Review by Krootahn
"Decent game, not so decent last game"
Everyone had pretty high expectations for Mass Effect 3 considering the quality of Bioware's last two games. People were making sure they made the right choices for the Shepard that they wanted to play on their first run through this game and hype was pretty high. When finally released, the game garnered many positive reactions from fans in terms of gameplay but the overall plot and, of course, the conclusion, has produced many dissenting views of the game. I honestly felt Bioware did fine on the game in terms of the game itself, but they dropped the ball when it came to finishing off this great trilogy.
For a console gamer, they are fine. For a PC gamer, they seem dated. Bioware still knows how to really get some use out of that ol' Unreal 3 engine but it still has the same problems as the last two games: close-ups of their low res textures in a 1080p or higher setting. During conversations you are constantly looking at upscaled textures due to how close the character's faces get to the camera and it can be a little annoying. Other than that the animations look fine (despite what many people have said) and the animations and effects for guns and powers are at their flashiest. There is noticeably more going on during levels than the last two games with various people trying to fight off Reaper forces and, of course, the Reaper's themselves tearing the place up. The game looks nice, just not as nice as a PC game should look.
The audio still has all the oomph Mass Effect 2 introduced to the series. Everything is a lot louder. The sound your shield makes when it's broken, gunshots, Biotic detonations, etc. Overall I'd say this improves the feeling of combat making it a bit more engaging. However there is one thing I have to bring up and it isn't good. The sound effects played during the cutscene when you are using a Mass Relay is VERY loud. Too loud. Some people have actually modded the game to remove it because it's just so darn loud. As a headphones user I found myself taking them off every time that cutscene played, and even with them off it sounded like someone was vacuuming my room.
This category is pretty darn important in a series like this. Now let me make one thing clear: I have almost never cared about stories in video games. They never quite get passed the comic book or B-movie level. I just enjoyed the gameplay and nothing else. Sure I might like a certain character but the story was always secondary to me. Mass Effect however has you creating your own tale; you customize your character's appearance, past, mannerisms and combat style. It's a very personal game. I honestly was never too big on the story, it just seemed like another comic book plot to me. But the fact that I could choose what happened within the story set it apart from other games and really made an impression on me. Mass Effect 1 set you up with a cool villain and premise to work with. Mass Effect 2 showed how two games could be linked to form one cohesive story between two games. Mass Effect 3, however, was the thing that tied all this together or at least tried to. There are some pretty good moments in this game, to be sure. But the game wasn't as keen on choice as the last two games were. Instead it drags you through its premade script and forces you into a linear story and not a very good one.
Right from the beginning you are forced to feel sorry for this child Shepard meets whilst the Reapers are laying to siege to Earth. I found this to be very out of character for just about any Shepard you could make, Paragon or Renegade. Shepard has been witnessing and causing death in staggering numbers for two whole games and now this one kid has him all shaken up? And throughout the game you forced into these tedious and repetitive dream sequences (about three in total I think) where you chase after the kid. The kid is WAY too important, and for no good reason. The story is just trying to force drama and emotion upon us and it's very awkward.
That isn't all though. Many have been wondering for the past two games just how in the heck we are going to beat something as invincible as the Reaper fleet. Well right off the bat you are told there is some Prothean super weapon that could defeat the Reapers. Oh boy about the second mission of the game and already we are introduced to our deus ex machina. People often say that Bioware wrote themselves into a corner by making the Reapers just too darn strong. No. The Mass Effect universe is HUGE. Any competent writer could have easily come up with a cool and creative way to destroy the Reapers. I also find the presence of a deus ex machina strange because it is stated in a Codex entry in Mass Effect 2 that the Turians have developed weapons based on Sovereign's gun that could give them an edge against the Reapers. RETCONED. Or at least it seems so Not once do you see them use the Thanix Cannons in this game, just the usual pewpewpew space ship pea shooters. They just tossed out using-the-Reapers-highly-advanced-technology-against-them idea (which could have been a good show of how adaptable the species of the galaxy are) completely out the window and went for the magic plot-resolving-machine. For shame, Bioware.
But even worse is the fact that many of your major choices of the past two games DO NOT MATTER. Killed the Rachni Queen? She's replaced with a clone. Let the council die? Each one is replaced with an identical twin. Had the Collector Base destroyed? TIM somehow gets it anyway. The writers of the game had a linear story in mind for you to take and they have you take it whether you like it or not. To echo many many many users on these boards and plenty of others: YOUR CHOICES DO NOT MATTER. All those hours you spent perfecting your Shepard's story with all the choices you wanted to make were for nothing. At most you'll gain/lose a few War Assets.
Then there's the ending I'm sure you've already heard about. If you haven't I'll just save you the google search: It sucks. And not for the reasons many are thinking. The fans are NOT pissed off at the ending because it's a downer ending. They are pissed off because the ending is just flat out stupid. From the instant the last few minutes of the game begins, lines of dialogue that makes sense become very rare. The ending contradicts many concepts and ideas that have been with the series since ME1 and are even reinforced in this game. It also introduces completely new concepts (stupid ones at that) that aren't explained at all. The thing about these endings that hurt the most is that once again, YOUR CHOICE DO NOT MATTER. Once you've made it up to a certain amount of War Assets (which is not hard at all) it's just pick your ending: A, B, or C. Or should I say R, G, or B?
