Mass Effect 3
When trying to review a game with as much scope and following as the Mass Effect series, it can be very, very hard to avoid falling into the usual habits. You can routinely list the faults and defects until the readers hate the game, or praise it until everyone thinks it’s the best thing ever. Both tend to cheapen the overall impact of a game, and I’m going to try my hardest to avoid that, because Mass Effect 3 is something special.
Brief overview time:
It’s some time in the future, and humanity has expanded out among the stars and buddied up to all the other beings in the universe. You play as Commander [insert name here] Shepard, who has no fixed gender (you can choose to be a man or woman) or sexuality. You are tasked with uniting the people of the galaxy against the threat of the Reapers, giant robot insects that have emerged from the depths of space to wipe out all organic life, and have started with Earth because you rubbed them up the wrong way in Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2.
On top of the Reaper threat, you need to deal with ME2’s Illusive Man, a human supremacist and leader of the shadowy organization Cerberus, who has a score to settle and his own ideas about dealing with the Reapers.
The first point to note is that you can’t get the full gaming experience out of ME3 unless you’ve played the first two games. In fact, I’d recommend not playing ME3 until you’ve completed the other two.
The Mass Effect games have aptly used the "consequences of your actions" system seen in games such as the Fallout series, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and (albeit utilised rather poorly) Fable 3. Decisions that were made in Mass Effect 2 and even as far back as the original will impact on the storyline – for example, characters that were rubbed up the wrong way may refuse alliances, and team members that were killed in previous games stay dead, cutting off certain perspectives or choices depending on the situation.
Bioware, ME3’s developer, have refined their process when developing their games. Not only have they included elements that worked from the previous games (such as the return of grenades, not seen since ME1), they’ve added to and refined overall gameplay.
The addition of purely close-combat-orientated enemies, such as the Phantom, and the use of the Omni-blade add a whole new dimension to combat, allowing players to charge in and fight in close quarters properly, rather than mostly sitting in cover and shooting. Best of all, Bioware have removed certain elements that gamers complained about. Gone is the horrid resource collection of ME2, replaced with the collection of "war assets", a minigame that is actually not as boring as it sounds. Tedious tasks from the previous two games, such as bypassing doors and hacking, are now automated.
As a whole, the gameplay of ME3 has been significantly improved. The game flows well, and despite a few bugs here and there I found it to be very enjoyable as a whole. However, the good impression the game gives off as a whole is significantly cheapened by the ending.
I’m not the only one to be saying this. Forums and other reviewers have gone up in arms about the poor quality of the final 15 minutes of gameplay. Without going into too much detail, the final mission involves Shepard trying to punch through Reaper defenses on Earth and deploy the united galaxy’s last-hope weapon. What actually happens, however, has been described as anything from "horrid" to "intellectually vacuous". Long story short: Bioware ended one of the greatest sci-fi franchises in gaming with a whimper.
While the ending detracts significantly from the quality of the game as a whole, it’s still not enough to ruin it. The story is immersive, has moral quandaries left, right and centre and takes the Mass Effect series to a universe-shattering conclusion. That said, don’t take my word for it. Play the game and judge for yourself.
Seriously, play this game. You know you want to!
4 out of 5.
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