Mass Effect 3. We come to the end of a huge saga, in which relationships blossom, friends die and a lot of s*** hits the oscillatory cooling device. Is it any good, though?
NOTE: This review may contain slight spoilers. Read on at your own risk.
The basis of Mass Effect’s universe is that humans have recently found a store of awesome technology left by a civilisation long since dead. This technology leads them (well, us) to go forth and procreate, which brings us into a giant galactic community populated by other races. Inevitably, time goes on, technology matures, sprinkle some wars here and there and we find ourselves in the era the game is set in. We are introduced to Commander Shepard (who appears solely as you make him/her, but we’ll assume that they’re female, since that’s how I played it) who is generally a blank slate- from the start onwards, you shape them into the ideal character, either super-git Renegade path (which leads you to riches and a looot of bad karma) or badass-saint Paragon (which often makes you feel good, but delays the reward). Bioware really managed to portray Shepard in a way that not only allows us to relate with them, but also makes us feel like we’re in their shoes. It’s a unique thing in the gaming industry and something I’d love to see in other games.
Anyway, Shep is selected to become the first human Spectre in order to chase down Saren Arterius, who’s working for one of the series’ main antagonists, the Reapers (read it in a deep voice to make it sound less cliche). Shepard manages to collect a motley group of squadmates and travels the galaxy, stopping the Reapers from using the Citadel (which is possibly THE biggest MacGuffin I’ve ever seen) to warp in and begin the slaughter. Once this is done, the Alliance promptly disbands the team and sends Shep on mediocre missions, until she is inconveniently killed trying to save Joker’s sorry ass. This leads onto the second game, where a shady pro-human group decides they’d really want Shepard to join their club. So they put her back together and send her off to stop the Collectors, which she does so after collecting even more squadmates.
I’m beginning to think random soldiers start clinging onto the Normandy’s hull each mission, refusing to let go until they’re allowed into Shep’s club.
And now we come to Mass Effect 3. Shep is courtmartialed for some of her actions during ME2 (read: all of them) and is on Earth when suddenly, inexplicably, Reapers start falling from the sky and wreck s*** up. Of course, they aren’t prepared, thinking Shepard was simply hallucinating for theentirety of the past two games, and Earth is promptly made the Reapers’ bitch. I found this part of the story rather unbelievable- youd think that after all the evidence gathered so far, Earth would at least have some kind of preparations made for this inevitability.
We are then thrown into the galaxy and told to rally each race’s specific army (or what’s left of them) to go fight the Reapers back on Earth. This is done through the gathering of War Assets- technology, morale boosts, troops- anything that will help the galaxy’s survival against the cuttlefish of doom. This system, while largely inconsequential to me, has irked me sightly. See, while you get all these assets together, you only get them at half strength due to the Galactic Readiness meter, which fills out as you play multiplayer and side games and allows you full use. This seems like a heavy handed attempt to make us experience the multiplayer whether we like it or not, and whether it’s a genuine attempt to meld the two modes together or just Bioware showing off, I don’t really appreciate having to play multi just to get a decent ending. More on that bugbear later.
As it stands, the gameplay is very nice and smoothed. A cover based shooter like ME 1 and 2, you are as able to go in all guns blazing as you are to prepare for a smooth, clean takedown. This choice of options allows for any style of gameplay you like, and I think it really fits well with the multiple class options and squadmates. The AI for both enemies and squadmates is decent- squadmates don’t often run around screaming, and enemies use cover themselves to make for some challenging gameplay. In addition, you get a lot more weapons; some you may have seen as DLC in ME2 appear in the vanilla game here, and it allows the player, again, to mold the game around their style. (In my case, it meant I could pop heads with the Mattock. Just like old times, whee :D) However, one change I personally found strange is the relegation of heavy weapons to simple pick up and use. While this allows for the weapons to be used in fitting situations, it removes some of the choice in your load out. No melting faces off with the Firestorm for you matey.
The story is fleshed out and decent enough to please a plot-hungry gamer like myself. Mass Effect 3 gathers up a lot of the loose ends from the past two games and plonks them in your lap. This allows you to speak to previous squadmates (and indeed, enlist them for help in the war), and also takes a lot of the events in ME1 and 2 and gives them conclusion. This also happens for all the DLC, though- if you didn’t play them all, you may be confused by some of the events. The only gripe I had was that you don’t get many squadmates. Maybe I’m reminiscing on ME2 too much, but in ME3 you only get 6 or 7 squad members (inclusing DLC) and only 2 (3, if you take into account one special example) are actually new. It almost seems like they’re trying to recycle old members in order to allow for future DLC, and to me that just slightly smells of laziness.
And now, to my biggest problem with this game; the ending. I know, it’s been debated a lot recently, but I can’t stand it.
The ending, to put it shortly, is ignorant of everything you’ve done and accomplished over the whole series. It takes all your work, all those sidequests, every drop of sweat you’ve shed in pursuit of a decent ending to your Shepard, and chucks it out of the window in favour of a giant set of traffic lights, while leaving a pile of loose ends the size of my ego. I wish I was making this up. For fear of raging pointlessly, that’s all I’ll say on that.
So, in conclusion, I really liked Mass Effect 3. It had fluid gameplay, good story and as series finales go, I’ve seen worse.It was a genuinely fun game to play, with only the odd niggle that can be accepted as tradeoffs for some truly great innovation.
Apart from the final 15 minutes. Now, excuse me while I go drink some poison Kool-Aid to make the taste go away.
- Story 5/10
- Gameplay 9/10
- Overall: 8/10