Mass Effect 3 Review
With the end of one of gaming’s most critically acclaimed trilogies, does Bioware deliver an ending the Mass Effect universe deserves or has Electronic Arts made everything they touch turn into a pile of cow pies?
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on the Xbox 360*
Story: The universe is on the brink of extinction thanks to a sapient race known as “The Reapers.” All of this drama has been building up through two games and Commander Shepard is still the one running around trying to get the entire universe that the Reapers are real. Now that the Reapers are attacking every single species in the universe, the universe has no choice but to listen to Shepard. Despite the apparent danger, the other species were not willing to unite and take on the Reapers. With that said, Shepard has to be peace maker and unite the species to fight the Reapers who threaten to doom the entire universe.
We begin the story on Earth. Everything seems peaceful and normal as Shepard stares out the window observing an innocent child playing with a toy spaceship. Shepard is called into a meeting with Earth’s council and they, too, are reluctant to believe about the Reaper threat. Fortunately, it does not take long to convince them because, lo and behold, the Reapers attack Earth right then and there. With the Reaper showing that they mean business, the whole universe is scrambling to prepare for other attacks. It started with Earth and everyone knows that the Reapers are not going to stop there. The Council (the group that controls intergalactic relations) are aware of the Reaper threat now but each individual is worried about their own species’ problems to deal with Earth’s situation. Extremely selfish? Yes, but what can you do about it.
Most of the story is about resolving these inter-species conflicts. We also get to see some familiar faces along the way as well. As the Reapers become a bigger threat by slowly taking over the universe, the odds of overcoming them are getting dim. Not only are the Reapers a threat, Cerberus seems to have their own agenda as well. Instead of wanting to destroy the Reapers, the Illusive Man wants to control them. In turn, Cerberus becomes another obstacle that Shepard must overcome while trying to get rid of the Reapers.
It seemed like Bioware had a huge emphasis on Mass Effect 3’s story. I mean, it was pretty much being forced down your throat. Some people may feel like Bioware was trying a little too hard with its narrative but I feel like it was done perfectly. Bioware was trying really hard to make us gamers connect with our Shepard, make us feel like there really was not much hope for the future, that chances of success were extremely slim. Did Bioware succeed on trying to make an emotional connection with the players? I certainly believe so because then we would not have the situation with the ending scenes that we do now. And that topic is for another post. We will continue on with the review for now as I do not want to spoil the story too much since it is a major factor of the game.
While Mass Effect 3 may not be the best looking game out to date, it sure is really crispy. The graphics have been improved since Mass Effect 2 thanks to the new engine that Bioware decided to use. The colors seem a lot darker and grittier. It really fits into the lore of game if I say so myself. There were not that many CGI cutscenes. Almost all of the cutscenes were real time and that did not stop the game from looking amazing.
The soundtrack did not stray far from its roots. We still get the futuristic tunes that we have grown to love over the course of the games. The sounds effects were also done really well in this game. I could hear almost everything from the sounds of my biotics going off or the super annoying, yet intimidating dubstep like cry of the Reapers. When you hear that noise, you will almost crap yourself because you know something is about to go down.
Bioware also did a great job on populating the world, as they have always done in the past games. The Citadel was a bustling area, full of refugees and diplomats and I could hear random conversations about almost anything as I walked past them. In Purgatory, the music was loud just like it would be in an actual club (and, yes, Shepard still cannot dance) and the bass was just booming in my ear. I feel like Bioware did a great job on the musical score. We got a lot of what we heard in the previous games and some new ones as well. There were definitely some scores in there that attempted to make an emotional connection with the gamers.
Bioware promised Mass Effect fans that Mass Effect 3 would bring back a lot of the things that gamers like in both of the past games. They did not go back on their word. Mass Effect 3 showcases the RPG elements that were presence in the first Mass Effect game; however, they did not really improve it or add anything else as far as RPG elements go. Still, I enjoyed that aspect of the game despite the minimal improvements. The third person shooter elements were also brought back and a couple of tweaks were made here as well. Biotics are now depending on how much weight you carry around so that means the more you carry, the slower your Biotics take to cool down. This will not matter much to those classes that rely heavily on weapons, but if you are an Adept, then you might want to only carry light weapons.
Much of the gameplay is still intact from previous iterations. You still pretty much just find cover and shoot enemies until they are dead. Missions are also the same as they are your typical “go here and do this” type of missions. To my disappointment, Bioware decided to take the hacking minigames out of the game. Personally, I enjoyed these minigames but I can see why some people would feel like they were just a waste of time. Melee combat has been improved. You can now charge your melee attacks for a more powerful melee attack. While not very useful for those that tend to battle from afar, this new addition can be useful for those that like to get in enemies faces or for those sneaky people who like to use Tactical Cloak.