As important as ever even in a story driven series such as this. There are some marked improvement over ME2: There is a far more varied selection of weapons to choose from, weapon modifications make a comeback, powers now have branching upgrades and a weight system has been introduced which makes power-heavy players (such as Adepts) use less weapons to keep their power recharge rate high. Upgrades are still there but a bit rarer. Individual weapon upgrades have also been added. Basically if you have an Avenger II, you would just purchase an Avenger III from the upgrade console. Nice and neat. Unfortunately, while better than Mass Effect 2, the weapon mods are still nowhere even remotely near the level of the first Mass Effect. There are literally about 5 mods per weapons type (as in pistol, assault rifle, etc) and chances are you'll find some mods, attach them, and then never mess with them again (unless you're upgrading those same mods). The system almost feels tacked on and there could have easily been far more mods than the ones given to you.
Combat is much faster; with no weapons the recharge times on powers allow you to combo like you've never combed before. And this seems to have been one of the intentions of speeding the game up; biotic detonations are now possible with nearly every offensive biotic power, including Charge. Shepard also moves much quicker around the battlefield, as do enemies, and they will often encroach upon you more than you were used to in the last two games. A lot of people complain about how one button does three things based on context that is, the spacebar is the button for rolling, taking cover, and vaulting, but I've personally never had a problem with it.
What I did have problems with were the enemies. They were honestly a bit boring compared to Mass Effect 2. Cerberus is fun to fight for a while but they get old fast, especially since you fight them for about 60% of the game's missions. They also introduced this combat roll the Cerberus infantry occasionally use and literally it's only purpose is to annoy biotic users. Seriously, if they are playing that animation, your power isn't going to hit. Simple as that. And they can do it whenever they want. This stalls you and nothing more. Instead of firing one Warp at the enemy, you fire two or three. That is literally all that stupid combat roll accomplishes and my god is it annoying when you're playing Adept.
Another problem I have with the enemies is the lack of variety with them as well as the lack of real game changing enemies. In Mass Effect 2, when you came across a group of Ymir Mechs, a group of Scions, or a single Praetorian, you thought Oh crap. In this game, Atlases replace Ymir Mechs as the heavy support. They are stronger yes but they almost always come in at one at a time. So if you see one, you focus on it until is dies and then you go back to picking off the stragglers. Ymir Mechs in ME2 had that gattling gun to keep you pinned in cover while other enemies sneak up on you and that damn homing missile with the huge splash damage to keep you on your toes. Atlases are just big ol' wads of HP with instakill guns and not much else. Then there's stuff like Brutes and Banshees who are only a threat because they get up in your face. Banshees are especially annoying because they will teleport (well, technically they Charge) right next to you and then start spamming their Harbingereqsue projectile. I feel like the enemies in Mass Effect 3 haven't gotten stronger, just more annoying. And the variety is no longer there either you fight Cerberus and their stupid dodge rolling troops or Reapers with their heavy support fire and up-in-your-face Banshees. Nothing else for the entire game.
Also absent are boss fights and heavy weapons. A real bummer as both of those really added some energy to this game. There are some big fellas you occasionally fight but nothing truly massive or breath taking like Saren or the Thresher Maw. Heavy weapons are also still technically in the game but they are pickup only and once they're used up that's it. Plus they often show up as soon as you're done clearing a room of enemies. I remember picking up the Reaper Blackstar, the strongest weapon in the game the instant I just got done killing a Reaper Harvester (big fella) and how disappointed I was that I won't be able to use this 1 ammo per gun weapon on anything because I blew my chance right then and there. Yes Heavy weapon would obviously make your power recharge time go down the drain but it would be a good compromise if the player thinks the situation warrants it. Plus they were just cool, sad to see them go. :(
There is also a system called War Assets and Galactic Readiness. War Assets are exactly what they sound like; the things helping you win the war on the Reapers. Stuff such as getting support from the Turian fleet will increases war assets. This then increases your military strength. Galactic Readiness is a multiplayer aspect in which your readiness can go up or down depending on how frequently you play multiplayer (I have no interest in it so I was stuck with a permanent 50% galactic readiness). Your Effective Military Strength is the number that determines how strong your army truly is. EMS = Military Strength x Galactic Readiness (expressed as a decimal number). So at 50% Galactic Readiness, if your war assets provide you with 1000 Military Strength, your EMS would be 500. In the end however, it doesn't really matter how many War Assets you have as it affects some veeeery small changes at the end of the game.
Other than that I'd say the gameplay is solid. The armor customization returns, the updated weapons system is an overall major improvement over Mass Effect 2 and the gameplay really ain't too shabby.
All in all, I honestly think this might be the second best Mass Effect game in terms of gameplay (I still like Mass Effect 2 the most personally) and the worst in terms of story. In a few ways Bioware promised some very difficult things for this game, and when they didn't show up I thought Well that would have been a lot of hard work to do, I guess they had to make compromises somewhere. But there were many other times, most of them story related, where Bioware just flat out lied. The ending did not conclude or answer anything. The overall plot was pretty uninspired and the game sorta felt rushed.
If you liked Mass Effect 2, you might like this. If you've played both ME1 and 2, you will like this game but learn to hate the company responsible for it. If you are new to the series I'd wait to see how this whole ending fiasco plays out before becoming too attached to the story, your story.
OVERALL SCORE: 6/10
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 03/20/12
Game Release: Mass Effect 3 (US, 03/06/12)
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