Video Game Review: Mass Effect 3
Video Game Review: Mass Effect 3 (2012)
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Plot: In the first game, you play as Commander Sheppard (male or female) – the first human to be promoted to the rank of Specter, which is an elite alien fighting force. Your mission was to stop a rogue agent from destroying worlds. Turns out he was working for (or being controlled by) a race called The Reapers. This race is so old, most other alien races don’t believe they exist…even when The Reapers start attacking the Citadel, where the alien counsel is housed. Through your decisions, you either save or destroy the counsel, and either defeat or drive off the Reapers.
The second game sees Sheppard dying and being rebuilt (all in the first 5 minutes of gameplay) by the extremist pro-human group called Cerberus. Working for / with them, you explore why human colonies are disappearing and how this ties into the Reaper threat identified in the first game.
In the third game, the Reapers have arrived and are attacking Earth. After an intense escape sequence, you set off on a last-ditch effort to save your home planet – and gather the forces of the universe to help you in your struggle.
Like with the previous games, there are several common play mechanics: cover shooting, conversation choices (which affects how events play out, and the fate of several characters), and space exploration. Not much is different here, except they included some customizable weapon upgrades which was kind of fun.
But as with the previous games, conversation choices really take center stage – as the results of your choices among all the other games really affect what happens in several key junctures. Unfortunately, however, not as many and not as often as I would have liked.
The game ties back very well to the first game, however PS3 gamers would not have had this experience. Sure, ME2 came with an interactive comic to walk you through the events – but Mass Effect has always been about characters and their relationships to each other. So when characters from ME1 start showing up, it’s clear this is important to Sheppard – but if you haven’t played the first game, it’s not really clear why.
In fact, when Ashley (or the other guy, depending on who you let live in the first game) shows up in the beginning of ME3, I didn’t really care. She was a bitch to me when I encountered her in ME2, and I never got to know her since I never played ME1 (since I own a PS3).
Additionally, a complaint I have is this: having played ME2 and spending a lot of time with those characters, the ME2 characters aren’t even able to come on missions with you in ME3 – at least, not as part of your party. ME3 is really a love letter to ME1 players – but kind of shafts ME2 players (and PS3 owners) because all of your characters appear, but they can never join your team.
This is, of course, assuming you played ME2 in such a way that all or most of your crew survives the suicide run at the end of the game. Which, I didn’t lose a single character. So when they all show up in ME3, I’m like “join me,” and they’re like, “I can’t” or [SPOILERS] they just die.
In fact, a lot of characters die in ME3 (specifically ME2 characters), regardless of your choices or actions – which is kind of disappointing.
However, the sequences throughout the game are amazing. The most intense in the series yet, and you’re invested every step of the way BECAUSE of your interactions with these characters through the previous games. While interactions in ME3 (either on-ship or on-citadel) are less fleshed out than in ME2, I suppose this is to avoid repetitive branching conversations that aren’t ready to advance yet like in ME2.
Another thing to note is on the endings. Like ME2, there are multiple endings – and it all depends on how you play and how well you gather resources to help in the final battle. The disappointing thing here is, in order to get the best ending, you have to play the online multi-player game to get your “galactic readiness” percent high enough.
Basically, you spend the game gathering assets (alliances, technology, etc) which is multiplied by your readiness (default readiness is 50%). Readiness is only increased through playing the online multiplayer, or the iOS downloadable game (which I heard isn’t very good). Now, online play can be fun, since it’s all co-op and fast paced. However, it’s very redundant and to level a character to level 20 (max level) and then export them into your single player game takes a lot of time.
And I work for a living – I don’t have a hundred hours to plug into a redundant shooting game online.
ENDING CONTROVERSY [SOME SPOILERS]
So there’s a lot of controversy over the ending of ME3. I won’t give it away, but essentially I’m not angry about the ending – just disappointed. It’s a wild ride up to the end, and then it just stops. There’s no epilogue, there’s no explanation on the fallout of your decision. They introduce a new character at the last possible second, who presents you with three kind of crappy choices, and then when you decide the game just kind of ends.
Oh yeah, and then the GIANT plot hole where the Normandy is flying through a Mass Relay, instead of being a part of the battle around Earth where we last saw it. And your party, who was with you on the surface, is actually on the ship (again, depends on how well you prepared for the final battle). There’s maybe a gap in time here that’s just not explained. Bioware has announced an “extended ending” DLC that will be coming out in the summer, however, so hopefully this will fill in some plot holes and provide some much-needed closer to this awesome series.
In summary, ME3 is a great game (until the end) and well worth your playing. It’s the kind of game I keep asking “Why isn’t there a Star Trek game like this?” since it’s such a well fleshed out universe, with some amazing characters and fun concepts. I played all side missions and was at it for about 40-60 hours. Towards the end I was ready for it to be over, but in a good way.
However, upon ending the game I was left wanting. Not a reason not to buy it, but certainly something to be aware of when you get it.