Mass Effect 3 review
It only took two days after Mass Effect 2 was released that I’ve been anxiously awaiting Mass Effect 3. I am blatantly biased due to the Mass Effect series being hands down one of my favorite IPs of all time. I have a male and Fem Shep game, a paragon game, and a renegade game — each with numerous play throughs. With that said, my expectations for the final installment of this trilogy were high — ridiculously high. Was the fanboy inside me satisfied? Read on.
At this point, Shepard has done things and seen stuff, more than anyone should. His / her resume includes becoming the first human Spectre, defeating the Reaper Sovereign, and surviving an alleged suicide mission. However, despite his impressive active duty, the universe still doesn’t take him seriously about the whole ‘commander who cried Reaper’ ordeal. Then again, how does one prepare for a Reaper assault?
Shepard’s answer is through unity. This is the main plot of ME3. Shepard is newly reinstated into the Alliance after being on house arrest for temporarily joining with Cerberus. Anderson is convinced that Shepard is the only one who can unite all the races together to stop the Reapers. He / she has defeated Reapers in the past and is perhaps the only one how knows how to. Now add an ancient pre-Prothean super weapon to the mix, and the universe has some hope.
I hate using this cliché gaming term, but the only way to describe the action and environments of Mass Effect 3 is “epic.” I described the gameplay to a friend as, “You know how intense the last levels are in most RPGs? Well that is every mission in ME3.” It’s true. For example, in an early mission, you are on a moon of the Turian home world, Palaven. There are Reapers in the background, large scale warfare, Palaven burning in the background, fighter ships whizzing by overhead, in-depth dialogue, and a last ditch effort vs. Reaper troop action. My words don’t give it justice but when you are standing there in this mission, you have to take a moment to just look around and say ‘holy sh*t.’ Now multiply this by every mission and you have one epic game.
The actual action and gameplay is an improvement from ME2. While similar, the tweaks have made the combat more smooth. The cover system may take a little getting use to — I know I vaulted over some walls I shouldn’t have, which put me into certain death. You’ll get used to the mechanics in no time; the first real mission gives you a slight tutorial on cover by firing a huge turret at you.
Visuals and action won’t blow you away alone — you need sound. Mass Effect 3 delivers on this front. Besides the overly disturbing altered trash-lid sound that triggers every time there is a Reaper present, sound effects keep you on your toes for all the sci-fi action present. I also found the music and score fitting for the missions, down time, and the over-the-top moments.
While the story follows a direction that we’ve all been expecting, there are plenty of twists and turns along the way to keep you guessing. A feature of ME3 I personally enjoyed is how you interact with all of the living crew mates from the past. Sure, only a handful of them are able to join your crew, but they are all there at some point if they survived the other games. Their interactions actually have impact on the story and aren’t there for the sake of nostalgia. If a certain character died in a previous game, certain missions will be completely different compared to if you had saved that character. This applies to some of the paragon and renegade choices as well. ME3 expands on all successful NPC character development themes that the series is known for.
I played through the game on Xbox 360 and had the Kinect connected the whole time. After playing though the demo with the Kinect, I thought I would be all over using it during the game. This did not end up being the case. I like the option of having it there, but as a seasoned ME player, I was just too set in my old ways and play style; on my ‘Insanity’ playthrough, I turned off crew-auto casting and did it all myself. Pulling up the radial menu to temporarily pause the game to aim the abilities is too valuable. The out of combat commands are gimmicky and completely unnecessary. With that said, it is a fun option and I like that it is there, even if I didn’t use it.
Throwing a multiplayer mode in on the last of a trilogy was a real ballsy move. If it was bad it could have thrown a stigma on the series. Thankfully, the multiplayer is pretty fun. It’s similar to ‘horde’ modes in other games. There are 10 waves and one bonus extraction wave. Every three waves presents a challenge: such as killing high profile targets, hacking a computer, and gaining intel from four servers. Each wave, the enemies get harder and more abundant, and there are three difficulty settings — bronze, silver, and gold. You will fight against Cerberus, Geth, or Reaper troops (nerf Banshees).
