Publisher(s): Electronic Arts
Engine: Unreal Engine 3
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: EU – March 9th 2012
Genre: Action role-playing
I bought the original Mass Effect on a whim to be honest, jumping into it after losing over 100 hours in Fallout 3. To the detriment of my social life Mass Effect caught me just as bad as the nuclear wasteland did. From the moment I set eyes on the Citadel and started meeting all the weird and wonderful variants of species it had me in its grasp. But it wasn’t just the promise of a well worked universe that impressed me the most, but the premise of a game where I will make the decisions and I will control my destiny.
In the grand scheme of things Mass Effect 3 delivers on what the trilogy set out to do. And along with ME2 it just might be the most emotional roller coaster ride a game has ever given me. My feelings for some of the characters couldn’t have been stronger, in some situations I saw them in their final moments having been through everything with them. While others appeared and instantly drew a hatred from both me and my Shepard.
Like the games before it I really felt part of the story, but while previous games have made me feel like I was Shepard, actively involved in taking the fight to the Reapers, ME3 almost gave me a backseat and dragged me kicking and screaming to its conclusion. What was going on felt like it was happening around my Shepard and not through him. Characters died, made decisions, betrayed and killed, but none of it really felt like it was through my actions. The story is still very solid and well told however, It gave me all the emotions I expected – joy, sorrow, redemption, heartbreak and fear but the interactivity of it all isn’t as thoughtful and fleshed out as previous games.
As for the climatic ending we’ve all been working toward for six years, well, we’ll discuss that in a spoiler filled future article but for now all I’ll say is that its certainly an interesting take on how to end a well loved franchise.
Like the games before there is a central theme in why you are playing other than to stop the Reapers. In the original it was all tied to learning the truth behind Saren and Soverign while ME2 saw you build a squad fit for a suicide mission. ME3 starts with Shepard being tried for his actions in ‘The Arrival’ dlc episode in ME2, but he is soon thrust back into action as the Reaper invasion hits Earth. Shepard is then tasked with building up a fleet and acquiring war assets that can help take the fight to the Reapers back on Earth. You must mend galactic conflicts between foes and summon support from the most unlikeliest of adversaries. It all sounds very good when you first set out, but at times I was left wondering whether the mission I was actually involved with would ultimately help me in my fight against the Reapers. While most did come to a conclusion that helped, some missions felt a little tacked on, lasting no more than ten minutes and giving me nothing but a few waves of Cerberus or Reaper enemies to deal with in order to get a war asset that I would never see other than in a pop-up box on the Normandy.
The fleet and war asset system feels very detached when compared to the squad building in ME2. I felt very connected to my team mates and everyone on the Normandy, it was a routine of mine to interact with everyone after a mission but that connection has been lost in ME3. Most of the time I would just get the same conversation wheel that popped up throughout most of the game with the same options or just a “Commander” response. We’re fighting an all out war to save the galaxy, I would have thought there would be a lot on my squads minds and conversation has been at the forefront since the series began, it’s why the series stands where it is in the gaming hierarchy. Also don’t expect anywhere near the squad numbers of ME2 – I was a little shocked to find a low number of squad mates throughout the game.
Whether your playing on an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 you will learn to love and hate the A or X button, depending on your platform of choice. During one of the later sections in the game where moving quickly, going into cover and reviving my squad mates was vital to staying alive. I found that the control system really let me down as almost everything you do in Mass Effect is scripted from either the A or X button. You’ll hold it to sprint, use it to cover, revive teammates (if you have no medi-gel), press buttons etc. To be fair it works well most of the time but when you have a hoarde of enemies coming at you they will pounce on your every mistake even if you meant to run past that wall and not slam into cover.
As usual Mass Effect 3 comes with a plethora of priority and side missions to keep you going into summer, but if you had a thing for probing planets in ME2 you’ll disappointed to learn it’s been replaced by scanning. A quick tap of the trigger button when searching the Normandy’s galaxy map will let you scan the immediate area for anything that may be of use. It’s not as simple as pressing the trigger as quick as you can though, because each time you scan Reapers can be alerted to your presence – scan too much and they’ll come after you. It’s a nice little addition to one of Mass Effect’s more quirky features but should the Reapers catch you you’ll be put right back to where you were on the map and you won’t be punished for being too trigger happy.
The newest addition to the Mass Effect series and one that has caused debate among fans is the multiplayer. For one of the most highly developed single player games of all times, do we really need Multiplayer? In an interesting move, Bioware have the given the multiplayer component a system that helps the player with preparations for the galactic war against the reapers. For each mission successfully completed in multiplayer a percentage will be added to your galactic readiness in single player. It’s a system that helps define which of the endings you receive, while you can achieve full galactic readiness by completing every side mission, it’s easier and quicker to get to 100% through online play. ME3 doesn’t need multiplayer at all, in fact I never even touched it till long after the main campaign was finished. Luckily it doesn’t damper the experience and integrating it with the single player campaign is an interesting idea but it doesn’t add enough to compliment the fantastic single player journey.
Mass Effect 3 is the end of a journey and one that I’ve fully enjoyed being a part of. It’s the gaming equivalent of Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings, it’s not just about getting to the end but seeing how you got there, who you met, who was lost and whether you made the correct calls. If you didn’t get there how you wanted to or wondered about the alternatives of a specific situation then you can go through it all again. While the premise of choices affecting all of your decisions in the end didn’t come to fruition, the road there was one I certainly won’t forget.