For those that played the previous games, then you know about the whole Paragon and Renegade aspect of the game. It was pretty much your good or evil responses. Bioware went a different route in Mass Effect 3 this time around. Instead of having two separate bars, your Paragon and Renegade bars have fused into a “popularity” bar. This time around, your actions will allow you to gather (or miss out on) support for the Reaper cause. Depending on your choices, you can either receive help or get left in the dust. Because of this change, you can no longer get a complete experience if you were to do a full Paragon or Renegade playthrough like you could in past games. Now, you have to be careful about what you want to do if you want to get the best possible outcomes for each choice.
Multiplayer is new in the Mass Effect world and I feel like it was not necessary for it to be added into the game. In all honestly, I feel like the multiplayer aspect of the game is forced on us. Why? Because you HAVE to play it in order to get the best ending for the game. Most people play Mass Effect for the campaign and now that we have to grind in a multiplayer mode that is not even that good, it just feels like a chore. Now, Bioware said that you do not have to play the multiplayer mode in order to get the best ending, but that is very untrue. In order to get the best ending and not play multiplayer, you will have to follow certain steps to the T and that just is not the way to play the game. Mass Effect is all about making your own choices and if we have to follow a set path than it just is not our playthrough any more.
The multiplayer mode is basically a horde mode if you are familiar with Gears of War or Call of Duty Zombies. You will face a wave of enemies and you will have to kill them all and survive. Every once in a while, you will get an objective to accomplish. That is really all the multiplayer is. I found the multiplayer very boring and it just felt like a grind to play because I needed to play it in order to get the best ending possible. Matches take about 20 minutes to complete (if you can finish all the waves) and you increase your Galactic Readiness by 3-4% every time you complete a match. Your Galactic Readiness is basically a multiplier for the forces you gathered in Single Player.
To help you understand a little better, as you progress through the single player, you will get War Assests that will help you fight the Reapers. These War Assests are a part of your Military Strength. In order to get the best ending, you need an Effective Military Strength of 5000. However, your Military Strength is not the only factor in the Reaper war. You will have your Galactic Readiness to worry about too. Basically, your Galactic Readiness is the percentage your Military will fight at. Since it starts at 50%, that means if you had a Military Strength of 5000, then it really means your real strength is at 2500. This is called your Effective Military Strength. So now, you are forced to play the multiplayer in order to get that Galactic Readiness high enough for your Effective Military Strength to get to 5000 or you will just have to go and finish the Single Player without the best possible ending.
I really feel like Bioware dropped the ball on this aspect of the game. They really should have kept the Multiplayer mode separate from the Single Player campaign. Anyway, you will have different classes to choose from in Multiplayer Mode. You can be your typical Sentinel, Adept, Infiltrator, and so on but you can also choose a different race to play as (which will have different abilities compared to humans). However, you will need to unlock these by either playing and gathering credits from matches or using your real money by purchasing them with Microsoft Points. The choice is up to you.
Other than that, the gameplay felt smooth and it was definitely fun to play. I am really happy that the RPG elements that were in the first game were brought back and that the action from the second game made it as well. It really did feel like a perfect combination of both games melded into one with Mass Effect 3. Just be smarter about your Multiplayer next time Bioware. Do not force us to play it.
While a lot of people mostly cried about the ending of Mass Effect 3, I will say that those people do have a reason to cry. Personally, I did not feel like it was the right way to end a story but it is what it is. If it was the writer’s vision to end a story the way it ended then we have to accept that. However, since Bioware was repeatedly bashed about the ending, they decided to rewrite it. We will see how that goes in the future.
As of now, Mass Effect 3 was a very good game. It was everything I wanted from the past games and a little more. I felt connected to my characters and felt the seriousness the story/narrative tried to portray. I felt like I was a part of the Mass Effect universe so that means Bioware did a great job with the game. My only true gripe with the game is the forced Multiplayer. I honestly cannot say it enough but, please, anyone else making a game, keep the two separate. Especially for a game that is majority single player for most of its lifespan.
I am interested to see how Bioware goes about future DLC. One thing for sure is that we will see another ending,. If I had to guess, then the DLC we will see will most likely deal with the other characters as Shepard was out of commission for about six months before the Reapers attacked.
Buy It: Buy this game if you enjoyed the past Mass Effect games because you would be a fool to play those two and not see the ending to Shepard’s story. Also, if you have not played a Mass Effect game, then buy it because it is just a good game. Hell, buy the entire trilogy. You are really missing out on a good story as well as some fun gameplay.
Rent It: Rent this game if you are only interested in the story. One playthrough will be enough for most people anyway so just rent it. You will not be disappointed.
Pass It: Do not pass on this game series. Seriously, it is one of the best series ever.