Review by Raganork10

"Some bad design decision mar an otherwise excellent title"

Those that have played the previous two Mass Effect games know that purchasing the latest entry in this series is a no-brainer. This series is known for its great conversational scenes, fascinating lore, and a fantastic, customizable combat system. But what made gamers so interested in the series in the first place was the concept of "choice." The player was in charge of pretty much every dialogue scenario, and their actions determined how the story would end.

Well, the final installment in the series has arrived, hoping to end the series with a bang. Unfortunately, Mass Effect 3 may very well be the weakest entry in the series because of how it handles the narrative aspect of the game. In the end, gamers might be left with a sour taste in their mouths because of this game's ridiculous, nonsensical ending. That, coupled with some other bad design decisions, ruin what could have possibly been one of the greatest trilogies in gaming history.

THE GOOD:

The improvements made to the combat system is one of the more obvious changes in this title, and the combat is certainly one of the better parts of the game. Players start the game by choosing one of 6 distinct classes, and they must stick with that class for the entirety of the game. Throughout the course of the adventure, you can choose to level up certain abilities for that class. For instance, an Infiltrator character can level up their Tactical Cloak ability to turn invisible, allowing them to sneak past enemies. You can then take cover and shoot them in the head with some bonus damage applied. Each class has skills specific to that class, which, in turn, can allow for better re-playability.

The cover mechanics have also been improved upon. You can now turn corners while remaining in cover, and you can even grab enemies while remaining in cover.

There gun-play has also been improved significantly. There are tons of weapons to collect, and each one can be customized with up to 2 attachments. These guns and attachments can either be purchased or found by exploring the worlds you visit. However, as a new addition to the series, each gun carries a certain weight. Depending on how much weight you carry, the cool-downs for the powers you have can be adversely affected. This adds a more tactical element to the game, because you can no longer carry five guns and hope to spam powers every few seconds.

The visuals have also been improved. Textures are more smooth, character models look more realistic, and particle effects for biotic powers and explosions look great. Certain cut-scenes also have some great cinematic flair, making Mass Effect 3 feel almost like a movie at times.

Voice acting is also fantastic, but that's nothing new for the series. Each main character is backed by a great voice actor, and even minor characters are backed by some impressive voice work.

The soundtrack is also stellar, but again, that was to be expected since the previous two games also had some superb soundtracks. This game reuses some of the songs from the previous games, but some of the new additions to the soundtrack are also excellent. In fact, I'd say that this game has the best soundtrack in the entire series. Some of the faint melodies that play during the more dramatic scenes are very memorable, and make the scenes all the more memorable as well.

Surprisingly, the annoying minigames from the previous game are completely gone. There are no minigames, quick-time events, or other pointless additions.

The amount of side-quests to complete is relatively significant. In addition to the priority missions, you can choose to complete dozens of side-quests, some of which take place in unique environments. These side-quests offer experience, credits, and sometimes even unique rewards. You might even find some cameos in the larger side missions.

Perhaps the most notable addition to this title is the inclusion of multiplayer. It is essentially a "Horde Mode": a wave-based multiplayer mode where enemies get progressively harder when you reach higher waves. Some may say that it is tacked on, but it is actually a pretty robust offering. You can level up characters, set up lobbies, and customize each match. The unlockable system is pretty flawed, however, because you must spend credits to randomly unlock different items/weapons/characters.

THE BAD:

There's not a lot of bad things to say about this game. However, there are some pretty glaring flaws that dumb-down the experience, and this will, no doubt, anger veterans of the series.

First of all, the conversation wheel has been dumbed-down significantly. Before, the right side of the wheel usually had 3 different choices: a renegade choice, a neutral choice, and a paragon choice. In this game, the neutral choice is almost non-existent.

Hell, the entire conversation wheel itself is hardly used in this game. In the previous games, you had to use the conversation wheel almost every single time your character talked; your character barely had any scenes in which in the conversation wheel is not used. In Mass Effect 3, there is a significant number of scenes in which the main character talks without any input by you, the player. In fact, you only get to use the conversation wheel a handful of times PER SCENE. It's not like before where you had to choose almost everything your character would say.

In a rather stupid and pointless move on BioWare's part, the journal and codex have been merged into one menu. This new, confusing layout puts priority quests and sidequests all on one screen, and it just looks like a confusing list of missions.

Also, the squad-mate roster has been decreased to around 6 teammates. From that, only one character is a new addition to the series, and he isn't even all that interesting compared to Liara, Tali, Garus, etc.

The most inexcusable flaw in Mass Effect 3 has to deal with the ending. For the first 99% of the game, you'll constantly be impressed by the missions and the character interactions. But when you come to the last 10 minutes of the game, you might as well shut the system off and call it a day. Not only is the ending nonsensical, but it also retcons the ending of the first game and, most importantly, it gives the series no closure whatsoever. Those choices you made from the previous two games have no effect on the ending, and out of the endings you can choose from for this game, they all play out essentially the same. You may argue that, "It's the journey that matters, not the destination," but do you really want to have all your hard work amount to nothing?

THE UGLY:

There are also some minor annoyances that plague the game from a technical standpoint. The animations, particularly the running ones, are pretty bad. The facial animations are also stiff, with the lip-syncing being sketchy at best. The developers of the game also have a emphatic love for the "A" button. This button is not only the action button, but it is also the running button, the reviving button, and the taking-cover button. Most of the time, when I try to revive my teammates, I end up taking cover at a nearby wall instead.

There are also some glitches here and there that range from trivial to reset-your-console-to-fix. Characters might glitch through objects, or characters lips might not move at all. Near the end of the game, I fell through the map and got stuck on a perpetual loading screen, forcing me to restart the console. But overall, the glitches in this game are not that bad at all.

And in multiplayer, as is standard with multiplayer games, there are some technical issues. Lag is apparent in many matches, disconnects happen occasionally, and I got trapped under the map for an entire match once.

Also, to get the "Best Ending" the game has to offer, you pretty much have to play some multiplayer. Unless you made specific decisions in the previous two games, you may have to play multiplayer to raise your "Galactic Readiness" level. This poses a problem for those who do not have Xbox Live, but have enjoyed the series since the first game.

And if you get tired of the game, be sure to spend your hard-earned money on some of the DLC this game has. I'm sure EA would appreciate you handing them money for content already on the disc.

OVERALL: 8/10

Despite its flaws, this is still a great game. The core Mass Effect experience has been preserved, the combat has been improved, and the multiplayer is surprisingly fun. If you can get past the streamlined conversation wheel, the bad ending, and the minor technical issues, you'll find another great entry in the series.

THE VERDICT:

Buy it new, especially if you want to play some of the awesome multiplayer. At the very least, wait for a slight price drop.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/13/12

Game Release: Mass Effect 3 (US, 03/06/12)


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