Review by Vekkerer

"And then it was all over."

Mass Effect 3 was arguably one of the biggest game releases in 2012. Expectations were high and the hype machine was working properly; churning out epic trailers hinting at an explosive finale in perhaps one of the strongest game trilogies in years. This makes the fact that it stumbles on the finishing line incredibly sad.

Gameplay:
Mass Effect 3's combat is still fairly smooth and uncomplicated. The shooting plays like it did in the second game, with a few new powers and weapons and teammates that you can experiment with. There is also a system for upgrading weapon in place, choosing from a handful of weapon mods to add different perks to your guns such as increasing accuracy, damage and ammo capacity. There is a sense of “If it's not broken then don't fix it” mentality in ME3's combat and I have indeed few criticisms for the gunplay itself.

On lower difficulties the game isn't very challenging if you know what you're doing. On a personal level, I have always started Mass Effect on lower difficulties as a start so I can choose team members that I like so I can hear their banter and see how they react to the adventure around them. In higher difficulties you're forced to put more thoughts and strategies into your combat so that you're not overrun.

The Normandy returns as a central hub where you're free to wander around and interact with you're crew and it's as fun as it ever was. Your teammates will move around a lot more then they did in the second game though; a pair will stand in the mess hall and tell bragging war stories or someone will join your pilot in the cockpit, telling old jokes.

Though I feel that there was a loss of potential to make the ship even more interactive. The ship relaxation lounge has a poker table yet not once does anyone use it. Who wouldn't enjoy the sight of your crewmates sitting around a table playing poker, trying to take a peek at each others cards and bantering through it?

A goal of the game is to build an army strong enough to defeat the Reapers, the antagonistic force that is threatening to wipe out most of the galaxy species. Completing side quests and gathering resources will now be pooled together in your War Effort, a new addition that calculates the strength of your gathered army to fight the final battle. Scanning planets will find you artefacts that will raise the morale of your troops or you'll find ships that will up your total strength. The stronger you get, the more chance you have of winning the war.

The weakest point of the gameplay is the lack of variety. Since the only peaceful hubs are the Citadel and your Normandy, missions will always focus solely on combat. You can not land in cities or encampments and exploring – understandably perhaps since the galaxy is under occupation – but it adds a sense of boredom when you're shooting the same kinds of space-zombies or armed troopers in the face all the time.

While it is understandable that Shepard's team will not be able to have normal fire fights against the gigantic Reapers, the game will anyway pit you against the huge doomsday machines a few times. But when you're forced to go one-on-one against a Reaper, in the game's only true face-off, the fight is easily won by dodging a few times and holding down a button. It goes back to the lack of variety that no epic interactions apart from a twenty seconds rail shooter were available for the big fights. Another great opportunity was missed here.
One a smaller note, there is but one single boss fight late in the game and it's not against one of the major villains.

PROS:
- Combat is simple yet reliable
- The crew interactions are nicely done
- Offers a clear goal with the War Efforts

CONS:
- A brutal lack of variety in the gameplay
- Wasted combat opportunities

Visauls and audio:
Mass Effect has always had a great cast of voice actors and this is no different. There is emotion put into the voices and there are no rotten eggs in the group of new actors joining the cast. The entire voice cast has returned from the first two games (albeit with two exceptions – one major and one that I frankly never noticed until the credits), from Jennifer Hale excellent performance as Shepard to Martin Sheen's sinister work as the Illusive Man.

Bioware has always had great writing and the dialogue here also has plenty of emotion even if it occasionally wanders into cheese territory.
There are a couple of stunning set pieces in the game, such as when the Reapers attack Earth for the first time and you see the giant behemoths wander through the city, destroying everything. Another memorable piece is when you're waging war on a moon above a planet that's being invaded. Explosions on the planet are visible and a pair of giant Reapers are walking around on the moon around you. It looks great and it sets a great atmosphere.

Glitches and framerate drops occur occasionally during dialogue. Sometime the character Shepard is speaking with will vanish and Shepard will stand there talking to air as if nothing has happened. I also had a touching and dramatic conversation with my love interest where neither she nor Shepard looked at other; their eyes were locked on the door to their side.

