Mass Effect 3 is a game I was anticipating for a long time. The 1st game completely immersed me within its universe, an experience that really drew me in. I played Samuel Shepard, a paragon vanguard who strove for peaceful dealings and diplomacy in his dealings, but was not afraid to fight back with a shotgun. A year later, I bought Mass Effect 2 and was quite impressed with the sudden change in game play, an increased focus in character development, and seeing some of the decisions I made in Mass Effect 1 having visible consequences that made me rethink how I played. My Shepard continued to use his diplomacy and combat skill well, which ultimately led to his entire squad surviving the Suicide Mission and delaying the Reapers from attacking. Another year after that, Mass Effect 3 is now in my hands and I can safely say that the conclusion to my Shepard’s story is complete, if not abrupt.
Between the 2nd and 3rd game, the human Alliance had Commander Shepard grounded and took back the Normandy SR2, with your squad mates from the previous game splitting up to do their own respective tasks. After some time has passed, the leaders of the Alliance call Shepard into a meeting to inform that the Reapers have arrived. You run into Virmire Survivor from the first game (Ashley in my case) and in the meeting, you confirm that the Reapers are here. Immediately, Reapers attack Alliance Headquarters, with Shepard and Admiral Anderson being the only ones alive. Shepard comes across a young boy who he is unable to rescue and later sees dying while escaping from the Reapers. After escaping from Earth, you learn of a Prothean super weapon that has enough power to supposedly destroy the Reapers, and Commander Shepard is tasked with uniting the different alien races and finding assets that will not only help attack the reapers, but also build this super weapon which is later known as the Crucible.
In my opinion, the story is the weakest of the three, but it is a Bioware game which means that it is still well-written and epic as ever. Development for many of the characters reaches their conclusion as everyone is now focused on the war. It is still satisfying to interact with them and hear their personal observations on the war, and there are still great moments despite the war being the primary focus. Ironically, Commander Shepard gets the most character development. While your Shepard has always built his own story based on your choices, the death of the child as well as maintaining leadership in rallying both his squad and entire races to fight the Reapers has started to wear him down, though that has not affected his ability as a leader. With the exception of some story elements, particularly with the Crucible and the ending, the story is mostly excellent, and what doesn’t work all depends on how you partake in suspension of disbelief. For some elements, it is easier said than done. As for the decisions you made through all three games, they definitely have an impact as some of the major decisions you made will have conclusions to its stories, and these events will succeed or fail based on some these choices. These moments helped make me feel that the choices I made were not wasted.
Combat is similar to Mass Effect 2. You still have the same battle mechanics: running from cover to cover, firing from cover, and using your powers tactically. There are some tweaks, like how Shepard can run (Unlike the running from Mass Effect 1) and dodge attacks by rolling, which will help as enemies are more aggressive than before. You have a few more ways to attack with melee, like a heavy attack, a stealth kill, and a short combo. There is also another combat: the inclusion of weight in weapons. The weight of your weapons determines how fast you recharge your powers, and you can also equip all 5 weapon types in the main game, so having all 5 weapons equipped will slow down your power usage. Depending on your class and play style, it may be beneficial to have one-two weapons to maximize power usage, or have a variety of powerful weapons with minimal powers, and it is possible to equip all 5 weapons and have a decent power recharge if you pick the lightest weapons and choose skills that reduce your overall weight. I actually like this change as it ultimately refined my play style. With this system, you choose how you play even more. On a side note, what’s disappointing is the removal of Heavy Weapons as part of your standard arsenal. Instead, they now appear in a few specific missions and are used more as a situational weapon. I ultimately did not bother with Heavy Weapons in Mass Effect 3, but I do miss having another option available.