You and three friends (or strangers) fight for galactic peace. In the multiplayer, you make a character based off the standard six playable classes. Each class has four characters you can choose from: male and female humans with identical powers and two alien racers with unique powers. You can have multiple characters and switch them between matches. The multiplayer helps you with both war assets and Galaxy at War Readiness rating. Once you reach level 20, you can ‘promote’ your character, which gives you 75 points for your war effort — this resets your class back to level 1 and advances your multiplayer level by 10. So while I want to say that the multiplayer isn’t necessary for your single player game, the multiplayer is necessary for your single player game.
So all the stuff I’ve talked about thus far has been the ‘good’ in ME3, now I’ll switch to the ‘bad.’ As I said, I played on Xbox 360, so these might be unique issues to the system. During many of the loading screens, I was fearful of the game crashing. These were usually the mid-level loads. The loading icon would appear in the corner and everything would freeze. Most the time the game would snap out of it, but three times the game completely froze. The game auto saves often, so this was never a huge set back but an annoyance. This might not be the case on PC or PS3.
On the topic of annoyance, the whole disk swapping issue was frustrating. Usually when a game has multiple disks, you switch at one point and it’s over with — not in Mass Effect 3. I’m convinced that anything Cerberus-related is on disk two. Anytime you assault a Cerberus base, “Please Insert Disk 2,” then as soon as you’re done and follow the main missions, “Please Insert Disk 1.” This may seem petty on my part, but it definitely irked me. Again, this wouldn’t be the case on PC or PS3.
Compared to ME2, the crew size for missions was low. While I said I enjoyed the interaction with previous characters, I wanted more options for those I could do missions with. This definitely didn’t break the game for me — but it is just a preference.
As per any ME game, the side quests on the Citadel were tedious. Trust me, I do them all. I love learning new story elements and getting my war assets up, but you can never take a quick trip to the Citadel. After every mission, I also talk to everyone on my ship so I don’t miss any of the dialogue or reputation bonuses. While this isn’t so bad on a first run through, it makes future run-throughs tedious. A great feature in this game is the mini map. It literally tells you if there is something for you to do and where they are on the map. Bravo for this feature. This doesn’t work for conversations though. Sometimes you will get a heads up from a crew member or you will receive an email — but not always.
Galactic exploration is a slightly new mini-game that has tragic repercussions. They dumped planet scanning (thank the goddess) but now you have to enter Reaper controlled space, find where the goodies are, scan, attain, and then dodge the Reapers going in to murder you and your ship. I found this to be addicting though somewhat repetitive.
As a whole, I felt the new content was lackluster. The new character, James, is not that involved as far as Mass Effect characters go. His background is fairly mainstream and uninteresting. I never used him due to my love for the previous characters. Mass Effect 2 succeeded in introducing new characters where ME3 completely lacked in this department. Diana Allers’ role on the Normandy is unnecessary in my opinion. The series already has an established media person with Khalisah Bint Sinan al-Jilani, why bring in another character for this? I’ll admit though, I liked Traynor more than Chambers.
I won’t touch this topic too much, but the ending didn’t suffice my grandiose expectations. I feel a bit cheated with the results, and I defiantly question the ‘why.’ There is some popular theorycrafting going on that could make the ending quite experimental and venturesome from BioWare, but even in this case it is not complete. That’s all I’ll say for now — a review isn’t the right place for spoilers.
For the most part, the things I “didn’t like” are honestly nit-picking. Over all, Mass Effect 3 is an amazing game that should be played by ANY fan of the series — multiple times. Even if you haven’t played the previous two games, I could see Mass Effect 3 being amazing enough to be a stand-alone game, though having experienced it as a trilogy make it so much better. Seeing the impacts of the choices you’ve made in the last two games is pretty amazing. I enjoy conversations with friends and coworkers regarding our varied ME3 experiences depending on our different choices. I’m already on my second playthrough and still playing the multiplayer despite my 100% readiness. As far as sci-fi space RPG's go, Mass Effect is still king of the genre.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]