice to make that would have wiped either race. The first time through I wound up losing the Quarians, Tali committed suicide and Legion had to sacrifice himself to help the rest of the Geth. So I reloaded the game, and wound up with Tali stabbing Legion in the back, Geth being wiped, but I managed to keep my favorite Quarian Engineer in my squad. Together with a big bag of guilt for having killed a friend. I was shocked that BioWare didn’t give me a way out of that one until I spoke to a friend of mine who said he got an option to save both, which I didn’t. The only difference I can think of is having skipped that mission before I started the main one. Moral of the story: play the game to its fullest if you want all the options.
Talking of Tali, you may wonder whether she shows her face. Well… I’ll just be a little bosh’tet and won’t tell you. HA!
Story wise the game is just fantastic – bar the end. Before you keep reading be aware that this is going to be a major spoiler, skip to the next section if you don’t want to know.
The End. Or Is It?
Once you reach the end, you are given three choices. You either control the Reapers, become “one” with them ensuring peace or you wipe them out. All choices result in the Mass Relays being destroyed, therefore preventing races from traveling throughout the galaxy, which also means that interspecies relationships will become non-existent, at least until a new technology is devised or the Mass Relays are re-built. Whether any of that will happen you won’t be told, leaving it open to new DLCs, or possibly the alleged Mass Effect 3 MMO.
Whichever option you choose you feel you lose a lot. The relationship you pursued, the friends, your Shepard’s life, all of it gets lost for the needs of the many – although, with the ending I chose my Shepard was still breathing, so who’s to say that she didn’t find her beloved? Yet without Mass Relays would she be able to reach his/her location?
While I completely understand that in a war with so much at stake sacrifices need to be made, the ending left me with a strong “no-win” feeling. You invest so much time and emotion in your Shepard, yet you don’t get to give him/her a happy ending. It would have been nice if at least one of the three choices would have resulted in a “live happily thereafter.” One may think that everyone would choose that, but who’s to say? Plus the game re-playability would allow people to try all choices eventually. Yet this way I know some people decided they didn’t want to play the game again because in the end “it didn’t matter.” The win against the Reaper threat gets overshadowed by the loss of everything you have worked for. All I ask is one of the endings, just one, that would allow your Shepard to be safe with the rest of the Galaxy.
Shepard is agile, either with a new Omniblade or a big ball of biotic energy for melee attacks, depending on whether your character is a biotic or not. Rolling in and out or even in between cover is much easier, much faster, and all in all Shepard’s mobility has been greatly improved. You also get plenty of skill choices to make Shepard a melee powerhouse if you so wish. Having one button to execute many functions can be frustrating at times though, especially if you are trying to pick something on a ledge and wind up running into cover, or want to run into cover and pick up something on a ledge and get shot in the process. On the other hand I do appreciate the effort of keeping the controls simple.
BioWare promised that weapons would feel a lot more real and they delivered. They adjusted them to live up to the expectations of veteran shooter gamers, improving recoil effects et al. In Mass Effect 1 your inventory and mod handling was very clumsy. You’d wind up with hundreds of mods and ammo types, so the developers decided to simplify that in ME 2. However they oversimplified them, not giving you any real way to check how much damage your weapons actually did unless you looked it up on a third party site, like the Mass Effect Wiki. You had no way to mod your weapons either, and all you could do was finding general damage upgrades for each type of weapon as you did your missions. In Mass Effect 3 they found the right balance: you have access to a lot more weapons than you did in ME 2, and you can mod them to suit your needs, yet the modifications aren’t taking up inventory space and they are a lot more manageable than they were in ME 1. You also get your very own room where you can test how much damage your weapons deal against shields, Armour and health.
They also allow all classes to use all weapons, however you can’t use them all at once because they become to heavy to carry and your cooldowns will be reduced. It’s a nice way to allow you to tailor a class to your playstyle, without making other classes redundant. Why would you play a Soldier if you could use the same amount of weaponry with all other classes? So BioWare tried to find a happy medium with the weight system.
All in all the gameplay is a lot more fluid than it was in the previous two games. BioWare kept refining it. Shepard felt really clumsy in ME 1, where the only way to get into cover was to run against a wall and hope you won’t just smash your face against it. You also weren’t able to control your companions unless you paused the game. The gameplay in Mass Effect 2 became a lot faster and responsive, allowing you to decide whether or not you wanted to go in cover and/or jump over it, rather than just detecting how close you were to a wall. Graphics were improved and you could control your companions’ skills as if they were your own. Mass Effect 3 further improved the cover system (and the graphics) as I already mentioned.
The way skills worked was overhauled drastically in Mass Effect 2. There was very little need to combine them for optimal effect in Mass Effect 1, while its successor found a niche for most of them. Overload didn’t only just cause some damage to shields like it did in the first game, it was THE skill to use to be able to disable them in the second game, together with a couple of others. Mass Effect 3 kept that formula, however it changed some of the redundant skills, improved them and made them generally more interesting. You also get to learn several bonus powers from your companions, not just one from each. The downside of all the new powers however is that you might feel you just have too many. It’s up to you to find the balance: it’s nicer to have many tools to choose from, than having to make do with what you are given.
Mass Effect 3 is the only one of the three games that has a multiplayer option. You can team up with 3 other people, either friends or total strangers, and help keep certain key locations safe. If you do all the singleplayer missions, you will visit those same locations with Shepard and you will know the backstory behind the multiplayer maps you are playing in. Basically Hackett asks Shepard to take care of things in those areas and follows it up by sending military forces to keep that area out of trouble. That’s where the multiplayer comes in.
This feature is brand new in the Mass Effect universe, but it isn’t ground breaking in the world of shooters. You can however play other species, not just human, and each species brings a different flavor to the class you are playing. For example a human Vanguard will have Charge, Shockweave and Nova, while an Asari Vanguard will have Stasis instead of Nova, etc.
The multiplayer is a co-op mode, so you don’t pvp. Frankly I prefer it that way even though I did pvp in other shooters. I just prefer the co-operation more than slaughtering each other.
The unlocks in the multiplayer are totally random. You acquire a certain number of credits after each mission, which you use to buy “packs” that contain weapons, mods, new races and so on.
I find this to be a fun venue, one that helps take a break when you feel you want to get into action right now without having to worry about plot. And for people like me who don’t like to skip any part of the plot, the multiplayer aspect is quite welcome, as I can just do something different without feeling the need to fast forward or skip any of the story as I can swap between action and RPG at any time.
On that note, even though it’s technically a singleplayer feature, you can use the action mode rather than the RPG mode, if you wish, and you’ll only see the major conversations of the game, without needing to investigate everything or make all the choices. It’s a great feature for those who just want to shoot things down or for people who are playing the game a few times over.
As I was playing Mass Effect 3, I thought I’d give this game a 10/10. I had no reason to rate it any less. There are some minor bugs, like swapping from singleplayer to multipayer and then back can cause your Shepard to look like the default one. Or sometimes my weapons would disappear in the middle of a fight for no reason so I wasn’t able to switch between them. Those were rare and far in between, definitely not enough to lower my rating. Then I saw the options given for the ending and I changed my mind and I lowered the score to 8/10. To make a long story short: The game is great, shame on the ending.
Yet when you look at Mass Effect 3, you can’t help but notice just how much BioWare has taken player feedback into account. Many of us hope for some DLC release to fix it all, maybe an additional ending. Just… don’t make us pay for a fix. We all know additional content will be released and if you are going add/fix/change the finale, either give it for free or make it a piggy back with some other content that’s worth paying for. Ending or no ending, the Mass Effect trilogy still remains one of the most epic series in the gaming industry to date.