[There may possibly be Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2 SPOILERS in the following content, but no ME3 spoilers]
So this is it. The ending, the final chapter.
Mass Effect 3 is the (possible?) conclusion to a story spanning five years, three games, four novels, three iOS apps, seven comics and an upcoming anime. In this review of ME3, I will compare the game only to the past two games, for fairness sake.
I reviewed ME3 for the PS3 and played through Normal mode as a Paragon FemShep. I delved into Renegade on my second playthrough and included my thoughts on the differences this game around. I played for around 60 hours because I like to dilly-dally and obsessively complete every little quest and find everything in every little room.
You are commander Shepard. Whether you’re a spacer or an Earth-born kid, a vanguard or an engineer class fighter: you are the savior of the galaxy. In the previous two games, Commander Shepard discovered the existence of the Reapers and their plot to destroy the galaxy. In Mass Effect 1, the attempted Reaper invasion is stalled, and in Mass Effect 2, the story of the Collectors and how it relates to the Reapers unfolds. Throughout ME and ME2, Commander Shepard had the opportunity to make choices that affected both long-term and short-term aspects of the game.
Some of the dilemmas faced in the previous two games were:
- Kill the Rachni queen or let her live?
- Rewrite the Geth Heretics or destroy them?
- Save the Collector’s base or blast it into nothingness?
- Romance Liara or Kaiden?
- Stay true to Ashley or test out Jack?
As the BioWare creators mentioned: the first two games were all about choices. Mass Effect 3 is all about CONSEQUENCES. Did you leave the Rachni queen alive? Well now you have to deal with the repurcussions of that act. Did you save Maelon’s research? Well now you see the results of that quest.
Battle for Earth
As mentioned in all the trailers, ME3 starts you off on Earth, where the Reapers have arrived in force to destroy your world. Commander Shepard must assemble a galactic army, call in alliances and debts owed, and bring the fight back to Earth, destroying the Reapers in the process.
What actually happens is up to the choices you made/make.
To Go Rogue or Not to Go Rogue
I will note here that something unusual happens in this game compared to the previous two. Your Renegade and Paragon options seem more pointed towards Canon or Non-Canon than goody-two-shoes vs. demonic creature-face. For example: at one point I picked a Renegade option and was flat-out told that I was lying! ME3 very pointedly attempts to guide you to pick the correct conversations and actions with these options, versus the focus on who your Shepard is and how they communicate.
To be honest, I’ve personally found it nearly impossible to pick Renegade options… so much so that I actually DIED at one point for not picking it. Part of the problem with choosing to be nasty to people is that you actually care about the people!
Here, along with story, is where BioWare shines. These characters are characters you’ve come to form a deep bond with. Some of them are lovers, some of them have been your best friend for numerous death-defying missions.
You will basically complete a handful of big quests, another handful of smaller quests that tie in with the multiplayer, and then fifty billion fetch quests. The fetch quest mechanics are, to be quite honest, broken.
I don’t mind not knowing exactly where to look for an item, but I do mind when I have 15 quests lined up and I don’t know if I picked up the Horn of Drunkagor or not ten planet sweeps ago. The only way to find out is to go to the Citadel and hunt around for the person you are supposed to turn it in to. Heaven’s forbid you forget who that person was. It was very silly and I found myself wishing for Dragon Age style codex entries, where the entry would update itself once you grabbed the item.
The lack of the number of bigger quests did make sense in a way, because this is the ending of the trilogy and the universe is going to hell in a handbasket. It wouldn’t really make sense to run around having unimportant forays onto planets if the mission is not dire. The linear structure in this sense was logical, and BioWare chose to offset that linearity with random fetch quests and the few mini-quests.
So what else is new this time around?
Here are a few of the changes in ME3 from ME2
- You can once again purchase items and upgrade your weapons from the Normandy.
- Doors open very slowly.
- Instead of scanning planets you are now scanning systems… and the added danger is that every time you scan, the Reapers are one step closer to finding you!
- Love interests have not been sitting in stasis since the events of ME2… don’t count on everything being the same.
- Graphics appear only slightly altered from ME2 to my eye
- You can now revive squad-mates by squatting next to them a la Borderlands instead of using up a medi-gel
Wowzers is multiplayer fun. BioWare really has the formula for addiction down pat. The multiplayer is set up horde-mode style in a way that makes complete sense within the game.
Often, in the single-player campaign, Shepard will go and do some task on some planet. At the end of that mission, Hackett will mention that he is going to send in teams to hold that position or continue the fight against insurgent baddies. Cue the multiplayer, where you are a member of a special ops team trying to hold these very positions.