PROS:
- A great soundtrack
- Excellent voice acting and dialogue
- Stunning set pieces

CONS:
- Framerate drops
- The occasional conversation bug

Multiplayer:
Mass Effect's multiplayer is surprisingly good and actually handles quite well. A co-op game where you and a couple of other players will be pitted against a dozen waves of increasingly more difficult enemies with the occasional objective thrown in. You get powers to level up just as in the single player game and earning money by doing the objectives will earn you credits to purchase item packs that gives you items or new characters. You can also pay for the item packs directly through your PSN, offering you the option to either grind for money in the sessions or get the packs you want instantly.

PROS:
- Surprisingly good multiplayer
- Interesting options to pay for your items

CONS:
- Sessions can go on for a long time, overstaying their welcome
- Not a whole of variety in levels.

Plot:
The plot is both the game's strongest and weakest point. The final part of the trilogy sets out to finish the arc about Shepard and the Reapers while also trying to resolve most of the conflicts set up during the previous entries. Every characters from the past that's still alive shows up, in major and minor roles, and you see how your previous decisions shapes the plot in certain ways.

Commander Shepard is on Earth, awaiting trial for her actions in ME2's Arrival DLC, when the Reaper fleet arrive in force and begin to spread destruction. Forced to flee the planet, Shepard travels through the galaxy to unite the species into one giant army to take back Earth and defeat the Reapers in one final, climactic battle. During her travels, Shepard has to fight not only the Reaper forces but also a Cerberus that has gotten increasingly antagonistic all of a sudden. A pair of characters is brought in from the novel series, one minor supporting hero and a supporting villain who succeeds in being easy to hate. It's not mandatory to read the novels but it would most likely help since neither character is very developed in the game.

There are plenty of big, dramatic moments where arcs are resolves and depending on what choices you've made, people may – and will – die. There is sadness, anger and joy in the events that happen; if you've become emotionally invested in the characters then you will see them sacrifice themselves for their goals or try to overcome their problems. It's easy to hate the villains because of their actions and there is a general depressive atmosphere as you see people reacting to what the Reapers are doing. Refugee shelters; walls with pictures of missing people; people crying or praying; it all paints a grim picture of what's going on in the galaxy and it's a damned impressive one. The game is a joy as it plays; I didn't want it to stop as I neared the point of no return and the final battle.

Ultimately, the game falls on its ending. The worst sin a series like this can commit is to not offer closure. Mass Effect ends on a sour note, in an ending that raises more questions and plot-holes in the last fifteen minutes then in the entire series combined. All of a sudden you're slapped with a nonsensical ending that completely ruins the whole impression of the game and the series. I'm not the only one who has the incentive to replay the series because you just know that it will end on the same sour note, in a final act that makes no sense whatsoever and takes away your previous accomplishments.

PLOT PROS:
- An epic journey
- Compelling character arcs
- Your favourite characters will get a few big moments
- Ties up most loose ends
- Easily likeable protagonist and supporting characters
- Great villains that are easy to hate
- Excellent atmosphere

CONS:
- The ending is one big punch to the gut that offers no cluosure, creates several plotholes and is generally poorly written. Removes the sense of accomplishment that the earlier games set up.

Summary:
Mass Effect 3 had the potential to be the excellent ending to the best game series ever. It is a fun game to play, with a strong plot and characters and settings you've grown invested in. You want to play it to see how it all plays out but then the ending slaps you in the face and leaves a lasting negative impression that severely impacts how you think about the entire series. Is it a good game? Yes it is. The build up to the end is epic, exciting and dramatic; full of sad and happy moments with fist pumping action and a wrap up of most of the major plot lines from the series. It's good to be back on the Normandy with your Shepard and see how the universe reacts to the Reapers.

If you as a player have played the previous games in the series and is fond of it and wants to see how the trilogy ends then I strongly recommend it. It's one hell of a ride. It is very easy to recommend because of the set pieces and the characters but don't expect the resolution to fit with the rest of the story line or offer any closure.Despite the huge flaws that the ending brings to the table, the game is very enjoyable. It's not a bad one, it just suffers from one scene that brings the game down. Take your time and enjoy the game. Do the sidequests, explore the galaxy and bond with your crew and friends. Because when you finish the game, odds are that you might never want to play it ever again.

This is the sad end of a great franchise. And we're left with great memories, long-lasting emotions but also shock, sorrow and eternal confusion.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/22/12

Game Release: Mass Effect 3 (EU, 03/09/12)


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