Outside of combat, you still are able to interact with NPCs and engage in meaningful dialogue aboard the Normandy and the Citadel, and the decisions you make not only boost your Paragon/Renegade meter, but also your reputation. When you talk to people, or complete a side quest, you get a Reputation boost which essentially enables more dialogue options as you play through the game. I assume that with higher reputation, not only can you use high charm/intimidate decisions, but there is no major penalty to mixing up Paragon and Renegade. I do appreciate having some Renegade options open thanks to reputation, but I ultimately didn’t notice it’s effect as I played typical Paragon and chose Paragon options all the way. Aside from side quests, you can also repurchase all of your equipment from Mass Effect 2, including DLC-exclusive weapons and armor from the different stores. I was disappointed that my inventory did not import directly into Mass Effect 3, but I did appreciate being able to buy DLC gear with in-game credits. On that note, armor works exactly the same as in Mass Effect 2: You buy pieces that have various stat bonuses, and you mix and match to form the best armor for you. There are also full suits of armor you can’t customize, but they offer bonuses in various stats, which are definitely more accessible if you’re waiting for a specific armor piece.
The scanning from Mass Effect 2 has been improved as you are scanning for military resources and artifacts instead of hoarding minerals for research. The new scanning not only help you finish side quests, but also build up your War Assets which determines the ending of the game. However, when you scan the system, it attracts Reapers, so when you scan too many times in a single system, they will come to kill you. You have to evade the reapers quickly, or else it’s game over. This adds tension and it makes flying around the galaxy a bit more exciting. You can easily leave and come back to scan while reapers are after you. It’s definitely more enjoyable to scan planets this time around. Aside from this, there are no other mini-games, not even hacking from the previous games, leaving combat as the only gametype.
Your squad is definitely smaller compared to Mass Effect 2, which I did appreciate. While I really enjoyed the large cast in Mass Effect 2, I found myself favoring Garrus and Tali in every mission and did not use anyone else except for their loyalty missions. While I did the same thing in Mass Effect 3, because of the smaller roster, I did enjoy that each character was more or less unique with their abilities. While I did appreciate the smaller-sized roster in general and seeing former squad mates in their individual mission, I was hoping to have them tag as a temporary party member, similar to how Liara was used in ‘Lair of the Shadow Broker.’
Is It All Good?
The technical issues are where Mass Effect 3 falls short. To start off on a positive note, the visual aesthetic of the game is fantastic, especially with how the environments are awe-inspiring in how it shows the Reapers destroying everything, setting up a well-executed mood of constant struggle, hopelessness, and determination to succeed against all odds. However, there are some low-resolution textures in the game which also has some really slow loading, otherwise known as pop in. A prime example would be when you exit from a planet after a mission, and seeing the various landmarks load one at a time. On top of that, some characters glitch with their attention focusing on another object, their eyes spontaneously rolling up like they’re possessed, or completely disappearing. They were very few of these technical errors, but they do stand out. In terms of the soundtrack, there are some great pieces of music, particularly with the multiplayer tracks and some of the boss fights, but the score is more orchestral, and you can tell the change of focus in music styles. It’s not bad at all. Actually, the music is really good as I wanted to listen to the soundtrack more than once while working. However, it doesn’t stand out as much as Mass Effect 2’s soundtrack. As a matter of fact, the only thing that really stood out to me as WRONG is the technical errors. If these errors can be fixed through patches, the overall experience will be much more immersive.
Multiplayer is the same as it was in the demo. You make a character and play on different maps against enemies in 11 waves of co-op action. You earn credits as you play, and these credits are used to buy equipment, weapons and powerups. It still has the same strengths and faults as it did in the demo, so I’ll explain what’s new. What are new are the different maps and the enemy factions. You have 6 maps total and three enemy factions: Reapers, Geth, and Cerberus. Cerberus plays exactly the same as in the demo, and they are the most tactical enemies. The Geth are powerful and have a variety of enemy types though their weaknesses can be easily exploited. The Reapers are the most aggressive and difficult of the enemies as they will continuously move forward, keeping you mobile. Each faction requires different strategies and tactics, which keeps gameplay fresh. The store has a new item pack, the Spectre Pack, which costs 60000 credits and will let you get more powerful items. You can also use real world money to buy these packs. It’s optional to purchase these, which is much better than being forced to pay with real money. Multiplayer is holding my attention, but I don’t know how long it will last. Thankfully, there seems to be DLC coming that will add more characters, items and hopefully, new maps. I would also love to see more gametypes personally, as co-op play is fun, but is starting to get a bit old.