I love how much sense it makes, I like that they made the effort to fit it properly into the game and I LOVE that the controls are so similar. As someone who does not play shooters (Borderlands being the only exception) it was very easy to get into the multiplayer because I was already familiar with the weapons system and familiar with the powers system. In turn, the practice I received shooting the living daylights out of things in the multiplayer translated to me kicking backsides and taking names in the single-player campaign.
My only “negative” is that we were kind of given hints that we would play as alien races, but so far the choices have been very boring. A female quarian with no male in sight, only a male drell, krogan, salarian and turian, and nothing as fancy as an elcor or hanar. I hope BioWare fixes this eventually.
The AI in both multiplayer and single player is very smart and works together. I often had to switch from sniper to shotgun because the enemy began to move around quickly to avoid getting sniped! My team and I often found ourselves flanked and really had to develop strategies about which enemies to take down first.
As I mentioned, the controls were pretty easy to get used to because they were basically the same from multiplayer to single-player mode. The most annoying thing about the controls was the sticky cover. Lord have mercy please never have sticky cover in your games ladies and gentlemen! I can’t count the number of times I was trapped with a Brute or Banshee getting murdered because my Shepard decided that I wanted to take cover instead of running past that outcropping. I can’t even express my level of frustration with this…. I spent many a night cursing into the wind while something battered me up against some cover.
Besides thinking you want to take cover when you don’t, the system is also very finicky about whether or not to let you take cover when you are TRYING to take cover. You have to be turned at just the right angle to use the cover. I learned that the hard way in the face of a turret. To be honest it often feels arbitrary so even now I struggle with cover vs. no cover dilemmas.
Learning Curve and Fun Factor
This is a game that will be child’s play to pick up if you played Mass Effect 1 or 2. If you have not played either, the learning curve may be a bit steeper. The first few dungeons serve as tutorials in a sense, with Anderson teaching you how to shoot, run, jump, use cover and find ammo. I believe that these first two levels, along with practice, would make it fairly simple for a beginner to pick up the game.
As far as the story, however, you may not want to play this game without playing the first two. There will be numerous backstories you will not know and cameos that you will not get. Do yourself a favor: play the first two or at least read up on everything that happened! BioWare made an amazing effort to tie in even the littlest things from the first two Mass Effects, and when you discover them they will make you bounce around in delight and feel like you are part of something bigger.
This game is fun. Despite any flaws I’ve named: it is FUN. Even if the ending disappoints you, you will still look back and have to admit that you enjoyed playing it with a heady passion.
The Ending [No SPOILER but skip if you don’t want a clue]
Here it is. The moment we’ve all waited for. A discussion by the notorious SarahTheRebel on the equally notorious ending of Mass Effect 3. I will write up an opinion piece on my personal blog, but since this is a review I shall have to stick, as much as possible, to a simple review tone.
The ending was, to put it bluntly: a big hot mess. Things didn’t make sense, neither in the story nor in a common sense kind of way. Renegade and Paragon options suddenly mean something different and the final choice does not feel like a sensible or honest choice at all.
It really feels as though BioWare wanted to have mysterious plot twists and be very cunning, but kind of cunninged itself into a big mysterious knot. The ending is so convoluted that people have even concocted theories that the ending is all a dream!
However, not everyone thought the ending was a complete pile of poo. Some people just didn’t see the big deal. So I will say, for my part, I was less bothered by that knot of a plot ending than I was by the fact that we were left with no closure for the other characters involved. There was no Dragon Age: Origins slideshow at the end telling me what happened to Jacob or to Wrex or to Palavan or to the Geth: to anything! I don’t mind Shepard being a little ambiguous but the others were unacceptable.
Like it or not, the Mass Effect series is closer to a novel than any other console video game. What fans needed here was the epilogue section of the book. Some may say that fans are feeling too entitled but I say we expect a certain level of excellence from BioWare and this was not on par with that. Not even close.
I, along with many other fans, am basically making up my own ending for my beautiful, fierce commander.
Should you play the game anyway? Yes.
[End of ending section]
Mass Effect 3 is a solid, fun, addicting game. You will find yourself helplessly playing hours past your bedtime. Despite its flaws in the story, the wonky quest system and the more linear gamestyle, the bottom line is that everyone is playing this game, most people are playing it more than once, and, despite our qualms, the multiplayer is just darn fun.
The ending may possibly let you down, but don’t let that stop you. As they say: it is not the destination, but the journey that counts. And this journey is breathtaking.