The Controversial Ending
Despite how many people have enjoyed the game, there has been a nearly universal outrage over how Bioware chose to resolve the third game as well as Shepard’s story. (SPOILER ALERT AHEAD) Many people stated that the endings were too similar to one another, the decisions you made essentially didn’t matter in the game’s conclusion, and that collecting War Assets was also pointless as the battle proceeded the same way as if you collected minimal assets. On top of that, by activating the Crucible, you destroy all the Mass Relays, crippling all of galactic civilization and potentially destroying all life since Mass Effect 2’s ‘Arrival’ DLC established that destroying a single Mass Relay would create a supernova that would destroy an entire planetary system. People were also angry that the Normandy ran away from the main battle and into a relay, essentially trying to escape the explosion caused by its destruction. (SPOILER ALERT END)
The outrage was so significant that fans had started a facebook page called ‘Retake Mass Effect 3’ as well as a charity for Child’s Play to raise awareness of a petition for Bioware to change the ending to make much more sense and provide proper closure to the series. series (Although the petition had just recently ended with an official statement from Child’s Play on Reddit, which makes a lot of sense from the charity’s point of view) One fan even went so far to make a complaint against Bioware to the Federal Trade Commission for ‘false advertising.’ This has also led to a fan theory, the Indoctrination Theory, which basically tries to prove that Shepard had been indoctrinated since the start of Mass Effect 3, and that many of the ending events are a hallucination in Shepard’s head. It’s extremely detailed and lists a lot of great points for its arguments while other players claim that players are grasping at straws in order to make sense of what might simply be a badly-written ending.
Initially, Bioware’s executive producer Casey Hudson claimed that he wanted the ending to be as unforgettable as possible in an extremely polarizing way, stating that the intention was to get gamers talking and discuss what’s next with the franchise as well as the characters. Well, talk about it they did, but not in the way that the team had expected. Eventually, they released a statement on the Bioware social forums that they are listening to the feedback and will engage in healthy discussion about the ending when more people have had a chance to play it, which indicated a good sign that things might change, especially since Bioware’s Jessica Merizan posted a thread on the forums asking for constructive criticisms and suggestions on what to change in Mass Effect 3. Well, just yesterday, Bioware’s co-founder, Dr Ray Muzyka has released a statement that they are working on ‘a number of game content initiatives’ that will help answer questions and ‘providing more clarity’ for those seeking further closure to their journey.’ Here is a segment from his statement.
Building on their research, Exec Producer Casey Hudson and the team are hard at work on a number of game content initiatives that will help answer the questions, providing more clarity for those seeking further closure to their journey. You’ll hear more on this in April. We’re working hard to maintain the right balance between the artistic integrity of the original story while addressing the fan feedback we’ve received. This is in addition to our existing plan to continue providing new Mass Effect content and new full games, so rest assured that your journey in the Mass Effect universe can, and will, continue.
This honestly could mean anything, whether it results in new cutscenes after the ending, if the game opts for a Fallout-style epilogue, or if the ending will be significantly changed. However, there will be more information come April in regards to the proposed changes. You can bet that there will be unhappy fans that won’t be happy with what Bioware decides to gives the fans, but the fact that Bioware is modifying the ending after only two weeks of the games release is quite significant, and it will probably be the first game that modifies the ending substantially through DLC, at least in recent history.
Mass Effect 3 is definitely the conclusion of the Shepard Saga of this franchise. Where the franchise goes, it’s unknown. I would say that despite the ending of the series, the game franchise still has a bright future ahead of it, and I’m excited to see what the next game will bring us. In regards to the ending, I’ve opted to omit the ending from this review as I feel it requires a separate discussion and article in order to do it justice. Regardless of how you feel about the ending, this game should be played, regardless whether you’re being introduced into Mass Effect, or if you’ve played from the very first game. I would recommend that for the absolute best experience, you start from the very first game all the way to the third.